(another brilliant picture borrowed from the brilliant gheemaker)
I’m beginning to think that I might need an internet/blog break.
Ok.. maybe not beginning – I’m completely convinced that I need one..
I spent the past shabbos with some nice families in a frum neighbourhood and I noticed something strange.. I was looking at everyone from a jaded blogger's perspective. These weren't just nice families, dressed in the latest trendy frummy fashion, with their little kids trailing behind them.. all of a sudden they were frustrated husbands, flirting wives, kids running off the derech, corrupt rabbis, dysfunctional families, sexually deprived youth, sexually obsessed chassidish ladies, discouraged frummies..
What I saw was disturbing, and frankly I don’t think it was justified. The people I met were lovely. They were friendly, warm, interesting and there was no reason to judge them so harshly, but the words I had read in the past few months just kept reappearing in my mind - blocking any kind of objective opinion I could have had.
It’s true that in the past I came across plenty of corruption and disappointment in the frum community, but over the years I’ve learned that humans are humans and just as I am weak at times or have wanted to give up, just as I often do things I later regret or disagree with – so do others. Just as others in the world succumb to temptation and negative urges, so do frum jews, and overtime I’ve made peace with that. The ideal world I first encountered eventually vanished and I came to accept the more realistic, complex human world I found instead.
But what happened on shabbos was different. For every person I came across - I found a blog to match them up with. I imagined them hiding with their laptop typing up their frustrations. What were originally personal issues suddenly became community problems.
I don’t want to be naïve but I also have no desire to go back to being a cynic. If I’ve learned anything in the recent past it’s that so much of how we interpret things, how we perceive and understand our environment is based on the attitude we choose to have. I have the ability to create worlds in my head that have very little to do with Reality and to believe them wholeheartedly. Coincidentally most of what we do believe is part of that imaginary reality we create. But I don’t want to be a cynic.
I have no doubts in my mind that there are sexual predators, cheating husbands, adulterous wives, miserable kiruv rabbis, disillusioned youth or corrupt leaders in the community, but I dont beleive it is as prevalent as it seems to be when your main sources of information are blogs or the 'highly reliable' internet news sources. Personal accounts and case studies are not reliable sources, they are the stories of individuals - one person’s reality, based on one person’s experiences and perception, a reality tainted by their experiences and their personal understanding of the universe.
The most amazing thing I realized however is that as much as I’m careful with what I read, the effect seems to be inevitable.
What the world hasn’t been able to do to the frum community, we are doing to ourselves - we are self destructing. In the name of bringing down taboos, destroying secrecy, opening up communication, we are violating privacy, tearing down families and communities and creating irreparable hopeless cynics.
When faults and weaknesses are magnified and gawked at and overanalysed, we lose the ability to perceive holistically. We are naturally pulled towards destruction, erosion, negativity, and feeding those forces only makes them stronger. We fool ourselves into believing that if we uncover it we will free ourselves of it, when in fact we are just strengthening it – and in the end we are the ones who suffer from it!
Global warming is a result of excessive pollution, they say, and we’ve all polluted - but none of us would purposely harm the environment if we could see the results of it instantaneously. The fact is that we can disconnect the cause from the effect. Similarly, In the spiritual world, we poison our souls, slowly, subtly, without realizing it. We distance ourselves from the result and sometimes even justify it, and the next thing we know..our heads are filled with negativity, gossip, accusations and doubts.
A majority of blogs criticize how judgemental others are, whether it’s white shirts, or hair coverings, everyone seems to feel victimized, stared at, unwanted, yet, the blogs end up coaching us on how to be judgemental. I can honestly say that I have not looked at one frum man’s shirt in the past 6 months in the same way as I used to. As soon as I notice a man's shirt color, I categorize him as either “the white_shirt_wearing judgemental and closed minded fanatic” or the “blue shirted rebellious frustrated blogger”. What the few white shirted fanatics did not manage to achieve, the rest of the bloggers have – they’ve taught me to categorize and judge people according to their dress.
All this to say, I think I need a break. I wish I could delete my blog and all the links I have and never come back. Truthfully, I do. As much as I have gained, as much as I’ve learned from the people I’ve met, as much as I love writing here, I feel like the flip side has been unbelievably damaging. As much as I would love to believe that it’s worth being here to teach myself and others an alternative way of viewing things, the fact is that, most of it is preaching to the choir, and the rest is just an excuse to feed my yetser hara into believing terrible accusations I’ve never personally seen or experienced. It’s an excuse for become judgemental, to accept all the frustration and disappointment, to give myself permission to distance myself from g-d. My own struggles are one thing, and I deal with them one-on-one with G-d, but when I take in the world’s struggles and try to deal with them, all I come up with is anxiety and despair, which leads to helplessness, and eventually distancing from the only One who really could help. I don’t want that.
I’m going away for a few weeks, so it will give me a little break. I wish I could say I wont be back.. but I probably will.. I do hope however that this little break will give me a little perspective and help me find a way to use my time and my brainpower more productively!