Thursday, September 14, 2006

And again to no one in particular...

I want to say to those who think I think too much - I think many people think a tad too little. One places themself in a continuum so as to say "to the left of the right of me"...I was calling someone not long ago and it was clear by the manner in which they answered the phone that they were very busy...because he said to me "hellohowareyoudoing?"...Hello, how are you doing???...You ask someone a question, one that WILL illicit a timewasting answer when you are busy??? Feh. It's clear, it's pashut that that is a silly thing to say on the phone whilst busy. It's like the dualistic, Greek-thinking trap people will throw at me to label me a pessimist/optimist; the "is the glass half full/half empty?" issue (LISTEN all you people - stop leaving glasses around; people can break them and slip on the water, landing on the broken pieces of...Lo Aleinu).

Let's be clear on this. The glass is simply the wrong size.

No big analyzing, no philosophy classes or rocket science.
It seems pashut to me. Jeez...

More Lewis Gems w/critiques

"My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line [b'zman hazeh, many would of course argue for a materialist explanation from evolutionary ethics and Sociobiology; I would point them too many places to list, but among them Holmes Rolston III's Gifford Lectures, "Genes Genesis and God". An avowed evolutionary Theist, scientist and renowned scholar in environmental ethics]. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? [a great way to rephrase the issue. Give me two other examples of "The Universe"...of course, what we allow as going into the meaning of this phrase has changed, will change, etc] If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too–for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist–in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless -I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality–namely my idea of justice–was full of sense. [English Lit professors and similar PoMo types will literally argue that indeed, their reading of a book - or reading of something as a book - is a similarly privileged lynchpin of meaning in a universe without]. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.
Very well then, atheism is too simple. And I will tell you another view that is also too simple. It is the view I call Christianity-and-water, the view which simply says there is a good God in Heaven and everything is all right-leaving out all the difficult and terrible doctrines about sin and hell and the devil, and the redemption. Both these are boys ‘ philosophies.
It is no good asking for a simple religion. After all, real things are not simple. They look simple, but they are not. The table I am sitting at looks simple: but ask a scientist to tell you what it is really made of–all about the atoms and how the light waves rebound from them and hit my eye and what they do to the optic nerve and what it does to my brain–and, of course, you find that what we call ’seeing a table’ lands you in mysteries and complications which you can hardly get to the end of.
…Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd. It is not neat, not obvious, not what you expect. …Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. It has just that queer twist about it that real things have." (Mere Christianity, p.38-42)

Christianity is something one might not have guessed is so clear. Anything infected with the Torah virus is going to be different then expected! And christianity clearly sees itself as standing on solid Torah ground as it's fulfillment.
First off, tons of sites on the Net can offer arguments against Biblical 'fulfillment' via J.C. (Messiah Truth, Outreach Judaism and this link are good places to begin). But C.S. Lewis does not stop there; he offers further that christianity was also a fulfillment of pagan expectations; this is peppered throughout his works, and essentially runs along the line that "dying/reborn gods" in pagan mythology are foreshadowings of the actual real-time, real-place occurance of J.C. dying and being reborn. Without standing on the assumption that Biblical expectations were actually fulfilled - christian "unexpectedness" stands only on this pagan leg. But the gospels are adamant regarding a full, two-legged nature; it probably would not be historical christianity to claim otherwise! One can't hop from leg to leg, argue that "well, maybe it wasn't a Jewish fulfillment, so I'll switch the leg I stand on", like someone tauntingly crossing an imaginary boundary. Also Hebrew Scriptures were canonized and established centuries before the various Councils ultimately established the christian canon of Scripture. Plenty of opportunity was had to choose which christian narratives, among many, most approximately fit both pagan and Biblical material and the consensus of the church (even within the canon, variations exist that have their affects; these were also selected from into the canon of whats believed vs. what's read/studied). In addition, pagan religions were/are so diverse that the role of a "regenerating god" varies by importance, the number of them within a tradition, gender, etc (accounts of a God of the Gods, even over the dying ones, however, are more consistant; I'm not sure how to reconcile this with what I take to be a Dooyeweerdian contention - that such Radical Noncontingents are radically exclusive - considering the profusion of this idea spanning Christian creeds and l'hvdl elaborated on in Rabbinic literature). Such dieties also do not exhaust the narratives of these pre-christian peoples; what of the other myths, gods, etc? Shouldn't they also bear coorelaries in the [surviving/canonical] christian scriptures? to what degree? One could answer that because of the central doctrinal importance of the resurrection, it is the only one that needed foreshadowing. But again; the role over time and place of these foreshadowing dieties varies, based on all manner of completely historical/environmental variables. It's not a central part of my critique, so I don't want to elaborate on it here.

Attn; Holy Jewish Sisters [of course no one in particular]

Men are not psychic (and BTW, neither are women), and don't know what is being said via silence.

For further clarification on the subject, let us learn weighty words of Lothar mi'Hill People;

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Orthodox Lewish
Ha. Here's some gems from C.S. Lewis; obvious caveat in order, since not all of my reader (singular is the closest I can get to nil...because I have no proof anyone reads this) may be clear whether I am of xtian orientation. I'm not. This is such a great exposition I think Yahadut could easily be exchanged for Christianity here;

"Now faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience [experience being the tape-measure applied beyond all reason by overzealous "skeptics"]. Now that I am a Christian, I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probably. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods ‘where they get off’, you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependant on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith. The first step is to recognize the fact that your moods change. The next step is to make sure that, if you have once accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately haled before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily prayers and religious readings and church going are necessary parts of Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed. And as a matter of fact, if you examined a hundred people who had lost their Faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?"..."Now I must turn to Faith in the second or higher sense: and this is the most difficult thing I have tackled yet. I want to approach it by going back to the subject of Humility. You may remember I said that the first step toward humility was to realize that one is proud. I want to add now that the next step is to make some serious attempt to practice the Christian virtues. A week is not enough. Things often go swimmingly for the first week. Try six weeks. By that time, having, as far as one can see, fallen back completely or even fallen lower than the point one began from, one will have discovered some truths about oneself. No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness -- they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it... (Mere Christianity, HarperCollins, 2001, p.140-2)

To anyone who's read the book before, I very clearly left off the last bit of the final quote, which was an exposition that J.C. was fully man, fought temptation and never yielded, and is thus the clearest exposition of this idea. For a christian idea to be the fulfillment of a Hebrew Biblical idea - it must fully-fill it! This depiction of J.C. as the fulfillment of a Biblical idea i believe fails in several crucial ways; it only depicts tempation as something to be triumphed - but continues by claiming that inhuman perfection is what mattered (once and for all mattered, if you are a Christian), in complete disregard of the centrality of Teshuvah in the cosmos and The Hebrew Bible - as behind the cosmos itself. It is human perfection, not inhuman perfection that matters. EVERYone who sincerely does teshuvah is this very sort of figure; ones slate is wiped clean by the Ribbono Shel Olam! This last bit required italicizing, as this human perfection is not of human origin; one strives and G-d takes care of the rest. This part of his book didn't sit well with me, as elsewhere he is clear about the worth of human failings and strivings. The next bit jibes wonderfully with Torah, and I think echoes well with our times, in the aging boomers, wrestling Gen-Xers and the 'at risk' crowd;

"In a way I quite understand why some people are put off by Theology. I remember once when I had been giving a talk to the R.A.F., an old, hard-bitten officer got up and said, `I've no use for all that stuff. But, mind you, I'm a religious man too. I know there's a God. I've felt Him out alone in the desert at night: the tremendous mystery. And that's just why I don't believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about Him. To anyone who's met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal !' [a baby boomer if I ever heard one!!! epiphany, epiphany, all is epiphany...] Now in a sense I quite agreed with that man. I think he had probably had a real experience of God in the desert. And when he turned from that experience to the Christian creeds, I think he really was turning from something real to something less real. In the same way, if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from something real to something less real: turning from real waves to a bit of coloured paper. But here comes the point. The map [i.e., certain aspects of Torah sheBal Peh?...] is admittedly only coloured paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. [NOTE; this goes incredibly well with G.K. Chesterton's saying that Tradition is like a
Democracy of the Dead]. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America [very much like Roger Walsh noting the value of "altered traits" over merely "altered states", momentary epiphanies and 'encounters' with God, where all of life 'in between' such moments - when we so privilege Peak Experiences - is considered nothing; we are to consciously create new selves, not merely be stimulated by new experiences, physical or spiritual].
Now, Theology is like the map. Merely learning and thinking about the Christian doctrines [not l'hdl, unlike 'only' learning Torah - Gemara really], if you stop there, is less real and less exciting than the sort of thing my friend got in the desert. Doctrines are not God: they are only a kind of map. But that map is based on the experience of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God-experiences compared with which any thrills or pious feelings you and I are likely to get on our own are very elementary and very confused. And secondly, if you want to get any further, you must use the map. You see, what happened to that man in the desert may have been real, and was certainly exciting, but nothing comes of it. It leads nowhere. There is nothing to do about it. In fact, that is just why a vague religion-all about feeling God in nature, and so on-is so attractive. It is all thrills and no work; like watching the waves from the beach. But you will not get to Newfoundland by studying the Atlantic that way, and you will not get eternal life by simply feeling the presence of God in flowers or music. Neither will you get anywhere by looking at maps without going to sea. Nor will you be very safe if you go to sea without a map.
In other words, Theology is practical: especially now. In the old days, when there was less education and discussion, perhaps it was possible to get on with a very few simple ideas about God. But it is not so now. Everyone reads, everyone hears things discussed. [really applies well to why we should learn emunah and hashkafa, not just read it, in seminaries and yeshivot] Consequently, if you do not listen to Theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones - bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas. For a great many of the ideas about God which are trotted out as novelties to-day are simply the ones which real Theologians tried centuries ago and rejected. To believe in the popular religion of modern England is retrogression - like believing the earth is flat." p.153-55

I'H I will have what to say on this last bit later.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

FANTASTIC Women's weight training page is an amazing, humorous, 'empowered' female angle on lifting for women, with tons of very precise, solid and well delivered advice for women, lots of pics of perfectly executed lifts. My [maybe] two female readers might gain (ha) a lot from it.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Ethical Critiques of Orthodox Judaism (found this somewhere)

I think this fragment puts into a different perspective some of the assaults by Daat Emet, Israel Shahak, etc, regarding the ethical failings of the Halachic rubric as a Revealed way of life.

At its best, orthodox Judaism shares and even lives out the ideals of many contemporary non-Jewish societies; people are encouraged to pursue what is collectively seen as the Divine, morality is to be order in accord with spiritual ideals, people are given freedom within reason to explore their ideals, etc…At it’s worst, orthodox Judaism is insular, bases it's readings of itself on empirical falsities, is oppressive, intolerant, stringent. This is said of the over-all rubric of Halacha, not of mere particular administrations in the times of the Judges or Monarchies. At their worst, gentile societies in their over-all rubrics have been autocratic regimes, genocidal, racist, anti-woman, anti-child, sexual and physically abusive and exploitive, etc. Is there any comparison?
Is Judaism just another among many “tradition-bound truth” perspectives on an inaccessible truth (following Alistair MacIntyre terms in "Whose Justice? Which Rationality?", not nec. his actual opinion), - or is it a Truth-bound Tradition amidst many perspectives (considering the distinctive claim of national Revelation, the kind of history Israel has had, it's leavening affect in the world, etc)? Also R. Jonathan Sacks (From "Dignity of Difference"), and “cultural-boundedness” of ethics, expectations of conduct, relationship to “humanity”, etc, how that we can’t foster universalist ethics or even a concept of humanity, etc, without first having im-mediate felt particularist senses of ethics, of peoplehood, of being human a certain way, cognated from within societies. Berkovits and being in history;

“The intellect or the soul may be satisfied with the creed; the whole man, however, may serve
God only through the deed…. However, in order to be, the deed must be effective; and it must
be so in the place where it belongs—in the external world, in history”.
God, Man and History, ed. David Hazony (Jerusalem: Shalem, 2004), pp. 137-138.

(also the bit in GMH where he mentions man’s holistic, whole complete being is not as “spiritual beings”, but as human beings - and that being our mode of relationship/worship; but I would say it’s also our modus – period). Also Veira ’03 from R. Sacks on website on meaningfulness of history.

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