Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Options

I had a phone conversation with one of the persons I was talking about in the previous two posts, and since this whole thing has played out so nicely online and in public, it wouldn't feel right to withhold from y'all the fruits of my telephony. Of course there was contrition and promises to do better in the future, but whether this means anything is not up to me- only the cook can prevent the chili from being burned, as it were.

The main thought I had coming from the conversation was how the point I wanted to get across wasn't. Instead of a discussion of right and wrong, good and evil, Mac and PC, what we got was a discussion on the fiery pits of hell awaiting some people and the eternal excision of the soul awaiting others. Look, I know that having a belief of reward and punishment is fundamental to our religion, and indeed in this case it's particularly pertinent, but I just don't think that someone over the age of twenty one is going to change their behavior based on their fear of eternal damnation. Face it, they know what the books say, they claim to believe what the books say, and yet, at the end of the day, do they really care? I would argue that they don't.

What a person does care about, what a person does feel, is their own personal responsibility and their own principles. If a person believes that what they're doing is wrong, and cares about their own beliefs, then they'll stop. If they don't stop, then obviously they don't really care, but again, what I wanted from this conversation was a discussion on this person's own beliefs, not of some future reward and punishment.

Oh well, I'm sure there'll be plenty of chances in the future.

55 comments:

Crawling Axe said...

So, you think more people do or don't do stuff because they believe it to be right or wrong and not (a) because of reward/punishment, (b) because they have been made uncomfortable doing that?

What does "right" and "wrong" mean, anyway? (Yes, I went there.)

The Real Shliach said...

Correct.

No, not necessarily. If you can make them uncomfortable then they generally won't do it. In this case, that didn't work.

It doesn't matter what it means, what matters is what these people think it means.

Crawling Axe said...

I mean uncomfortable in the sense that they are not comfortable throwing a piece of paper outside their window when they are driving in complete darkness alone on an empty highway. Something inside them itches them not to do it. But do they think about "good" vs. "evil" at the moment, or do they just have a subconscious reaction, like one subconsciously feels attracted or disgusted to certain things without thinking whether they are actually good or bad?

So, what do they think? And do they think about it (and don't do evil as a result)? Also, if these people don't have a good definition of good and evil, it means they haven't thought about it, no?

The Real Shliach said...

OK, good point. In this case, again, they obviously don't feel uncomfortable in the sense of the word as you've explained it.

These people have a fine knowledge of what is right and wrong. They just don't act on it. Most people are the same way. The difference is the lengths people will go to. In this case, the violation was so personally painful that I felt obliged to say something.

Crawling Axe said...

Actually, I wasn't talking about the specific group of sinners in question. I was addressing the "most people above the age of 20".

Btw, interestingly enough, by 21, most people's frontal lobe's myelinization is complete. (FL is responsible for long-term planning, judgment, weighing of consequences, etc., among other things. Myelinization = allows signals to travel faster = increases effectiveness of the network and its computational capabilities.)

The Real Shliach said...

OK, so most people allow a whole range of factors to influence their decisions.

So you're saying that most people's character's are set by the time they're twenty one? This is scary.

Crawling Axe said...

Well, do most people ever consider good and evil when making decisions? I don't believe so.

No, I am saying that physical ability of the brain to make decisions, look into the future, care about long-term things is fully developed by the age of 21. Just like by a certain age, a person reaches his final height. Of course, there are things that make one's decision making better (experience, wisdom, intelligence), all of which change.

I think a person's character changes throughout life. Although not that much. Old people who behave like jerks were probably jerks all their lives; they were just controlling themselves better. My grand-aunt, for example, was the eidelest person when she was 24, 44, 64 or 94. Old men with Alzheimers who were screaming at everyone in her nursing home were probably [censored] all their lives.

The Real Shliach said...

Sure they do! Otherwise what would be the point of chassidus?

Ahh.

Ahh.

Crawling Axe said...

Again, I am talking about people at large, not your fornicating friends.

The Real Shliach said...

Nu, so what are you trying to say about people at large?

Crawling Axe said...

That for the most part they don't think about good/evil as they go through their lives. They just listen intuitively inside themselves regarding what feels right/wrong. Also, they are afraid of punishment.

The Real Shliach said...

What feels right/wrong is based on many thing, including what the person believes is good and evil.

People are afraid of immediate punishment, not of the sort that comes after 120 years.

Crawling Axe said...

I think it's the other way around. People were raised, having the values instilled into them by parents/society and based on those instincts, they say that certain things are good or evil. Proof? Ask someone to explain to you why doing something that is widely considered immoral (killing, stealing, etc.) is evil. Most people won't be able to explain it.

Agreed.

The Real Shliach said...

I thought you were talking about how people make decisions in every day life, not their world view.

Crawling Axe said...

I was. The fact that by most people, there is nothing in the "world view" folder, proves that they use something else to make everyday decisions.

The Real Shliach said...

Nu, nature versus nurture. Or something like that. Everything is based on everything.

Crawling Axe said...

Quod natura non dat Salmantica non praestat.

The Real Shliach said...

Non plus ultra

Sebastion said...

This is hilarious, so your saying that if a person does or does not do something solely based on it being right or wrong? allow me to introduce you to human beings! on occaison, some people, err. This can happen due to a number of factors, does it mean that a person does not reflect on said error with remorse because they realize it was wrong? no. People sometimes struggle with inclinations other than good. Also, dont be too shocked, these poor folk may not feel like they need to share their repentance with you. Lol. On another note, something else a person should "die" rather commit is lashon hara.. Which these poor folk may feel this smacks of. Just saying.

Sebastion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sebastion said...

*scratch the if at the beginning of that paragraph

Sebastion said...

On a side note, if you cared so much wouldn't you just call these people? not to play devils advocate or anything. Lol.

The Real Shliach said...

You are certainly correct. Please make mistakes all the time. Problem becomes when people make the same mistakes constantly- are they mistakes anymore? The Gemara says that if you sin constantly it becomes permitted. Obviously this doesn't mean that the sinful act becomes permitted, rather it means that the person views it as being permitted because they've become so desensitized by their constant repetition.

I don't need them to share their repentance with me. I don't want to hear them talk. I want to see them stop what they're doing. Action speaks louder than words. In this case, I've heard many words, but seen no action.

I don't believe this is lashon hora, as I didn't say who I was talking about, or even the sin I was talking about. In fact, it was so anonymous that someone else thought it was them I was referring to!

If I cared so much I would call? Possibly. I fear, however, that nothing I can possibly say will be effective, and felt that the only way to air my frustration with the situation was by putting it online. Besides, I'm much more articulate when I write than when I talk (no snide comments please).

Crawling Axe said...

You didn’t say whom you were talking about.

How’s this for critique?

The Real Shliach said...

Consider me suitably chastened.

Crawling Axe said...

Anyway, I agree. Doesn’t it say to rebuke one’s brother (and much more rarely a sister) if he is sinning?

There is a difference between not being depressed because you’re a sinner and being complacent about sinning. If I am depressed I didn’t get my Ph.D. yet, it will be stupid, and I will actually just ruin my effectiveness at work. But sitting on my ass is equally stupid — I need to get behind the bench and start the rtPCR. (A little personal moshol.)

The Real Shliach said...

Only if you're at their level (per chapter 32 of the Tanya).

Correct.

Crawling Axe said...

Even if you’re not on the same level as he, but you are on the same level (or higher) regarding this particular issue, shouldn’t you do it? A person cannot free himself from his own prison. If his friend (who is locked in a different prison, perhaps in an even bigger one) has the key, should he waste time comparing the prisons or just go for it and release his friend?

Crawling Axe said...

not on the same level bichlal*

(Maybe I subconsciously omitted that word because I am not on the level where I can use it routinely in my speech.)

Sebastion said...

So do these people need to run to your house and prove their true repentance to you? Also since when does the alleged speaker of lashon hara get to decide when it is or is not lashon hara? were even one single person other than your intended audience to figure out who it is then its definitly lashon hara. I hope that hasn't happened :) . A better writer than speaker eh? so i take it your email is broken? and if you didn't think it was going to help at all then why would you say anything? im also pretty the tanya wasn't refering to a public rebuke. Just saying. Oh the pitfalls of being the arbiter of justice :)

The Real Shliach said...

CA: Nu, so I rebuked.

Sebastion:

"So do these people need to run to your house and prove their true repentance to you?"

No, I already said that that's not necessary. What I want is that next time I'm with these people my sensibilities are not offended.

"Also since when does the alleged speaker of lashon hara get to decide when it is or is not lashon hara?"

Every person makes decisions every day based on their own understanding of halacha. Otherwise it would be impossible to live.

"were even one single person other than your intended audience to figure out who it is then its definitly lashon hara. I hope that hasn't happened :)"

I certainly hope so too.

"so i take it your email is broken?"

Take it however you want.

"and if you didn't think it was going to help at all then why would you say anything?"

Sometimes some things need to be said, even if you don't think it'll accomplish anything. Hashem tells us to make an effort, and he'll take care of the rest.

"im also pretty the tanya wasn't refering to a public rebuke."

Certainly. That's why the rebuke wasn't public.

"Oh the pitfalls of being the arbiter of justice"

What pitfalls? I'm doing a great job.

Crawling Axe said...

So, did you rebuke them because you were uncomfortable, or because you thought about Eibeshter in exile?

The Real Shliach said...

Why did you think I was uncomfortable?

Crawling Axe said...

You said your sensibilities were offended. I assume that made you uncomfortable.

The Real Shliach said...

My sensibilities being offended and my being uncomfortable, are, at least in this case, one and the same.

Crawling Axe said...

Nu. So, did this make you rebuke them or your love of Hashem?

The Real Shliach said...

You're saying, "What caused your reaction- your feeling uncomfortable or your love of Hashem?"

My answer is that the reason I felt uncomfortable, the reason my sensibilities were offended, is because of my love of Hashem.

(geesh, that sounded pompous)

e said...

People err, no matter what. But they err regularly and predictably only if they want to.

When I was in yeshiva, I could never get up in the mornings, even though I claimed that I wanted to. I couldn't admit to myself that I really didn't want to go to chassidus.

Now I also struggle with getting up in time for school. But throughout all three years of college I slept late maybe two times.

Yeah, I still err, but not nearly as often, because I really, really, really don't want to err.

A person is responsible also for his errors.

e said...

halachically, when a person knows something wrong and does it anyways because he can't hold himself back, that's called an intentional sin. An error is when you don't know that the action is forbidden. And Torah holds us responsible for even these errors.

The Real Shliach said...

e: finally, the voice of reason!

Crawling Axe said...

But my question is: do you want this situation to be rectified so that you stop feeling uncomfortable, or so that our Father in Heaven is happy?

Leo de Toot said...

Dear Mr. R.S.
Interesting you should mention "eternal damnation" in the context of twenty-one year olds ... Reminds me that it was shortly before then (well a few years before then) that I read "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" by James Joyce. The description of "eternal damnation (ED)" and its effect on a young man has stayed with me (and occasionally influenced my actions). (Some of course argue that ED is having to read Ulysses ... but that's another story). Looking over my shoulder, Leo de T.

Crawling Axe said...

e, but was it your decision not to want to go to Chassidus, or was it something outside of your control?

e said...

the problem is that the people erring regularly won't admit to themselves that these errors are intentional. If they would admit it, they'd start feeling guilty, and no one wants to feel guilty.

The Real Shliach said...

CA: both.

LdT: Oh yes? What does it say on the subject there?

e: So it's our job to make them feel guilty?

Crawling Axe said...

James Joyce describes himself in the Portraif of an Artist. He lost faith in Catholicism, because he didn’t like the cracker-and-wine ceremony.

A friend of his asked him: “So, are you going to become a Protestant now?” Joyce answered: “I said I’d lost my faith. I didn’t say I’d lost self-respect.”

I often think about this story when wondering about myself: if I ever stop being a pseudo-chossid, will I become [...]? I usually give myself the same answer.

e said...

CA: true. I never decided to not want to go to chassidus. In fact, I had emphatically decided to want to learn 24/7.

But because the decision hadn't reached the depths of my soul, the solution to my regular errors wasn't more will power or more violent wake up calls by my roommates. The solution was that I should really want to get up. Or at least understand why I didn't want to get up. Will power isn't enough for regular errors.

e said...

TRS: I don't believe in guilt. If you or the rebukee decide to believe in guilt, that's your issue.

The Real Shliach said...

e: What do you mean that you don't believe in guilt? You don't believe in the concept, or you don't believe in having it?

e said...

I believe that guilt exists, but I also believe that with the right combination of scruples and metascuples is can be almost entirely avoided.

The Real Shliach said...

Fair enough.

Yossi said...

Hey, I was wondering if you could post a link or type a list of all the winners of the annual doris danforth memorial shliach/blogger prize. It would be cool to see other bloggers of your caliber, for the past 30 years, I guess...

The Real Shliach said...

Good idea, Yossi, I'll work on it.

e said...

while we're at it, let's start an investigation into how you got the almighty editor award?

The Real Shliach said...

What are you suggesting?