Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Brief Response

The following was a reaction to another old post of Nemo's. I suggest everyone go read it, even though my links don't work, because aside from the issues I raised, it was really a very well written and meaningful post. Here is another futile attempt at linking, which is really just my way of citing the source, since my links don't work:

It's the post entitled "The Bitter Old Man," dated, I believe December 22, 2006.

My commenting on this post is silly for several reasons. But I had to. Several of the things you said elicited a visceral reaction, and I couldn't let this go.

"He then presses you for your answer and no matter how deep you dig to give a palatable answer, he spits it back at you. He’s not looking for answers; he doesn’t even care, it’s all part of his little ploy."

This is the thing about the people who have never truly doubted. The people who have never truly doubted, never REALLY asked the questions, will not understand that the answers are not the point - in Torah, Judaism, life. Answers are not the goal, they aren't the source, they aren't the reason or the purpose. WHEN they exist, in whatever form they exist, their purpose is either 1)to pacify those who are satisfied enough not to probe deeper or 2)to further the inquiry and the depth of the search for those people who really ARE asking the questions. The ones who truly ask know there is no end, and that is why there are no real answers. Answers aren't truth. They aren't even answers. They are pieces of a larger and even more troubling question. That is Torah, Judaism, existence, and G-d.

"I don’t speak to him because I think he speaks truth. While he certainly is a man that could rightfully argue with G-d, I don’t need his thoughts to feed my doubts."

I'm not going to get into a silly semantic debate about what truth is or isn't. I'm too tired, and I get tireder just thinking about it. But those who do not see truth in everything will never get the full picture, bc: truth=everything=full picture. Did you get the bit about the everythingness? We only get bits of truth at a time, and never the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us, G-d. It's physically impossible, that is why the whole truth thing never ends, and why there are no real answers. Honestly, I think the concept of "the answer" is a purely artificial human construct.

(The bit about the arguing with G-d I will have to rant about on my own time.)

I suppose some people might find this idea depressing. Personally, I don't know how I could go on if this weren't the case. It's the only way to grasp a slice of eternity within this limited and organized human existence.

This only touches on my feelings about people's very limited ideas about truth and G-d and lots of other stuff, but it will have to be a starting point.



Blogger Halfnutcase said...

I always said judaism is more a religion of questions than of answers.

Which is why we have questions that are perenial favorites, like the bais yosef's kasha.

Oh and btw, there is an option on the blogging composition screen for attaching links. Just write a word you want to represent the link, then highlight it, and then click the button that looks like a chain. It will kindly give you an entry screen for an url, and then you can paste the coppied url directly from another window where you have the site open.

10:45 AM  
Blogger Miri said...

I agree.
and thank you for the instuctions; they weren't complicated or confusing at all.

1:36 PM  
Blogger Tobie said...

While I agree that Judaism isn't about the answers, it has to be about the quest for the answers- for every expanding circle of questions there's a circle of answers around it, going on rather like an infinite onion. When people stop looking for answers- either because they think that they've found them or they think they aren't worth looking for, then I think they tend to stagnate- perhaps become bitter.
Every answer that really answers a good question has a little kernel in it, like a prize in a cereal box- you probably can never 'collect them all' but you have to keep opening the boxes, and piecing things together, or else where are you?

1:52 PM  
Blogger Halfnutcase said...

yes tobie, but each little kernel makes ten more questions, and steals some of your previous kernels. (canabals!)

3:41 PM  
Blogger Miri said...

all very true, which is why I think we probably ought to be a little clearer on the definition of the word "answer" and all that it theoretically and practically implies.

4:30 PM  
Blogger Nemo said...

"This is the thing about the people who have never truly doubted."

I don't get what you're getting at... are you skeptical of my skepticism??? It's not that I have anything to gain in showing my Kefira {hence, I never write about}, it's just an interesting impression that you've given off about me in the last two posts.

{"You don't know me girl"}


Do you truly believe that answers can only breed more troubling questions? Is there ever a final answer sufficient to any existential question?

The answer {Kaviyachol, lol} is undeniably no.

But, if you could theoretically know that ABC is the absolute unified truth, you'd be exercising futility in questioning components A, B, and C. Probing deeper is merely an academic nitpicking at the original understanding that you had, testing its durability in all variables, but in essence it all goes back to the bases. It's not really a further question, it's a deeper understanding of the original "truth."

It could be that the "truth" itself is just an assuaging for where answers don't exist, but that is also a risk of faith.

You're going to have to expound on this "answer as a human construct" idea, I'm finding it a bit vague.

7:28 PM  
Blogger Miri said...

"are you skeptical of my skepticism??? "

I am in no position to judge your skepticism. what I read into your writing (which may not be accurate) was this: Biiter Old Man is feeding you questions and quandaries, which you are attempting to answer, and he's not letting you. I was referring specifically to these types of questions - the ones about G-d and evil and Holacausts - when I made my comment. Anyone who's ever truly asked why G-d allowed such evil to be knows there is no answer, or, if there is one, it's far too large for us to comprehend. the question is almost too large for us to comprehend; that's why people make the mistake of thinking they can answer it, bc if they're not really asking, they don't know how large the question really is.

"Probing deeper is merely an academic nitpicking at the original understanding that you had, testing its durability in all variables, but in essence it all goes back to the bases. It's not really a further question, it's a deeper understanding of the original "truth."."

I disagree. Deeper probing is neccessary in order to gain a more practical and functional understanding, which can then be extrapolated and expanded into new ideas and higher truths. I'm not questioning the importance of the basic truths, I'm just saying, it doesn't end there. actually, I'm saying it doesn't end at all. that was really my whole point.

"It could be that the "truth" itself is just an assuaging for where answers don't exist, but that is also a risk of faith."

I do not understand what you mean here.

As to the answers as an artificial human construct thing; what I mean by that is, someone decided it would be nice if there was such a thing as the one concept or rule or solution that would end a series of toubling queries. it kind of works the same way the idea of G-d as an artificial human construct works - someone decided it was true because it made them feel better, when in reality, there is no such thing.

5:39 AM  
Blogger Nemo said...

"Biiter Old Man is feeding you questions and quandaries, which you are attempting to answer, and he's not letting you."

The old man is asking more quandaries than questions. Simply put, were there a G-d, our perception of him being good is contravened by the events of the Holocaust... makes logical sense.

You're right that one cannot answer such a quandry, and neither do I think that any given answer will be satisfactory {I acknowledged in the original essay that my answers were "cursory"}.

However, I think that it's not beyond our capability to surmise on the quandary to a certain degree. I can easily question the notion that G-d is supposed to be "good," which I believe is, to an extent, a human construct of what a god must be. While the Torah asserts G-d's goodness and rewards, there are also many verses where G-d is an angry god. Therefore, without too much analyzation of the atrocities of the Holocaust, I can say I'm not bothered by such a quandary as much as I am by something more empirically troubling, such as Matan Torah, etc.

{More to come after Shabbos- hopefully. Shabbat Shalom}

11:40 PM  
Blogger Nemo said...

I think that there comes a point where answers are sufficient. Maybe I'm not so prod by the Holocaust because, thank G-d, I didn't have to endure the suffering, but the answer that "we can't understand the ways of G-d" is philosophically satisfying to me. I see the problem people have with casting away logic as such, but as far as contravening the truth of G-d, that doesn't do it for me. That answer isn't just a construct, it is, as I illustrated above, the vengeful, punitive facet of G-d. It's something to cry out to G-d about how he could act so spuriously to his Chosen People, but I don't find it philosophically troubling.

I have come to terms that there will always be things that we cannot negotiate full answers to. It is essential to our philosophy that G-d's thoughts and action are beyond us.

2:32 AM  
Blogger Miri said...

"t's something to cry out to G-d about how he could act so spuriously to his Chosen People, but I don't find it philosophically troubling."

Again; says the person who has never truly asked the question. I don't fault the logic behind "we can't understand His ways," nor do I find fault with the logic of many of the so-called "answers" to the whys of the Hoalcaust. (Well, actually, some of them I do, but that's not for now.) The point is not that the logic is faulty; the point is that despite the logic being sound, the answer still does not answer. A metaphor; you know those toys where you have to fit blocks in different shapes into their matching holes? suppose you have a square block and a square hole, but the block, despite being the same shape as the hole, is too small to fill it, so it falls right through. Theoretically, the concept works: square block-square hole. but practically speaking, the block still does not fit. It isn't enough. It falls right through.

These "answers" are like the square block. They should fit, they are the correct shape. Nevertheless, they are still too small. They can never answer the questions, because the questions, to those who are really asking, are just too big.

It isn't a matter of logic. It's a matter of perception. One who has never truly asked will never know that their can truly be no answer.

12:13 PM  
Blogger Nemo said...

It's "emotionally fraught." Of course finding logic for it will never be satisfying. To an extent, using such a basis to contravene G-d is selfish.

Anyway, we're going to have to chose a different example than Holocaust survivors because any discussion about them, their agonies, etc., will inevitably lead to my being called a denigrate. I do take care to their sensitivities, but I have a critical view of some of their belief systems.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Nemo said...

You see, there's nothing new about the Holocaust. Mischance and barbarity are the narrative of the Jewish people and national tragedy has occurred happening since the beginning of our peoplehood. It's not something that these Jews didn't know about before, it just becomes a little more relevant when it strikes you. The challenge, or the question, of how G-d could allow nefariousness on his Chosen People is not a new one, it has been looming with us for all time.

People are personally affected by the failure of their belief system. When it no longer satisfies them, it is suddenly false. But they disregard the fact that such "failure" is written right into their system so why was that not true beforehand?

3:54 PM  
Blogger Miri said...

I'm gonna say this one more time; 1)I don't think you disrespect or disregard the feelings of Holacaust survivors. I don't think you judge them either. I just think you don't understand them, and aren't fit to argue with them since you are not arguing from the same place they are. You are therefore not talking to each other but right past each other. It's futile to try and understand their arguments. You simply won't. Not because the logic is beyond you, but because you can't really hear what they're saying.
2) This is not an argument of logic. Neither is it an argument of philosophy. It's an argument of existential reality. It's based on perception, which is directly influenced by experience. You're not coming from the same place, so you can't know what it is they're really asking. When I say you aren't really asking the question, what I mean is, you aren't asking the same question. Both questions are couched in similar, almost identical language, so it sounds like the same question. But I can't say enough, it is not the same question at all. Yours is about logic and philosophy; theirs is about reality and truth. It feels like they should be one and the same thing but they couldn't be more dfferent.

2:06 PM  

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