Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from November, 2016

What evil looks like

People who perpetrate cruelty do not look any different outwardly than anyone else. "We can all become beasts," said Chris Hedges. Deborah Feldman: "'Hitler had chicken feet, you know,' Bubby remarks. 'That's why he never took off his shoes. So they wouldn't see he was a sheid, a ghost.' She scrubs at the burned remains of chicken fricassee on the bottom of a cast-iron skillet, her calloused fingers marked by years of housework. I don't think this world is such a simple place, in which bad people have deformities that mark them as evil. That's not how it works. Evil people look just like us. You can't take off their shoes and know the truth." Their problems are inside. They may be immature, naïve, not in possession of knowledge of any civil way to deal with their traumas. If they run the state, the state will be cruel. Clive James: "In the long run, the Banality of Evil interpretation of human frightfulness is not

Inconsistencies in crediting success and suffering to God

On the inconsistency of crediting success and suffering to God: Some people credit mainly good things to God. In his memoir, Donald Miller wrote of his immature concept of a "slot-machine God:" "If something nice happened to me, I thought it was God, and if something nice didn't, I went back to the slot machine, knelt down in prayer, and pulled the lever a few more times." Christopher Hitchens wrote in God is not Great: "But the human wish to credit good things as miraculous and to charge bad things to another account is apparently universal. In England the monarch is the hereditary head of the church as well as the hereditary head of the state: William Cobbett once pointed out that the English themselves colluded in this servile absurdity by referring to “The Royal Mint” but “The National Debt.” Religion plays the same trick, and in the same way, and before our very eyes. On my first visit to the Sacre Coeur in Montmartre, a church that was buil

Moving from cursing others to assisting them

One stage of grief, in Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's famous schema, is bargaining. One type of bargain a person may try to strike — if only in the imagination, as such bargains usually are anyway — is that someone else could have been taken in place of the one who is grieved. This is not necessarily because they relish the suffering of others. (Some people certainly do. The character of the princess Pari said in Anita Amirrezvani’s novel Equal of the Sun: “People love to dwell on the pain of others; they love to stick their fingers in it and suck on it as if it were honey. But I won’t allow them to feed at my hive.”) They may say this in the height of emotion even if, at a more lucid and sober moment, they would not claim that one life is worth more than another. A character in Sjón's novel From the Mouth of the Whale describes it this way: Alas, why does God allow the candle of worthless old hags to flicker, year in, year out, for nine times nine years, while abruptly and withou

What is Jewish mysticism?

What do mystics believe? If there is any underlying belief to mysticism, it is the assumption that God is connected to humans and present near us. Scholem said that mysticism arises when religion is in a "romantic period," recognizing an "abyss" and launching a "quest for the secret that will close it in, the hidden path that will span it. It strives to piece together the fragments broken by the religious cataclysm, to bring back the old unity which religion has destroyed, but on a new plane, where the world of mythology and that of revelation meet in the soul of man." Similarly, Dedopulos described mysticism as the "most advanced stage of religion" that reconciles the animist/immanent view of the world (in which the world itself is alive or divine) with the idea of a distant creator by providing techniques for direct connection with God: "God's created are able to uncover the paths by which they can make their way back to God. They ca