There are a lot of questions that bug me and that I go back and forth on within my own mind. Does God exist? Does Heidegger’s Nazism invalidate his philosophy? Should we re-make humanity using science into some cool post-human species? Is secular culture nihilistic or does it contain enough oomph to support a vibrant spiritual life?
Since I started using the internet I signed up for discussion groups related to these topics: discussion groups on philosophy, religion, Judaism, Heidegger, and post-humanism for example. Facebook would then deposit articles on these topics in my feed and I would respond. This led to me having a lot of debates on these topics. I enjoy debating and am pretty good at it, because my father would challenge anything I said around the dinner table, and I went on to do graduate work in philosophy.
These discussions while not entirely fruitless were not entirely fruitful either. Very often my debating partners would have a strong unthought out prejudice for their point of view, and the limitations of internet discussion made it difficult to make headway. They were like conversations I would have with people whom I actually knew but thinned out, deracinated, aimless and less helpful. (On the plus side though I interacted with people from different demographics and social backgrounds and I have to believe that that’s a Good Thing.)
Recently though I found myself sending a message to somebody who had never bothered me in the hopes of getting into a discussion about the philosophy of religion. I realized that the internet had tempted me to be annoying. I would never in real life go knock on the door of somebody I barely knew and say “How do you know the Torah is an historical document? Prove it.” Yet I had done something similar with this acquaintance. What the heck was the matter with me? (And I am tempted to use an even stronger word than “heck” but forego because this is a public post.)
As I always do in these situations I underwent a serious course of self-analysis coupled with certain private purificatory and expiatory practices. After these practices (really a bunch of gussied-up cold baths if you must know) It became obvious to me that rather than do the hard work of developing a systematic treatment of these issues that can integrate the warring parts of myself, I am fleeing into a meaningless interaction with strangers.
And what was worse I had violated one of my core values: Leave people alone. Do Not Be Thou Deliberately Annoying.
I won’t do that again.