Good to Have the Capacity to be Depressed

And heartbroken because it shows Greatness of Desire; the frustration of desire is a sign we are able to imagine what it is that we want; the fear that we will never get what we want is the mother of Anxiety; but the same principle applies: the greatness of fear shows the potential greatness of courage that will someday vanquish this fear; and those who are greatly able to master their own great fear are courageous ones to whom much will be given, even more than that for which they hoped.


Good Books to Read (Obscure Ones)

The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison

Little Big by John Crowley

The [widget] the [wadget] and Boff by Theodore Sturgeon

Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science by Martin Gardner

6000 B.C. by Raymond Smullyan



If It Looks Like a Choice Between Your Religion and No Religion, You Made a Mistake

Just reading about Hillel Zeitlin an orthodox Jewish writer who perished along with most of his family in the Warsaw Ghetto.  He was raised in a yeshiva, left and started reading Spinoza and Nietzsche, then decided these writers were wrong and returned to orthodoxy.  And was killed.

He made a mistake by thinking his only two options were orthodox Judaism and nothing.  Anytime the two options are: the religion you raised in and THE ABYSS a lot of people will return to the religion they were raised in.

Big Mistake!  There are so many other religions.  Every person has his own religion. Even no religion is a religion!

The idea that it’s — the OLD WAY or NO WAY — is a trick, in order to get poor people like Hillel Zeitel to fear the new and cling to the old.

Let us open our hearts to how God speaks to all of us, in our collective and individual incarnations.

That’s the true religion.

My religion or no religion is like “either my kid is the smartest or all kids are worthless”.

See the beauty in all of our children.


Fathers, Don’t Raise Your Sons to be Winners

Yes, yes it is very tempting.  If your life has been frustrating (and whose hasn’t?)its tempting, sure it is to decide to grow up the son as a weapon against those who have humiliated you.  He’s young and strong and courageous.  Teach him to do anything to win!   Don’t.  The world is complicated and faces real problems.   Brain tumors.  Globalism.  Climate change.  If you raise your son just to win he will not try to solve those problems — which require cooperation– and will resort to “Anything for a win” — lying, short-cuts, p.r., backstabbing, gas.  Not a good legacy for you!  Teach him to make everybody a winner!  Teach him to make the whole world a winner!  Otherwise he will contribute to the problems.  Otherwise he will be checker champion on the Titanic!  And be hollow inside.  And deep down hate you.


Was Political Correctness A Bad Thing?

My encounter with political correctness at an Ivy league university in the 1980s happened in a small seminar on the Hevajra Tantra in the Comparative Religion department.  The authors of the Hevajra Tantra believed that the right kind of yoga and meditation could give the practitioners supernatural powers.  For example they thought if you meditated for long enough in the right way, you could fly.  I told the teacher that whatever we think about why people said this, we know it wasn’t true.  She disagreed and said “That’s a very Western attitude.”  I said something along the lines of “Fine, I’m okay with that.”  This wasn’t the answer she wanted and she said “I should say that’s a very hostile attitude.”  She meant it was a bad attitude, and one I should not have had.  And she gave me a B, although that’s on me.

I will put this forward as an example of “political correctness”.  The professor criticized me for having a view that took the point of view of dead white European imperialist males, and discounting the point of view of the Indians and Tibetans we were studying.  She was using her position of academic prestige to tamp down a reasonable position on my part and was accusing me of a political or ethical lapse.

When I read conservative and even white supremacist people expressing themselves on the internet and on the radio, I get the impression they are responding to political correctness and enjoying the ability to say things they were forbidden to say in college.  They call racist views “crimethink” — which makes a comparison between non-racist professors and the thought police in 1984 — and they call universities “secular seminaries” which makes a comparison between racist views and religious dissent. Upon being told that certain views are forbidden they revel in the ability to state them and to cast themselves as victims.

This makes me think that something went wrong along the way — that educators gave students the impression not just that certain views were wrong but that it was forbidden and naughty to hold them.  And this gave the students an understandable impulse to rebel.

How then should educators deal with views that are morally abhorrent?  The view for example that slavery in the South was a good thing because Africans are genetically inferior?

Forbidding the expression of such views has unintended blowback, making some students think the view must be correct, or else why would the authorities forbid its discussion?  But allowing such views to be normalized is horrible too.

I can think of a couple of responses:

a)One would be for the educator to be upfront about his or her moral commitments.  The educator could say, speaking as a person, I find racism abhorrent.  My parents suffered from it or I have friends who still suffer from it.  The quest for tolerance informs my decision to be a teacher.  So I will not allow my classroom to be used to promulgate hate.  But that is me speaking as a human beings to human beings.  I am not claiming the same kind of authority that I claim when I tell you that your facts are wrong or your sentences are ungrammatical.

b)Another would be to allow students to express themselves but make sure they do so in an environment where they understand the human dimension of what they are saying.  Bring the holocaust denier together with the children of holocaust survivors, and the racism-apologist together with the victims of racism.  The educator could provide a safe space in which views could be exchanged and also allow students to explicitly discuss the pain and trauma caused by hearing their pain discounted.   This would be education as group psychotherapy, but maybe that’s not such a bad idea.

I really don’t know the answer to this question though: how do you teach students to respect the values of tolerance and respect without them feeling bullied or shamed if they don’t have the values yet?

What do you think?




Is it Okay to Want Paradoxical Things?

For example:

To want you to be forgiven but not because you know I want you to forgive me?


To be humble but not to know I’m humble?


To be loved for no reason, but also to be lovable?

I think the answer is: yes.

After all I can want to forget something although I know that if I keep remembering to forget it that will work against my forgetting it.

It is perfectly okay to want something even if wanting it and knowing that I want it fight against the getting of it.  It is okay to want to be famous for not caring about being famous.

You might say, I think, that the thing you want is not paradoxical.  What is paradoxical is that you want it.  That would require a distinction between things as they really are and things as they are when we actually care about them or strive for them.  If that distinction is clear to you, then by all means go for it.  Sometimes it is clear to me but right now it is as opaque as mud.