Saturday, March 05, 2005

Controversial thoughts may be hazardous to one's health...

In Stony Brook, I used to write articles that would upset people because I would write about sensitive topics that people wouldn't normally write about. For those of you who remember, allow me to say "buzzz, buzzzz, buzzz...” I also wrote about topics such as CRS (Computer Reality Syndrome) which was an observation that people are spending too much time on the computer, and that computer addictions are beginning to become a psychological problem which people will need to deal with.

Interestingly enough, A few years ago I received a call from my mentor at the Wellness Center at SUNY Stony Brook telling me that a whole field of psychology dealing with my topic has emerged, and my research was the starting point that they used in their research. I conducted surveys, made statistical reports, and wrote articles that were later used in their research. Now books have been written on the subject. All this starting from an observation and a school newspaper article on how someone can sit in a room without windows, and be physically attached on some level to their computer screen, and not realize that the sun has gone down and has re-emerged the next day. So from writing about controversial topics, such as this one, good was able to come from it. I also wrote one telling people that they can fly off of a building -- this being published in the school newspaper during finals time -- but nevertheless with the exception of the article on human flight which was more of a satire on the concept of mind-over-matter, I was writing with the intent of affecting people's lives in a positive way.

The problem with this blog is that while the school newspaper was generalized, this blog is localized. One of my close friends or family could read my blog and figure out exactly who I am talking about, or so they think they can. The problem which HAS arisen is that people have read my blog when I am discussing a concept in general, and they have taken the blog personally and have thought that I was specifically speaking about them. Take for example a blog I wrote a few days ago about truth and honesty -- I wrote how there are those who proclaim one intention and act in a contrary way. I admit that this was a very sharp e-mail that could have hurt anyone who thought I was referring to them; to my surprise, one person did and I hurt their feelings for days before they realized that the blog entry had nothing to do with them. So the problem is that I might be hurting people by discussing concepts that are personal, relevant, and especially sensitive to those close to me that read the blog. I would like comments on this, and if it turns out that my writings are hurting those close to me, then I will either shut down this blog or more strongly filter what I write.

My comment to those who take personally what I say is -- and I say this with complete caution and hesitation because the last thing I want is to hurt anyone's feelings -- the purpose of this blog is to share lessons I learned with my readers and to hash out and analyze confusing thoughts and concepts that come up in my head so that others with similar issues may learn from the analysis and the conclusions drawn. Perhaps some of you could also give your feedback to me in the comment area so that if I analyzed something improperly or if I am missing an element in my analysis you can help me discover the true solution to the problem. I also have some Chassidus and learnings from Torah incorporated so at the same time, hopefully my reader will learn a thing or two of Torah that is directly applicable to their lives.

But the harsh point that I started to say in the last paragraph is if for some strange reason you find that my writings are relevant to something in your life, for example if you think I am referring to you in my blog and you take something personally, maybe there is some lesson to learn about yourself -- this is one big reason I am writing the blog; for self-introspection and personal growth. This could be true even if in truth my writing has absolutely nothing to do with you, and I was writing about another person or another concept. Again, the purpose of this blog is self-exploration for both me and you; if one of us learns a thing or two from my words, then the purpose of the blog has been accomplished.

The last thing on my mind is the way my thoughts appear to you as the reader. I in no way intend for you to develop a negative opinion of me, and the last thing I would ever want to do in this blog is to lose your trust, friendship, or love. If I am making myself look bad by writing this blog by exposing thoughts that I shouldn't be thinking, or if my writing is suggesting to you that I am a bad person or that I am in need of a therapist, then this is completely not my intention. On the contrary, I am trying to hash out issues that are bothering me in my life, and so perhaps someone other than me has dealt with these issues and can help me resolve them. Again, I want this forum to be completely open and honest with no reservations. Above I said that if I am hurting people, I will shut down this blog. Similarly, if I am starting to look like a madman to my readers, or if I am sharing too much with all of you so that you might form a bad opinion of me, this is not my intention either and I would also consider shutting down the blog for this reason too.

My only reply to this concern is that in the history of show business, the greatest actors and the greatest writers historically have been people who have skewed personalities and distorted mental faculties. I mean some of these people are just plain strange. Also, the greatest comedians are those who are in the direst need for ridilin or prozac. I know I have a "sharp tongue" when I write, but maybe this is one of my gifts that I can use for good to help people grow.

I always hope that my mental faculties are on the same wavelength as those of my peers, and that others have thoughts and irks such as I have. With all this said, to those that don't know me, I am really a cheerful person. While I live a highly-stressed life, often balancing many more things on my "plate" than many would be able to handle [except for my friend in dental school, my friend who is about to get married, and my friend the father], somehow I keep it all together and in the end everything (thank G-d) always comes out okay. I certainly have my moments of difficulty, and not every moment of my life is stress-free. But overall, I am well-tempered, easy-going, calm and relaxed, and I love my surroundings and I am excited for the things and the people that are in my life. I have a good support system, a warm and caring family, good friends, and my life is seldom boring.

The war that you often see me writing about in my journal entries is the classic war between a person's good inclination and his evil inclination. The good inclination (often referred to as the nefesh habahamas) leads me to desire and to run after the worldly pleasures of the flesh; these are momentary, temporary, empty pleasures that do not make a person a better person, but make him more like an animal. To those that are conversant with Chassidus, this inclination is utterly evil and brings us farther away from G-d and our purpose in life. The opposite inclination, the good inclination (nefesh elokis) is literally a piece of G-d (I can't grasp this concept well enough to explain it, but from what I understand, it is supposed to be literally a part of G-d in us) when exposed and manifested in the body lead us to pursue godly pursuits. (i.e. wanting to pray, or to do a good deed, etc.) The problem is that the good inclination (by the way, did I mention that the good and bad inclination are each souls in the literal sense?) is placed within the bad inclination, and so it is often hidden and is unable to manifest itself in our thoughts prominently enough to affect us. By doing good deeds it becomes revealed and it gains power. By doing selfish deeds, the bad inclination gets stronger.

A good example is as if there are two kings, one evil and one good, who try to exert their dominion over the little city (our body). When one is in power, the other is weak, and vice versa. A person who is not conversant with this topic, either because he lacks Torah knowledge or because he lacks common sense and a refinement might not be able to understand this topic without some time learning. Like caviar, it is an acquired taste. (Is caviar even kosher?) Hence, to some, it might seem crazy why I would put such value into being religious, or why I would ever place G-d's will over mine, or why I would ever give up the secular things or people that I loved the most.

While I often feel like I am fighting a war with myself, I find honor in this war. I feel like a soldier defending his country, and in a literal way, I am defending the sanctity of my body and my soul. Although I cannot see the results or the benefits from my actions, I believe that living with this philosophy is the right way to be and I am honored to be on this path. This is something that others may never be able to understand, because it is anti-logical and is against all of the self-loving, egotistical, self-praising, selfish, empty philosophies the secular society will teach. That sounded opinionated. ;) To everyone that knows me, keep in mind that I chose this path. Some would say that on some level, it chose me. But as difficult as it is to refine oneself and overcome one's selfish desires, I have faith that the end result will be just and true.

PS - I still love cake and a good steak; fighting a war doesn't mean one should become ascetic and give up all the pleasures of this life. Fighting this war means that whatever you do, whatever you think, you do it through the expression of the good soul with the good intentions, and you do it in a permissible way at the permissible time with the proper blessing and thanks to G-d for the experience.

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