Monday, January 02, 2006

On Snowmen and the Blogosphere

There are great ethical dilemmas here. Torturous problems! The snowman must forever be caught in a state of inaction and passivity, pondering his snowball.

That is, until he melts.

The human race is curiously like a snowman. There are great shouts, angry fights, various debates, rants, raving, and in the end, what have we truly accomplished?

ז וְיָשֹׁב הֶעָפָר עַל-הָאָרֶץ, כְּשֶׁהָיָה; וְהָרוּחַ תָּשׁוּב, אֶל-הָאֱלֹהִים אֲשֶׁר נְתָנָהּ.
7 And the dust returneth to the earth as it was, and the spirit returneth unto God who gave it.
~ Koheles 12:7

The blogosphere in particular is a realm of words. Thoughts fly thick, arguments are heated, some are banned, others are bashed, this one is insulted, that one is put on a pedestal, and many of us learn from the give and take, the arguments and the debate. Sometimes merely reading and mulling something over is enough, sometimes a few superficial comments and questions, other times a thorough reply.

The nice thing about the blogosphere, particularly the Jewish blogosphere, is that we have so many kinds of people here, most of whom you would generally not see sitting down to discuss various issues with one another. You can find halakhic blogs, personal blogs, blogs that argue with Judaism, blogs that dislike seemingly fundamentalist Judaism, blogs that simply describe a particular Jew's life and daily thoughts, blogs that are serious, that are funny, that are disturbing- all kinds of people, each dancing to his own tune but interested in others and the ideas of others. You'll find people you agree with and people you disagree with, and from everyone and everything you can learn.

I don't want to be a sponge; I'd like to be a filter. Yes, though there appear to be great theological differences between different writers' approaches, I still think I can learn from each one. Simply because I read a post doesn't mean I agree with it, as I am sure applies to a great many people- not just me.

Another nice thing about the blogs is that I can hear human voices animating dry opinions or facts. Some speak in anger, others sarcastically, some sadly, others happily. But this is a debate. Sure, I could study R' Slifkin or evolution or halakha in other forums, and I do. But the blogs allow for an animating force to the dry facts/ belief systems, and I appreciate that.

I may be young- yes, I'm seventeen- and I don't want to engage in competitions when it comes to knowledge, because I am certain that many of you know more and are more experienced than I am, but I do have some common sense. I won't believe something you write simply because you said so, and I certainly won't do so when I don't have all the facts at my disposal. I may concentrate on one or two entries- ones that particularly interest me- and go research facts on my own. On the Internet, in books, periodicals, sefarim, my parents- and so on and so forth.

It would be sad if writers here actually started to limit the inflow and output of opinions and ideas on the blogs based on age and age groups. Not only would that be an insult to my/ our intelligence, but also to my common sense. It would be an assumption that when I read something, I blindly accept it/ am somehow affected by it in ways beyond my comprehension. That's not true.

So please- I know that some of the opinions on these blogs may be one-sided or biased, may be persuasive, may be based on sources I haven't read or haven't heard of, but I don't go to the blogs in order to be taught, to ask people to please shower their ideas and biases upon my head so that I can grovel before them and lap everything up. I read the blogs to understand different aspects of the Jewish world, of different people, of different ideas, and so on and so forth.

I do know that not everything I read is true, or accurate, but then again, what is? News organizations are biased, any opinion on the Internet could be biased, all the more so the blogs.

ו נִתַּן הַסֶּכֶל, בַּמְּרוֹמִים רַבִּים; וַעֲשִׁירִים, בַּשֵּׁפֶל יֵשֵׁבוּ.
6 Folly is set on great heights, and the rich sit in low place.
- Koheles 10:6

I don't think censorship/ deliberately ignoring ideas until I am _____ (fill in the word: older, more experienced, more mature) is the answer. Is it better to remain protected and sheltered or to attempt to learn/ understand? I think it's better to confront ideas, whether they be doubts or assertions, and hence to learn where you stand.

יג וְנָתַתִּי אֶת-לִבִּי, לִדְרוֹשׁ וְלָתוּר בַּחָכְמָה, עַל כָּל-אֲשֶׁר נַעֲשָׂה, תַּחַת הַשָּׁמָיִם; הוּא עִנְיַן רָע, נָתַן אֱלֹהִים לִבְנֵי הָאָדָם--לַעֲנוֹת בּוֹ.
13 And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven; it is a sore task that God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised therewith.
~ Koheles 1:13

C.S. Lewis thought that Narnia would be the perfect way to introduce the young child to theology, and he was right. If you don't know the tenets of Christianity, you won't necessarily be influenced (and I wasn't, when I read the books) but later on you come back to them, and you can only marvel at his cleverness. If one can snare the child- better yet, if one can attract his attention under the guise of fairy stories and ideas- all the more so the teenager or the adult. Refusing to read blogs/ deliberately limiting my intake of ideas and information does not appeal to me. Oughtn't I to know what Judaism means today, and what it means to different people? To read the different issues/problems people face? I think so.

And if I find something disturbing or confusing, is my immediate reaction to run off and..hmm...abandon the religion? No. It's to try to understand it, to try to resolve the conflict, to attempt to find sources, both the ones that the person may have been quoting from and others, and to come up with my own understanding of/ opinion on the topic.

I don't treat the blogs lightheartedly, I'm not a little Red Riding Hood walking into the open mouth of a Wolf disguised as a friendly grandmother, I haven't developed a severe case of blindness simply because of my age, and I don't accept everything I read. I don't suffer from hero-worship or blind obedience, and I will not bow to the idolatry of anyone, whether it take the form of skepticism, rationalism, cynicism, fundamentalism or any other kind of ism.

So while I thank many of you for your concern/ warnings/ attempt to dissuade me, I really am okay. I haven't wandered into a hostile world (at least, not unwillingly *wink*) It's all good.


FrumGirl said...

I am glad you choose to make your own decisions. Yes, there is much info out there in blogworld but the same can be said about books or education in general. People try to look out for others by telling them what to be wary of, what you read, what you internalize. they think ignorance will keep you level-headed. A person like you, Chana, who searches... there can be no satisfaction from that. Go... run... learn... grow! It shows that you have a strong faith in G-d so I know you will be ok.

It is interesting that you bring up the Narnia books. I also read them when I was in 4th grade... most do not know that CS Lewis was an avid christian and those Narnia stories .. Aslan, etc are directly corrolated to christianity. But they are magical books and something that even we as jews can internalize. I hear the movie wasn't so good though...

Chana, keep it up! You are definately wiser than your years... I know big things are in store for you!

Masmida said...

My, my, chana, what big teeth you have.

I wouldn't dare persume to warn such a passionate and idealistic person against doing what they want.

I am very happy to take all your ideas seriously and will be happy to argue and discuss. I find your writing fascinating.

looking forward to more

asher said...

I imagine you have read Ivanhoe..There are so many great quotes from it. I wish I could find the book I kept them all in.
But the one I remember was "By the bald head of Abraham, that woman is as beautful as the night....tis a pity she's a jew" or something like that. We need more background on should be dating and finding a husband. You won't find the truth in books or by asking your rabbayim.

muse said...

Your posts are amazing.
Keep it up.

Pragmatician said...

That was an intelligent analysis of the Jewish blogsphere.
I must admit that your post doesn’t give away your age, you sound very articulate and intelligent for someone your age. Most girls I know are only interested in how they look and who likes them.
And we have at least one thing in common, we both appreciate the subtle and genius humor that can be found in the Calvin and Hobbes strips!

Datingmaster, Jerusalem said...

you are so young and innocent
it is amazing