I'm reading a story this past shabbos, the R' Nachman classic Sophisticate and Simpleton. Like every R' Nachman story, except maybe a little bit more so, it features profound insights about the nature of the structure of religious tendancies
and where they can take us.
The running theme in this blog seems to be the mystery of what is justified clouding of the senses, the two ancient jewish standards of drug use, life drug vs. death drug both having to do with blindness.
As we pointed out earlier, the hebrew word for drug, SaM reminds of the hebrew word for blind SuMa. Because drugs help us forget somethings so that we can focus on others, like dancing, hunting, playing, davening, and/or living, as is known.
Also known, ideas are drugs. Boundary presrving ideas are the aspect of death drugs, preventing cancerous growth, boundary shattering ideas are the aspect of life life drugs, because life is defined by growth. Uferasta, yamma v kedma, freak out, north and outh, east and west.
This story is about the problem of simple faith. What's the problem with faith? Only if it's not true. What's if it's always not quite true?
There's a problem with chakira, probing for truth. It's disruptive, to whatever you're probing, and you'll never see more than you're willing to. The problem with what's traditionally called the Scientific method is that you only ever get what you want. I can prove, using math and logic, how wrong you are. Does that bring you closer to me? To "truth"?The story goes
, there's two kids, grow up in a village together.
One is naturally drawn towards sophistication, studying all manner of wisdoms and disciplines, the other, although intelligent, is simple, living a straightforward, humble approach, without any sophistication. Nonetheless, the two love each other very much.
R' Nachman might be the most specifically personally influencial Rebbe in my life, and the forward movement of Judaism's knowldege of self, appreciation of what it is doing to us and how to own it. The messiah will speak in his language, he maintained, giving over his Torah. And like any other Rebbe worth a second look, he's saying much more than he appears to.
The only Torah I'm impressed by is the Torah that sees the virtue and weaknessat once in whoever and whatever they're talking about. Superfun gnostic reading of all the great mystical masters features seeing the bad guy as Godly as the good guy, and recognizing their perspective without needing to be controled by it.
"The sons were beginning to get older, so their fathers said to them,
We do not have the means to support you.
Do whatever you will be able to."
The Simpleton went and learned the trade of a shoemaker.
The Sophisticate, however
felt that he had deep understanding
and did not want to occupy himself with such simple work.
He made up his mind
that he would go out into the world
what he could do.
He went to the marketplace and strolled around.
He saw a large wagon with four horses in harness
He called out to the merchants,
"From where are you?"
"From Warsaw," they replied.
"Where are you heading?"
He asked them
"Maybe you could use a helper?"
They saw that he was bright and diligent
and found this pleasing.
They took him on
and he went with them
serving them very well
on the road.
he considered himself quite sophisticated
and when they came to Warsaw, he decided
"Now that I am in Warsaw, why should I be bound to them?
there is some better place.
I will go and see what I can find."
Do you ever feel like there must be some better place
than the one where you
There must be some better place.
Is better than here.
And everyone has heard
the profound simple truth
there is nowhere better
God is right here
Just open your eyes
But my heart longs
I can settle it with breath
with gentle brush strokes
if I really want to
So the sophisticate goes out and finds other jobs, and has to work really hard. This is one of the main patterns of the story, The sophisticate has to work harder for his sophistication, eventually being tortured by Azazel in a bog of sticky mud, all because he won't believe that there is a devil. How could it be there's a devil? If God is one, how could it be?
Meanwhile, the simpleton accepts everything simply, even things that are clearly not true, and for that, his reward is joy and great success.
Since he was simple, he had to study
to master his craft
and even then
he was not very expert in the craft.
Did you ever feel this way?
by what you where studying
That you knew you might never master it
And had to study every part of it
just to get anywhere?
He got married
and earned a living from his work
and not expert in his craft
so his livelihood was very meager and limited.
Since he had limited skill
he had to work constantly
and did not even have time to eat
while making a hole with the awl
and drawing the shoemakers thread through
he would bite a piece of bread
he was always very happy
Filled with joy at all times.
He had every type of food, drink and clothing.
He would say to his wife
give me something to eat."
She would give him a piece of bread
and he would eat it. Then he would say
"Give me some soup with groats"
and she would cut him another slice of bread.
He would eat it
and speak highly of it, saying
"How nice and delicious this soup is!"
He would then ask her for some meat
and other good food
and each time he asked
she would give him a piece of bread.
He would enjoy it
and praise the food
how delicious it was.
he were actually eating the food he had asked for.
Actually, when he ate the bread, he would taste in it any kind of food he wanted. This was because of his simplicity and great happiness.
What if we're eating poison? Can our simplicity make it genuinely good?
No. Maybe. Once we know
there's no going back to simplicity
Only finding a way around
Once a voice is heard
speaking the truth we hadn't noticed
for our simplicity
it might be more trouble defending against it
than just accepting it
and changing our world
a little bit
The main thing is to know
all the new truth
(if you haven't seen it, it's new to you)
invalidate the old delusion
that was true too
Similarly, he would say,
"My wife, bring me a drink of beer."
She would bring him some water
but he would praise it and say
"How delicious this beer is."
"Give me some honey wine."
She would give him water
and he would speak
so highly of it.
It's better to be a fool
and believe everyone.
But the sophisticate is my friend
Can I believe him too
and still be happy?
can my faith be?
can I trust my God
and all her beautiful lies?
If I love her
Then I want to believe her no matter what.
How do I know someone is God?
Everything they say is true.
Nothing written down is ever a lie
R Nachman says
It's only context that makes anything
It really is wine
If your heart is open
As for the simpleton
For most people
he was a joke.
Here they had what they wanted
someone to laugh at
as they desired
because they considered him insane.
come to him
especially to engage him in conversation
so that they would be able to ridicule him
But the Simpleton would merely say
"Just don't make a joke of it."
Don't try to make it
like it's doesn't matter
If the other person would assure him
that he was not making a joke of it
the Simpleton would listen to what he had to say
He did not probe the other person's motives
to see if this
might be a means of mocking him
since he was a very simple person
and he avoided such sophisticated ideas.
However, if he saw that the other's intention
was clearly to mock him
he would say
if you prove yourself
smarter than I?
You will still be a fool.
What am I
that it is such a great thing
to be smarter than I am?
Even if you are
you will first be a fool."
There were times at the Breslov yeshiva, where I'd meet people getting progressively more complicated in their simplicity, ignoring much of the world as being to complicated to be worthwhile, and just trusting God to work it all out.
make clear to me
as much as you ever want me to know
you know only
how much I can handle
It was through simplicity that I ever became complicated
Coming under the influence
of the sages of the generation
and all their profound heresies
Yaakov Sack once told me
all kinds of truths
about how bad it really is
and how much we refuse to deal with it
And I thanked him
And he skoffed, and said
"you'll never benefit at all from these truths"
"no one ever does"
"no one ever will"
And I thought wow
Now that's mesiras nefesh
I don't care if it hurts, I tell my God sometimes
Just show me
And then when it hurts to much
I can either make it stop
Or I can stop being afraid
Is what comes after you stop being afraid.
I once stopped being afraid to lose things
So I started losing things
that were really useful
So I went back
to being afraid
but only just enough
The truth about things
even expensive ones
you can always get another
and sometimes it's worth losing them
If you feel like it is.
how far can we see things out?
How long can we deal with the truest
in the name of truth?
Only as long as it's worth it
This is the big problem with religion, or Idolotry as we call it sometimes. It works. It makes you happy, satisfied, in all the ways nothing else can, maybe. Some people get so digusted with some part of the lie, that they take their chances with the suffering, and see if they can't get the same buzz somewhere else. This is the problem, in judaism, why we're so afraid of worshipping the wrong God. We know that it might work, and don't want to wind up depending on someone else's long distance provider. Who wants to be a slave? Only to someone you love already, can you devote yourself. Nowadays, we're out growing gurus and tzaddikim, but what will take their place, when the act of loving and trusting the god in someone so much is so good and so deep?
Fall in love with those who give you so much freedom and ask you with curious interested, desperately open eyes into being. It might be the only way. A rebbe who doesn't make you their rebbe is not listenable, not anymore, hopefully. Let's see how much we can be all the honesty we're looking for, and listen for the honesty in each other, make each other right with our ears, and the shells around our language will just slip off gently on our lips and fingertips. Amen...