The secret Jewish Cannabis History and Wisdom teachings of all ages

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

silence if that's the best you can do

Just right before the very last post, i'm dropping this bit of news:

LSD as Therapy? Write about It, Get Barred from US

BC psychotherapist denied entry after border guard googled his work.

Scary stuff, to me. Being penalized for discussing psychedelic experience on the internet = THEY're trying to scare us into being quiet.

Which, I suppose we are allowed to do. Even advised to do.

'Alchemist's dictum'

When Feldmar looks back on what has happened, he concludes that he was operating out of a sense of safety that has become dated in the last six years, since 9-11. His real mistake was to write about his drug experiences and post this on the web, even in a respected journal like Janus Head. He acknowledges that he had not considered posting on the Internet the risk that it turned out to be. So many of his generation share his experience in experimenting with drugs, after all. He believed it was safe to communicate about the past from the depth of retrospection and that this would be a useful grain of personal wisdom to share with others. He now warns his friends to think twice before they post anything about their personal lives on the web.

"I didn't heed the ancient Alchemists' dictum, 'Do, dare, and be silent,'" Feldmar says. "And yet, the experience of being treated as undesirable was shocking. The helplessness, the utter uselessness of trying to be seen as I know myself and as I am known generally by those I care about and who care about me, the reduction of me to an undesirable offender, was truly frightening. I became aware of the fragility of my identity, the brittleness of a way of life.

"Memories of having been the object of the objectifying gaze crowd into my mind. I have been seen and labeled as a Jew, as a Communist, as a D. P. (Displaced Person), as a student, as a patient, a man, a Hungarian, a refugee, an émigré, an immigrant.... Now I am being seen as one of those drug users, perhaps an addict, perhaps a dealer, one can't be sure. In the matter of a second, I became powerless, whatever I said wasn't going to be taken seriously. I was labeled, sorted and disposed of. Dismissed."

This is the secret of "shtok! Kacha Aleh b' machshava;" The invocation that the Holy One Blessed be he uses to silence Moshe Rabeinu when the questions go to the core of Who He Is and What's Being Hidden from sight of the past.

It doesn't fly as a real answer, only as a caution: If you want to be part of the world, as it is now, you can't ask that.

But, if you want to change the world, you might have to.

Zeh Torah!
V zeh Sachrah?

"This is the Torah!
and this is it's reward?"

I don't believe Moshe Rabeinu is asking if this is really the Torah or not, although Elisha Ben Abuyah might be. Moshe seems annoyed at the reward, Acher, just seems skeptical that he's playing the game right.

This is Eli Wiesel's criticsm of Acher/Elisha Ben Abuyah: His heresy was not a humanist one.
Whereas seeing G-d's injustice to the righteous might provoke one to believe that G-d is not just (Moshe's issue, upon seeing the future of R'Akiva, tortured to death for giving Torah over.)
It might provoke someone else, someone more connected to their sense of surrender to The Way than to their sense of outrage and justice, to think, hm, maybe we're just playing the Game wrong. Maybe the Torah that R' Akiva is teaching isn't really the Torah, and that's why G-d is abandoning him.

This second opinion is more traditional in many ways, and more logical, cold, reptilian and adaptative. And so, Acher counsels children to go and become anything but Torah scholars. He betrays Jews keeping the Sabbath secretly to the Romans, so that their loophole to feel like they're keeping Shabbos is taken away.

Eli Wiesel reads this as Acher deciding that G-d's unfairness means that he can and should act unjustly, siding with the winners against the losers. He wants to like Acher, to find sympathy with his cause and his discovery in heaven, but decides that he cannot, when faced with Acher's hostility towards his people, and his Roman sypathising.

We have to have a higher standard for G-d and his world, yes we do. Maybe our standard of what better is can be adjusted from time to time, but the most sinister and malicious thing we can is accept the wrong justice of the world as if it were true justice. This is like accepting Pharoh or Nimrod as God.

I was in a very friendly restaurant in Berkeley, one time, this past fall. I was talking to one of the workers there, for a moment, about his "we will not be silent" T-shirt, in english and arabic.

He started telling me about a friend of his who got stopped at the airport for wearing one, and was not allowed on to the plane until he changed. I laughed, to cynically defuse the passion of the moment, and said, "boy, I know what not to wear when I go to the airport."

And he looked at me seriously, and said, "That's really all they want. That we should be silent in public, while they do whatever they will."

Which, lets us live. Lets us survive.

"I didn't heed the ancient Alchemists' dictum, 'Do, dare, and be silent,"

Did you think Mesiras Nefesh for Torah meant saying an extra daf of daf yomi? The only people I know of in Jewish world being genuinely Mesiras Nefeshdik for their Torah is Neturei Carta, and see how Am Yisrael treats them for it!

That's because the modern Jewish religion, G-d bless us all, from the Misnagdim to the Chasidim, is based on not rocking boats, and not saying but that which has been approved by the most conservative amongst us. This is a survival technique, used by luminaries like R' Yochanan Ben Zakkai and Rabbi Steven Wise, Yimach Shimo. It doesn't always work, and when it doesn't, it's especially embarrassing.

On the other hand, who wants to die for something as shallow as an ideal? Better to live and know quietly, maybe, right?

But that's exactly what the forces in the world obscuring truth want. That they shouldn't have to get their hands dirty killing us, and that we should learn to keep our traps shut.

There's a time for everything, but really: you may want to consider being willing to die, get arrested, deported, or beaten, for the sake of your Torah. And if your Torah doesn't feel worth it, then, well... you may want to go find some that is, no matter what.

"Memories of having been the object of the objectifying gaze crowd into my mind. I have been seen and labeled as a Jew, as a Communist, as a D. P. (Displaced Person), as a student, as a patient, a man, a Hungarian, a refugee, an émigré, an immigrant.... Now I am being seen as one of those drug users, perhaps an addict, perhaps a dealer, one can't be sure. In the matter of a second, I became powerless, whatever I said wasn't going to be taken seriously. I was labeled, sorted and disposed of. Dismissed."

3 Comments:

Anonymous shmuel said...

this reminds me of a A.J. Heschel story where he goes and preaches about civil rights at a Southern synagogue and then the local rebbe chastises him for endangering his congregation.

Cause its not always us who absorbs the risk, it could be our families, our friends, etc. There's always the (legitmate) fear of spurring antisemitism by saying something true and controversial. I think a lot of people maybe are willing to catch shit/die for their torah, but maybe not so much other people.

It's like, this dude lives in a hyperconservative xtian town and he goes to an anti-war rally and wonders "do i dare wear my yarmulke to this? on the other hand, do i dare NOT wear it?"

its not always easy

may peace descend upon us all and true ahavas chinam spread within our day! MOSHIACH NOW!

4:02 AM

 
Anonymous Nijma said...

Reminds me of the way Timothy Leary's academic career changed after his, um, research. The New Yorker had a good online article about him a few months back.
I wonder if it would have been any different if the substance was, say, salvia divinorum, which is supposed to be legal.

7:36 PM

 
Blogger Yoseph Leib said...

LSD WAS legal in Canada back when he did it. Doesn't matter.

Salvia, even though the plant itself is legal, tripping on it is illegal, and i think Ayuhasca is the same, "law" wise. So, whatever, there was no kosher way around it. No particular substance is illegal, only particular mindstates.

10:07 AM

 

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