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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Hobbies and Tzimtzum


Image result for zen oneness fish


I am seeking employment and have several prospects to investigate at present, however something one of them communicated to me stuck me as worth contemplation.

  When interviewing an employee, I find it important to know one’s hobbies. That gives me an idea of their true passions.
I had forgotten about he word hobby. The idea that we must divide our lives into earning lives and non earning lives was something I was never comfortable with. While I understand the necessity of this as we all have physical needs that employment covers I never come home and think, "ah, now on to my hobby..." It could be a condition of what we see as a pervasive and frankly self destructive psychology of employment that has wormed itself into our modern culture. No, wormed is unfair to worms, they have needs as well. This psychosis was foisted onto the working people by the management and ownership of the industries that employ us. It was a deliberate infection that was cultivated as culture as it produced results and at the one expense that was affordable, manpower.

My not earning a paycheck for what I do has not lessened what I do though. If anything it makes it more valuable as I am paying in my time, the only real commodity in the known universe, to do it. I liken it to when the days of the temple were over and the sacrificial rites were abandoned. Prayer was instituted as the means of connection to god. No longer was turning the first of the flock into smoke on the holy BBQ an option. The priesthood was over, the age of the rabbi was upon us and so an intellectual approach was attempted. The sacrifices would be replaced by prayer, three times a day, the mid day still bearing the word for the offering, minchas. Your time is what you offer the timeless, if nothing else, when you daven. Presumably it is done with intensity and sincerity to the very best of your ability.

Is my prayer time a hobby? 

Is part of being a religious man that I have to accept that I have a part time job to start with and that everything else I do for my material upkeep i.e. the job I'm paid for comes second? Do I need to explain this to a potential employer? 

There are times that I don't daven, or I modify my routine as I'm not feeling well and can not give it my fullest attention. Is this a sick day for God? 

I think that for some people the internal compartmentalization of aspects of their lives must be useful, but I do not think that it is natural. Externally it seems to have served our species well to be able to segregate and categorize things. Humans are rather proud of that ability, and tend to form cliques rather easily over the most trivial of matters. And this is not to say that the great apes or birds or other animals don't do the same. It has let species and ideas and cultures survive across oceans of time. But our internal lives are another matter. 

You are indeed a prisoner of your mind and body. We use communication as a means to express our thoughts and feelings but the odds of a 1:1 transmission between individuals is improbably minute. Thus far direct mind to mind communication has eluded us. Spouses reach a point where they seem to know the other partner's mind but I can't help but feel this is refined anticipation, not telepathy. 

However, if you hold the premise:

 שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָֽד 
Hear O'Israel, The Lord is the God, the Lord is one. 

as a proclamation of the oneness of the universe internal to God it may be that the only real dialogue that you can ever have in a 1:1 fashion, without the filter of language and understanding is when you talk with God. Am I talking to myself in a feed back loop? Perhaps, but if everything is internal to God than I'm possessive of some part of God and therefore the math still works, God and I are not separated by flesh and blood the way individual people are. Further when we are united in speaking to the divine are we achieving oneness with each other via that universal connection? 

If we continue to expand on the idea of the universality of God into the idea that everything is actually, literally Godly, our notion of separateness becomes an artificial but psychologically necessary partition to allow us to live out our material lives. This is a concept I gleaned from rabbi Arthur Greene's writing.

What it seems Greene is saying is that we and all of the world we know are the living embodiment of the tzimtzum, the internal contraction of the divine force of the universe that made way for the perception of consciousness apart from the universal. And as a consequence of that division, although only superficial, we need to maintain the illusion to live our lives as the tzimtzum is the foundation of our perceived other than god existence.

The rabbi it would seem holds to the idea that hobby for lack of better word, or separation however illusory, is fundamental to our healthy functioning. He professed that the reason we whisper the Baruch shem after the Sh'ma is that we can not fully internalize the reality of our oneness without risk of psychological trauma, with the exception of the day of atonement, when we are prepared for eternity.

I think I prefer blurring the lines by recognizing the artificial as just that, holding to the mitzvot as a stabilizing structure and attempting to stay in the universal flow as much as possible. Do I risk my sanity as Greene suggests? Perhaps, but I'd rather sing when I'm compelled to sing, than try and make time and hope that the rest of the structures allow for it. When I study, when I daven, when I make music, when I cook dinner, when I rest with my lover as we relax watching YouTube videos, when I cycle somewhere, or garden or work on electronics or write a blog post, these are not separate moments in my life. These are not hobbies, these are just a life, and I'm am not compelled to stratify it anymore than necessary.
   

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