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Friday, September 22, 2006

Who's Law?

The question recurring with Dena Dimalchuso is how far goes. How much authority does The Law of the Land really have to control Jewish Law?

And the real answer is unclear to me, but the truth is as much as you let it. That is, we as The Communities of Israel have the right to accept secular moral insightLaw, with all it’s nuances and revelations, and it’s sensitivities are to be learned and understood, deeply incorporated deep into our souls as much as blows our minds.

For example, who are you?

New York State Law declares that you who are whoever you call yourself, that is, your name if you just decide to change it, you can just start calling yourself someone, and that’s your name. There’s a formal ritual for changing ones name, but it’s totally unnesesary, as far as NY state law!

This also applies to religious denomination.

Whatever one chooses to identify hirself as is who they are. whatever list they check when the census comes it. That’s all it takes to change ones religion, according to ny state law, as far as I know.

So does that mean that the law is such? Are forbidden marriages only forbidden be cause of the host culture? That wouldn’t explain Biblical morality, but that is to say, we are strongly affected by the people around us, however we define our cultural membranes. But does anyone out there in blogger land have any idea, how much has local gentile culture been allowed to affect the growth and development of Our Law and how it works?

I ask/say this in the context of emerging morality: lets say that the world decides that something that was permitted for a long time no longer will be, like polygamy once, and lets say “war” now. Lets say that the nations of the world came together and made war illegal: would it be assur for us too?

That’s what happened with R’ Gershom, no? The gentiles grew a certain taboo, decided something was less civilized or less right, and so it was.

There’s a conceit about the harmonious perfection of halacha to guide one to and through the best good, and to be trust worthy more than flaky Gentile law, which would not compromise certain nations right to do what they love doing, or live for, right? What we received on Har Sinai was something perfect? Or were our demands just lovingly accepted, and called perfect for all generations?

What is the part of Halacha that is the center, unchanging, unique and reliable? Re: what is the Law of The Land an arbiter of What G-d Wants Us to Believe?

I ask in terms of moral development. Let’s say that the greatest innovations in secular law from the last couple hundred years have to do with equality; between one religion and another, between men and women, blacks and whites… L’ Maisay it’s not true, equality was never established in the world, and the remora of unjust law hovers around the entire system of “Justice” like flies around a carcas, but is that because of the laws themselves? The system that rewards Effort at the expense of True Need is bound to give priviledge to those who demand more and neglect those who don’t… To the degree that a better way has not been established as reliable to a populace is the degree that A Better Law is not The Law.

Really, according to G-d there’s only one law, one reward, and one punishment. According to what you do, is what will be done unto you. Everything else is just clarification and structure, language and a standard for how to get Our People together, what to feel safe expecting, demanding together from our reality.

The World’s Law is all about creating a general ideal for the sake of training a population to be sensitive, but the most visible difference between a Human and a Machine is the willingness to tolerate flexibilty in law enforcement as it becomes clear that a law is meant not for this situation.

For example: last Shabbos, I came to visit someone in an apartment building with an auto locked front door.
I had never been to this house or these people before, sent over from someone else’s house, told to come up to the eighth floor and listen for people singing. Criminal mastermind that i am, I arrived, looking for a way to get past the two buzzer locked doors. Is deception nessesary here, or even effective? There was someone downstairs, loitering in front. Does he live here? How can I explain what i’m trying to do?

It’s shabbos, so I dare not actually ask him or anyone to let me in, I dare not really even need to get in too desperately… I slipped past the first locked layer as someone left the building, ideal according to my law, a maximum of Just Being and Slipping Without Needing, but behold! A second locked door!

An old lady comes in through the door, along with a young asian dude. They see me standing there, and before they have a chance to react suspiciously, I start off with as much honesty as I can muster.

“Hi! I’m a religious Jew, and I have some friends living upstairs, doing a whole ritual party!”

Quickly, old lady states the law, covering herself, and creating a safe boundary.

You’ll have to have them buzz you in. We have a rule.

I smile. “No, I can’t buzz, and they won’t answer. For that matter, I don’t even know what the apartment # is, just that it’s 8, uh, B.”

There’s no eight B in this building! I’ve lived here for forty year, and there’s never been an 8B!

(and it was true. The apartments were numbered 1-28. Where did I get 8B from?)

Rationally, ruleistically, that should have been the end.

I said to Asian dude, c’mon, if you want, escort me upstairs, and we’ll see if we hear the party.

And he took responsibilty for me, and we went up, and the sounds of Yidden singing acheinu was audible from the elevator. He smiled and waved me off.

Happy new year, but how far does it go? ha hahahahahahahahahahaa. We can forgive anything as long as we don’t see the damage that it’s still doing– and alot of sins aren’t really doing any damage, so we can let them go…

…or, it’s damge we’re happy to receive, seeing how we once did the same thing, and really want to just pay it off at last. L’chaim, to happy lives either way.

Friday, September 01, 2006

lies will set you free only if they're funny.

Did some hanging around teenage Jewish girls last week. Ali G is massive, late at night. It kind of a trippy thing he's doing, echoing the post modern anti-media of Tom Green or Punk'd or something, with the main difference being: how much do you symapthize with the "victim" of the comedy?

Ali G's shtick was sophomoric in theory, brilliant in execution: Establish himself as a genuine B-list celebrity: appear in a Madonna video (the queen of zen media manipulation), make a full-on movie, and appear in public events, throwing parties and promoting the self Totally In Charachter-- and then start using the fame accumulated for ridiculous guerilla improv, interviewing guests who don't know that he's kidding. they sign all the legal releases, in the hopes of

Tom Green was much creepier, for he appeared to have no sympathy for the average Joe, for his parents, or anyone else in his vicious, disturbing will to transcend the assumed boundaries of social discourse. Some people really were touched by that willingness, the greatest moment i remember, where Tom Green touched my heart, was when, once, he was walking into some kind of high security situation, carrying some kind of bulky something-or-other, and a security guard tries to stop him.

So he just responds: "Japanese instruction! Japanese instruction!" And continues walking on his way, unmolested, because he looks and sounds like he knows what he's doing.

Due credit to Tom Green, the secret hope of his comedy, as revealed later, was to humanize us, and make us feel each other deeply, not to mask the pain of alienation and to force people to deal with him in the states he'd be in, rather than avoid looking him or anyone else in the eye. His home phone number is on his website now. Isn't that crazy?


A friend quoted to me an idea last night from Heinlein's A Stranger In A Strange Land: This guy comes in from mars, he's human, but he grew up with martians, doesn't know from anything, so he's noticing human behavior. Humor, right? He says, what's that? how does it work? People can't really explain it so well, so he does his own research, studying people and their humor, to see how it works.

He comes to the conclusion that Human humor is basically about seeing someone else in pain, and enjoying it.

Which doesn't sound so whole, right? So he clarifies. It's not because people want to see others hurt that they laugh at their pain, it's the opposite: It hurts to see others in pain. And the only way to alleviate the pain of terrible sensitivity is to laugh. The people who are laughing the hardest, are the ones who are the most sensitive, and they have to laugh so that they won't hurt so much more.

This echoes a Mark Twain principle. The secret source of laughter is pain he says, and there is no laughter anymore in heaven, though there is smiling.
R' Shlomo Carlebach elaborates, there's a line in psalms about, when redemption comes, our mouths will we whole with laughter, that all laughter in this world is between gritted lips, with a strong taste of darkness, but the day will come, when our mouths laughter is whole, and the darkness only from memories. One the last day, the righteous people are crying over the grave of the devil, not laughing victoriously. Speedily in our days, Amen.

Laughter comes in war, in hells, in cartoons and over problems so crazy, they boggle the mind with their madness. "Absurd", they call it. The pop genius of Ali G is that it's easy to laugh at his "victims." Racists, sexists, shallow and vapid models and self important politicians. Some of his straight men can win the game by being piercingly honest and saying truth past the ego manipulations that his ridicule depends on. Those trying to keep his approval or oblivious to the joke lose the game, and will never be respected by a generation of children. Poor Kazakstan.

But see how far he gets, just by acting like he knows what he's doing? hasn't gotten killed yet, and I have to wonder, who else was in on the joke from the beginning?

Madonna, I maintain, was the first Celebrity to publicly lend Ali G legitimacy, more proof that she really has a secret plan. Robert Anton Wilson argued this years ago when her first movie came out, comparing her to Orson Wells in F for Fakery in his seminal essay Fake documentaries and "real" money. She's a genius, one with a real message and a real plan,. only part of which is/was "make money."

I like the idea of happy conspiracies, coming to trick the world into being more aware. It's an idea that gives me alot of hope, and makes me want to trust the culture process.

It's the crucial assumption in a fair amount of chassidic rebbe stories, the ones where the rebbe is in some way proving his either supernatural or just plain folk-sensitive powers of realization of what-someone-needs by giving strange advice, or worse, actively being a weird cypher in their lives, like the Baal Shem demanding food from a pauper, forcing him to lose everything, only then giving him a heart to be desperate enough to pray to G-d for anything much. Madonna, it must be noted, is a big Baal Shem Tov fan, most of her children's books are only extended versions of stories from him.

Spiritual confidence can be dangerous, and i feel like the right to be the Zen Trickster Rebbe depends on the infinitude of the principle being expressed through the mockery. Take for example, Good ole' Shmuel Munkis, the Chabad Jester. He mind fucks the hungry chassidim by taking the pot of chulent stew that everybody's waiting for, and spilling it out after an extended tease dance with it. Everyone's furious and is ready to lynch him, until the chef runs it, crying warnings that that the stew was accidently cooked with non-kosher meat, and so they befuddledly ask Shmuel: how did you know?

And he laughs and says, I didn't. I just figured if y'all wanted it so badly, there must have been something wrong with it.


But that's a nice one. The enemy is confused with the personal desire, not the external Other. That might be a better value, at least for as long as one is playing the You vs. Me game, it might as well be the me vs. not quite the truest me.
Steven Colbert is doing something similar, becoming the hated enemy for the sake of ridiculing him, more on the level of showing Us All how simutaneously powerful and understood the Arrogant Republican is, and how foolish and blind it makes him. The enemy is forced to understand too, and that's why Colbert is morally superior to Sasha Cohen. Ali G at the broadcasters convention could never have made the world understand anything so clear about the crimes they are commiting as Colbert did that brave night, and Ali G never seems to change or challenge the hearts of anyone he's fucking with, just encouraging us to laugh at Them, usually for their ideals and idealism. God, irony is SO early nineties! And intellectual detached superiority is so eighteen nineties.

I do appreciate that he got Boutros Boutros Ghali to say "listen to Bob Marley." Some part of me gets a thrill out of whenever either God or marijuana are mentioned in any context, especially in an insightful or knowledgeable way, it's like having a close friend getting shouted out at a big concert. I know that guy! he IS cool!

but yeah, i'll tell you next time about what LSD taught me about the secret love conspiracy of the Pope and R Yehuda Hanasi, and how that's why the CIA tolerates psychedelic culture-- only on Cannabischassidis.