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Understanding Tragedy: Thinking in Jewish XVIII

Understanding Tragedy: Thinking in Jewish XVIII

Understanding Tragedy: Thinking in Jewish XVIII

Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. Yes, it is true but it has absolutely nothing to do with teleological purpose, punishment or reward for behavior deemed to be unclean, unspiritual or unworthy or, in the case of rewards, the precise opposite. To believe that creation is purposeful, that some deity has a plan for me and you, that it is in our best interest to keep this deity appeased or it may not rain, crops might not grow, rivers might turn to blood and hail, tornados and hurricanes (not to mention earthquakes, volcano eruptions and tsunamis) is, to my mind, an exercise in wishful thinking. Oh, perhaps it was important in late antiquity to try to answer the mysteries that presented themselves but there is little reason to ponder the very existence of a God that plans for each and every outcome as a part of the grand teleological plan for creation (and extinction). Since Darwin, who showed how natural selection (not the survival of the fittest which is a term that may be applied to Herbert Spencer and Social Darwinism) follows random genetic mutations that help insure the survival of a species or, perhaps, the demise of that species altogether, teleological arguments fall in the ranks of mythology and fairy tales without evidence other than the evidence of the recursive nature of its own writings of the foundational truth contained within the mythology.

The universe is, it seems, a very large random number generator. Things happen randomly. These things become part of a larger and ever changing historical narrative, one that has little staying power as interests and contexts shift quite rapidly. Underlying the idea of randomness is the closely related notions of isolated, almost solipsistic, existential experience of the life of the self and the random social network that begins with the dyad of self and other, two unique beings that interact for a while and then part; each leaving a trace behind that is both self and other. These encounters, even among close friends and lovers are random in their occurrence and yet, in some cases may be quite predictable as well (by force of habit rather than by chance meeting; say I have dinner with my wife at 6:00 PM every night except when we have other plans, the meal didn’t get cooked, the stove went on the fritz, the dogs ate the chicken before it got to the table…and so on).

The very fact that you or I am present in the world is the outcome of a single sperm out of millions of potential sperms penetrated a single ova to produce each unique other and the unique self is the beginning of the ontogenesis of the self or the other; an entirely random outcome, one that is based on the probability of connection produces a unique being at birth. On the other hand, the wanton destruction of human beings during the Shoah (Holocaust for those who chose the Greek) by Germans with the aid of Poles and Lithuanians seems to mitigate against the idea of a God with a plan. If the plan was to kill six million Jews then this God is a sadist and not worthy of adoration. If this God with a plan was horrified by the escalation of the murderous mania of the German bureaucracy and didn’t intervent to stop it then this God with a plan is simply weak and not worthy of adoration. If this God with a plan was horrified by the murdering and was unable to stop it then this God with a plan is impotent and unworthy of adoration. We can say that today because there is so much evidence pointing directly to the very randomness of the exercise of free will; the intentional actions that human beings follow that are brought on by both the convergence of time and space at this very moment and the intention to act within that time and space to insure the survival of the planet until such time as the sun explodes into a red giant engulfing the orbiting earth turning it into a crispy rock where no life survives as we know life.

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5 thoughts on “Understanding Tragedy: Thinking in Jewish XVIII

  1. Pingback: Three Problematic Texts: Thinking in Jewish XX | Surviving In This Very Moment...

  2. Pingback: It Is All About How One Looks at History: Thinking In Jewish XXII | Surviving In This Very Moment...

  3. Pingback: Teleological Martyrdom and Messianic Drama: Thinking In Jewish XXIII | Surviving In This Very Moment...

  4. Pingback: Response to the Demands We Do Not Create: Thinking In Jewish XXIX | Surviving In This Very Moment...

  5. Pingback: Belief as Desire: Thinking In Jewish XXX | Surviving In This Very Moment...

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