Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Roadblocks Lead Me to ... Existentialism!

Roadblocks come! Roadblocks go. The most recent roadblock? Being let go after a month of work for Jewster. Huge bummer, but mostly to my bank account. Luckily, as every door closes, another opens, and I'm hoping to turn my current gig working for CAJE and Stepping Stones (and their under-orgs, Hebrew High, Israel Study Tour, and Melton Mini-School) into a fuller gig, moving from simple Social Media management into web site management and design. I shall make Wordpress my, well, you know. Wish me luck!

In other news, a local barista has turned me on to existentialism. Now, before you get your undergarments in a twist, I'm exploring, reading, examining, figuring out what, if anything, the philosophy has to offer me. In an introduction to Basic Writings of Existentialism, Gordon Marino says, in regards to the impact of Soren Kierkegaard's work, that Kierkegaard
flung open the window and convinced me that at least the existential movement resonated with the ancient view of philosophy as a way of life, as a guide for the perplexed.
That was a mere few pages in to the book, before I even got to the actual literature, and I was sold. You'll recognize A Guide for the Perplexed as one of the seminal works of Maimonides.

I avoided philosophy and psychology in college for many reasons, largely because I never bought into the "phooey" and loftiness of it all. And after listening to this fellow talk about existentialism and philosophy, I realize that I'm seriously wasting the massive collection of The Great Books that are still sitting in boxes in my apartment. The only thing I've honestly read out of that collection was Voltaire's Candide, which I loved.

And, perhaps, I know more about existentialism and don't realize it. After all, the Book of Job often is cited as having existentialist themes. And many of the greatest existentialist thinkers have been Jews. But what I'm hoping to find is whether existentialism can offer me something that I seem to be struggling to find.

From Wikipedia (I know, I know):
The traditional existentialist Fredrich Nietzsche’s (b. 1844 – d. 1900) concept of the √úbermensch (lit. ‘Super-Man’) can be juxtaposed with Soloveitchik’s concept of Halakhic Man. Both Nietzsche (in classically existentialist form) and Soloveitchik deny the validity of escape from this-worldliness; but each offers a different approach to dealing with man’s essential human (as opposed to divine) nature. Soloveitchik suggests that man subsume himself to God and God’s Law, Nietzsche suggests that man act as if he were like God in order to assume power and agency in the world.
Again, just shooting the wind here, but I think there must be a middle ground between Soloveitchik and Nietzshe. So I need to read Martin Buber and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and all of the regulars like Kierkegaard and Sartre. 

The problem? As a copy editor and writer, I like to read things in their simplest terms. I'm a huge believer in simplistic form for writing, which then leads to more in-depth and detailed ideas and theses. I'm already finding Kierkegaard hard to read, but every now and again something he says stands out to me. 

You're probably wondering where all of this is coming from, right? Well, maybe it's the Denver air or the recent perpetual fluctuations in my life, but I'm questioning everything I know about myself, what I do and why I do it, who I am, and where I'm going, more so than I ever have before. You, my readers, know that I'm a questioner -- it's one of my favorite things about being Jewish. But I'm in a deeper place of questioning than ever before, I think. I question neither my belief in one G-d, HaShem, nor in the chosenness of the Jewish people to be a light until the world through moral and ethical example. But everything else? It's fair game. 

Wish me luck, and feel free to let me know your thoughts on existentialism and Jewish thought. Or just one. Or just the other. I'm all ears at this point. 

Ultimately, what I seek was best put into words by Kierkegaard himself.
The thing is to understand myself, to see what G-d really wishes me to do: the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die.