Dec 23, 2011

Freezer Lessons

My freezer made a very loud buzzing sound.  So loud that people commented on the noise.  It was audible at the other end of the house and when you were next to it, it was hard to talk on the phone or hear someone in the next room.  But .... I didn't call the repair man because I didn't know what was involved and what it might cost.  The sound didn't worry me (too much) because it seemed to me that something was vibrating.  When the compressor went on, the freezer buzzed.  When it went off, it was quiet.  I didn't think something was broken.  So it kept on buzzing.

Then the other day, someone came to the house and noticed the buzzing and asked why didn't I check it out.  After months of doing nothing, I finally turned the freezer around to take a look, and know what I found? A small cardboard tag on a metal fastener vibrated when the compressor turned on and it made a buzzing sound.  I couldn't believe it! I held the tag and the buzzing subsided.  I let go and it buzzed. 

I got a pair of scissors and cut off the tag and voila! When the compressor turns on, there is a normal sounding hum.  No more buzz.  What a relief.

I think my buzzing freezer is a metaphor for something; I'm not sure what.  I suspect there are two lessons to be derived from this episode, but what are they?

Number one: a huge noise was made by a little card.  The lesson is?

Number two: I allowed it to buzz for months when all it took was turning it around, taking a look, and snipping off the card.  The lesson is?

Dec 21, 2011

How Are We Different?

I saw a news item recently about a woman (apparently not Jewish) who needed a kidney who posted on Craig's List and got 800 responses.  She actually got a kidney from one of them.  That made me think about the items I've read recently about Jews giving kidneys to other Jews, to people they did not know.  It is a special thing to do but after reading about the 800 responses, it made me think about the phrase "Mi k'amcha Yisrael" - Who is like Your Nation Israel, which we use when a Jew does something special and we feel proud.  Kidney donations are not exclusive to Jews!

I was perusing an Italian cookbook in which the author describes her childhood memories of the elaborate preparations that went into making Sunday dinner which was eaten with the family after mass.  Jews are not the only ones who have a weekly, wonderful family meal! Nor are we the only ones to celebrate holidays.  There are non-Jews who take their holidays very seriously and make elaborate preparations and give them a lot of thought.  Shabbos and holiday meals are not exclusive to Jews!  And Americans, in particular, give a lot of charity, run many chesed organizations, do many acts of kindness, and are hospitable to strangers.

This got me thinking - when does the phrase "Mi k'amcha Yisrael" truly apply in a Jews-only sense? What do we do that is unlike any other group for which we can say, "Wow! Mi k'amcha Yisrael!"? Alternatively, maybe there are things that we do that other groups do too, but we do it in far greater numbers or in a special way.

Come on readers out there - share your thoughts!

Dec 16, 2011

How Rational Are We?


Sway is a quick and interesting read about why people, you and me, do irrational things.  For example, the authors show how we do things against our best interests in order to avoid a loss which leads to far greater losses.  Like a person whose stock value is dropping, who doesn't sell because he harbors the hope that it will go back up.

We draw conclusions about people or things and these conclusions color all subsequent information that we learn.  For example, if we perceive something to be cheap, we treat it as inferior regardless as to its actual worth.

The part that was most worrisome was about how we evaluate people for jobs and longterm relationships.  Seems we ask the wrong questions and even when we observe problems, we gloss over them if we have other reasons for favoring the person or thing that we are interested in.  We need to do a lot of praying when it comes to shidduchim if we cannot rely on ourselves to make logical decisions! The book shows how vulnerable we are, even as we think we are being rational.  It's a sobering look at ourselves.

Dec 14, 2011

Truth in Journalism

As a postscript to the previous post, I was dismayed to learn about the liberties taken with the truth by those who write for women's popular magazines.  Naive me actually believes when I'm told a story is true.  In Sybil Exposed it describes how certain journalists presented fiction as fact. 

The author of Sybil had doubts about the veracity of Sybil's abuse stories.  She actually went to the supposed scene of many crimes and discovered no evidence whatsoever for the abuse claims.  Worst of all, she read a letter Sybil had written to her psychiatrist, denying she had multiple personality disorder.  Her doctor, of course, said she was in denial. 

The author didn't know what to do with all this information.  Furthermore, the story as she knew it wasn't much of a story with a plot and dialogue. 

The ultimate solution? Fictionalizing the story and presenting it as the truth.  Subsequent to the book's becoming a major hit, the author and the pyschiatrist appeared on many shows talking about the book.  By that point, they had certainly convinced themselves that the book was true.

Leaves me wondering, what of what I read and think is true, is actually fiction? Some might say, it doesn't matter.  I've heard this before and been astonished as I've written in this post: click to read previous post

This world is described as Olam Ha'Sheker, a world of lies.  Nothing is as it appears to be.  Fiction can be masquerading as truth.

Sybil Exposed

I did not read Sybil but I am reading Sybil Exposed.  Sybil was a book published in 1973 that went on to become a bestseller and a movie.  It was presented as the true story of a woman treated for multiple personality disorder who had been so horribly abused by her mother that she became a psychiatric case.  The book described grotesque rated R scenes that had the public enthralled.  Not surprisingly, huge numbers of people were diagnosed as having a multiple personality disorder after the book became a hit (like anorexia became a "fad diagnosis" in Hong Kong after it was marketed there, see my post "Crazy Like Us"  click here to read post

The lives of three women are intertwined: the patient, her doctor, and the author of Sybil.  The author of Sybil Exposed shows how the patient's illness wasn't an illness, how her treatment was a sham, and how the fictional story Sybil came to be written and presented as the truth. 

As much as the book is an expose of the book Sybil, it is an expose of the quackery of the psychiatric profession.  As anybody who has read previous posts (labels: psychiatry and mental illness) on this blog have seen, I am not impressed by the pseudo-medical specialty of psychiatry.  The so-called treatments given by the doctor in this case as well as her colleagues back in the 50's till the present day, are a horror.  Forget about "first do no harm."  That is far from their guiding principle.  When will the public finally figure out that the emperor has no clothes? That the psychiatric/mental health profession in cahoots with the drug companies are making us into a nation of drugged, incompetent, invalids?

Dec 4, 2011

A Matter of Perspective

Yaakov is punished for hiding Deena from Eisav in parshas Vayishlach.  When you consider that Shimon and Levi were 13 when they killed the city of Shechem and Dina was younger than them; and when you figure out that Eisav was almost 100 years old, you realize that the Torah's idea of marriage and a husband and wife having a "relationship" is far different than ours. 

The most famous example of this is Rivka being 3 years old and Yitzchok 40 when they married.  Yaakov was 84 when he married Leah and Rochel.  The seemingly romantic scene when Yaakov kissed Rochel at the well occurred when Yaakov was 77. 

Our modern, Western sensibilities look askance at "child brides," and yet, Jewish girls in Yemen and Morocco were often married by 11-12.  The Chofetz Chaim married at 17.  It was commonplace for Eastern European Jews to marry in their mid-teens.

We seem to think we have some sort of monopoly on what is "proper" and what isn't, what is a perversion and what isn't.  Our views are colored by the culture we live in.  We would do well to remember that.