Mikvah

Today is my mikvah.

Sometime around 10:45-11:15am EST other Jews will know me as a fellow Jew.

I cannot explain why this matters so much to me, but it does. And I understand why many people cannot understand how much this matters to me or why it matters, but I hope those who love me can respect where their understanding fails.

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Rosenzweig and the philosopher-hybrid

I get the same feeling reading Rosenzweig as I do reading Levinas: I begin to feel a little like a paraphrasing popularizer, or vulgarizer.

In a little over a day from now I hope I’ll just feel like a fellow Jewish philosopher attempting, yet again, to say the same impossible-to-say truth both these Jewish philosophers are attempting to say.

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One thing I love about Rosenzweig is that he seems to understand and respond to the same thing that matters so much to me in Nietzsche’s thought.

He says this about Nietzsche: “Poets had always dealt with life and their own souls. But not philosophers. And saints had always lived life and for their own soul. But again — not the philosophers. Here, however, was one man who knew his own life and his own soul like a poet, and obeyed their voice like a holy man, and who was for all that a philosopher. What he philosophized has by now become almost a matter of indifference. …  But none of those who now feel the urge to philosophize can any longer by-pass the man himself, who transformed himself in the transformation of his mental images…”

There have been countless philosophers wrote their philosophies in verse or poetic language, or who have philosophized while trying to live saintly lives. Many philosophers have philosophized about poets and poetry, or saints and saintliness. There have even been some philosophers have philosophized poetically about poetry or lived a saintly life philosophizing about saintliness. But strangely, none of these things conveys what a philosopher-poet or philosopher-saint does. With this in mind, I’ve been developing a another philosopher-hybrid ideal: philosopher-designer. This is not a well-designed presentation of philosophy, a philosophy about design, or a well-designed presentation of philosophy about design… but something else that feels enormously important (if not for the world, at least for me) and profoundly Jewish (if not for all Jews, at least for me).

 

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Church name

I’m going to see if I can talk one of my Catholic friends into starting a church and naming it “Our Lady of Perpetual Shock”.

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Turtles

This I know: We can only love where dread can and might irrupt.

This I hope: Where dread irrupts, we can love.

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Beyond my everything-sized soul there is a braided ring of dread, love and nothingness,

Beyond that ring, perhaps there is nothing but more dread, love and nothingness.

Ah sahib, turtles — all the way down.

 

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Hiddennesses

A solved problem.
A defined problem believed to have a solution.
A defined problem whose solution may be impossible.
A defined problem believed to have no possible solution.
An undefined but acknowledged felt difficulty believed to contain a definable problem.
An undefined but acknowledged felt difficulty which might contain a definable problem.
An undefined but acknowledged felt difficulty believed to be essential to existence.
An unacknowledged felt difficulty.
An unfelt difficulty: a non-problem.
A solved problem?

Light: unobstructed perception.
Shadow: darkness in light, obstructed perceiving.
Darkness: obstructed perception, nonperception in perception.
Blindness in darkness: obvious obscurity, perceived nonperception.
Blindness in light: nonobvious obscurity, blindspots, unperceived nonperception.
Light: unobstructed perception?

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V’ahavta

Some entities cannot be comprehended, only known-toward. This is a kind of knowing, but it only appears such if we allow knowing to be more than the conceptual grasping of objective comprehension.

This doesn’t mean that objective comprehension is a bad thing, especially when we realize the importance of objectively comprehending the fact that objective comprehension is only one of myriad ways to know, and that it is an inappropriate form of knowing when it comes to those entities that ought to be known-toward.

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Knowing-toward is the intellectual stance we take toward transcendent realities. We comprehend things about them. We comprehend in various ways, to varying degrees of adequacy, the experiences we have of these realities, but these experiences are only phenomenal radiance from incomprehensible sources who transcend us.

I like to think of transcendence in three directions or dimensions, that of time, space and awareness. Each dimension extends as far as I can conceive everything in principle, and tapers off into the blindness of inconceivable realities whose existence is mysterious but impossible to doubt. We know toward these directions. We can sort of imagine particularities within them, but we are never right. We imagine people we might meet, but we cannot imagine the exact beloved personality who will change what life means to us. We imagine the future, but only as we can know it as we are now, not as we might learn to know later when the most important and unimaginable events befall us. And try as we might (and we should), we cannot know life as our ancestors knew it. We think about things, but not the impact the things that will matter most to us, including, and not at all limited to our own malfunctioning bodies. We think about places, but whatever we imagine will not be the place we see as we face our last dimming moments of life. Reality streams off into nothingness in every direction, and we will know it better if we know it as streaming, and allow it to be what it is.

I like to think of transcendence in three directions or dimensions, not because these three dimensions exist in some absolute, unchanging, eternally true manner that transcends my thought, but because when I discipline my thinking to interpret experience in this manner, I can maintain myself as a finite being embedded in an infinite reality as a participant. I am able to remind myself to use my objective comprehension to think- and be-toward reality what I am not. With this framework, I can stop trying to conquer reality, to strip it of everything but its essential truth and imprisoning the essential truth inside my own head, which is a philosopher’s vice I must battle constantly. The only truths that one can stuff in a cranium are objective ones, and that’s why objectivity is so popular. We want to own our knowledge, not use it to relate to unpossessable realities. I want to own the world if not the universe, but I console myself by giving myself little maps, compasses, trinkets, and pictures which indulge my need to own things.

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“God”, Heaven and Afterlife are the artifacts of comprehending objectivity what/who can only be known-toward.

People reduced to types, or roles, or uses, or categories — people reduced to objects — are the artifacts of comprehending objectivity what/who can only be known-toward.

The most important elements of our existence are precisely what we are most tempted to stuff into our heads and make our own property.

What is most important in our experience? What we love. Love reduced to comprehension annihilates love in mere lust.

Love is being-toward, being-toward with our whole being: being-toward all our hearts, being-toward all our souls, being-toward with all our strength.

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Adonai Echad

Even an ordinary human mind is multiple. We weigh different values against each other, we find ourselves torn in decision, we try on multiple perspectives, we feel the pull of different people’s influences on our thinking, we anticipate divergent futures branching from each notion. “We”, each of us. “We”, all of us. Both, always.

When we look out onto the world, it glows with blended lights and hums with polyphonous voices.

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It is paradoxical that we think of the purest light as white light, because that is precisely the least pure light. Normally, when we speak of purity we think of it in terms of removal of what does not belong. But with white light, no color of light can be excluded or strained out, or the purity of the white light is lost.

Infinity is analogous to white light, but to an extreme that defies comprehension. Infinity includes all, without exception. I would say that infinity excludes nothing, but it doesn’t. Nothing is also a part of infinity — and maybe the most important part with respect to finite human experience with infinity! Most of the time when we say “infinity” what we mean is actually “myriad”: uncountably many of something. But to speak of an entity as such is already to define it against something else (removing it from its infinite ground in order to set it against what it isn’t), in order to count it among other entities defined as the same kind of entity. Even generalizing all entities as something as general as “entities” defines entities against non-entity, thus truncating infinity at myriad. With respect to infinity, every removal corrupts the delicate omniclusion what is intended when “infinity” is said.

Of course, we can never positively mean “infinity”, or even “myriad” when we say these words, because avoiding exclusion is impossible. Try listing every object in existence, and you’ll forget to include a color, or quality, or concept, or number, or formula, or mood or some moment in time or perhaps the feeling experienced by some child who lived in what is now known as Bulgaria in the year 978 CE when smelling fresh-cut wood. Then consider the fact that each mention of an entity produces a new entity: that particular mention.

This does not mean “infinity” is a useless word or notion. It only means when speaking of infinity we maintain awareness of its inexhaustibility. We cannot know infinity (or myriad) — we can only know toward them. However far we go toward, we will never arrive. We cannot comprehend infinity, we can only invite it into our souls, a little bit at a time.

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Back to our own strangely multiple minds. I is one, but it is not a simple or atomic one. It is a one that is divided and one that can become more unified and feel more simple and one-like. Even a human mind taken from its social context and isolated is pluralistic. A single human mind can be conflicted or harmonious. A single human mind can exclude or persecute parts of its self, or even deny membership in I. But this alienated part of I, this sub-I, can be redeemed and brought back into the self’s fold.

For this reason, I believe I can say that God is distributed, and that each point of distribution is radiant, and still say “Adonai Echad.”

One of these distributed radiant points of God is you, so please shine favorably on me, with pure, hospitable, all-inviting light.

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