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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘ted’

2014: The Year of the Non-Existent Product

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Adapted and inspired from recent teachings of Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh.

Recently I’ve watched a TED video that attempted to reverse the tide of TED. The speaker explained how the nitty-gritty details were more central than the epiphanies and inspired ideas presented in most TED videos. He told of an astrophysicist friend of his, who was turned down by a potential donor because he didn’t sound more like Malcolm Gladwell. The speaker asked (rhetorically): is this is the approach we the public should be taking. Does it make sense that a well-trained scientist should play second fiddle to those who are better able to popularize the subject matter?

Instead of reversing the tide, while details are important, let’s approach it differently. While this speaker says that good ideas don’t equal a good world, according to Jewish thought, good ideas are certainly very powerful unto themselves. There is a Chassidic adage that “think good and it will be good.” This is not some well-meaning positivism, but a truism that is hardcoded into creation.

The effect of positive thinking is seen quite readily in warfare, sports, or any achievement-based discipline. It is the thoughts and ideas behinds our actions, that lead to the desired result, as in the saying from the sages, “thought [brings the] effect” (מַחְשָׁבָה מוֹעֶלֶת).

What this TED lecture highlighted, and what we are beginning to become conscious of, is that knowledge is primary. What comes afterwards, the physical manifestation of the thought, might not need to come about at all for the thought to be meaningful. Since the Enlightenment, we got used to a world where the physical was primary, and the spiritual was old and antiquated. But as this speaker himself admitted, the ‘big ideas’ presented at TED lectures more resemble the spiritual than the physical. Does it matter if TED talks are acted upon? It is the idea that first attracted millions, so why should we then conclude that the only viable outcome is a material one? While we expected Steve Jobs to hold something during his new product announcement speeches, and not just speak such lofty ideas as “think different” without the physical result of this concept, we are now approaching a point in history when the physical is no longer necessarily. The idea is valid whether the product is developed or not.

The End of the Enlightenment

One great principle in the Torah’s inner dimension states that every “husk” exhausts itself, eventually falling and dying. The French Revolution, and the Enlightenment that fed the entire development of the modern world, is about to reach its end. More exactly, the evil side of it is gradually exhausting itself completely. The attempt to place mankind on a Divine pedestal, to worship human intellect and success, and to use it as the only gauge for truth and judgment, is gradually losing its appeal. After shattering all the old myths, the statue of mankind who coronated himself is crumbling to dust. So much so that in today’s post-modern world (or perhaps, post-post-modern) we are hearing completely different tunes than what were heard during the French Revolution.

Now, in our generation in particular, we are witnessing a vast upheaval. Since the Enlightenment, traditional Judaism has been on the defense, and even receded in a constant process of retreat. Many communities fell captive to the winds of the Enlightenment, and it seemed traditional Jewish observance was being cast away by this self-confidence wave of secularism. At the time, it appeared that this trend would continue; showing religious observance to be something outdated and irrelevant. Yet amazingly, a generation of teshuvah (returnees to God and His Torah) has arrived, and the serpent once again lies helpless to the “hand of Moses” in our generation.

Has American Society Become Insanely Hypersensitive?

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Around a year ago, I was lambasted on the blog for calling a girl a “girl” in a post I wrote, instead of calling her a woman, even though the other female readers of this blog freely use the pejorative “girl” for girls of the same age as the one I talked about.

In the comments I exposed that double-standard, but at the time I don’t recall mentioning the insane hypersensitivity and political correctness that drove the response.

This week I watched with amazement two other incidents (not involving me) showcasing more examples of this hypersensitivity and insane political correctness.

In the first case, Dov Hikind dressed up for Purim as a basketball player. A black basketball player, mind you. And for that he’s going to hell and his career is almost certainly damaged.

Because apparently you can dress up as anything on Halloween or Purim, except as a black man (or am I supposed to say African-American).

In the second case, Seth MacFarlane made some amusing jokes about Jews controlling the Hollywood movie industry, during the Oscar ceremonies. As a result, he was attacked for it by the Jewish watchdogs.

What?!  Are you people insane?

A comedian suddenly can’t make jokes about something that is pretty darn near close to true, or certainly used to be.

This hypersensitivity is out of control.

Neither man had any racist intent in their acts or statement. Neither were aware that what they did would be considered racist or insensitive.

And why should they have?

People don’t costume up as Hassidim? As Italian Mafiosos? As Arabs? As Rastafarians? You can get all those costumes in the store.

But a black man is off limits? Or is it that costuming as a black basketball player if off limits because it’s a stereotype. Though what kind of stereotype can it be when 78% of basketball players are black?

And look how many Hollywood producers and actors are Jewish (or of Jewish descent at least). You’ve got to be an idiot to not see that.

But apparently it’s now wrong to point that out. (Unless you’re John Stewart, in which case it’s OK, presumably because he’s Jewish).

What’s next?

Is it going to be racist to point out how many Jewish Nobel prize winners there are? Is that an offensive stereotype too?

It really is time that this hypersensitivity got toned down, and save it for real racism.

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