Tag Archives: Psychology

Why I’m Pro-Plastic Surgery (sometimes)

30 Mar

I don’t how many of you are still with me here after some of my recent posts, and I’m probably going to lose a few more of you now, but here goes:

This plastic surgery thing is still going around the Jblogs, so obviously this has kicked up something deep. First off, I want to say I’m against pushing cosmetic plastic surgery to anyone, and of course not to 20-something year old sheltered seminary girls. That’s totally wrong. However, plastic, gastric, and whatever other surgery is an option that women (and men) have the right to make. There’s nothing morally wrong with it.

Modern, first-world, society is a super-connected, tightly packed mass of humanity. Everyone is competing with everyone from everywhere in the world. Certain facial and body shapes and features have been decided to be most desirable because of social, historical, and to a very minor extent, biological factors. Everybody is now competing for these few individuals who have been deemed better people for these tangential reasons. The internet, tv, movies, are presenting these people to us as superior since before we can even talk. Associations of certain facial types with being heroes or better people are rampant, especially in children’s TV (looking at the Disney Channel, it looks like nothing has changed even with all the backlash).

So, what’s a person with a body that was geared to be evolutionarily fitted out for survival and mating in their own region of the world supposed to do now that all their gear and upgrades are suddenly rendered useless? They developed DNA to be able to store nutrition for a rainy day much better than everyone else. They are able have children 10x easier than other people. They can stay out in the sun longer than other people. These used to be important. Suddenly, these features are rendered useless by technology, geography, history. Not only that, they are detriments to finding a mate. What are people supposed to do? Remutate? Go die alone? No, they are designed for survival and reproduction. They use any tool they have to meet these biological imperatives. If people associate long noses or small chins or round shoulders with certain moral characteristics because of superstitions started in 11th century Germany and are therefore pushing you away, you cut that thing in half. Or move out of NY.

You didn’t choose that nose, or even to be born. You were forced into this world and given a job (ok, a fun job) that you must do or live in agony.  I don’t see how anyone can make a case for this not being natural or honest. Well, I can. Because most people are simplistic fuckin idiots.

P.S. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying someone is responsible or is at fault for not having elective surgery. I’m only saying if nature and a mentally unhealthy society f’d you, you have every right to stack the deck now.

P.P.S. Something that I think has arguable basis for being made illegal is Photoshopping models. But then you’d have to ask why camera tricks and makeup and surgically altered people are allowed in movies, which is a case you can’t win in our legal system. Just look at the what the entertainment industry is doing to the courts and congress over copyright laws.

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My Gay Bashing Post

22 Mar

I feel uncomfortable making any negative comments about gay people since they seem to be in a war now, with teams drawn up and everything. But I really don’t have anything against gay people, so I’m going to say this anyway. Hopefully, you all won’t take is as me choosing sides.

It seems to me that some gay men have too high an opinion of themselves. You don’t find most straight, non-celebrities describing their life like “(it’s been) ‘x’ years since I started my incredible journey” (heavily edited direct quote), or talking about how spiritual and inspirational they are, or generally being enraptured by their own super-specialness. They might want people to think so, but they generally have a pretty firm grasp on how other people actually see them. Not so with gay men.  No. To be specific, young gay men.

My researchless, probably jilted, opinion based on the handful of openly gay men I know and a few case studies I read on the toilet one time is that it has to do with a close connection to a specific type of mother and a distance from a father figure at an early developmental stage. Here’s the part where people who can read books that don’t have pictures come in and make my theory sound intelligent. Going further down this track, though, I’d assume as gay men get older and more experienced, they probably gain a more balanced view of the reality the rest of us have the pleasure of calling this Hellish Plane of Existence. They’re going to have a power-hungry boss, or friends who are jerks, or life-partners at some point. It’s probably very hard to come to grips with that new reality though. Wait, here’s more proof: you don’t see many flamboyant straight men, right? I think flamboyant gay men are mimicking their mothers, who they identify with more. Ok, it doesn’t matter that my hypotheses suck, my observation still stands. Whatever the reason, this annoys me and I’m complaining about it.

I know someone’s going to tear me a new one, but before you start, I want to throw in here that I don’t have a personal problem with gayness. Whatever two grown adults decide to do to get some joy out of this craphole (shut up, that’s disgusting) is their own business as far as I’m concerned. What I’m saying is, I don’t hate gay people because of their homosexuality. I hate the portion of them that do things which piss me off. So if you think about it, I’m basically John Lennon. People get too caught up on the externalities that separate us. Can’t we all just get along and hate each other for who we are as human beings? If we all agree that all people have issues and peculiarities that piss other people off we should be able to identify those piss-off behaviors of different groups of people and insult those people without thinking any less of them. Because it’s impossible to think any less of them than we already do. Am I being clear here? Peace through hatred, people. It’s the best way. Peace through hatred.

More Mothereffing PSA’s

19 Feb

I already wrote a sick post about PSA’s here. Not that everything on the greatest site in the world isn’t sick. I just wanted to give credit where credit is due. Wait, did the greatest site in the world link right back here? Straaange. The internet knows too. What was I talking about? Right, mothereffing public service announcements.

The latest batch of “The more you know” brand of PSA’s really makes an impact. I think it’s because I watch shows on demand, where the commercials repeat themselves in the same exact order when you go through a season of shows. The result being that what was originally just a slight annoyance becomes a full blown hatred of whichever minor celebrity is trying to pretend their lives have value.

I started to watch this stupidly entertaining show called Grimm because when you’re scraping the barrel, anything salvageable becomes terrific. Anyhow, this commercial comes on every time they break: Try not to punch the computer screen please. Granted, not as vomit-inducing as this smiley, singing douchebag, but enough to make me curse under my breath at the tv after enough viewings (not hyperbole).

I don’t understand why they can’t make PSA’s that are just informative without being manipulative. Just tell me whatever obvious thing I already know, like punching children is not appropriate behavior, and that’s it. Why must you put in a totally unqualified, self-congratulatory actor/asshole to smile while delivering me a condescending message? Now I want to punch children even more. Don’t they have professional manipulators at the ad council who know how to make me buy sugar water? Why don’t they put in a drop of effort into these tax-payer funded pieces of shit?

And hulu has officially closed the commercial gap with TV, so there’s absolutely no reason not to download shows anymore. That just needs to be said.

Deja Vu Post: Are People Only As Nice As They Need To Be To Get What They Want?

4 Dec

Yes.

Oh, I was dying to just end it there. Wouldn’t that have been awesome? But I guess I should explain what I mean a little more.

It hasn’t been proven, but I believe that people learn to act either dominantly or passively as a response to their environment. You learn your place in society. Can I get stuff by demanding it, by taking it, or by being given it? Whichever one works is the one you stick with.

Were your parents authoritative, and controlling? Then you’ll be one of those “nice” guys. You will do so because you’re neurotic and still unconsciously fearful of repercussions. Did your mother wait on you hand and foot? Then you’ll expect all women to give you things if you demand it. Did you grow up rich and privileged? Then you take what you want from the lesser folks.

This seems logical, but for some reason, most people have a hard time deviating from standard definitions of good and evil. It’s so much easier when people fall into pre-established categories. But people aren’t evil or good by nature. What they are is adaptive. Can I survive by smacking this guy? No. This guy? Yes. The “super-nice” emotional guy might be a doormat to an adult, but a tyrant to his children. These are all learned. There is no choice involved.

What about the guy who feels like beating/molesting a child, and stops himself for no other reason than because God is watching? This man believes he’ll receive a super-smack in the afterlife. Choosing to forgo a bar of delicious chocolate from Chernobyl may be smart, but it’s not righteous.

The one I would call a ‘Tzaddik’, is someone who sees himself as part of a larger body. The deeper theologies, such as Kabbalah, stress this idea. Moshe saw himself as part of Israel, ‘one with nature’, so to speak. When Hashem told him he’ll wipe Israel out, and rebuild with just him, Moshe said no, we are all one, part of each other, part of creation, part of God.

This is a higher level, of course, but is a righteous man on a different plane of existence, acting with some ethereal value like ‘altruism’? I don’t think so. He has so-called ‘Daas Elyon’, elevated understanding. His mind sees the seemingly differentiated parts of the world from a larger perspective. But he still acts kindly because he sees it as helping himself. We are all connected, we are all one, therefore I am you. I will do a Mitzva because I am one with God, I am God.

I’ll point out a practical difference to illustrate my point. If I am a good Christian with Daas Elyon, living in the American South in 1850, I might fight for the rights of every White man, and own Black slaves. That’s because black people are not part of me. They are lower. I may feel that they are deserving of the same respect and good treatment as other animals by being part of the larger circle of life that I am, but they don’t have the ‘human soul’ that makes me see other white men as part of me.

The tzaddik, then, doesn’t operate on a different playing field. He has accepted certain ideas as truths that allow him to play the game differently, relative to how much of these elevated truths he has accepted. I believe the same idea can be applied to God as well. We believe He takes an active role in us because he cares about us. But He cares about us because we are Him.

Note: I originally posted this a while ago (June 5th, to be exact), so it’s a little different in style than what I’d write today, but the topic just came up in the comments on the Two Angels post, and I figured I’d post it again. Also, this was one of my earlier posts, when I didn’t have a lot of readers, so about 10 people total have read this piece on my site. I think I might start reposting some of my earlier posts that I thought were good when I wrote them, but didn’t get many views.

Classic Jewish Stories

17 Nov

Have you ever you heard the R’ Nachman story of The Turkey Prince? In case you haven’t, I’ll give you the executive summary:

A prince suddenly snaps and begins acting like a turkey. He sits under the main table, naked, and eats the crumbs other people drop when they eat. The king is distraught and hires everyone he can think of to cure his son, but no one can fix him.

One day, a stranger comes in and asks the king if he can try something unorthodox. The king says, “Why not?” The stranger then goes over to the prince, strips naked and sits down with him. The prince is bewildered, but the man says, “I heard you were a turkey. Can’t there be two turkeys?” The prince agrees, and the two men go naked eating crumbs.

A few days later, the man says he’s cold and wants a shirt. The prince says that turkeys don’t wear shirts. The man says, “Why not? Can’t turkeys wear shirts if they’re cold?” The prince is cold as well, and agrees that there’s no reason why they shouldn’t. A while later, the man pulls some real food under the table. They go through a similar conversation and start eating real food. They go through all of his behaviors until the prince is doing everything normal again. The story ends, “And nobody recognized that the prince was still a turkey.”

Like all R’ Nachman stories I know, there are basic archetype characters, there’s no easy explanation to the story, and yet it still hits you somewhere inside. That said, I think we can figure it out if we just drop the classic Jewish approach to stories like this, i.e., someone did something wrong, and here’s what he can do to redeem himself. Because if you’re taking a traditional approach, this story just kicks your brain around. First off, the archetype role-swapping. The king (usually equal to God in mashalim) is trying to help but clueless- a very human role. And the son isn’t doing anything noticeably wrong to anyone. Secondly, the turkey can’t represent anything traditional because turkey is an American bird that probably wasn’t even found in 1800’s Eastern ColdasHellshka.

Here’s how I understand it. The story doesn’t need detailed analysis on each piece, it’s just missing backstory. The prince is under pressure to be the next king and do everything he is supposed to, and has a breakdown. The king tries to fix the behavior, but he doesn’t understand what’s causing it. The wise mystery man does. He realizes that the problem was that the prince didn’t feel good enough to do what he was expected to do, and he rebelled. But how? He couldn’t attack the king outright. So he rebelled inwardly. From then on, he wouldn’t do anything the king wanted of him. And since he knew the king needed him to take over his kingdom, that act of self-sabotage, was his first act of living his life. “Let’s see if you can accept me without me having any use to you.”

The problem was that the prince was too scared to say that out loud to his father, so the king had no idea what he should do. He might have tried to understand his son, but he had a kingdom to run, and besides, it was undignified for him. He was the king. Let his shnooks fix his son.

The mystery man sees that neither side is budging in this royally f’d up family is and decides to help out. He sheds his clothes and acts like the prince. It’s fine to be a turkey. This is what works for you, so, fine. I’m on your side. I accept you without judgments or expectations. But you don’t have to restrict yourself from things you want, just because someone else wants you to do them. Take ownership of everything you do. Do it for your own reasons and make it yours. You never have to stop being a turkey, if that’s what you feel you want to do. And now nobody will give you any trouble for being a turkey either.

It’s a brilliant way out of a catch-22, accomplished by self-sacrifice and deep empathy. And once upon a time, that’s what the point of a Rebbe was.

I Don’t Like The Tisha B’av Routine.

9 Aug

I don’t like Eicha. I don’t like kinos. I don’t like listening to videotaped mussar speeches. Why not? Well, I want to throw out some intelligent sociological reason to make it seem like I do things because I’m smarter than the rest of the plebes, but I feel stupid lying anonymously to other anonymous people over the internet.

So it’s not because the language is archaic, or that I’m desensitized to graphic descriptions, or even that modern Jewish tragedies emotionally dwarf something that took place in antiquity. Those all sound nice and logical. But the real reason is because They made me do it. They forced me to do it when I didn’t want to and terrified me with horrible things that would happen if I didn’t.

Care about the Bais Hamikdash being destroyed! Care about us losing Yerushalaim 2000 years ago! Didn’t you just sing, “If I forget you, Jerusalem, let my tongue stick to my pallet” ? You know you had better care, because God gets mad at people who don’t care about his Bais Hamikdash. The unspoken undercurrent to all this was, Who knows what that psycho will do?

Even the gruesome parts about things that happened to the people back then were taught to me in the same vain. Here, use this. Use this imagery of our ancestors being slaughtered to evoke some emotion. Do whatever it takes to make it look like you care about the Temple, and the sacrifices, and all that. In some deep subconscious recess of my parents’ and Rebbeim’s minds, it was probably saying, I hope you understand, child, I’m trying to protect you.

Now that I’m an adult, I’ve distanced myself to some extent from the community and the childhood fears. It wasn’t an intentional thing. I’m still part of the community. I just also became part of the outside world. And then, slowly, kind of automatically, it crept in that this is America, and most people aren’t out to get me, and probably not God either.

He probably doesn’t demand fealty just because he’s in charge. He might want me to be a free, happy person. He might even want me to be “self-actualized”, like I learned about in a treifeh psychology class in college.

Hmm, let me think that through. Maybe what God wants most of me is to be a good person. To help out those weaker than me, and stand up to the bullies in lfe. To trust that he always has my back, so I’ll be able to move forward even when I’m scared. Maybe all the Mitzvos, the rituals and prayers, are entirely meaningless when they’re aimed at trying to appease an insecure psycho in the sky.

Of course, I may be deluded and wrong. But it seems to me that this is exactly what the prophet Isaiah put as the very first chapter of his book 2500 years ago.

Are people only as nice as they need to be to get stuff?

5 Jun

Yes.

 

 

Oh, I was dying to just end it there. Wouldn’t that have been awesome? But I guess I should explain and add some exceptions to it.

It hasn’t been proven, but I believe that people learn to act either dominantly or passively as a response to their environment. You learn your place in society. Can I get stuff by demanding it, by taking it, or by being given it? Whichever one works is the one you stick with.

Were your parents authoritative, and controlling? Then you’ll be one of those “nice” guys. You will do so because you’re neurotic and still unconsciously fearful of repercussions. Did your mother wait on you hand and foot? Then you’ll expect all women to give you things if you demand it. Did you grow up rich and privileged? Then you take what you want from the lesser folks.

This seems logical, but for some reason, most people have a hard time deviating from standard definitions of good and evil. It’s so much easier when people fall into pre-established categories. But people aren’t evil or good by nature. What they are is adaptive. Can I survive by smacking this guy? No. This guy? Yes. The “super-nice” emotional guy might be a doormat to an adult, but a tyrant to his children. These are all learned. There is no choice involved.

What about the guy who feels like beating/molesting a child, and stops himself for no other reason than because God is watching? This man believes he’ll receive a super-smack in the afterlife. Choosing to forgo a bar of delicious chocolate from Chernobyl may be smart, but it’s not righteous.

The one I would call a ‘Tzaddik’, is someone who sees himself as part of a larger body. The deeper theologies, such as Kabbalah, stress this idea. Moshe saw himself as part of Israel, ‘one with nature’, so to speak. When Hashem told him he’ll wipe Israel out, and rebuild with just him, Moshe said no, we are all one, part of each other, part of creation, part of God.

This is a higher level, of course, but is a righteous man on a different plane of existence, acting with some ethereal value like ‘altruism’? I don’t think so. He has so-called ‘Daas Elyon’, elevated understanding. His mind sees the seemingly differentiated parts of the world from a larger perspective. But he still acts kindly because he sees it as helping himself. We are all connected, we are all one, therefore I am you. I will do a Mitzva because I am one with God, I am God.

I’ll point out a practical difference to illustrate my point. If I am a good Christian with Daas Elyon, living in the American South in 1850, I might fight for the rights of every White man, and own Black slaves. That’s because black people are not part of me. They are lower. I may feel that they are deserving of the same respect and good treatment as other animals by being part of the larger circle of life that I am, but they don’t have the ‘human soul’ that makes me see other white men as part of me.

The tzaddik, then, doesn’t operate on a different playing field. He has accepted certain ideas as truths that allow him to play the game differently, relative to how much of these elevated truths he has accepted. I believe the same idea can be applied to God as well. We believe He takes an active role in us because he cares about us. But He cares about us because we are Him.

(Cross-posted on Dovbear)