Is our capacity for compassion and kindness enough to resist the ‘dark psychic force’ threatening us?
I don’t expect Marianne Williamson to be the Democratic candidate for president in 2020, but I’m convinced that she is right about a “dark psychic force” taking over America. Her solution is love. Is that enough?
Rabbi Rami: Love is enough because the love she is talking about is the result of a deep transformation of consciousness. The “dark psychic force” threatening us is the madness of zero-sum politics rooted in scarcity thinking that shuts down our capacity for compassion and kindness and promotes the idea that your success requires another’s failure. The only resistance to this force is spiritual transformation: awakening to the interdependence of all life and the non-zero, win-win, abundance thinking that Marianne calls love.
I’m tormented by endless desires. How do I turn desire off?
You can’t. Desire is to the mind is what foam is to beer. Don’t resist your desires or yield to them or even observe them from some detached perspective; just leave them alone. Instead, find some- thing that needs doing and do it— clean your house, do the laundry, go to work or school, take a walk, read a book, help friends and strangers—and let your desires take care of themselves.
I am very spiritual; my brother is not. He demands I come up with a spiritual way to deal with the so-called invasion coming across our southern border and the need to build a wall. Can you suggest something?
Your brother isn’t wrong: there is an invasion and we do need a wall. The invaders, however,
aren’t Mexicans, Hondurans, or Guatemalans, but fear-generating memes coming across social media and cable television and poisoning our minds with angry tropes of “us against them” and, in time, “each against all.” The wall we need isn’t a wall of steel and concrete, but a wall of virtue and values—critical thinking, reasoned discourse, free inquiry, civil and human rights, democracy, gender and racial equality, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of and from religion, a capitalism that values people over profits, and commitment to universal compassion, love, and justice. Sadly, pouring concrete is easier than cultivating virtue.
What can I do to be happy?
Happiness happens when the universe does what you want it to do. Unhappiness happens when it doesn’t. Since the universe doesn’t know or care about you, being unhappy is baked into the cake. Rather than try to be happy, try to be useful, constructive, and helpful to others. This may not make you happy, but it will go a long way to making others happy, and that is no small thing at all.
Judaism is, in my estimation, the best religion in the world, which is why we Jews are called to be a light unto the nations (Isaiah 42:6). What can I do to help the world learn from us?
The world has learned from us, just not the way you might like. From Leviticus 18:22 they learned that God hates gay men. From Deuteronomy 7:2 they learned that God sanctions genocide. From Deuteronomy 14:2 they learned that God prefers one people above all others. From Joel 3:10 they learned to beat their plowshares into swords and their pruning hooks into spears. From the traditional Aleinu prayer they learned that those who worship differently than us “worship vanity and emptiness and pray to a god who cannot save.” If you want to be a light unto the nations, shed light on and root out the dark strata of your own religion and then encourage others to do the same with theirs.
My grandchildren insist they are spiritual but not religious. Is this true or are they just lazy?
Spirituality is awakening to that nondual Reality “in whom we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28) and living as “a blessing to all the families of the earth” (Genesis 12:3). Religions are institutions devoted to specific ideologies and power structures. While fewer and fewer people are enamored with religion, fewer still are seriously committed to spirituality. Most people want a guilt-free, feel-good, no-obligation relationship with a Cosmic Concierge who bends the universe to their will. Neither religion nor spirituality can do that. As for your grandchildren? I have no idea.
My husband says you say God is both good and bad so there is no morality. Do you actually say that?
No. What I do say is morality is a human construct. Even when we say morality comes from God, the God we reference is also a human construct, which is why different Gods have different moral standards. My own view of good and evil is this: what is good is what promotes human flourishing, what is evil is what diminishes it. Since humans are part of an interdependent planetary ecosystem, human flourishing requires the flourishing of all life. While I don’t need a God to confirm my morality, the God I experience does indeed do so.
A friend and I were talking over lunch and agreed that God never gives us more than we can handle. Later that day she learned her college freshman daughter had committed suicide. Would it help if I remind her of what we agreed?
No! There are platitudes we tell ourselves about reality to hide from reality, and there is reality itself. When our platitudes clash with reality, it is better to forget the platitude and deal with reality. The notion that God never gives people more than they can handle is just such a platitude. What your friend needs is comfort, not platitudes. Be with her in her grief, her anger, her self-doubt, and whatever else arises from this situation without hiding behind platitudes of any kind.
I subscribe to this magazine and read your column avidly, but unlike you I have yet to find enlightenment and peace. What do you know that I don’t?
What I know that you don’t is that I haven’t found enlightenment or peace, either. Of course, there are other things I may know that you don’t know, so please renew your subscription and continue reading my column.
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