At times, I resist writing a post because I just don’t want to spend the time doing all the research it might take. I also think that no one would want to spend their valuable time just reading another opinion. So, to be fair to you, this one’s for me. It’s just something that I want to have noted somewhere, and this is the place I picked.
You probably won’t like what I have to say.
The climate change that I’m experiencing is not related to weather. It’s related to how we see ourselves as human beings in the world. More often than not, my experience of living in today’s society seems to affirm that we think less and less of ourselves.
Our behaviors on a daily basis are less refined. More is done without proper thought or intention.
For one, our speech is less dignified. We’re sloppy with words and they have become more angry, more vindictive, more explosive. Name-calling is not unusual. We pay less attention to accuracy, and often speak first, think later. Sure, online fact checking exists, but who wants to do that all the time?
I am most bothered about this because it goes against my understanding of our numerous laws and cautions regarding speech. (There have been volumes of commentary written about the laws of speech but for an extremely quick introduction read this and/or this). According to our tradition, the world was created with words which is why we place such an important value on the spoken and written word.
The very thing that is often associated with Judaism, the Ten Commandments, is really an awkward translation of the Hebrew, meaning “Ten Utterances” (Aseret HaDibrot, the root D-B-R meaning words and speak, reinforcing the elemental connection between the two).
Our way of eating has become on the one hand more conscious, on the other much less so. We might be paying a lot of attention to what we eat (gluten-free? fat-free? organic? all natural? free range? no GMO’s?, no growth hormones? dairy free?–really, I just touched the surface here) but we certainly aren’t paying attention to how we eat.
The food packaging industry has burgeoned with food (?) that can be eaten as quickly as possible, no eating utensils or table needed. Machines can pulverize our food beyond recognition. There are outrageous food contests where thousands gather to watch people gobble as much food as they can without actually regurgitating. There are people who try to win these competitions.
We eat on the run. In a car. While on our devices. In a rush. Often alone.
The way we treat our food is the way we treat ourselves. All the research points to a society that is making itself sick by the way we eat, yet changing those habits is very difficult. There are many laws in Judaism about what we eat and how we eat. They are all structured for us to resist the passive ingestion of substances, and elevate the activity that honors us as human beings.
As much as I think that the world agrees with me on how different we are from animals, that just isn’t so. A recent article in the New York Times has the primatologist Frans de Waal outlining why he believes there is little distinction between human beings and primates. You can read a rebuttal to that here in the online “Evolution News”. Denying the fact that we are imbued with a special capacity to make moral and ethical choices minimizes who we are and robs us of what our potential is on this earth.
It is difficult in today’s society to intentionally slow down enough to pay attention to behavior that might elevate our souls, instead of denigrating our core. The spark that I believe is in all of us, and what makes us special creatures should inform our behavior more often.
May we be blessed with the awareness that comes from knowing that and the opportunity to be able to practice it.