I haven't offered many insights into the type of studies I have at Yeshiva thus far in this blog. It's a bit of an awkward topic - discuss ideas of God too deeply and most readers will be turned off, or offended, or disinterested, or the like. Most readers are probably amenable to discussing spirituality or meditation, maybe even the "soul." But frequently when I seek to engage friends in discussions of God and those ramifications, I'm told that things are too deep - that they'd rather not tackle those issues at the moment.
So fair enough. But because what I do learn here in Jerusalem is so fantastic, I wanted to start passing along lessons in highly practical format (effectively - that can be learned without dealing with too much God stuff, and can significantly affect our lives).
Two easy thoughts, things that I'm looking to incorporate into my life:
1. "FML" & "I want to kill myself." - Let's not even consider the spiritual elements of speech. Let's just address the practical aspects. Saying "fuck my life" and similar phrases just doesn't strike me as benign light humor - in fact, I find it highly depressing that an entire web community has spawned at http://www.fmylife.com.
The point is that such phrases effectively cheapen the importance of life itself. I'm not saying that you're ruining your life by saying it - but you are desensitizing yourself to the true value of your life. I know you don't mean it. I know you don't actually want to kill yourself because you took a four outer. But then why do you say it? On an entirely practical level - even merely from a poker perspective - which quote is a healthier response to a bad beat: "fuck my life," or "meh, doesn't matter, I had great equity"
I don't think I'm expressing myself as well as I'd like to. All I really care to convey is that what we say does affect us, even if we don't recognize it. Speech is powerful. Speech is, in fact, even physical (think sound waves). When we speak, we are literally touching other people with our words. That is fascinating, but also speaks to the power of speaking negatively. Words don't come out of our mouths and forever disappear. I maintain that they have some lasting effect on our psyche. And I feel like repeated use of these phrases does damage our outlook and the way we internalize the value of our own lives.
I'm not suggesting that you can't speak another negative word in your life. I'm just encouraging you to think before you express a phrase which on a purely literal level means that you don't care about your life and/or that you'd rather be dead. If you actually think about what you're saying, it's rather tragic. I know you don't mean it. But that's not the point. The point is that repeated use of anything will become internalized - and I fear that many of our generation don't hold a high value to their physical lives (the only ones they'll ever get) because too many of us unknowingly cheapen these same lives through our habitual speech patterns.
2. "Wasting time" and "Killing time" - Judaism strongly disagrees with the concepts of "wasting time" and "killing time," again, for many reasons similar to those listed in point #1. The idea here is to actually consider how little time we have on earth - how then could we ever justify "wasting" it? Consider how precious your youth is. Consider how quickly the last 5 or 10 years have gone. I remember that going from age 11 to 14 felt like an eternity. But 17 to 25 has felt like a split second. And we're not eternal. So why would you ever waste a single second?
So let's be straight - I'm not saying that you can't ever rest. I'm not saying that you shouldn't play a video game or watch some TV here and there. I'm not that out of touch with reality. But I think I'm correct in assuming that most of us waste a heck of a lot of time: I know that I sure do.
I have probably spent a thousand hours of my life (if not more) browsing Two Plus Two forums. Yes, I've derived some pleasure. But if I'd spent those hours reading non-fiction books, or even "For Dummies" books, or hell, anything else that interests me - how much more knowledgeable would I be? It's honestly staggering to consider. If you actually sit down and consider what you could've accomplished with your wasted time, you should actually find it physically painful to handle. I know that I do. I'm 25 years old - and I could have far more to show for myself.
Again, this isn't an unequivocal rule. If you work 14 hours a day, and need to come home and veg out, then by all means: do it. But if you're like me, and you are willing to consider how much untapped potential you actually have, then I encourage you to try to determine where you're losing all that time. I think all of us have untapped potential, and one of our primary purposes should (understandably) be to reach those levels. And I maintain that step #1 is to see where we're "wasting time," and do our best to make sure that we never fall into a pattern of "killing time" again.
I hope these ideas have connected with some of you. Let me know your thoughts, and if you can relate, I'll post more.