Sunday, July 27, 2008

If there's one thing that we as a band want to deal with, it's the issues.

I spent this past shabbat in Denver, sharing the guest spotlight with a rabbi and the about six dudes who comprise the YU Summer Kollel being hosted--for the second consecutive year!--in Denver. One of these dudes gave a shiur which I attended, the main thesis of which was that everyone should listen to rabbis. The visiting rabbi spoke during the prayer service and his main thesis was that everyone should learn the Torah, trust God and love God. I don't object to the concepts of learning the Torah, trusting God, loving God, and listening to rabbis (OK, maybe I object to that last one just a little), but at what point have we created a situation in which no one actually learns the Torah because rabbis are too busy spending all the available Torah-learning time telling everyone to, for example, learn the Torah. We're already there, willing to learn. Teach us something.

It's not just rabbis, though, who behave in this manner. The thing that really bothers me about politics is that the media seems incapable of talking about the important parts of it, i.e., policies and stuff like that. It seems like all political analysis these days is focused on how well each candidate plays the game of politics. Monday's NYT provides a good example, with a front-page headline of "McCain Assails Obama Over Foreign Tour." The focus of the article is about possibly the least important aspect of the 2008 Presidential campaign: what McCain thought of Obama's trip abroad. Of course McCain isn't going to be super-enthusiastic about his rival's foreign policy; he's trying to convince the country (or more like Ohio, Florida and those like three other states that aren't already decided three months--or years--in advance) that the other guy shouldn't be president. This is inherently a non-story which NYT makes into one by placing it on the front page.

Infinite Jest is set in a bunch of different places, but one of the key settings is this halfway house for recovering alcoholics. Numerous AA meetings are recorded, and the whole concept makes me terrified of alcoholism. But these meetings also spend what seems to one of the book's characters an inordinate amount of time convincing the participants to keep coming back for more meetings. This makes sense in the context of AA, which is all about keeping sober for just one day at a time. But in other instances can we all just agree to quit playing around and try dealing for a change with issues of substance?

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Joseph said...
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