Gratitude: Praise the Lord, and Pass the Ammunition!

 

We see what we choose to see. No set of data forces any rational thinker to accept that one theory or explanation is incontrovertibly true and all others are incontrovertibly false. This explains how good and intelligent and wise people on Ricochet can consistently arrive at different conclusions, even though we have access to the very same data. Whether we are talking of science or of politics, there is no objective inevitability to any of our arguments.

Instead, we are left with the things that we accept as true. Most people take our assumptions and presuppositions for granted, but some people (probably a very few), can and do freely choose to see things a certain way. And here we arrive at the nub of the matter, because of all the things that we can choose to accept or deny, gratitude is both the most optional, and also the single most important for our state of mind, the state of our families and the health of our society.

Indeed, gratitude is probably even more important, at least in terms of concrete results, than whether or not someone believes in G-d. After all, there are good and bad believers, just as there are good and bad atheists. But people who consistently choose to be grateful and appreciative of all that they are and all that they have, are invariably better people for it.

Still: gratitude remains nothing more or less than a choice, a state of mind. Even more than this, feeling grateful is something that we can induce entirely within our own thoughts; it is artificial. In other words: whether we are grateful or not is a choice that we make; it is proof that free will exists.

We see what we choose to see. When Abram fought the battle of the four kings, the King of Sodom attributed the victory to Abram, while another king, Malchizedek, credited G-d with the victory. There is no way to empirically prove whether it was Abram or G-d who deserved the credit – indeed, the Torah itself merely says that Avram was victorious. In other words, the Torah is telling us something that philosophers of science have long known: For any given body of data, there are always at least two equally plausible explanations.

I choose to see G-d’s hand in every aspect of my life. Jews have a phrase for seeing G-d’s involvement in the fortuitous, hashgacha pratis, which loosely translates as “divine providence” or “serendipity.”

I choose to see all data through the prism of what G-d wants from me. When a stray thought comes to my while I pray, I consider it as “the still, small voice,” and I give it serious consideration. When I find, to my surprise, that I have a little extra time, I see it as an opportunity to write my post on Gratitude. Whether it is sunny or it rains, whether I feel well or poorly, I choose to be grateful to G-d for the opportunity to learn and to grow, and to accomplish.

None of this denies the “facts” of the physical world, of statistical chance or meteorological patterns. But, just like the cargo culter, or a global warming theorist, or a committed atheist, I filter all the data I receive through my prism of understanding. The difference between me and those aforementioned groups, however, is that I know that I am choosing to do so. I don’t lie to myself and others, and claim that all data points to my explanation and worldview being correct after all. Instead, I fully embrace the fact that, given the same data, @majestyk and I will reach different conclusions, and do so without any ill will. This is the way of the world, and it validates my core thesis: G-d gave us free will, and our choices matter.

Why, if I could choose another path, do I choose this one? In part, because my life is much more productive when I choose to be grateful for all that I have, for all that I and my loved ones have accomplished and achieved. I waste no energy stressing out about the things I cannot change; I do my part, with all my body and soul, and I am enormously grateful to know that G-d will take care of the rest. He always has, and I pray that He always will.

I also choose to be grateful because it makes the world so much more wonderful. Nothing blesses a marriage like a husband and wife who, on an ongoing basis, express their gratitude for all that the other person does. Nothing makes a child feel more love than a parent who is grateful for their contributions to the family and all that it needs. Gratitude is a recursive loving loop, feeding back on itself. But in order to “work”, gratitude must be personal.

The centerpiece of Jewish prayer is a silent prayer (amidah, or shemoneh esreh). In it, we praise G-d, and we pray for numerous good results. After each person has prayed silently, the prayer is repeated out loud by the leader, in every particular: except one. The section on gratitude is said by each person, on their own. It stands out. And the reason, our tradition tells us, is a simple and profound one: we can delegate our prayers. We can delegate our praise of G-d, and our entreaties to Him. But the one thing we cannot ask another to do for us is to say, “thank you.” That is something each person must do for themselves. (here and here is my choir singing the two versions together – the choir with the personal, and the cantor with the communal. See the note at the bottom for the comparative texts.)

After the Flood, Noah offers sacrifices to G-d (Gen. 8:20). In return, there are 17 verses (17 is the numerical value of the Hebrew word for “good”) of blessings from G-d. Why? Because Noah had done something incredible: he showed his appreciation. More than this: he survived the destruction of the world, and he chose to say “thank you”! When we take the time and make the effort to be grateful even for things that are, on their face, simply awful, our blessings multiply. Gratitude is the option that is always available to us, even in the face of despair.

Holocaust survivors were among the most dynamic people mankind has ever seen (examples). They, too, saw their world destroyed. They lost their friends, and their loved ones, their towns and communities – their entire world was gone. And still: An amazing number of them picked themselves up, and got to work. They came up from the camps and dedicated themselves to growing and building with a frenetic energy that mankind has rarely seen.

Gratitude is not meant to be passive appreciation: the Torah makes it clear that Good Works, not mere belief, are what G-d craves. The best example of this is Abraham, widely credited in the history books as being the “founder of monotheism.” But the Torah does not tell us how or why Abraham discovered G-d. Nor does it discuss his internal or external philosophical arguments or even his beliefs. Instead, the Torah tells us what Abraham did with himself. G-d’s purpose for Abraham is “..so that he may instruct his children and his posterity to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is just and right….” (Gen: 18:19) Abraham was valued by G-d because of his actions, not because of his thoughts.

Which is why gratitude forms the backbone of my faith, my marriage, my family, my business, and my life. I thank G-d with every thinking breath. I see all data through this prism: if something that looks bad happens, I choose to see it, as hard as it can be, as an opportunity for something better to happen as a result, or as a spur for me to get smarter or see things differently. Rebuilding the world requires an appreciation for being alive, gratitude for the opportunity to work and act and live.

Even in politics: others see a disaster, I see an opportunity – nay a challenge – to aspire to creating a better world. Every single piece of data can be seen through this prism: even terrible news can be seen a way for me to improve myself and everything I can touch.

So: there are a myriad of ways in which a win by either candidate can be parlayed into something that works out for the best, for at least those Americans who care about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I am resolved to be grateful for the things I cannot change, so that I can be proactive about changing everything that I can.

I make this choice: The day after the election, we will wake up, give thanks to G-d and our loved ones, and get to work. Praise the Lord, and Pass the Ammunition.

 

NOTES:

Noach was not the first to be grateful (Cain and Abel also brought “presents” (mincha), but Noach “raised up offerings” (ya’al olot) that were received as “pleasing spirit’) to G-d. The nature, content, and consequences of the offerings were qualitatively distinct, and it was Noach’s offerings that formed the foundation of tabernacle and temple offerings detailed elsewhere in the Torah. The mincha of Cain and Abel, by contrast, are the same word used to describe a present or a bribe – such as Jacob’s presents to Esau and bribes to the Egyptian overseer. So a mincha is for appeasement, while an oloh is a proactive show of appreciation. By combining physical matter with energy (fire), Noah showed an understanding of man’s core task on this earth: elevation of the physical world, the combination of life and spiritual energy as embodied by the burning bush. The Torah teaches us that this is holiness.

Here is Jonathan Sacks’ translation of the twinned words of gratitude as referenced above. Note the text, in the personal version: “to do your will and serve you.”comparativemodim

 

 

Published in Group Writing
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 67 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Percival:

    iWe: People who do not believe in Free Will do not, effectively, have it. Belief is a powerful thing. If Majestyk thinks he has Free Will, then he may. If Majestyk is convinced that he does not have free will, then he does not.

    Majestyk can choose not to have free will.

    I did not say that! Most people do not actually choose their presuppositions or assumptions.

     

    • #31
  2. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    iWe:

    Saint Augustine:Also, iWe, do you think you can you clarify how G-d gave Majestyk free will since you also say G-d does not exist for Majestyk?

    iWe on another thread:

    Majestyk – The power of belief makes G-d a reality to us, regardless of empirical data. It is one reason why arguments for atheism make no headway with me. G-d exists for me if I think He does. He does not exist for you, since you do not think He does. There is no conflict here.

    People who do not believe in Free Will do not, effectively, have it. Belief is a powerful thing. If Majestyk thinks he has Free Will, then he may. If Majestyk is convinced that he does not have free will, then he does not.

    G-d blew His spirit into each person – our soul “on loan from G-d”. That soul makes it possible for us to be so much more than mere animals. We are limited by our willingness and desire to connect with our souls.

    Just to be clear, Majestyk thinks that we have free will, but we have no choice but to have it.

    He also thinks that his, and other peoples’ opinions about the qualities of reality have no bearing upon it.

    • #32
  3. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Percival:

    iWe: People who do not believe in Free Will do not, effectively, have it. Belief is a powerful thing. If Majestyk thinks he has Free Will, then he may. If Majestyk is convinced that he does not have free will, then he does not.

    Majestyk can choose not to have free will.

    Thank you again, iWe, for today’s ontological chew-toy.

    Clearly, it’s beyond my control.  Or something… ;)

    • #33
  4. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    JLocked:

    In the esteemed words of philosophical critic and non-mustachioed half of Hall & Oates, I Kant Go For That. . . .

    Not that I don’t like Kant/can’t jokes, but steady on!  The formatting was off.  What are you talking about?

    Are you objecting to Kant?  Fine by me.

    I agree with Kant where I said I did in that link, and disagree where I said I disagree.  Kant has nice things to offer, but Reid’s common sense is better.

    • #34
  5. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    iWe:

    People who do not believe in Free Will do not, effectively, have it. Belief is a powerful thing. If Majestyk thinks he has Free Will, then he may. If Majestyk is convinced that he does not have free will, then he does not.

    Charming echoes of my homeboy William James!  And Data from Star Trek!  (I think I can link to the relevant information on those chaps if anyone wants it.)

    Still, how does Majestyk not have free will when he’s exercising it?  Is that not what you describe here?

    iWe:Instead, I fully embrace the fact that, given the same data, @majestyk and I will reach different conclusions, and do so without any ill will. This is the way of the world, and it validates my core thesis: G-d gave us free will, and our choices matter.

    More importantly, does G-d exist for him (and give him free will), . . . or not?

    • #35
  6. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    iWe:

    G-d blew His spirit into each person – our soul “on loan from G-d”.

    Yeah, I still don’t quite follow you here.

    • #36
  7. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Majestyk:
    He also thinks that his, and other peoples’ opinions about the qualities of reality have no bearing upon it.

    Huzzah! The atheist has found religion!

    • #37
  8. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    iWe:

    Saint Augustine:

    iWe:This is the way of the world, and it validates my core thesis: G-d gave us free will, and our choices matter.

    If there were no objectivity to any of our arguments, then we couldn’t make any relevant arguments that rely on data which validate of our core theses. Nor could arguments against our theses based on the data be relevant–and either way there would be no point in pointing to the data.

    There is data – but we all weight it differently. . . .

    Ok.

    No data we can measure is “objectively true.” But it clearly can be useful data. . . . .

    Perhaps.

    But you didn’t answer my question:

    Saint Augustine:

    iWe:

    We see what we choose to see. No set of data forces any rational thinker to accept that one theory or explanation is incontrovertibly true and all others are incontrovertibly false. . . . there is no objective inevitability to any of our arguments.

    I don’t think I have any need to object to there being “no objective inevitability.”

    But you’re not denying altogether that they are objective, are you?

    • #38
  9. JLocked Inactive
    JLocked
    @CrazyHorse

    Saint Augustine:

    JLocked:

    In the esteemed words of philosophical critic and non-mustachioed half of Hall & Oates, I Kant Go For That. . . .

    Not that I don’t like Kant/can’t jokes, but steady on! The formatting was off. What are you talking about?

    Are you objecting to Kant? Fine by me.

    I agree with Kant where I said I did in that link, and disagree where I said I disagree. Kant has nice things to offer, but Reid’s common sense is better.

    Well Kant would be the main outlier to my argument–so why we fightin’ mon?

    • #39
  10. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    iWe: But, just like the cargo culter, or a global warming theorist, or a committed atheist, I filter all the data I receive through my prism of understanding. The difference between me and those aforementioned groups, however, is that I know that I am choosing to do so. I don’t lie to myself and others, and claim that all data points to my explanation and worldview being correct after all. Instead, I fully embrace the fact that, given the same data, @majestyk and I will reach different conclusions, and do so without any ill will. This is the way of the world, and it validates my core thesis: G-d gave us free will, and our choices matter.

    Of course our interactions with the world and how we interpret events or data are colored by our preconceived notions, biases and experiences.  No matter how hard we try, we cannot truly divorce ourselves from the bias of our own overarching narratives that we carefully construct in order to implicitly protect ourselves from conclusions or data which might countermand that narrative.

    Nonetheless, truth exists – it isn’t located in some 5th dimensional, Platonically ideal space that is inaccessible to us – but it is kept out of our grasp by the limits of knowledge and our own inherent and irreducible biases.  Our knowledge is mostly heuristic in nature, and works well enough for normal considerations.  Witness the fact that Newtonian mechanics were good enough to put men on the moon, but relativistic considerations have to be taken into account if you want to have a successful GPS system.

    • #40
  11. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Majestyk:

    . . . Majestyk thinks . . . . that his, and other peoples’ opinions about the qualities of reality have no bearing upon it.

    With, I presume, some exceptions?

    Namely, when a belief concerns a region of reality that can be modified by our behaviors, and when the same belief affects our behavior in ways promoting said modification.

    E.g., some cases of confidence vs. despair, and various social realities:

    • I can run a mile in under 8 minutes without training is more likely to be true if I believe it, and I cannot run a mile in under 8 minutes without training is more likely to be true if I believe it.
    • Benedick loves me! and Beatrice loves me! are beliefs which become true because Beatrice and Benedick believe them.
    • Dr. H. is a colleague I can work with is likelier to be true if I believe it.
    • #41
  12. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    JLocked:

    Saint Augustine:

    JLocked:

    In the esteemed words of philosophical critic and non-mustachioed half of Hall & Oates, I Kant Go For That. . . .

    Not that I don’t like Kant/can’t jokes, but steady on! The formatting was off. What are you talking about?

    Are you objecting to Kant? Fine by me.

    I agree with Kant where I said I did in that link, and disagree where I said I disagree. Kant has nice things to offer, but Reid’s common sense is better.

    Well Kant would be the main outlier to my argument–so why we fightin’ mon?

    Are we fightin’?  I couldn’t tell.

    • #42
  13. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    iWe:

    Majestyk:
    He also thinks that his, and other peoples’ opinions about the qualities of reality have no bearing upon it.

    Huzzah! The atheist has found religion!

    Why do you say this?

    • #43
  14. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Saint Augustine:

    iWe:

    G-d blew His spirit into each person – our soul “on loan from G-d”.

    Yeah, I still don’t quite follow you here.

    People often try to complexify something that is really quite simple.

    G-d blew His spirit into us. Our soul gives us the potential to do things that are divine: to love, to create, to build and invent, to infuse our energy into things and animals and people around us. But we are limited both by our mortal physicality, and our awareness of, and connection to, our soul.

    • #44
  15. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Saint Augustine:

    iWe:

    Majestyk:
    He also thinks that his, and other peoples’ opinions about the qualities of reality have no bearing upon it.

    Huzzah! The atheist has found religion!

    Why do you say this?

    Because the belief in “reality” is no different than belief in a deity. Both are impervious to reason and logic rooted in empirical data.

    A theory that is not falsifiable is indistinguishable from religion.

    Come in! The water is warm!

    • #45
  16. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    iWe:

    Majestyk:
    He also thinks that his, and other peoples’ opinions about the qualities of reality have no bearing upon it.

    Huzzah! The atheist has found religion!

    I wouldn’t say that.  I’m merely deducing that as time goes by, we tend to find out that at certain levels of precision our previous understanding of nature comes up short, which leads us to the necessity of finding new and better ideas to explain the observations we’re making.  At the scale of the very small, our normal perception of how things are is utterly confounded by what we find there, and eventually, our instruments will help us to produce ideas that will asymptotically approach “Truth” but we can never know what “Truth” really consists of.  See Heisenberg, Schrodinger, et al.

    Add to that the fact that our simian brains which developed to help us survive through smarts are not well-suited to the task to which we’ve put them: unraveling the ultimate causes and explanations of the universe.  It’s like using a clam-shucker to open a can of soup… you can do it, but it won’t work very well.

    • #46
  17. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    iWe:

    Saint Augustine:

    iWe:

    Majestyk:
    He also thinks that his, and other peoples’ opinions about the qualities of reality have no bearing upon it.

    Huzzah! The atheist has found religion!

    Why do you say this?

    Because the belief in “reality” is no different than belief in a deity.

    Well, ok, I dig.  (I’d give a different list of similarities.  But . . . close enough!)

    • #47
  18. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Saint Augustine:

    Majestyk:

    . . . Majestyk thinks . . . . that his, and other peoples’ opinions about the qualities of reality have no bearing upon it.

    With, I presume, some exceptions?

    Namely, when a belief concerns a region of reality that can be modified by our behaviors, and when the same belief affects our behavior in ways promoting said modification.

    E.g., some cases of confidence vs. despair, and various social realities:

    • I can run a mile in under 8 minutes without training is more likely to be true if I believe it, and I cannot run a mile in under 8 minutes without training is more likely to be true if I believe it.
    • Benedick loves me! and Beatrice loves me! are beliefs which become true because Beatrice and Benedick believe them.
    • Dr. H. is a colleague I can work with is likelier to be true if I believe it.

    The reality of whether or not you can run a mile in under 8 minutes has little or no connection to your beliefs about it.  Perhaps you’re a paraplegic, which makes this ontologically impossible, so your belief that you can run, let alone run a mile in 8 minutes may just be a delusion.  Perhaps you’re just physically incapable of doing so.  No amount of belief will change that reality.  Attitude, as a form of belief has its limits.

    I think what you’re saying here is that capability and willingness are force multipliers, not additive.

    Questions like “is love real?” are entertaining to contemplate because what we understand as love has a lot of components, including biochemical and social ones.  It may be true that Benedick and Beatrice love each other and believe it… but what if Benedick and Beatrice are on opposite sides of the Galaxy?  They can believe they’re in love, but is that love real?  Unless they’ve developed faster-than-light communication, it seems unlikely.

    The third here is a modification of the second and implicitly points to the fact that most human endeavors and relationships are reciprocal.  If a person believes they’re in love with the Sun, it may be true in the psychological or biological sense, but we would consider it to be slightly nutty because the Sun is incapable of reciprocating, making that unidirectional and therefore pointless and delusional.

    You may believe the good Dr. is a colleague you can work with, but Dr. H isn’t a block of wood.  He produces reactions and actions that lead you to that conclusion.  These are physical signs that you measure, not unidirectional vibes coming to or from either individual.

    • #48
  19. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    iWe:

    Saint Augustine:

    iWe:

    G-d blew His spirit into each person – our soul “on loan from G-d”.

    Yeah, I still don’t quite follow you here.

    People often try to complexify something that is really quite simple.

    . . . Our soul gives us the potential to do things that are divine: to love, to create, to build and invent, to infuse our energy into things and animals and people around us. But we are limited both by our mortal physicality, and our awareness of, and connection to, our soul.

    Well, that’s all good.

    G-d blew His spirit into us.

    But what do you mean by this?  (This is an old problem for us; I used to think I understood your view on the subject until you took my side of it!)

    Do you mean . . .

    • that our souls are on loan from G-d,
    • that we are “vessels for G-d’s extended self” [“What Is the Greatest Idea in History?,” # 7],
    • that we are “divine” [# 5],
    • and that “that each person’s soul is a spark of the divine” [“Judaism and Christianity,” # 207]?

    Or do you mean that we are non-divine and merely the image of G-d–as I tried to argue to you, [“What Is the Greatest Idea?,” # 6], as you disagreed with [# 7], and as you eventually stated yourself [“Judaism and Christianity,” # 262]?

    • #49
  20. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Majestyk:The reality of whether or not you can run a mile in under 8 minutes has little or no connection to your beliefs about it. Perhaps you’re a paraplegic, which makes this ontologically impossible, so your belief that you can run, let alone run a mile in 8 minutes may just be a delusion. Perhaps you’re just physically incapable of doing so. No amount of belief will change that reality. Attitude, as a form of belief has its limits.

    It has its limits indeed!  But (not being a good Kantian, and needing motivation to do well, and having motivations shaped in part by my beliefs), given the right set of conditions (such as my not being paraplegic), that belief might make the difference between its own truth and falsity, mightn’t it?

    • #50
  21. Craig Inactive
    Craig
    @Craig

    You just reminded me of this version of the song.

    • #51
  22. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Saint Augustine:

    G-d blew His spirit into us.

    But what do you mean here–that our souls are on loan from G-d and that we are “vessels for G-d’s extended self” [“What Is the Greatest Idea in History?,” # 7] and “divine” [# 5], “that each person’s soul is a spark of the divine” [“Judaism and Christianity,” # 207]?

    Or that we are non-divine and merely the image of G-d–as I tried to argue to you, [“What Is the Greatest Idea?,” # 6] as you disagreed with [# 7], and as you eventually stated yourself [“Judaism and Christianity,” # 262]?

    You are tying yourself in knots. The Torah tells us that we are made from both dust and G-d’s spirit. Those who are made in the image of G-d are not the sum of our parts: we are the sum of our choices. We can choose the extent of our connection to G-d, or to our world, or to other people, and even to ourselves.

    @Susanquinn quoted Sacks, who makes a similar point:

    …the Torah allows us to see ourselves as we really are, infinitesimal, fallible and frail, yet touched by the wings of infinity.”

    — Jonathan Sacks, Covenant and Conversation; Genesis the Book of Beginning

    • #52
  23. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    iWe:

    You are tying yourself in knots. The Torah tells us that we are made from both dust and G-d’s spirit. Those who are made in the image of G-d are not the sum of our parts: we are the sum of our choices. We can choose the extent of our connection to G-d, or to our world, or to other people, and even to ourselves.

    @Susanquinn quoted Sacks, who makes a similar point:

    …the Torah allows us to see ourselves as we really are, infinitesimal, fallible and frail, yet touched by the wings of infinity.”

    — Jonathan Sacks, Covenant and Conversation; Genesis the Book of Beginning

    Well, I’m down with the Sacks quote, and a good bit besides!  But these knots are all yours:

    On the one hand, you say:

    • that our souls are on loan from G-d,
    • that we are “vessels for G-d’s extended self” [“What Is the Greatest Idea in History?,” # 7],
    • that we are “divine” [# 5],
    • and that “that each person’s soul is a spark of the divine” [“Judaism and Christianity,” # 207].

    On the other hand,

    • I responded [in “What Is the Greatest Idea?,” # 6] that we are non-divine and merely the image of G-d,
    • you disagreed with me [beginning in the same thread, # 7, and continuing for a while],
    • and then you took my own side of the question [“Judaism and Christianity,” # 262].
    • #53
  24. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Saint Augustine:

    Majestyk:The reality of whether or not you can run a mile in under 8 minutes has little or no connection to your beliefs about it. Perhaps you’re a paraplegic, which makes this ontologically impossible, so your belief that you can run, let alone run a mile in 8 minutes may just be a delusion. Perhaps you’re just physically incapable of doing so. No amount of belief will change that reality. Attitude, as a form of belief has its limits.

    It has its limits indeed! But (not being a good Kantian, and needing motivation to do well, and having motivations shaped in part by my beliefs), given the right set of conditions (such as my not being paraplegic), that belief might make the difference between its own truth and falsity, mightn’t it?

    Your physical ability to perform that task might be affected by your attitude about it in the sense that you might stubbornly refuse to go the final foot out of 5280 with 7:59 on the clock, but that’s a matter of willingness, not whether you can actually accomplish the task.

    Having the proper attitude will obviously make a difference, but it isn’t determinative.  If either factor in the equation C(capability) = A (ability) x W (willingness) are zero… the capability does drop to zero.

    • #54
  25. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Saint Augustine:On the one hand, you say:

    • that our souls are on loan from G-d,
    • that we are “vessels for G-d’s extended self” [“What Is the Greatest Idea in History?,” # 7],
    • that we are “divine” [# 5],
    • and that “that each person’s soul is a spark of the divine” [“Judaism and Christianity,” # 207].

    On the other hand,

    • I responded [in “What Is the Greatest Idea?,” # 6] that we are non-divine and merely the image of G-d,
    • you disagreed with me [beginning in the same thread, # 7, and continuing for a while],
    • and then you took my own side of the question [“Judaism and Christianity,” # 262].

    The comment that makes you think I somehow reversed myself is:

    The Torah tells us that G-d’s spirit is within us. That is (at least part of) our soul. It allows us to touch the divine, to be able to achieve some things that are immortal (creations, love, etc). But only to the extent that we recognize and nurture it. This does not make us divine. It makes us “k” G-d’s likeness. It means there is potential.

    I was NOT reversing myself. We have a divine ingredient – but it is limited by both mortality and our willingness/ability to embrace that potential. We are not merely the sum of our components: we are the sum of our choices.

    • #55
  26. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Majestyk:

    Your physical ability to perform that task might be affected by your attitude about it in the sense that you might stubbornly refuse to go the final foot out of 5280 with 7:59 on the clock, but that’s a matter of willingness, not whether you can actually accomplish the task.

    My physical ability, perhaps.  But you don’t think my attitude affects my psychological ability at all?

    My physical abilities never did much for me by themselves.  With the right attitude, I was a pretty good rugby player in high school.  They mindset made all the difference in how I used the physical abilities; the right mindset was always necessary for the ability to any good at running a mile, running 26 miles (one time, in ’09), or playing a decent rugby game in years prior.

    • #56
  27. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    iWe:We have a divine ingredient – but it is limited by both mortality and our willingness/ability to embrace that potential. We are not merely the sum of our components: we are the sum of our choices.

    That’s well and good.

    But I’m still not following you (or else you just don’t make sense).

    It is a mystery to me how we can, on the one hand, have souls on loan from G-d, be vessels for G-d’s extended self, be divine, have souls which are sparks of the divine, and yet, on the other handnot be divine and be merely images of G-d.

    If all of those things can be truly said at the same time, or if you did not claim that they were all true, then the English language has, in our conversations at least, failed rather badly as a vehicle for communication.

    • #57
  28. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Please read my text more carefully. I did NOT say, as you seem claim, that we are not divine. I wrote “This does not make us divine.” Nor did I say, as you seem to claim that “we are divine”. Instead, I have repeatedly said that we are endowed with a spark of the divine.

    The presence of a soul does not make us divine, and it does not make us not divine. What it does is give us access to divinity. What we do with it, how we channel the power G-d has put in each of us, is what allows us to act in G-d’s image: to create, to love, etc.

     

    • #58
  29. nandapanjandrum Member
    nandapanjandrum
    @

    Boss Mongo:Great post. Thank you, iWe.

    Two thoughts:

    Our personal prayers are very similar.

    Your position on how we find our positions put me in mind of this

    Thanks, Boss-Man! I needed this bit of “Monday Moto”…HooWah!, Rah! and I’m gonna check out this film…

    • #59
  30. JLocked Inactive
    JLocked
    @CrazyHorse

    My Favorite Philosopher on Free Will

    • #60
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.