~*~ Rose-Colored Glosses ~*~

hovering between the quest for absolute truth and the pursuit of utter nonsense
gloss, n.
  1. A brief explanatory note usually inserted in the margin or between lines of a text.
  2. An extensive commentary, often accompanying a text or publication.
  3. A purposefully misleading interpretation or explanation.
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* Quotes *
"The limits of my language means the limits of my world."
-Ludwig Wittgenstein
"An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it."
-Mahatma Gandhi
Segal's Law:
A man with a watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure.
"Well, art is art, isn't it? Still, on the other hand, water is water! And East is East and West is West and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste more like prunes than a rhubarb does. Now, uh... Now you tell me what you know."
-Groucho Marx

~ Wednesday, July 20, 2005 ~

Guess who's moving to Park Slope?
My new roommate as of 8/15/2005, whom I shall call The Advocate, wrote me this afternoon to offer me the room she's renting. Yessssss. After several weeks of searching, I'm very very happy to have secured the place I wanted most, where I'll be living with the only person who wrote an ad in such a way that I instantly liked her. I'll probably write something else later about why I like her so much already and why I'm so excited to be moving to Park Slope, but now is not that time. Now is the time for something different.

I'm going to be leaving RRC temporarily, or perhaps permanently, to pursue a masters degree in bioethics at CUNY's graduate center, which is why I'm moving to Brooklyn in--egad--three weeks. Yikes, that's very soon. I guess I should think about collecting boxes and starting to pack.

Why leave RRC? Ultimately, I want to be in a position in which I can act as a guide for people who are in morally muddy situations as they try to figure out what they ought to do. This is exactly the sort of thing I've really been thinking I'd be able to do as a rabbi. The funny thing is that while I really love the Reconstructionist theology and it makes oodles of sense to me--far more sense than any theology offered by any other denomination of Judaism--the manner in which it's being implemented now (as opposed to thirty years ago) is so post-modern and post-halachic and post-realist that they practically don't believe in right answers any longer, but I do. Today's Reconstructionist tends to view the world as a tangled mess upon which it is her job to superimpose her own vision of order and meaning, whereas I tend to go around digging through the tangled mess in hopes of finding its inherent order and meaning. Jarah said once that mine is a much more religious approach because I'm asserting some sort of faith in the idea that there *is* order and meaning already there, whereas Today's Reconstructionist takes it as a given that there isn't any, and never was. Maybe she's right, and maybe my whole truth-truth-truth worldview ultimately rests upon blind faith born of an emotional attachment to an idea that I just don't want to relinquish. To be honest, even trying to consider the idea of there being no objective reality at all makes my shoulders stiffen with anxiety. Maybe Today's Reconstructionist is more evolved than I am, and in fact the only truth is that there is none. I can't exactly disprove the notion. It's just that it doesn't make any sense to me, where as my objective-reality-based worldview does. Make sense to me, I mean. So RRC and I are taking temporary, or perhaps permanent, leave of each other because of philosophical differences.

So why bioethics? Well, I haven't met a bioethical issue yet that hasn't slurped me in with its intoxicating combination of a need for rasor-sharp religiophilosophical distinctions and life-and-death urgency. It's applied philosophy at its best. I don't mean to suggest that I have all the answers, but I do think (believe (hope)) that I have the capacity to understand the weight of the various sides of each issue, and that I'll be able to contribute, eventually, sophisticated suggestions about how to proceed in specific cases. Obviously, this sort of work is attractive to someone who believes in right answers even in the trickiest of situations, or at least in the existence of a best answer that becomes visible to the diligent and creative searcher. I don't know if I'm mentally capable of finding them, but at any rate I've learned enough about the movement that I now realize I wouldn't really be called upon, even, to search for them if I were working as a Reconstructionist rabbi.

My latest hero is a lady named Nancy Dubler who taught a course at Drisha's Winter Week of Learning last December. She's in charge of the ethics program at a hospital in the Bronx, and she wrote a book called Bioethics Mediation about the sort of clinical one-case-at-a-time kind of work that I think I'd like to do, in which you go into a hospital room and meet the patient and the family, or if the patient's comatose, you just meet the family, and you learn what's going on and why nobody can agree upon what to do, and you try to lend clarity to the situation and give some sound advice. Of course in this process there is also going to be some counseling involved, especially when family members disagree over who has the clearest understanding of the patient's best interests, which is why the book was called Bioethics Mediation. Dubler has her J.D. from Harvard, so she can give official legal advice as well as being a sensitive counselor, and it makes me wonder whether I should be looking at law schools while I'm at CUNY. It's certainly been suggested before, by family and friends as well as near-strangers who have heard me stubbornly arguing a point, but I never really took it seriously. I tend to think of law school as insurmountably difficult, but I'd be willing to be wrong.

So now you know. Next step is to compose a letter to RRC's e-mail announcement list and let them know I won't be back next year. That's going to be a delicate task.

Current Music: Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto

~ prattled by Miriam at 11:00 p.m. [+]

* * *
I'm glad you get to be in New York again, and I look forward to hearing more about Taiko, Park Slope, and bioethics. The next phase of Operation Miriam seems off to a good start so far.
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Pepper Jack Dorritos rock. Get a bag!

but I do think (believe (hope)) I love how you go 3 deep there, I don't think I've seen anything like that. I'll be sure to use it, one day!

Advertisement and praise over!

I had something longer than that, but it was too long. You'd never have made it through.

P.S. What Graham said.
Goodness, law school isn't insurmountably difficult! You're at least as smart as I am, dear. However, you might find it of interest to know that my time at law school has so far been more about growing in me the capacity to see that some problems really *are* thorny and don't necessarily have a right answer (which isn't the same thing as saying you aren't supposed to put your foot down at some point, or saying that some problems don't have a *best* answer) than about how to untangle a problem so that one can expose the inherent wrongness of other positions.

As to truth, I am of the same opinion as Prof. Lewis about this one: it would be very strange if I have only one desire which wants something that doesn't exist. And I daresay that it would be stranger still if that one aberrant desire were the desire for truth.
Law school! Whoopee!! It's You, my dear. And as with everything else, you will ace it and be the best, the most beautiful, and most ethical(!) lawyer this side of the Atlantic. Consider it your gift to humanity, which goodness knows, needs all the gifts it can get at this painfully difficult time in our world.
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