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Fitting Beliefs

Dec 14, 2014

My brother loses things a lot, just like I do. One day, he told me he had been aggravated after losing his sunglasses on the beach. But then he remembered a book he was reading about Zen philosophy and about letting go of our 'attachment to things'. As he thought about this philosophy, he didn't feel so bad about losing his sunglasses. I thought about how Zen philosophy is a good fit for a forgetful person.

And I know a guy who was getting into Orthodox Judaism and told me that instead of 10 commandments, the Old Testament actually contains 637 commandments. I don't remember the exact number, but I'm pretty sure it was between 600 and 700. (And I refuse to look it up in Google because who really gives a shit?) Anyhow, I knew this guy had a 'thing' about following rules. I call it a 'thing' instead of saying that he 'liked' to follow rules, because he had overbearing parents, and he resented all the rules they imposed on him. He was partly into Orthodox Judaism because he knew it would freak his parents out, and since they were Jewish, it would be hard for them to forbid his going in this unexpected direction. So, as I say, he had a 'thing' for rules - the kind of mixed up relationship we often have with things that push our psychological buttons. The belief that you should follow all 637 commandments is a natural fit, good or bad, for a guy who has a thing for rules.

I recently saw a video documentary about ISIS. The ISIS fighters were living in rough conditions, as soldiers often do. The guy explained: "The more difficult my situation, the closer I am to God. When I'm in comfort, at home with my family, I don't feel as close to God." This is a helpful belief for someone who needs to put up with a lot of discomfort in order to establish a new caliphate.