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Things to think about

Judaism is about doing, not believing. Is belief in God even necessary if a person does righteous things? If its not for the purpose of getting to heaven, and it's only for good things on this earth, and I DO want people to know that I work hard to help others...

So what if I cook for the homeless shelter and then tell people about it? So what if I'm Youth Director because it's fun for me? So what if INSIDE I'm a huge mess? I still do things that I can do to help people, even if it is for the purpose of making me feel better, even if I enjoy the personal recognition.

How I'm perceived to others is a big thing, to me. I remember chatting a friend online (maybe during my freshman year of college), and adjusting my webcam so that I looked pretty, and his was in the background somewhere. Do I care about how I am perceived more than I care about other people? Do I purposely try to manipulate friends and possible future romances into believing that I am what they want me to be? Is everything I do a whole subconscious show of how I want to be perceived? Does it "matter"?

One thing that makes me think that I still might be a "good" person on the inside is how I vote, even though perhaps saying this voids the issue. I vote for who will be the best person to do a job. Obviously, who I *think* is the best person, but probably not who is the best person for ME. Surely this homestead tax exemption could help me out, but I'd prefer the schools to have help. Maybe the Republicans even have my best interests in mind, as a self-sufficient, non-welfare needing person, but I still vote for who I think is best, [and not generally a Republican] because I believe they will do a better job for the country. (please, for those with political views that differ from my own, do not turn this into a debate, thanks)

The highest form of mitzvah is when you do something for someone and they don't know where it comes from, and you don't know where it goes to. Now, with USY we do that-- We have made sandwiches, cookies, etc and dropped them off at the shelter, not wanting recognition. We don't know who exactly it will go to, and they don't know who gave it to them.

But what if I only did it so that others in USY, or those at my synagogue, or you reading my journal now, will know that I did it? Does that mean it's less worthy or that I am a worse person for receiving recognition? And if I did it for the sole sake of being recognized for it, does that feed the homeless any less?

And what if I spent a year in Americorps so I could say that I did it? What if I did it for two purposes-- one, to feel good about myself, and two, so I could say "look at me, I'm in Americorps, that means I'm a good person, now think better of me, PEON!.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm volunteering this weekend at Regional Latin Forum because it's a heck of a lot of fun for me. That doesn't mean that the students in the Junior Classical League will benefit any less. They still need chaperons to score tests, to evaluate performances, to moderate Certamen. And heck yeah I'm up for it, its one of my favorite days of the year. Does that mean, though, that I'm any less of a good person, because I enjoy it myself?

Phoebe Buffay admits that there's no un-selfish good deed. We do things that make ourselves feel good, no matter what. Is that good enough? The "Awesome" Kabbalah guy says that true happiness and wonderfulness with God comes when we stop doing deeds to help ourselves, and begin to do good deeds for the sole purpose of helping others. I'm not sure that I've met anyone who has ever achieved this, nor do I believe it's important.

I do good deeds to feel good about myself. That's not a secret (or if it was, I'm outed). I speak about them and others know what I have done. Perhaps it inspires them to be better people, and the amount of good increases exponentially. Or perhaps they just scoff and say, "she did it for the recognition." That's fine, too. Believe what you will. I'll just continue to be the best person that I can be. Perhaps by making over the land, I can make over my soul-- in other words, change the outside first. Perhaps by changing the outcome, I can change myself.

--
Inspired by Rob

Comments

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
thecomedian
Jan. 28th, 2008 11:13 pm (UTC)
Tikkun olam and social justice play a large role in Judaism, and they have played a large role since the destruction of the Temple.

Because of my belief in social justice and tikkun olam, I tend to vote for Democrats but I've voted for a few Republicans along the way; okay, so it was just two because the Democrats were not strong enough in those elections. But as far as federal elections go, where they stand on Israel plays a very large role in how I vote.

Americorps is one of the hugest mitzvahs that I can think of. We're helping to make the world a better place as you never know if that person needing your help will be the Moshiach.
ellie_kay
Jan. 28th, 2008 11:21 pm (UTC)
just kind of an outside comment here...but i think it's interesting how you brought the way you vote into things. my mom and i were just talking the other day about democratic politicians and their "stance" on things--such as welfare, helping out the less fortunate, universal health care, taking money from the rich and giving it to the poor, etc etc. and we talked about how people who vote democrat mainly do it because it "feels good"...i do believe a lot of democratic voters mean well, they just don't understand most of the repercussions that these kinds of things (welfare, universal healthcare, medicare, social security) will have on the greater good and the majority of people. but that's how democrats get votes--they put out a "feel good" issue, people vote for them because they think they're doing something good for the country, but then the democrats either don't make good on their promise (didn't mr. clinton propose universal healthcare too?) or they screw something up so badly that it is felt all the way up the so-called "wealth" ladder (such as minimum wage). i'm not really sure what you're talking about in this post but i thought it was interesting how my mom and i were talking about the "feel good" platform of the democrats the other day, and now you're writing that you vote that way because it makes you feel like a good person. i'm not saying that's bad, even though i don't agree with it, but i can see how our politics can make us look very different to someone on the outside who may not know us. say you support (and since i don't exactly know your stances on these issues i'm just generalizing the democratic platform) equal health care benefits for everyone, tax cuts for the poor, tax increases for the rich, more money put into welfare to help out poor people, more government funding and power over things like schools, the media, and whatnot. where as i think welfare should have a time limit, rich people should have their taxes CUT, social security sucks and people should either save/invest money on their own terms or deal with not having enough for retirement, and everyone should take personal responsibility over their own situation without blaming the government or their parents or the school system or their old boss...they should go to college and get a job and don't live above their means and let the rich people continue to be wealthy so they can provide jobs to the "little" people (aka us) and contribute to the economy and everyone will be all happy and jolly. so take those two stances--who sounds more compassionate, who sounds more warm-hearted and caring? and who sounds like a snotty old bitch who just thinks it's THAT easy to go to college and get a decent job and live where you can afford to. ya know? (by the way, i don't think it's "that easy," but life is obviously not a cakewalk, so yeah, i think if you're willing to work hard you should get ahead, and if you think it's too much work, and that you should live off someone else's hard earned money, you probably deserve to be on the streets somewhere.) so yeah, i get persecuted for my views, a lot. but what are ya gonna do, ya know. i'm a cold-hearted bitch in the eyes of many but i think i've accepted it by now.

holy shit, i'm sorry that came out so long. i was just venting, i apologize it took place on your journal! (feel free to delete this ramble)
ellie_kay
Jan. 28th, 2008 11:23 pm (UTC)
p.s. i don't think it's bad that you do certain things with the sole (or major) purpose to feel good, either. i say do what makes you happy as long as you don't compromise yourself in the process. <3
negativeneve
Jan. 29th, 2008 06:43 am (UTC)
Coming from a universal healthcare country, it's damn awesome imo.

they should go to college and get a job and don't live above their means...
Have you ever lived in or near a ghetto? Do you know what it's like to live in a place where it's a "no go" zone for cops? I do. It's not a simple Let-Me-Go-To-College decision. It's a life, a world, that lives beyond the government. It's where money isn't the only obstacle standing in your way of a good future. Children are fighting from the very beginning. They have to fight when they don't even know they're fighting. Education is minimal in the inner city areas. A friend of mine didn't know algebra when she went into college because her algebra teacher would spend time in class to paint her nails. How can you expect a child to just get up and go to college when they don't even have the proper education? They're told from the get-go that they aren't good enough for that life. If you're told something all your life, you'll believe it. People living in the ghetto (the "little" people) are trying to survive. College is not a part of surviving to them. I think it's horribly unfair of you to talk like that.

Also, the companies and the people that you're willing to defend want the people that you're talking down on to "live above their means." Why do you think there is a credit system in place? To make the world a better place? No. To make money. If everyone stopped living above their means then those companies would love billions. Macroeconomics.
negativeneve
Jan. 29th, 2008 06:43 am (UTC)
lose billions*
ellie_kay
Jan. 29th, 2008 09:58 pm (UTC)
i don't think it's unfair of me to talk like that. and i'm in no way "talking down on" these people, as you say. so i think it's unfair of YOU to make that accusation. never once did i insult anyone in my comment. yeah, there are places here where it's just "surviving"...i live in chicago, after all, almost the entire south side is one huge ghetto. but that doesn't mean that they can't or shouldn't go to college. there are community colleges all over the place with low tuition and remedial classes (math, reading, etc) to help those who aren't fully prepared for college. and the scholarship opportunities for minorities, low-income students, and people who are the least likely to attend college are all over the place. i know that people have gotten out of that kind of a situation--homeless, impoverished, living in a gang-ridden part of the city, being told they're worthless--and gone on to college and bigger and better things. if just one person in that situation can do it--why not anyone, or everyone, else? by the way, you used your friend as an example, but somehow she got into college. oh, and let me say here that i strongly oppose the government's control and involvement in public schools. i think that's a lot of the problem.

and don't get me wrong, i DO think there should be assistance to low- or no-income people to get them on their feet or into a better place. but i DON'T think it should come from the government. the money should come from the private sector.

my point is, it is NOT EASY. yes, there are situations that aren't cut-and-dry, oh here let me just walk to college. it takes a lot of strength, determination, and HARD work. if you can build that within yourself, you can get ahead. if you don't want to bother, then enjoy your welfare check.

and another thing--the majority of people on welfare CAN get out of it. they just don't want to. situations like the one you described are very rare--only in small pockets of the country. yes, they exist, and it's a bad situation, but again--the majority of people on welfare are just lazy and make bad decisions and don't care.

and just because the credit companies want people to live "above their means" doesn't give them an excuse to do so. yeah, there's always gonna be people living above their means and getting into credit trouble and all that. but just the fact that there are credit cards and stuff like that is no excuse to go out and get yourself in financial trouble. "oh well, there's this credit card where i can ring up $400,000 worth of debt, and the credit company wants me to do that so they can make more money...i guess i should do it then." no. the companies might lose a good amount of money on interest, but they certainly wouldn't be strapped for cash. and if it did happen to where no one lived above their means and the credit card companies had no more business--then they just close their doors. industries come and go in this country, it's been happening for the past 300 years. economics.

negativeneve
Jan. 30th, 2008 06:38 am (UTC)
I don't think I'm qualified enough to enter in a debate with you since I don't have enough information on either side to talk extensively about. Also, I generally prefer a fiscally conservative government and a capitalist economy. I was mainly offended by how you can seemingly just talk down about those people, which is something a lot of people do without trying to understand the situation. However, that isn't an excuse for me to be catty to you and I'm sorry for that.
ellie_kay
Jan. 29th, 2008 09:59 pm (UTC)
as far as universal healthcare...where do you think money for drug development comes from? high prices on the drugs themselves. i always use this example: i get migraine headaches, have been since i was five. back then, there was no relief. inherited them from my mom who suffered from them her whole life. somehow (i.e. with a lot of money), doctors and pharmaceutical companies developed a drug called "imitrex" back in the 90s. i take one of those and my migraine is gone in 30 minutes. otherwise i'd have to suffer through three days of a pounding head, nausea, sensitivity to light and noise...not fun. yeah, i have to pay $20 a pill for that relief, but to me, it's worth it. if you can't afford it, you suffer through the headaches, simple as that. however, i bet that if we had universal healthcare way from back when, until now, there would be no such thing as imitrex, because there just wouldn't be enough money or a high enough priority to be able to develop it with the little money coming in. too bad so sad for me. countries with universal healthcare right now love it, because they just get all their drugs from the US. i tell you what, if we went to that, everyone would be screwed. developing a drug takes research, testing, marketing--it is not cheap. the government sure doesn't have the money to provide for that, so what do you think is gonna happen? we can kiss the dream of a cancer cure goodbye...


teenonfire4lord
Jan. 29th, 2008 04:18 am (UTC)
Commenting because you said you cared very much what I think about this, which I appreciate.

Obviously, religion plays a large part in why I do things as well. But for Christians, it's different than for Jews (is the term "Jews" offensive? Sorry if so, I can't think of another collective term). It's the same as far as not doing things for the recognition, but it is more about the belief.

The Bible says that when we dedicate our lives to God, He begins to change us, for the better. I have to admit, sometimes I'm slightly uncomfortable with that, but I know God is better than me, so being more like Him is a good thing. It says that God will give us the desires of our hearts if we dedicate ourselves to Him. Lots of people take that on the surface and say "If I serve God, I'll get a million dollars and a shiny new car, because that's what I desire." But it doesn't work that way. When we serve God, we start to want what GOD wants instead of what WE want. But then, when we do what God wants, we're doing what we want, so we still get we want. Hope that makes sense.

I think we're designed by God to take satisfaction in doing good deeds, so I don't think it's selfish to do them to get that feeling. As you pointed out, it's mutually beneficial.

Sorry if that was a little rambly. I'm a bit tired and my head is still swimmy.
thisgirliknow
Jan. 29th, 2008 05:50 pm (UTC)
The term Jews is absolutely absolutely not offensive. I'm almost offended that there are those who think it is...

negativeneve
Jan. 29th, 2008 07:40 am (UTC)
Okay, these thoughts written seem to be jumbled so let me go through them first and then I'll make a general statement (or try).

And what if I spent a year in Americorps so I could say that I did it? What if I did it for two purposes-- one, to feel good about myself, and two, so I could say "look at me, I'm in Americorps, that means I'm a good person, now think better of me, PEON!.
What? Is that supposed to be sarcasm? Cause, I really don't get it. Did you join Americorps because you not only wanted to feel good about yourself, but you also wanted to feel better than other people?

Judaism is about doing, not believing. Is belief in God even necessary if a person does righteous things? If its not for the purpose of getting to heaven, and it's only for good things on this earth, and I DO want people to know that I work hard to help others...
Again, what? You're not trying to get into heaven by doing good things, but you're doing good things so that you can let other people know that you do good things?

One thing that makes me think that I still might be a "good" person on the inside is how I vote...
I don't really know what voting has to do with being a good person. I guess you feel better by voting, but people who vote do so to try to make their lives better. It's a process that is inherently a selfish one. It has nothing to do with being better. And, I guess want to say that a lot of people vote because someone told them to...what's the point? Is that why you mentioned voting because you actually think before you vote and therefor you're better than those other people? Okay.... ?

Perhaps by making over the land, I can make over my soul-- in other words, change the outside first. Perhaps by changing the outcome, I can change myself.
You can't love someone until you love yourself. It starts with the person, then the family, then the community, then the world. At least, that's what Taoists believe.

I will post my thoughts on this as a whole when I get them together.
negativeneve
Jan. 29th, 2008 06:00 pm (UTC)
General Statement
Simply doing good deeds does not make you a good person. I believe the intention behind them shows what type of person you are. Don't let that stop you from doing them, because you're right, people benefit and in the end that's what matters. However, I don't think you can rightfully call yourself a "good" person because you do charity work for recognition.
thisgirliknow
Jan. 29th, 2008 06:04 pm (UTC)
Re: General Statement
Its not that I do it solely for recognition. At all. But yes, I like people to know what I do. Who knows, perhaps it will inspire others.

Ben Gurion and others transformed the coast of Israel. "By making over the land, I make over my soul." I think that by doing good work, no matter what any of y intentions may be, I'll become a better person on the inside as well.

When people have good intentions and don't do anything about it, the homeless don't get any more food.
negativeneve
Jan. 29th, 2008 06:09 pm (UTC)
Re: General Statement
I'm not saying you should stop, and I'm not saying you will never be a good person*, but I don't think you can rightfully call yourself a good person with those intentions.

*I'm not saying you're a bad person now, btw.
subjectivity
Jan. 29th, 2008 02:12 pm (UTC)
If you want to do good things, just do them. Obsessing over the reasons you do or don't do them is just beside the point, and frankly, much more annoying than having a selfish reason for doing the thing in the first place.

Tell Rob he can suck it.
subjectivity
Jan. 29th, 2008 02:18 pm (UTC)
Maybe annoying isn't the right word. I'm not saying you asking these questions is annoying.... the first time. What I'm saying is that obsessing over the reasons you do or don't do something good, asking people if you're selfish, etc., is more self-absorbed than the person who accepts they have self-interest and gets over it. Yes, the act is more important than the intention.
tevarin
Jan. 29th, 2008 04:24 pm (UTC)
You are what you do
And you do good things. If it makes you feel good and gives you a good reputation, that's a bonus; it doesn't cheapen the real and good things you do.

Rob is being an ass.

Speaking as someone who is a huge mess inside, I'd say that sometimes we can't make sense of how we feel. But you can decide what you do. And that's what's important.

Side thought: I bet a lot of folks who vote Republican feel that they're unselfishly trying to help the country, too. IMRHO, they're wrong, but they might well be sincere and well-meaning.
thisgirliknow
Jan. 29th, 2008 05:51 pm (UTC)
Re: You are what you do
Rob is generally an ass.

I bet Republicans occasionally ponder if Democrats believe that we're trying to help the country.
pandora48sch
Jan. 29th, 2008 04:44 pm (UTC)
All I'm going to say is that the meek shall inherit the earth.

At least that's what they say.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )

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