Our Attraction To Drama, Alcohol & Other Distractions

January 22, 2012 3:02 pm 3 comments

Alcoholism. Photo: Like the Grand Canyon.

The Choice to Become Absent

“Drama” seems to be on an all-time high.

Our blinding attraction to it has captivated the heart of our times. We love to live it, watch it, or even worse, create it. Nowadays, it appears as if everyone has a “dramatic” story about their next-door neighbor, estranged friend, or rude relative. According to a recent survey, almost half of our nation’s younger generation watches more reality television than last year. 18 to 25 year-olds watch close to four reality shows a week. And if that’s not enough, our society is increasingly immersed in Youtubing, Facebooking, Twittering, Tebowing, Prozacking, texting, and dawdling ourselves into oblivion.

How about our growing addiction to alcohol? According to newly-published data, one in every six Americans consumes eight mixed drinks within a few hours, four times a month. Twenty-eight percent of people between the ages of 18 and 24 drink five times a month with the intention of becoming intoxicated, swallowing seven drinks in one sitting.

Why do people dedicate so much time and effort to such futile preoccupations? Why does a large portion of our population choose to be mentally absent, via a variety of distractions, for significant portions of every day?

Egotism, Voyeurism and Escapism

The first possible reason, which relates to our fascination with drama, bears a grotesque form of egotism. When we see shows that are infested with lowly behaviors and inappropriate comportments, it makes us feel good, without having to budge. It’s a delightful pat-on-the-back. It reassures us that we are good people, in spite of our guilt conscience that may periodically appear and attempt to force us out of our comfort zone. It is true what they say: In the republic of boorishness, mediocrity is king.

The second reason, which also relates to our attraction to drama, is psychologically categorized as “modern voyeurism.” Human beings have an innate curiosity to explore the outside instead of the inside, the “you”, “him” and “her” in lieu of the “I”. This voyeurism is an easy way out of the long and tedious road to self-refinement. And it gives room to the misleading notion that one can learn how to behave, talk, eat, think and dress by scrutinizing the lives of the people of our choice.

Finally, there exists a third reason that speaks to most of life’s deviations. It is best described as “escapism,” and it too is an effortless yet deceptive way out of misery. Decades ago, Walter Canoon, the renowned American physiologist, famously explained that when faced with challenges, human beings must choose between “fight” and “flight”. They can combat their difficulties or flee from them. Unfortunately, the gravitation toward drama, alcohol and the many other modern-day distractions, point to the growing tendency in our midst to escape and flee, and thereby anesthetize ourselves from our moral responsibilities of life.

The Fusion of Animal and Ministering Angels

But can we truly rid ourselves of our prevailing drive to explore? Is it really wrong to flee from reality when stress threatens to invade?

The answer lies in the very definition of “man”. Centuries ago, the Talmudic Sages taught that the creation of man resembles the fusion of an animal and God. “In some ways humans are like the ministering angels of God. In other ways, they are like animals.” In fact, the word for man in Hebrew, Adam, conveys a dual meaning: on the one hand, it means earth and materialism. On the other hand, its meaning indicates a resemblance to God.

Perhaps, this existential dichotomy explains our perpetual restlessness. Since two contrary dynamics exist in the fabrics of our being, we frequently vacillate between them. At times, we find ourselves enthralled by animalistic behaviors from within and from without, while other times we heed to a higher calling from the world of God and His ministering angels.

Unshackling ourselves from this inherent vacillation is close to impossible. Our powerful drive to diverge and explore will always exist. Yet, we must learn how to funnel it from the selfish, hollow and animal self, to the altruistic, purposeful and divine self. Our lives, and the lives that surround us, will then be filled with true joy, lasting serenity, and contagious kindness. To paraphrase a verse in the book of Psalms: “The divine statutes are perfect, they restore the soul… the divine precepts are right, they rejoice the heart.”

Happiness Comes From Within and A Lesson in Electricity

Lastly, we also ought to remember that most challenges cannot simply disappear. True; every now and then, temporary pauses and diversions from life can help us de-stress, refresh and rejuvenate. But they cannot become permanent, for the vast majority of challenges will pursue us until we find the focus, courage and conviction to tackle them thoroughly and persuasively.

Moreover, we must rid ourselves of the perception that life’s blessings, such as peace and happiness, can be found outside. The “you”, “him” and “her” will never be able to substitute the blessings of the “I”. In the words of Helen Keller: “happiness comes from within; not from without.” Indeed the only path to self-improvement and genuine joy are introspection and the meticulous study of the inner self.

Man = Electricity

Years ago, as a teenager struggling with self-identity questions, I turned to my dear mentor, world-renowned scholar, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, for guidance. “You seem troubled,” he said, “but I’m happy to find you in this situation.” After a short pause and with his characteristic, engulfing smile, he explained: “You see, human beings are like electricity. In order to produce light, we too need a negative pole and a positive pole. Channel your thoughts and efforts, from your negative pole toward your positive one. Create a circuit of positive thoughts and good actions, and your life will then surely engender light.”

We all are challenged to steer our inner forces, that occasionally draw us to the fleeting animations, and ‘dramatic escapes’ of this world, from the negative to the positive pole. The result is productivity, happiness and ultimately a better future.

Rabbi Pinchas Allouche is the Spiritual Leader of Congregation Beth Tefillah in Scottsdale, AZ. He is a sought-after educator, lecturer and author of many essays and writings on the Jewish faith, mysticism, and social analysis.

3 Comments

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Personalities How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    JNS.org – What would you do if you found out that you had only three more months to live? Gordon Zacks was a successful businessman, a leader of Jewish life, and a confidante and adviser to President George H.W. Bush. He knew that he had prostate cancer, but doctors advised him that it was very slow-growing and nothing to worry about. Then came the day when the doctors told him his cancer metastasized to his liver, and that he had [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater 10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    Last month, my one-man show Hoaxocaust! Written and performed by Barry Levey with the generous assistance of the Institute for Political and International Studies, Tehran ran in the New York International Fringe Festival, where it won an Overall Excellence Award. The play has now been selected to run in the Fringe Encores Series at Baruch College’s Performing Arts Center, for four performances which started on Thursday, September 11. Getting the play to the stage was not easy, however. Here are [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Phenomenon: Tel Aviv-based musician and “sampler” extraordinaire, Kutiman (aka Ophir Kutiel) has hit another one out of the park with “Give It Up,” a fully-functioning song in its own right, assembled from hundreds of ameteur and instructional music videos. The Jerusalem-born musical prodigy is best know for his diverse online musical projects. In the latest video, uploaded to YouTube on Sept. 12th, Kutiel thanked most of the musicians and individuals he chose to include in the meticulously-edited clip, which opens with [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    A recently released behind-the-scenes reel of Ridley Scott’s upcoming film Exodus: Gods and Kings shows just how far the director has gone to portray one of the Bible’s most famous narratives. In the clip, which shows scenes involving up to 4,000 extras, the visionary director discusses what drew him to the biblical tale of Moses. “The Moses story was a massive challenge, which I really love. I wanted to explore the complexity of his character and I was stunned by [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    JNS.org – Since 2006, the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable and satellite TV network has hosted “The Projected Image,” a month-long showcase examining how different cultural and ethnic groups have been portrayed on the big screen. At last, after previously covering African Americans, Asians, the LGBT community, Latinos, Native Americans, Arabs, and people with disabilities, the annual series is delving into Jewish film this month. “The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film,” whose first segment aired Sept. 2, runs [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    The sight of young girls in pinafores and young boys wearing peyos – sidelocks – dangling over their ears is a sure sign that you have entered the enigmatic precincts of the Hasidim – the pious ones. Veteran New York Times journalist Joseph Berger’s new book, THE PIOUS ONES: The World of Hasidim and their Battles with America, takes the reader on a journey into the enclaves where various sects of Jews live a seemingly outmoded way of life in [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    JNS.org – Today’s comedy superstars, especially those whose careers are driven by television, may very well owe their success to pioneering Jewish entertainer Milton Berle. Born Mendel Berlinger in Manhattan in 1908, Berle became America’s first small-screen star. Aptly nicknamed “Mr. Television,” he influenced and helped promote the work of hundreds of younger comics. “Milton Berle was deceptively successful and very Jewish,” says Lawrence Epstein, author of The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America, published the year [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    JNS.org – Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift—a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Stephen Curry. Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.