Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

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. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Music US & Canada Musician Carlos Santana Maintains Upcoming Israel Concert With ‘Open Heart’ Despite Pressure From BDS Activists (VIDEO)

    Musician Carlos Santana Maintains Upcoming Israel Concert With ‘Open Heart’ Despite Pressure From BDS Activists (VIDEO)

    After supporters of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement failed to pressure rock superstar Carlos Santana into cancelling his upcoming concert in Tel Aivv, the guitarist said in a video message on Thursday that he is excited to return to Israel and promote a “musical message of peace, love and an end to conflict.” “The band and I will bring our open hearts and musical energy that will resonate with your soul long after the last song has been […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Music Coldplay Begins Concert With Broadcast of Charlie Chaplin’s Iconic Speech in ‘The Great Dictator’

    Coldplay Begins Concert With Broadcast of Charlie Chaplin’s Iconic Speech in ‘The Great Dictator’

    British rock band Coldplay started its set at the Glastonburg Festival on Sunday by broadcasting excerpts of the iconic speech Charlie Chaplin delivered in The Great Dictator, the 1940 political satire in which the famous filmmaker/movie star played a Jewish barber. “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone,” Chaplin begins his address. “I should like to help everyone, if possible, Jew, Gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Two Decades Before Cleveland’s First NBA Title, LeBron James Walked Onto a JCC Court

    Two Decades Before Cleveland’s First NBA Title, LeBron James Walked Onto a JCC Court

    JNS.org – The seed for the city of Cleveland’s first professional championship in a major sport in 52 years may have been planted at the Shaw Jewish Community Center on White Pond Drive in Akron, Ohio, nearly 20 years ago. That’s when a tall, lanky kid from Akron named LeBron James walked onto the hardwood court and changed the game of basketball forever. Coach Keith Dambrot, now the head basketball coach at the University of Akron, conducted those sessions that attracted […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs North American Studios Look to Israel for Next Animation Hit

    North American Studios Look to Israel for Next Animation Hit

    JNS.org – In 2008, Yoram Honig was a producer and director living in Jerusalem, fresh off his first international hit, when the Jerusalem Development Authority (JDA) came to him with a challenge: build a film industry from scratch in Israel’s capital. “When we started here, was nothing in Jerusalem,” he said during an interview in his office in the Talbiya neighborhood. Now, the Jerusalem Film and Television Fund, which Honig heads as an arm of the JDA, pumps 9 million shekels […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas to Wear Leotard With Hebrew Letters in National Competition

    Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas to Wear Leotard With Hebrew Letters in National Competition

    Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas will wear a leotard bearing Hebrew lettering when she competes at the P&G Gymnastics Championships over the weekend. Douglas’ Swarovski-outlined outfit will feature the Hebrew word “Elohim,” meaning God, on its left sleeve. The Hebrew detailing honors the athlete’s “rich heritage of faith,” according to apparel manufacturer GK Elite, which produced the leotard and released a preview of it on Wednesday. The company said Douglas’ sister, Joyelle “Joy” Douglas, created the Hebrew design. The outcome of the P&G Championships will help […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports British World Heavyweight Champion Should Be Banned From Boxing for Sounding Like Hitler, Says Ukrainian Competitor

    British World Heavyweight Champion Should Be Banned From Boxing for Sounding Like Hitler, Says Ukrainian Competitor

    Britain’s world heavyweight champion, Taylor Fury, should be banned from boxing for making Nazi-like comments, a former world champion from the Ukraine said on Thursday, ahead of their upcoming match. “I was in shock at his statements about women, the gay community, and when he got to the Jewish people, he sounded like Hitler,” Wladimir Klitschko told British media, according to Reuters. “We cannot have a champion like that. Either he needs to be shut up or shut down in the ring, or […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Rabbi Shows Cooking Skills and Humor on Chopped

    Rabbi Shows Cooking Skills and Humor on Chopped

    Rabbi Hanoch Hecht just made television history; but, unfortunately, he couldn’t have his rugelach and eat it too. Hecht became the first rabbi to compete on the hit show “Chopped,” where contestants are forced to use four random ingredients in their recipes, and have 20-30 minutes to create an appetizer, a main course and a dessert. A contestant is eliminated after each round. Hecht, 32, said that while the dishes and utensils were new, the kitchen was not kosher, so he couldn’t taste […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Music Orthodox Entertainer Stars in Pepsi Max Commercial as New Face of Company’s Israel Campaign (VIDEO)

    Orthodox Entertainer Stars in Pepsi Max Commercial as New Face of Company’s Israel Campaign (VIDEO)

    Orthodox singer and entertainer Lipa Schmeltzer is starring in a new Pepsi Max commercial for the company’s campaign in Israel. The commercial begins with a bunch of Jewish men eating at a restaurant, when Schmeltzer walks in and tries to decide what to order. An employee at the obviously Israeli eatery offers him a variety of foods, but the entertainer in the end decides on a bottle of Pepsi. Everyone in the restaurant then joins him, drinking Pepsi Max and dancing to […]

    Read more →