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February 14, 2016 2:19 pm

Judaism Tells Us to Appreciate the Positive, But Seek Out More

avatar by Jeremy Rosen

Email a copy of "Judaism Tells Us to Appreciate the Positive, But Seek Out More" to a friend
A Torah scroll. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A Torah scroll. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

It has been a while since I tackled a theological subject. But a recent need for self-criticism and introspection drew me back to one of my favorite biblical books, Ecclesiastes (or Kohelet).

Traditionally it is attributed to King Solomon. Of course, like all the books of the Bible, there is much debate about its origin, date and author. But I find it an amazing short book for lots of reasons. Not least because it contains phrases that have become deeply ingrained in Western culture. “Vanity of vanities…all is vanity,” says the King James translation (“It’s all just hot air,” in our parlance). Folk songs have been composed to its lyrics: “There is a time for everything… a time to give birth and a time to die…a time to love and a time to hate.” It has verses that challenge accepted theology: “Who knows if the souls of humans rise and those of animals goes down?” And convention: “Of making books there is no end,” and, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

It opens with a very ancient and yet very modern question: “What is the point of life?” It sounds very much like the weary pot-induced mental meandering of an overindulged teenager. Or indeed a hormonally excited but unemployed addict who cannot get a date. Yet instead of answering the unanswerable question, the author responds by trying to see if there is one way, the secret, the magic bullet, THE answer — the answer to life’s challenge.

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He tries wisdom and then pleasure, stoicism and epicureanism, and finds them inadequate. It seems there IS no single, one answer. The message superficially seems to be one of skepticism, until one gets to the very end. Indeed the rabbis of the Talmud had their doubts about whether to include this in the canon altogether. A somewhat similar “Wisdom Book” called Ben Sirah, or Ecclesiasticus, although mentioned in the Talmud, was excluded and only comes down to us via the Apocrypha. In the case of Kohelet, it is only because of the last two lines, “In conclusion, having heard everything, respect God and keep His commandments, for this is (the purpose of) humankind,” that Kohelet is deemed kosher. Whereas Ben Sirah is not. (Though having King Solomon’s name on the publication surely helped sell it!)

These last two verses are always given as the core message of the book. But it does very much sound like an afterthought, tacked on to get the approval of the authorities the way Chaucer always adds an apology every time he makes fun of Christianity or uses Greek myths. I have another theory.

There is one line that is repeated seven times throughout Kohelet in slightly different ways. It is the single most recurring theme of the book. It first occurs in Chapter 2 verse 23: “The only good for a human being is to eat and to drink and to show himself what is positive in his work.” Official translations suggest alternatives such as, “Is it not good for a man that he eats and drinks, etc.” I take the verse to mean that one should actively participate in life and try to enjoy its pleasures (legally of course).

In other words, to quote Monty Python, “Always look on the bright side of life.” One has to be positive, to enjoy what one has, to appreciate the gifts of life, whatever they are, and whenever we are fortunate to receive them, because too often we do not or cannot. In modern parlance, one is reminded to consider the cup half full not half empty.

Now this is great advice. Most therapists will push it. Instead of thinking of this earth as a vale of tears, one should try to be positive, and enjoy it much as one can (without causing harm to others or breaking one’s moral or religious code). And if a pill or two or more will help, well everyone will be happy, from doctors to parents to the drug companies, because pill-popping is so easy.

Our societies are dominated by best-selling books that peddle feel-good, easy answers, the secrets to happy living, the solutions to all our problems, without too much trouble, effort, or obligation or losing any sleep. This is the religion of the twenty-first century. A simplistic reduction of a complex religion or ideology that functions as a placebo, just so long as it doesn’t make any demands. But the sad fact is that without a structured way of life, without a framework and constraints, the possibility of a considered, valuable life is all but zero. Nothing of real value can be acquired without effort.

Yet simplistic, banal versions of Kabbalah, Sufism, Buddhism all are peddled to the credulous, disturbed, and dissatisfied world as answers to all problems. No one is willing to talk about discipline and self-control and creating a way of life with values or constraint that serious religion requires. It’s like slimming. How many books, how many diets, how many new fads of prepared low-calorie foods and meals come out all the time, one after another, and how many people join gyms and let their memberships lapse? Yet we are still overwhelmingly overweight and unfit. All because everyone wants the quick and easy fix.

The truth is that Kohelet knows that we humans are weak and limited. Because the rest of the sentence I quoted above continues, “But this [ability to be positive] is a gift from God.” Isn’t that true? Some of us seem not constitutionally equipped or genetically programmed to achieve this. It is like trying to tell someone who is depressed to snap out of it. It’s like all those people who are addicted to therapists and carry on year in, year out, talking but not doing.

I am always amazed at how modern Kohelet is. How it speaks to us now. But I am also surprised how many who are drawn to the book do not pick up on the one message that is its most repeated theme: The challenge of life is to integrate the physical and the spiritual and to find the balance. Not to be destroyed by either extreme.

Click here to go to my author page at Amazon.com, where you find all of my books available for purchase, including Kopul Rosen.

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  • About effort, meaning of life and complex of the general human minds
    In November 2015 I did inform my school Oslo Photo Art School board chairman F. and the school director H. about l wanting to sell my school to forget the past “minds attacks” which did brought me into a starving situation to day trough many years of mental stress. Few days before Christmas holiday 2015 a technical worker M. at OPAS did send me an e-mail writing he was interested to buy the school and asked me to keep his information confidentially. I did care not to inform the school chairman and the school director about the technical teacher M. information before Christmas holiday. I waited January month and went on informing the school leaders about the e mail event from M. technical teacher. Both leaders were surprised because no one knew about me wanting to sell the school. I did send the name of the technical teacher M. to the school chairman. I got back an email in February 04 from the school chairman telling me that he does not know who the person M. is and didn’t speak about the school sell. I went on taking a picture of the technical teacher M. from the school website which has the same name M. and send it to the school chairman F. asking him to find out how the technical teacher M. got the information about the school sell. The school chairman didn’t answer me “silence’. How can a school Chairman not been aware of the school employees names which are few? What that means? It means that the stat do read the school emails traffic trying to rob my school by “staged fake email” using a teacher who was infiltrated in the school by the stat in 2009 under the infiltrated politician H.H. who did control the whole school sending a infiltrated fake students T.G. to China using my workshop photography in China under cover up to target naïve Chinese students into becoming political activists by evidence of T.G. own taken photography’s. February 14. 2015 I got an email from an early student E. 1999 asking me helping her for her MA degree on human society geography and how it is used in cotemporary art? I did send her two emails, the fist one about visualization of the glob from distance and the second one about mapping different countries locations, finding out their cultural backgrounds, figuring out the influence on men by nature forces landscapes. But firstly she had to get in touch with one artist who did exhibit a Norwegian traditional wood house in Oslo city center near by the government building which did force people to watch the inside house from the house windows into coming in contact with their own past way of life which is an historical “matter in space” who has a Norwegian human geographic memo. And then further on into global countries mapping finding out about social cultural
    Backgrounds, religions, architecture – earth contractions, foods and cloths traditions related to modern fashion clothing .est. which has a direct connection to human geographical history to be visualized finding out about how it is used in contemporary art and their influence on “men’s minds”, but smart if she do start to explore her own house firstly before going out using information technology which is helpful to travel without moving. She could also travel physically to a location round the world to explore what she is after, even making a piece of work for her MA degree as evidence for her entire project. I got an email from my school chairman who did not know the school teachers names and I get an email from an early student who do remember my name after 16 years. Doing February month I have no enough money for food, I did whish “Happy New Year” to some of my early Chinese students doing the Chinese New Year festival, one Chinese student knew my situation did make sure I have money for food during the New Year and Emil I will send you money next mount, pls. do no worry! Which is the absolute effort ups and downs trough life in balance, is the law of human evolution by action as the law of Justice must be.

    http://www.oslofotokunstskole.no

  • About effort, meaning of life and complex of the general human minds
    In November 2015 I did inform my school Oslo Photo Art School board chairman F. and the school director H. about l wanting to sell my school to forget the past “minds attacks” which did brought me into a starving situation to day trough many years of mental stress. Few days before Christmas holiday 2015 a technical worker M. at OPAS did send me an e-mail writing he was interested to buy the school and asked me to keep his information confidentially. I did care not to inform the school chairman and the school director about the technical teacher M. information before Christmas holiday. I waited January month and went on informing the school leaders about the e mail event from M. technical teacher. Both leaders were surprised because no one knew about me wanting to sell the school. I did send the name of the technical teacher M. to the school chairman. I got back an email in February 04 from the school chairman telling me that he does not know who the person M. is and didn’t speak about the school sell. I went on taking a picture of the technical teacher M. from the school website which has the same name M. and send it to the school chairman F. asking him to find out how the technical teacher M. got the information about the school sell. The school chairman didn’t answer me “silence’. How can a school Chairman not been aware of the school employees names which are few? What that means? It means that the stat do read the school emails traffic trying to rob my school by “staged fake email” using a teacher who was infiltrated in the school by the stat in 2009 under the infiltrated politician H.G. who did control the whole school sending a infiltrated fake students T.G. to China using my workshop photography in China under cover up to target naïve Chinese students into becoming political activists by evidence of T.G. own taken photography’s. February 14. 2015 I got an email from an early student E. 1999 asking me helping her for her MA degree on human society geography and how it is used in cotemporary art? I did send her two emails, the fist one about visualization of the glob from distance and the second one about mapping different countries locations, finding out their cultural backgrounds, figuring out the influence on men by nature forces landscapes. But firstly she had to get in touch with one artist who did exhibit a Norwegian traditional wood house in Oslo city center near by the government building which did force people to watch the inside house from the house windows into coming in contact with their own past way of life which is an historical “matter in space” who has a Norwegian human geographic memo. And then further on into global countries mapping finding out about social cultural
    Backgrounds, religions, architecture – earth contractions, foods and cloths traditions related to modern fashion clothing .est. which has a direct connection to human geographical history to be visualized finding out about how it is used in contemporary art and their influence on “men’s minds”, but smart if she do start to explore her own house firstly before going out using information technology which is helpful to travel without moving. She could also travel physically to a location round the world to explore what she is after, even making a piece of work for her MA degree as evidence for her entire project. I got an email from my school chairman who did not know the school teachers names and I get an email from an early student who do remember my name after 16 years. Doing February month I have no enough money for food, I did whish “Happy New Year” to some of my early Chinese students doing the Chinese New Year festival, one Chinese student knew my situation did make sure I have money for food during the New Year and Emil I will send you money next mount, pls. do no worry! Which is the absolute effort ups and downs trough life in balance, is the law of human evolution by action as the law of Justice must be.

    http://www.oslofotokunstskole.no

  • Correction!

    About Effort in space – time. In Oslo I did not teach as I do in China. In Norway living among men who did “attack my mind by stage fake events” becoming gradually confused not been able to concentrate. One early student at The Painting School 1992 who did study philosophy at Oslo University did tell me. “ Emil? You speak as a philosopher” I told her we are all more or less philosopher. I never did read philosophy, psychology or any kind of literature which has to do with “ The thinking mind” before, not reading newspapers or watch TV, but reading some biographies wrote by artist. I did teach intuitively “oriental’ as oriental is. When I been claimed anti – Palestinian without “ pure reason” in 2004 by a Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet I started to read Norwegian newspapers in China and as well Algemeiner news, and went on reading almost the entire western philosophy and history of philosophy in China to restore my brain out of anger and frustration. In China teaching visual communication was told I do think as old Chinese philosophers do, why? Because I teach visualization of matter in space without interfering in politics, talking about “ the beauty of mind” which is the absolute good in mind which also gave me the possibility to be able to write in English language which I couldn’t before entering China in 2007. In China I become aware of the power of visual art communication in a space time where men is eager to learn and “Effort is possible”. Therefore “ Effort” is possible in one space and not in other space! Effort does not depend only on the individual, Effort depend on the space time the individual effort do exist! Doing the Holocaust terrifying tyranny growing large space were some few Christian people who did save Hebrew peoples life’s, as it did happen in Denmark. But Denmark to day wants to confiscate refugee’s belongings and in the same time we see in the media news a Danish women giving water to a staving boy, a heartbreaking photo of a staving boy in Nigeria have garnered money donations. “ the terrifying psychology of taking and giving”. Which is “ been and not been in the same time” The cause of the refugees moves and the cause of “ The terror in Nigeria” is linked to each other, which is “ Effort for own profit manipulation machine under a cover up effort of humanity by a heartbreaking picture” to attack the entire worldwide masses minds into believing something which do not exist ! IS FAKE! Means man does create a reality which actually does not exist, because Nigeria is a wealthy country to be robbed! Is this en “Effort” ?

  • What life means? What‘s the meaning of live? It can be a luxury question or a hell! It depends on “matter space time”, as you wrote man does read and never pick up a meaning. Well, modern space politics of blaming each other do steal the collective minds, and then books will circles up to teach men how to live. If you mean effort as “will” than is another question. Will as action has many meanings in space times. About the good in men! Ones in my life in 2005 I was asked the same question” what is the meaning of life?” by a Chinese party leader mathematician in a traditional Norwegian dinner made by a Norwegian author in Oslo. Whiteout thinking I said “ give meaning into life” in the same moment I said my brain went on thinking about the Chinese party leader task creating jobs for the graduated many students. Fife years later a Chinese graduated student come to me asking me if he could be my assistant, He was welcome. The Chinese student was worried how to make a living as an artist. Two years passed becoming as a family he was no more worried. I gave the tool hand – brain for not looking for a job but creating on, connecting culture with philosophy, psychology and politics in a positive manner thinking about the whole of the masses mind and their needs in a changing world which actually did not change “ only got a new larger shape of globalization under information technology with a shape mix cultures”, where some countries has not solid culture to rest on in difficult times. The Chinese student did realize the whole image of man become a free man. To day he has a wife and he do teaching Chinese culture. I did the same teaching in Norway and was robbed. Why? Because they are with man and against man in the same time, Fearing the abstraction of life which has nothing to do with the Hebrew men mind, it is universal where man is not able to observe “the skin of magnets in our galaxy”! The art of visualizing the cause of sudden events”

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