Have you ever had that feeling when a bunch of random things or ideas are swirling through your head, and you just need to do something with them?
When that happens to me, I tend to sort them out by making a list. I’ll either save it my head, or if it’s really bothering me, take a moment to write it down.
Rather unfortunately, one of my recent lists was titled Stuff I Would Do if I Wasn’t Jewish.
I don’t want to put in the specifics, but out of what I have so far, this is the general overview.
- Re-watch a certain movie series. (I have re-watched parts of it, when I need to turn my brain off, but who, especially a girl with 9 hours of school and busy family, has 10 hours to watch mostly pointless content?)
- Watch a certain movie series. (It would be very painful to watch, but again, we’ll get to that soon. But honestly, from a haskafic perspective, what’s the point?)
- Read a certain book.
- Get a role as an extra in some awesome movie one day, just for the fun of it.
- Finish my first novel already!
I could get on, but you see the point. Most of these (that’s why I’m not continuing, then we get into technicalities about why Jewish schools do dance and painting but not karate! :) ) have to do with media. Something which we are told is bad and wrong, but with no clear reason. So why do we stay away (or try, or pretend to try to) from it? And although ‘that’s just what Bais Yackov girls do’ is showing admirable dedication to the rules, wouldn’t you like a more satisfying reason? One that shows why you’re doing it for yourself?
I actually asked two friends, both more into movies than I am, a similar question. Credit for the answer goes to S.S. (If by some miracle, S, you’re reading this, you know who you are.)
“Why do people watch sad movies? What’s the point of watching something that’s supposed to make you feel miserable?”
S. (who has time for even the strangest of questions) replied that it helps the audience feel connected to movie. For some people, it works to laugh, but pain can connect the watchers with situations that they know are fictional.
She’s totally right. As humans, watching someone’s pain triggers so much empathy, it makes it so real. And then when the characters laugh together at the end, it’s the most satisfying feeling in the world, because you know how much they overcame to get there.
So what’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with leaving the real world for a little while and enjoying something else?
The reason why this generation is so obsessed with movies, games, even music, is because we (here, we is used in the most general sense possible) haven’t got much else. Media is numbing. It stops you from having to think as much. We know that money isn’t everything, but we don’t know what is everything. So people have found a way to numb themselves, to disconnect from reality with video games and movies. They’ve also found ways to convince themselves that pain is normal and okay, such as miserable music. Yet there are people with no TV, no Video Games, who are more happy and satisfied than far richer people. What do they have?
We’re Am Yisroal. We know that there is more to life than looking for happiness and meaning. We’re not trying to fill a hollow empty space inside ourselves; it is already full with a connection to Hashem. And even if that can feel lacking at times, we need to try to reach for it, not to give up and give in.
It is hard. We do need some way to relax and express ourselves, for sure. But isn’t there a better, more satisfying way to do it?
Have you noticed that most modern music is either about how good one particular moment is, or how miserable someone might be now that it’s over? Life’s not about living high and low, up and down. Life is about learning to move past the challenges, and be strong even when we’re tested and pushed to our limits.
So don’t vegetate and stare at a screen. Express yourself! Create! Find a talent and use it! The joy of achievement is so much greater than the joy of a movie, because it’s real, and because you did it! You!
Don’t read books that are full of pointless, painful drama. There are so many books, not even just Jewish ones but a few, rare and special others as well, that are inspiring and uplifting, that don’t temp empty pleasure.
People enjoy music that they feel connected to, but rather than just have your misery validated, wouldn’t you rather be uplifted? Again, it doesn’t have to be Jewish, especially not at first. And for those trying to make the leap, there is some really good modern Jewish music, sort of a rock and techno style, but with nicer themes and messages, that has recently come out. People are beginning to understand that we need to make Yiddishkite exciting and inspiring in order to combat the other forces calling for our attention. Take advantage of this
We need to reach deep inwards, and high upwards, to combat the allure of the 21st century. But Hashem knows we can do it. He put us here because we can. Don’t prove him wrong.
May our efforts to find Hashem bring us closer to Him, and Him closer to us, until the days of Moshiach, במהרה בימינו, אמן!!!
PS. I don’t write any of my posts because I’m a huge mitzvah girl and I want to help people who are less observant than me. If I’m writing it, it means I need to hear what I’m saying as much as you do. So please, don’t be afraid to get in touch with me, especially on this. I want to help!