Friday, August 21, 2009

AAUURRGGHH!!!

In chassidus, we learned about the prototypical friendship: Reuven understands that by hanging out with Shimon he will gain something (witty words of wisdom, free Starbucks coffee, whatever) and therefore Reuven starts to love Shimon and spend time with him. (The nimshal being that through hisbonenus, one understands how great G-d is and starts to love him. Do not try this at home. It will not work. ואכ"מ)

That's not how my friendships formed. I became friends with people when external circumstances threw us together, even though we weren't especially compatible, and even though we didn't work on maintaining the friendship. Many of my closest friends were roommates. We never chose to become friends. We ended up in the same room by coincidence. But we ended up spending lots of time together and just getting to know each other. So we became friends.

Sorry folks, but I'm going to need to bring another example from the Chassidic masters. The Frierdiker Rebbe says that there are two kinds of mercy: mercy from exaltedness ("romemus") and mercy from empathy ("hergesh," literally "feeling"). The first kind of mercy is what the king feels towards the beggar in the street. Something along the lines of, "I'm the big king. I have a palace and hordes of servants at my beck and call. You have nothing. All you have is a spot on the sidewalk near the subway's air shaft to keep you warm in the winter. I will mercifully give you fifty cents."

The Frierdiker Rebbe does not define mercy from empathy at much length (as far as I can recall), but this is what I think he means: I and my friend spend time together. We share with each other. There becomes some kind of connection, and the line between "I" and "you" starts to blur. He loses five dollars, and parts of his frustration leaks into me. His brother gets engaged, and I experience part of the joy. Why do I care if my roommate's brother gets engaged any more that if some random other guy gets engaged? Will it make a difference to my life at all? It doesn't make a difference. But it makes a difference to my friend. And what makes a difference to him makes a difference to me.

Many years ago my sister got a book out from the library about a pair of Siamese twins. They shared a stomach, so that when one of them drank, they both got drunk. That's friendship. Your alcohol affects my stomach, because we share parts of ourselves with each other.

So don't ask me why I care. I care because I feel for you. Because you're my friend. Maybe it was some silly set of circumstances that brought us together. That's irrelevant. "vi nisht vi" the circumstances were what they were, and we came together. So now we're together, and we share whatever experiences life sends our way.

61 comments:

  1. I actually tried to do one in the style of this post

    http://eholdsforth.blogspot.com/2009/06/id-never-though-id-do-this-meta-meta.html

    But it didn't work out. I came out coherent by mistake.

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  2. those kinds of posts need to be spontaneous.

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  3. Like tonight's TRS is going to be...

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  4. Oh joy! I can't wait! (seriously)

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  5. It should be up in a little somewhen (or whenever I get tired).

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  6. I ain't staying up for it. I'm mean I'm looking forward and all that, but I need my beauty rest.

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  7. It shall be waiting for your morning pleasure then.

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  8. Wow, does e really have a heart???

    I like what you write. I feel for you, because I've been there. I've been asked why I care, what is my ulterior motive. And I don't always have an answer.

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  9. lol, "it will not work", classic

    I take it you tried and it didn't work for you?

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  10. On a more serious note, most people don't even try nowadays. People hope to "lig in dem rebben's inyanim" or "krich arois fun zich" but no one even tries for old fashioned ahavah and yirah. we learn about what you're supposed to think to arouse ahavah and yirah the same way we learn about the avoda in the Beis Hamikdash.

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  11. You say that your friendships didn't happen the way that Chassidus explains but by circumstance.
    Really they are both true though.
    Circumstances out of your control force you to spend significant amounts of time with someone.
    It is to your advantage to get along well with them and be friendly. Therefore you both naturally become friends even if for no other reason than recieving friendship.

    Nice post though.

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  12. contrary to what the populace say, I like the title of the post. very nice. (do not respond to this 'i try'.)

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  13. feivel: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exposure_effect

    Altie: I didn't try. It came spontaneously.

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  14. very nice very nice...
    i didnt understand the title though.
    Love the poll man - you see we all agree on something :)

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  15. btw i was thinking the exact same thing the other day...it is interesting.

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  16. re: title

    Some things will remain a mystery.

    re: poll

    I haven't seen the results yet. I shall check them momentarily.

    re: you not responding to the email I sent you

    Apparently you have internet access, so why haven't you responded?

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  17. rerere: im not sure how to respnd to that extremely offensive email, ill have to discuss it with you when you get back

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  18. on a serious note, the guy is waiting eagerly for my response, which I can't give him until I get your response.

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  19. people, people, my curiousity is killing me. Go talk somewhere else. Email, perchance.

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  20. i would prefer cheesecake, is there any?

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  21. email is so old-fashioned.

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  22. trs- friTes?

    cheesecake sounds good.

    and E, if he's anything like you, then ya, he's nuts.

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  23. French fries are known as frites or pommes frites in many parts of Europe,

    we are not in Europe, kind sir. if you havent noticed.

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  24. Dowy: can you email me or chat with me?

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  25. actually i never heard of frites, we say chips

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  26. now now, E, u should know not to beg...

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  27. chips?? where u come from, england?

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  28. alite: that reminds me. there's an unread email sitting in my inbox which I ought to respond to.

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  29. fish and chips, fish and chips, fish and chips...

    has a nice ring to it, no?

    personally, i like fries better.

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  30. E- then maybe you should get to it, it's not nice to make people wait.

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  31. I hope you lovebirds are having a cozy little chat now.

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  32. Re the post: Couldn't agree more especially "I tried. It doesn't work." The only thing you got wrong is that nobody tries "good old fashioned ahava and yira anymore" they do just you all-so-exalted upper sfira types won't talk to them.

    Re the comment thread: ribbeinishleilem.

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  33. are you saying that snags have more ahavah and yirah than chassidim? (gasp)

    ribbeinishleilem? Care to elaborate?

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  34. No. A handful of snags and a handful of chagasniks.

    elaboration:
    e and Dowy: oblique reference.
    altie: switch to chat.
    e and Dowy: repeat.
    altie: repeat
    loop ad nauseum

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  35. repeat what?

    No, chat is so dull and boring. It's way more fun sparing on a public comment where everyone can read it an get involved.

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  36. modeh: so what does rebishleilim mean? What language is it?

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  37. E, really?

    ribbeinishleilem.=

    ribono shel olam, G-d in heaven. It's just jumbles into one word, much like, knainahara.

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  38. e - how the mighty have fallen!

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  39. Except that as opposed to kenayinhara which says the opposite of what is meant, ribbeinishleilem cheerfully refuses to mean anything.

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  40. Well said-I agree (actually it's well said BECAUSE I agree, heheh); the reason for friendship is we and our friend meld a little together, becoming as one, to a degree.
    I'm coming across several Lubavitcher blogs these days which are very interesting...
    Why do you call yourselves "the underground?"

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  41. Because most of us live, have lived, or will live in basements.

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  42. LL: To make the fact that they rent basements to live in sound Avant Garde

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  43. Oh yes, Mr. "I live in the back of a house on the second story".

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  44. Also, we're underground because we're not exactly mainstream chabad. (Well, some less than others.)

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Forth shall ye all hold.