“Everyone must have two pockets, with a note in each pocket, so that he or she can reach into one or the other, depending on the need. When feeling lowly and depressed, discouraged or disconsolate, one should reach into the right pocket, and, there, find the words: Bishvili nivra ha-olam “The world was created for me.” (BT Sanhedrin 37B) But when feeling high and mighty one should reach into the left pocket, and find the words: V’anochi afar v’efer “I am but dust and ashes.” (Gen. 18:27)
Can you die of success?
In his piece, “The Patient As A Person,” Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel says:
Striving for personal success is a legitimate and wholesome ingredient of the person. The danger begins when personal success becomes a way of thinking, the supreme standard of all values. Success as the object of supreme and exclusive concern is both pernicious and demonic. Such passion knows no limit. According to my own medical theory, more people die of success than of cancer.
Heschel contends that “making money is expensive” and that “making money may cost us values that no money can buy.”Continue reading
More care > Less suffering
This evening I read a chapter from Gilbert Meilaender’s book, Bioethics and the Character of Human Life: Essays and Reflections.
Here is one paragraph that particularly captured my attention:
Thus, although compassion surely moves us to try to relieve suffering, there are things we ought not to do even for that worthy end–actions that would not honour or respect our shared human condition. One of the terrible truths that governs the shape of our lives is that somethings there is suffering we are unable–within the limits of morality–entirely to relieve. Hence, the maxim that must govern and shape our compassion should be “maximize care,” which may not always be quite the same as “minimize suffering.”
What would you do with a longer life, anyway?
I just finished re-reading Leon Kass’s splendid essay, “L’Chaim and Its Limits: Why Not Immortality?“
I was reminded of that 2001 piece when I read this interview published yesterday about Archbishop Emeritus Charles Chaput’s new book Things Worth Dying For: Thoughts on a Life Worth Living.
Leon Kass begins his piece by exploring the primacy of life in Judaism and our wider culture’s interest in prolonging life and forestalling death.
Then, he raises some questions: