Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Archive for November 17th, 2007

Writing considered harmful to the soul

Posted by metaphorical on 17 November 2007

I had another run-in with Judaism tonight. The kid was in town with a couple of her friends for a terrific afternoon at the Cloisters. We took them out to an early dinner at a nearby Indian vegetarian Kosher restaurant. It’s pretty new and I hadn’t been there before. I didn’t know what their wine situation was, so I grabbed a bottle from the rack on my way out the door.

I was hopeful when I saw the menu not listing any beer or wines, but no dice, they have a license. They were willing to open our bottle anyway, but first, a question. “Is the wine Kosher?”

No, and guess they would have had to throw out any glasses into which it was poured, but I suspect that even if we’d also brought glasses, it would have been a no-go. What kind of religion gives a darn not only what goes on in the kitchen but what the customers do out front?

The same kind, I guess, that won’t let you write a note to yourself in the notepad you always carry around, if the writing is done in a synagogue.

It was earlier this year at a friend’s daughter’s bas mitzvah. It was one of those orthodox ceremonies where people kiss each other hello right in the aisles and then launch into long, full-voice conversations, right in the middle of yet another prayer in a three-hour service. That’s okay, but writing down something so that you won’t forget it is verboten.

“Writing is work,” I was explained. Well, often it is, and often it isn’t. And you know what? Talking is work if you’re a radio DJ. Kissing is work if you’re, well, a person for whom kissing is work.

What kind of religion thinks it can identify an entire activity like writing or talking or walking and say whether it’s work or not, independently of any context? Pulling a lever 4 times a minute, 240 times per hour, is a lot of work if you’re on an assembly line, but it’s apparently vastly entertaining if you’re in a Las Vegas casino.

Unfortunately, there’s no context in which I can find Judaism entertaining these days. It’s just annoying and simple-minded, for the simple-minded.

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