What Fool Am I?

September 1st, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 24 comments

The caller to the radio show made a logical, coherent argument. The host had been extolling the virtue of work, and she countered his words by explaining that he was actually a fool. After all, he got up early every morning to prepare for his show, spent time driving in traffic to the radio station, and then spent a few hours delivering entertaining value so that people would want to listen to his show and companies would want to advertise on it. The next day he repeated his actions, earning a measly few weeks of vacation time each year.

In contrast, she said, she got up whenever she wanted to and, unless she felt like it, did nothing more strenuous than moving to her couch, watching TV, and smoking pot. Taxes taken from his salary, she opined, allowed her to take it easy. She challenged him, “Which of them was making a more intelligent choice?”

The call was disturbing. Her articulate words suggested that she was a smart, educated woman who assessed how hard she would have to work to earn enough to afford equivalent benefits to those she could access by not working, and made a logical cost/benefit calculation. They sounded similar to the arguments made by a sophisticated doctor I know who opted not to increase his hours, recognizing that it would simply push him into a higher tax bracket yielding little for his extra effort. If I understood his thought processes, then I should understand hers. I did.

At the same time, I felt sorry for both the woman and the doctor. The  government was incentivizing both individuals to be less productive than they could be. Leaving aside the fact that I would consider watching hours of mind-numbing television to be a form of malevolent punishment and that I have no hankering for marijuana, both of my protagonists were making rational choices. Their decisions, however, made financial sense at the expense of their souls.

When my husband and I had a house full of young children, I relished the blessedly quiet nighttime hours after they were asleep. Those same quiet nighttime hours could be a burden to a young couple battling infertility and praying for a raucous household or to the elderly man alone day and night without human contact. In the same way, there are many days that I yearn for free time to fill with hobbies, classes and other activities. Yet I know that, paradoxically, I only savor what free time I have because it is so fleeting.

I haven’t checked in with my physician friend, but I do know that he spoke sadly of cutting back his hours, rather than gleefully anticipating the extra spare time. I know that I wouldn’t opt to change places with the radio caller. I’m not a sap for working, whether it is in our ministry or by devoting myself to my family. I am only a sap if I fall for the tired lies of politicians who profess that it is compassion rather than self-interest that motivates them to talk of ‘the poor,’ ‘the children,’ or ‘minorities,’  while setting in place policies that by design or stupidity harm those they pretend to help.

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24 comments

James Dunning says:

When I lost my high-paying job once upon a time (back in the He-cession), I very quickly realized the death blow to the male self-esteem and had to absorb it. The loss of income, however devastating, is the kinder of the blows. The cruelest blow of all is the loss of profession, the cornerstone of the male’s role in society. Next is the loss of satisfaction of a job well done, contributing to greater societal good.

Despite her selfish posturing, one has to feel sorry for the caller. Has she never felt the call to follow a ‘calling,’ to improve the lot of her fellow man / woman? Or the satisfaction of work performed to the best of one’s ability, resulting in a benefit to someone? Unfortunately I have individuals in my own family (by marriage) who echo this woman’s attitude: life is all about Me, Me, Me, about getting enough for ME. When I have enough for ME, I need not give, only take. I give up and consign myself to selfish pursuits.

The Rabbi is quite right: work in the Garden is not about ME. Work is about serving God though serving his children. God rot those elected leaders and political systems who, in pursuit of some ivory tower philosophy, consign millions of able and willing workers to the scrap heap. Did they not read Dante’s Inferno, what happens in Hell to the Panderers and Seducers? ‘Nuff said.

Marie-Anne says:

Amen to that. I find that working is soul satisfying. Balanced with family, friends, exercise, meditation, and building a legacy of compassionate giving, work brings a sense fulfillment. As a retiree from many years of service I have found another passionate career. My days are filled with time with my husband, friends, working for causes that inspire me to want to do more. Continuing to work keeps me young and active. The kind of life the caller describes sounds like living death to me.

Susan Lapin says:

You sound happy in a way this caller will never be unless she changes her mindset.

Im headed out across country to live a minimalist life style. The term is “cannabis” by the way it sounds silly for people with perhaps 3 times my education calling the plant marijuana when I must tell you this simply is not what the plant is called. Further being the fantastic writers that you are it makes me cringe when you use the term “pot to describe what vlearly is medicinal “cannabis.” You have been severely lied to yet Carmen and I love both of you and really cherish your programs and books. Im going to put in in the stack of must reads next to my stone edition tenach. Yes stone not “stoned”. P.S. I have been swearing quite a bit less now as a result of feeling super guilty every time after hearing perils of profanity 😉 (P.S.S. app recommendation deleted per our policy) P.S.S.S. If you care to see proof of my claims above I can logically show proof and no they dont just sit around eating cheetos all day ok some of the most brilliant people I know consume cannabis they bash linux and do topography and things like that and have terrible grammer. God Bless you guys sorry If I make you look bad in front of your church friends. I mean no disrespect.

Susan Lapin says:

Toby, we’re glad that Perils of Profanity has had an impact and that we can disagree and still stay friends. I didn’t get any clue from the caller’s words that she was using medicinal marijuana, but maybe you heard the same interview and heard something different from me.

Carl from South Carolina says:

ME TOO, ME TOO-working on it, Give my Rabbi a BIG HUG for me……

Glenn Gilbert says:

Thank you so much for what you do. I can’t begin to express how much it means to me.

Susan Lapin says:

I very much appreciate your words, Glenn.

Nancy says:

Slavery seems to have evolved, adapting so that everyone is shackled in one way or another, except the overseers are now viewed as most benevolent. For the same reason that plantation owners didn’t want slaves to be able read, today’s education system has adopted a similar strategy in discouraging rational thought by promoting a pretense that wisdom is foolishness and that foolishness is wisdom. But sooner than later all will be able to tell the difference as only wisdom cab preserve those who possess it (Ecclesiastes 7:12)

Susan Lapin says:

Today’s educational system doesn’t only do what you say, Nancy. It also stops children in way too many public schools from learning to read at any level that would help them thrive independently.

Michael Overstreet says:

Thank you for your thought provoking column. I always enjoy reading your muse. As for this article I must agree that unfortunately too many of our fellow citizens have fallen prey to this mindset and we run a terrible risk of losing our country as the result of the ruling elites policies.

Susan Lapin says:

We vote in the ruling elites. The inability of good people to see the danger of unintended consequences does imperil us all.

James says:

When I lost my high-paying job once upon a time (back in the He-cession), I very quickly realized the death blow to the male self-esteem and had to absorb it. The loss of income, however devastating, is the kinder of the blows. The cruelest blow of all is the loss of profession, the cornerstone of the male’s role in society. Next is the loss of satisfaction of a job well done, contributing to greater societal good.

Despite her selfish posturing, one has to feel sorry for the caller. Has she never felt the call to follow a ‘calling,’ to improve the lot of her fellow man / woman? Or the satisfaction of work performed to the best of one’s ability, resulting in a benefit to someone? Unfortunately I have individuals in my own family (by marriage) who echo this woman’s attitude: life is all about Me, Me, Me, about getting enough for ME. When I have enough for ME, I need not give, only take. I give up and consign myself to selfish pursuits.

The Rabbi is quite right: work in the Garden is not about ME. Work is about serving God though serving his children. God wither those elected leaders and political systems who, in pursuit of some ivory tower philosophy, consign millions of able and willing workers to the scrap heap. Did they not read Dante’s Inferno, what happens in Hell to the Panderers and Seducers? ‘Nuff said. טוב

Susan Lapin says:

Your experience is dismissed by many as misguided white male emotion, James, to the detriment of our society.

Sonia P. says:

“Taxes taken from his salary, she opined, allowed her to take it easy.”
OK, let’s follow her argument. She believes that she made the smartest choice by lazing around, watching TV and smoking pot while he works. If she loves her life so much, she should be thanking every hard-working person in the country for making it possible. Let’s say we all take her advice and adopt her lifestyle. Nobody foolishly wastes time going to work just for a paltry paycheck. Instead, everybody lives off the government dime, doing what we want to do, when we want to do it. “Taxes taken from his salary…” If nobody’s working and everybody’s expecting the government to pay for everything, just whose taxes and whose salary does she think is going to pay for her lifestyle? Intelligent. Right.

Susan Lapin says:

Sonia, you are exhibiting care for others and the future. She is only thinking of her next 24 hours.

Nancy says:

It is the nature of bad arguments that they cannot be sustained, not for long anyway. This woman attempts to argue the intrinsic value of the path she has chosen for herself, which only exhibits this value “for herself” while displaying contempt for anyone that works “for others” which contradicts any argument this thinking is for the good of everyone. She may rest her laurels, but if she thinks to rest her case here in the expectation that it should be concluded that she is the more virtuous between them, clearly shows exactly what she has been smoking.

Susan Lapin says:

It was interesting listening to the radio segment, how unembarrassed she was about thinking only of herself. That has been a societal shift. People used to be ashamed of being ‘on the dole.’ They did whatever they could to not get there. Once it’s labeled an ‘entitlement’ it is turned into something you’re a fool not to get.

James says:

Once in my life I was was belittled for not being on the dole of Public Assistance. While there are good people everywhere, I note with abundant rumbling that it happened in the People’s Republic of New York, 1988. Let those with eyes see, let those with ears hear my words. The same goes for the People’s Republic of Kaliforniastan.

Susan Lapin says:

Yes, where the disapproval used to be for being ‘on the dole’ now it’s for not taking advantage of government benefits.

Jean says:

This attitude has been around for a while. During the 1980s, when Reaganomics allegedly created all manner of social ills, I was working three jobs – one full time and two part-time – in order to bootstrap the purchase and renovation of a home. Most of my neighbors were in Section 8 housing, collecting various forms of government bennies. They also thought I was a complete fool, busting my chops in order to renovate what had been a slum piece of property, accruing a retirement fund and building an asset base. These same people are still living in Section 8 housing and cursing those of us who own homes, have an asset base and have funded our retirement through saving and investing. You know, the evil 1%-ers who “rob” the poor of their “due.” The caller is intelligent enough to know that she can parrot the rhetoric of certain ideologues, whine sufficiently to gain attention and successfully get her way. But her “intelligence” still hasn’t allowed her to accrue what she envies in others – a sense of purpose, some genuine accomplishments and some tangible material rewards.

Susan Lapin says:

Jean, the 1% myth is one of those ideas that are quick and easy to say and for foolish people to latch on to, not even realizing as you did, that it will destroy a culture.

Vallerie Fletcher says:

I recall Rabbi Lapin’s teaching on RETIREMENT and this article illuminates his teaching. When we work only for the money it is really a self-serving and short-sighted venture. When we see our work as service, and our pay as certificates of appreciation that we can pass along to others as appreciation for their products or services, we will have a new perspective. I have a feeling that this woman will eventually see the light, and as she thinks it through…and maybe she does need respite, and that is ok- for I condemn no one for the need for rest, but, again, as she reconsiders, she just might find herself out there serving God’s other children! Susan, I can not thank you enough for the brilliant and gracious way that you have of teaching and for illuminating God’s Holy and Sacred word.

Susan Lapin says:

Vallerie, you sound very sweet, but I don’t think this woman was describing a need for rest. It was more a need to vegetate and think of nothing other than herself at a most basic level.

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