Monday, 23 January 2012

Purpose vs. Side Effect

by Dov (See all authors)

The pivotal motivation for much of the stuff we all do, is to feel connected to something even greater than us - to others and to Goodness. Not to "be loved", but to Love. The Hope that we all have, is that "maybe, just maybe, there is something worthwhile in me and out there".

The love and attention that we get is really just a really nice side-effect. Almost everything has side-effects, right? They are planted there to help people do them more often. Like chesed. Hashem wanted it to feel good, but that's not it's purpose. It's purpose was to give us a chance to realize that we are actually capable of giving, like G-d. And that connection is the best it gets.

"Coincidentally", another thing that we naturally crave for the experience of connection past ourselves that it offers, is also accompanied by a pleasant side-effect (sexual relations), and chazal spell out for us that it was added to it in order to encourage folks to keep doing it. When it's power was weakened by chazal (like the desire for avodah zara was), people (and chickens) stopped procreating... right? Again: just a side-effect.

A major part of our disease is our innocent but stupid tendency to completely confuse pleasant side-effects with the main objective itself - which is really where the true pleasure lies.


Someone asked:

"Are you saying that the true nature of addiction to this stuff is just the need to give to others which is just being misplaced? It sounds too simple. If so, let's all join "Tomchei Shabbos" and be free of this!"

Dov Responds:

First off, it's not me who says this. It was first brought to my attention in the chapter on the 4th step in "12 Steps & 12 Traditions". And, lehavdil, the Gemara in Avodah Zara spells out the reason that the creator added desire into sexuality. And lehavdil again, having to learn how to train a dog, taught me operant conditioning (which is natural): All bodies naturally learn to do the stuff they are "supposed" to do because the behaviors are associated with pleasure. It's not about right or wrong, it's just the inescapable reality.

Of course, it's not the only way to learn what to do, but perhaps it's the easiest. Rav Noach Weinberg zt"l built his whole "5 Levels of Pleasure" thing on this, and also said that we liberally use rituals (like saying thank-you, b'rachos, etc.) in yiddishkeit to encourage learning healthy behavior. And Rav Noach warns us to remember that the ritual is not the purpose, but only a path to become people who live with natural gratitude, humility, etc., otherwise our davening and mitzvos eventually become empty. Our young people sometimes see right through the charade and get sick to their stomachs, of course... And then we wonder why they are "going off the derech"... "what derech?" They'd respond: "the derech to what?"... (but I digress)

Messilas Yeshorim says this in his hakdomah, when he writes that while we were created for pleasure, we are tricked to accept petty and temporary pleasures rather than going for the Big One.

Now, all that "higher pleasure" stuff was just "the phooey mubo-jumbo, goody-goody stuff that grease-balls were made of" to me, until I got sacked by lust addiction and ended up in the toilet.

From down here, b"H, the view is a bit different, even being out of the toilet....

It ain't so bad, actually, especially going with you, and the rest of the sweet GYE-maniacs.

So, yeah, that's it. Sometimes it just takes a really big ego-breaker like addiction and recovery to really admit that we really are that stupid to go for the pretty box, instead of after what's inside. Ha! :-)