We apologize for the lack of sarcasm and spite in this post. Poll results* indicate that we should try something completely different.
*Which we just extracted from our fundament.
So yeah, the Princess Bride. Jewish stuff. This couldn’t REALLY be a surprise, could it? I mean, the author’s name is Goldman…**
**Or, if you prefer, Morgenstern.
Not since the Garden of Eden has instant gratification been so available – and so expected. Faster downloads. Instant communication. One-hour dry-cleaning. Print-on-demand. Guaranteed pizza delivery within a dangerously short span. In short, you live in the most Edenic age in history, and even that’s not good enough for the entitle whiners of the generation. Stop it. Westley’s dismissal of Inigo’s insistence that he must know his opponent’s identity will serve you well. A healthy helping of frustration is just what the doctor ordered (yes, a Jewish doctor; you expected otherwise?).
Fezzik’s admonition to Inigo notwithstanding (he turned out to be wrong, after all), we all wear masks (not just the doctors). The question is whether those masks express or conceal who we are inside. We disguise ourselves on Purim to show how what we think is a sham can often hold the deepest truths. Put on a mask and dance as if (not “like”) no one’s watching.
Without suffering, without loss, there’s no preciousness. Nothing to protect and value. No cherishing. No growth. No development. We need the negative, like it or not. The Man in Black warns Buttercup not to be taken in by the same illusion with which the primordial serpent tempts us: that we can exert total control, be godlike, not need anyone else. In fact our fragility and vulnerability are what makes relationship so crucial. They’re what make it possible in the first place. Pain sucks. But the alternative isn’t pleasure – it’s numbness.
Bonus lesson: you can learn things even from the bad guys (Rabbi Meir made a practice of that. So did the Baal Shem Tov). Especially when they sound like your great-grandmother from the old country. In this case, Count Rugen unconsciously echoes the Biblical commandment to “be exceedingly cautious with your lives.”
Count Rugen again. The guy might have been a sadistic mutant bastard, but he was a smart sadistic mutant bastard. Your words and actions matter way beyond your life and lifetime. Just ask the NSA (OK, don’t. That might get you into trouble someday; see number 4). The Talmud teaches that the fate of the generation of the Flood was sealed not through the usual triumvirate of murder, incest, and idolatry, but through theft.
Count Rugen puts his finger on yet another one (see what I did there?). Leave the avenging to God. Not only is it a straight-up commandment, it’s good advice. Self-defense and deterrence are one thing; obsession doesn’t help anyone, least of all you. Getting the last word in doesn’t make you a better person. It makes you petty.
Fezzik has the right idea: keep the self-congratulations to a minimum. Faddish educational approaches aside, you don’t get an award for showing up (see number 1), and expecting a prize for being a decent human being should be out of the question by the time you’re out of single digits (no matter how may digits you have. Yes, we’re looking at you, Rugen). You might take this in the direction of classically Jewish neuroses à la Woody Allen, but we recommend the noble humility of the great Rabbis. Several of whom, as you may know, were named Morgenstern…
For the sarcastic stuff, check out PreOccupied Territory.