Empathy Vs Ego

I remember training in a field where one teacher (alone among all the teachers) was not particularly interested in teaching us. He was a superstar in the field, and he would show up late 95% of the time, and when he did show up, he’d often be on his phone and he usually wanted to talk about anything but the subject at hand (he particularly enjoyed discussing religion and politics, areas in which he had little expertise but very strong feelings). He was not afraid to reveal a lack of interest in various parts of the curriculum. He had no interest in following the rules (which forbade discussing sex, politics and religion). He usually didn’t care about teaching us beyond a narrow ritual which he repeated over and over. That said, he was an amazing teacher, even at times, my favorite teacher. I dug his rebellious attitude. When he was around, I was never the most inappropriate person in the room. He might even be the greatest at what he did in the world, but his lack of drive for working with us was all too apparent. He just didn’t give a damn beyond the minimum he had to do to get a paycheck. He had bigger fish to fry. He worked with celebrities. He had dreams. He had problems. He had other things that concerned him far more than teaching us.

Needless to say, he wasn’t a happy man.

I know a lot of writers who teach and many of them, perhaps most of them, teach primarily to make a living and not to be of service. They generally hate teaching. They resent it for taking up the time and energy they would rather devote to other things, such as their own writing. These resentful guys (usually men) don’t tend to make great teachers. They see their pupils as a necessary evil at best. We are in the way of their dreams and we know it. These teachers are the opposite of someone like Terrie Silverman, a great writing teacher in Los Angeles who wants to be of service to her students.

Work has long posed a challenge to me. I don’t tend to like it. I usually find it annoying. It rarely serves the parts of me that I want to unleash. My natural tendency is to be all about me (at work and off work). My natural tendency is not to live in service to others. At age 45 however, I realized once again that my approach to life was not working, that religion wasn’t fixing me, that therapy wasn’t fixing me, and the only substantial relief I got from my depression was going to 12-step programs which taught that the only path out of addiction was a life of service to others.

My natural approach to work is to seek as much money as possible for doing as little as possible and in the tension between those two ends, I’ve usually been willing to sacrifice earning for ease. I naturally incline to using work to try to get as much attention for myself as possible and to live out my habits of sexual and romantic obsession. Surprisingly, this has not led me to success.

The times that I naturally succeeded at work prior to recovery were when my ego fit the demands of the job and my inclinations pushed in the direction of achievement and earning. In other words, when I was writing for a living, my ego oft wanted to dazzle my readers. This drive led me to some success (I was able to make a living as a writer from 1997 to 2007 and partially live from writing through 2012) but I was limited by my limited desire to be of service to my readers (and to various sponsors and employers) and my life remained small. At other jobs, when I loved my boss, I naturally inclined, at least some of the time, to working hard to make him happy.

Under-earning is a disease of hiding and biting. Just as a wounded animal wants to go hide and will bite anyone who tries to bring him into the light, so too under-earners squander our talents and live in vagueness and fantasy.

I remember this tedious landscaping job I had in the summer of 1985. For the first three days, I hated my job. On the fourth day, I felt seen by this client Doug Hanzlick and my love for this man and for his family inspired my landscaping work over the next three years. Because of my love, I felt joy coming to work, particularly when it offered me the opportunity to cross paths with a Hanzlick. Such a classy family. I wanted them to adopt me.

Most jobs I’ve held, by contrast, have not been like that. I come to work and I don’t get enough attention and I have to choose between my ego and my empathy for my employer. The more I devote myself to serving my employer’s needs, the less room I have to indulge my basic instincts. If I want to live up to being my employer’s representative, then there are all sorts of behaviors and verbal play that I cannot indulge in at the workplace. I don’t naturally incline to service, but I do best at work when I do that very thing that doesn’t come naturally.

It seems to me that with the exception of those times when following the ego is in alignment with one’s source of income, that the more ego you have at work, the less interest you have in serving your employer. By contrast, the more interested you are in being of service at work, the less ego you have.

When you take the 12-steps seriously, you see that not only are you a servant of your employer, but you are a servant of God (and not just at work, but throughout your life). According to the Big Book, there should be no difference between the way you treat your employer and the way you treat God. No matter the job, in the 12-step approach, you are working for God. So there’s no room for indulgent ego. There’s no room for disregarding the feelings and needs of others. You are a servant of the Master of the Universe.

Over the past couple of years, the space between serving my clients and serving God has narrowed. On many days, there is no difference between the way I treat clients and the way I treat God. On other days, my ego pushes in and I start doing things that I want to do that are not in my clients’ interests. Luckily, I have various 12-step programs that enable me to reset myself. Every time I go to a meeting or study 12-step literature or talk with my sponsor, it is a little bit of a shock because my natural tendency is not to live a life of service. Unfortunately for my ego, any other way of life leads to my destruction. I either live in service to others or I screw up. When I’m constantly colliding with other people, I know I’ve gotten out of alignment with my highest purpose in life (to be of service to others). On the other hand, when I see myself living a life of service, I furrow my brow and think, “Who is this guy? I hardly recognize him. He seems so happy.”

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‘I can ‘do Jewish’ on just $40,000 a year’

A married father of four writes:

We reviewed this short list of items and my advisor said, “You realize the greatest expense to your life is your religion. It is consuming over half of your post tax take home pay. You are paying almost $150,000 a year to ‘do Jewish.’”

And that’s when I realized I had forgotten to include Passover on the list.

This was the wakeup call of the century for me. I was raised to believe that religion came first; that everything was ‘holy’ and a ‘mitzvah’; that the more you spent on your Judaism the better it was in God’s eyes. And I now realized I had been completely neglecting the financial health and future of my family.

The first thing I did was to ask around how other people were managing it. Word on the street was that to do everything on my list in a “second tier” community, not something in the greater New York area, one would have to earn more than $500,000 a year. Now I work very hard and I do pretty well, but I will most likely never make half a million dollars a year. Granted, some people in the community do, but not many.

What I saw was far more people who were – if they were willing to admit it – getting steady monthly checks from their parents to survive. Adult children 50 years old still living off handouts from their parents in order to “do Jewish.” Some parents had large fortunes and were easily able to afford to help several adult children, but some were slowly being bled dry. I had one grandmother tell me, “It’s wrong that the day schools are now trying to fund themselves off the backs of the grandparents, now that they have already broken the parents.”

Even more concerning, were the large number of families, doctors, lawyers, investment professionals, who, when asked in confidence, replied that they don’t have two pennies to rub together. And that was before their children were setting off to years in Israel and very expensive college in New York.

The day I left the synagogue forever was the Saturday the rabbi preached that day school tuition does not fulfill the obligation to give 10 percent of one’s income to charity — and that from a rabbi making $350,000 a year, along with free tuition, free housing, and free food expenses. As I angrily began to walk out of there for the last time, my neighbor grabbed my tallis and told me “The day the rabbis pay full tuition is the day that the tuition crisis will be solved.”

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Vanity Fair Editor Who Pretended To Be Jewish Steps Down

Why would anyone pretend to be Jewish? Because Jews dominate certain parts of American cultural life, such as publishing. Jews occupy the high ground. Someone who wants to make it has an incentive to pass as Jewish or even to convert formally to Judaism.


In 2000, the New York Magazine revealed that Carter for years had pretended to be Jewish during the 1970s.

A friend of Carter’s, Craig Walls, recalled one time when Carter told other journalists and writers at a party that his mother “would kill” him for eating pork. Asked why, he said: “Because I’m Jewish,” Walls recalled. Carter confirmed to the New York Magazine that he had pretended to be Jewish.

“I was reading a lot of Kerouac and a lot of Ginsberg,” Carter told New York Magazine. ”And I thought, If you’re going to be an intellectual in New York, you’ve got to be Jewish. It wasn’t some experiment, like Gentleman’s Agreement, or anything like that. It was just … I thought … I just found it… I don’t know. It was so much more exotic than what I really was.”

I wish there was a book about Ashkenazi influence on American culture.

Kevin MacDonald wrote:

The Jewish intellectual, in the words of New York Intellectual and political radical Irving Howe, tends “to feel at some distance from society; to assume, almost as a birthright, a critical stance toward received dogmas, to recognize oneself as not quite at home in the world” (1978, 106).

“From Solomon Maimon to Normon Podhoretz, from Rachel Varnhagen to Cynthia Ozick, from Marx and Lassalle to Erving Goffman and Harold Garfinkel, from Herzl and Freud to Harold Laski and Lionel Trilling, from Moses Mendelssohn to J. Robert Oppenheimer and Ayn Rand, Gertrude Stein, and Reich I and II (Wilhelm and Charles), one dominating structure of an identical predicament and a shared fate imposes itself upon the consciousness and behavior of the Jewish intellectual in Galut [exile]: with the advent of Jewish Emancipation, when ghetto walls crumble and the shtetlach [small Jewish towns] begin to dissolve, Jewry—like some wide-eyed anthropologist—enters upon a strange world, to explore a strange people observing a strange halakah (code). They examine this world in dismay, with wonder, anger, and punitive objectivity. This wonder, this anger, and the vindictive objectivity of the marginal nonmember are recidivist; they continue unabated into our own time because Jewish Emancipation continues into our own time. (Cuddihy 1974, 68)”

…As Podhoretz (1995, 30) notes, it is in fact the case that Jewish intellectuals, Jewish organizations like the AJCongress, and Jewish-dominated organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (see note 2) have ridiculed Christian religious beliefs, attempted to undermine the public strength of Christianity, and have led the fight for unrestricted pornography. The evidence of this chapter indicates that psychoanalysis as a Jewish-dominated intellectual movement is a central component of this war on gentile cultural supports for high-investment parenting.

It is interesting in this regard that Freud held the view that Judaism as a religion was no longer necessary because it had already performed its function of creating the intellectually, spiritually, and morally superior Jewish character: “Having forged the character of the Jews, Judaism as a religion had performed its vital task and could now be dispensed with” (Yerushalmi 1991, 52). The data summarized in this chapter indicate that Freud viewed Jewish ethical, spiritual, and intellectual superiority as genetically determined and that gentiles were genetically prone to being slaves of their senses and prone to brutality. The superior Jewish character was genetically determined via Lamarckian inheritance acting for generations as a result of the unique Jewish experience. The data reviewed in PTSDA (Ch. 7) indicate that there is indeed very good evidence for the view that there is a genetic basis for Jewish-gentile differences in IQ and high-investment parenting brought about ultimately by Jewish religious practices over historical time (but via eugenic practices, not via Lamarckian inheritance).

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Forward: ‘The Radical Class Divide In My Modern Orthodox High School’

I was always curious about what hookers thought about Modern Orthodoxy.

Yehuda emails: Read the article, especially the following paragraph.

“Even years later, it’s hard to tease out class as one factor in that tangle of clashing cultures and religious dogma, that whole psychosocial mess. But Modern Orthodoxy is a moneyed enterprise in its very tenets: it’s premised on a 50s middle class American Dream, a nuclear family lifestyle in the suburbs with a house and a car, white-collar professional jobs for the parents and an expensive college education for the children, all seamlessly meshing with measured religious observance. Capitalist success was always what we were being trained for. They never offered us any alternative models for achievement. I didn’t learn about the long tradition of Jewish activism, for example, from European anarchism to the Southern civil rights movement, until well after I left.”

Then read the byline at the bottom: “Caty Simon is an activist, dilettante, and writer in Western Massachusetts. She co-edits Tits and Sass, a blog by and for sex workers.”

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LGBT Americans Are Disproportionately Jewish

Forward: “While only 2% of Americans are Jewish, the study found that 6% of LGBT Americans identify as Jews. Nearly half (46%) of LGBT Americans are religiously unaffiliated, roughly twice the American average of 24%.”

There seem to be a lot of Jewish gays.

Charles writes:

Do some ethnic groups have more homosexuals than other ethnic groups?
Of course not everyone will agree with him on the issue of homosexuals being “smarter” than those of us who are straight. I suspect they are slightly higher on the verbal and social abilities. I also do suspect that some ethnic groups might have slightly higher proportion, but it’s not like I know if that is so.
(I notice an unusual number of bisexual Jews in the film industry for example.)

Ray Sawhill: “The sorts of gay guys who succeed in the culture world — who manage to keep their heads above water, and maybe even rise, in fields like the media, fashion, theater, etc — are often impressively talented and bright. They’re often lots of dizzying fun to be around too. They can make a lot of straight people look really dull. After 35 years in NYC, I can testify that warmth, exuberance, brains, humor, charisma and drive aren’t in short supply among Jews.”

Charles: “I met a very flamboyant Jewish guy on set a few days ago. Just thinking about how he seemed to master the crowd after hours. It’s made me consider the differences in social power.”

Adam: “Gay men seem great at having intense knowledge In specific interests but very poor generalised knowledge, systematic understanding or analysis of linkages and cause and effect relationships.”

Chaim Amalek: “This is why God wants us inside the Torah Corral, where the only people we can harm are ourselves, and our rebbes keep a vigilant eye on us all to make sure there is no buggery going on.”

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