Aussie Blokes

I don’t know much. I never graduated from college or nothing. But I know about Aussie blokes.

There’s this one Aussie bloke I know right well. He was raised a Sevie. You Yanks would call that a Seventh-Day Adventist. By his late teens, he’d given that the chuck and become an atheistic communist. Then he started listening to Dennis Prager on the radio and he gave communism a chuck and embraced Judaism.

So what happened to this bloke when he converted to Orthodox Judaism? Did he leave his bad habits behind? No. He just piled his Orthodox Judaism on top of all his other bad habits.

Before his conversion, this guy had issues with sheilas. He feared and hated ’em. After his conversion? He feared and hated ’em.

Before his conversion, he was a bit of a drongo. After his conversion, he was a bit of a drongo.

Before his conversion, he was a bit sleazy. After his conversion, he was an Orthodox Jewish sleaze.

Before his conversion, he was a snake. After his conversion, he was an Orthodox Jewish snake.

Get the picture?

Before his conversion, he had problems with community. After his conversion, he still wasn’t wanted around these parts.

Before his conversion, he had problems with authority. After his conversion, he was still trashing rabbis on his blog.

Now I know about this other Aussie bloke who has a happier story.

His name was Frederick Matthias Alexander (20 January 1869 – 10 October 1955). He was an actor. As his career got going, he developed a problem. He kept losing his voice.

He went around to different doctors to try to find the problem and to solve it.

One doctor suggested he rest his voice for two weeks before performance. He did. On the day of his performance, his voice felt strong. Then halfway through his oration, he lost his voice.

His friends told him that he was gasping for air when he orated.

"Might it be something I’m doing?" he asked his doc.

His doc said probably, but he didn’t know what it was exactly.

F.M. sat in a room with mirrors and examined what he did as he performed.

He noticed that just prior to speaking, he’d tip his head back, push his chest out, and depress his larynx. This would cause him to audibly gasp for air. He noticed that he had this same habit in everyday conversation but it was not as severe as when he performed on stage.

Figuring that this was hurting his voice, he used his will to try to stop these bad habits. To his chagrin, he found these habits were not susceptible to his will. Even though he tried not to tip his head back and he tried not to push his chest out, his habits were stronger than his will.

F.M. discovered that the only way he could successfully tackle his problem was with an indirect approach.

He found success by inhibiting his habitual impulses and thinking his directions — sending his head forward and up, allowing his back to stay back and to lengthen and widen. If he pushed his head up, he found his torso tightening, constricting his breath. But if he simply thought up, he lengthened and widened, his lungs had more room to expand, he learned to breathe easily and deeply without gasping and depressing his larynx.

Many habits are only changed with such an indirect method.

Let’s take a golfer who keeps taking his eye of the ball. The harder he tries to keep his eye on the ball, the worse he hits it. With the direct approach, just trying to will himself to keep his eye on the ball, he only plays worse.

The golfer’s only hope is the indirect method, to inhibit his habitual responses and to think his directions.

It’s the same way with immoral habits. Let’s suppose you’re a wanker. You try to use your will to abstain from wanking. It doesn’t work.

So what to do?

You attack the problem indirectly, you try to increase the presence of God in your life, you try to up your holiness level and to study more Torah.

I think happiness is only attainable as a byproduct of living a virtuous life.

With some people such as myself, goodness is only attainable through indirect methods.

When I started listening to Dennis Prager in 1988, I soon came to believe in ethical monotheism. But that didn’t make me a lot more virtuous. What did effect my behavior was when I joined a specific religious community, a synagogue. Then the thought of humiliating myself before them became painful. I formed bonds with people. I did not want to let them down. This had a profound effect on my behavior.

Sure, I still screwed around and did a lot of sleazy things, but I did less than what I would’ve done otherwise. Fewer sheilas, more Torah.

I find the best indicator of my moral performance is the tightness of my bonds with others. When I feel free and easy, lacking close ties, I can do almost anything and justify it. It’s a lot harder to justify things to a specific community with an ancient rule book.

The way most people become Orthodox is not by studying its theory, but by joining a specific Orthodox community and engaging in its rituals, thus forming bonds with others who reinforce the program.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
This entry was posted in Australia, Dennis Prager, Ethics, Orthodoxy, Personal and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.