The Knowable and Unknowable

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So as we all do, I often come across challenging and perplexing issues or problems in life. 


And my nature is to try to understand them, solve them, fix them–is it survival or the challenge or both?


But then we come across some things that are just beyond our [mere mortal] understanding or ability to simply fix them. 


I remember as a youngster learning in Yeshiva about when it says in the Bible that G-d hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he continued to refuse to let the Jews go from their enslavement in Egypt.


And the classic mind-bending question is how could G-d harden his heart if Pharaoh retained free will which we all have to choose good or evil.


Did G-d harden his heart or did he have free will–which is it?  And if G-d hardened his heart, then how could Pharaoh and the Egyptians be punished for something they didn’t fully control? 


One explanation is that by facing the punishing plagues, Pharoah was losing his free will to decide what to do with the Israelites, so by hardening his heart, G-d was actually restoring his free will to choose once again…interesting. 


Of course in life, there is also the philosophical dimensions of so many seeming contradictions such as the cliche about what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.


Which wins out if one is unstoppable and the other is unmovable?


No, I don’t think these are just riddles, but the testing of the abilities of our human minds to understand further and further into the mysteries of G-d, creation, and the universe. 


So what do we do in life when confronted by things that are seemingly or really beyond our human capacities? 


– We ponder these weighty matters and sometimes we get frustrated and rip our little-left hair out or laugh at ourselves as to why we can’t just get it.


– We look to understand the deeper spiritual meanings of these challenges in the context of our earthly lives. 


– We try to solve and fix what we can within the confines of our spaghetti brain matter and flesh and bone bodies. 


– At the end of the day, we acknowledge our human limitations, and look to the Heavens for answers or at least for Divine guidance and protection along the way.


While we cannot understand everything or always reach our destination that we set for ourselves that should never prevent us from trying our hardest and going as far as we can on our journeys–and letting the next person, and the next person pick up the torch and carry it forward. 


In the Jewish prayers, we say that the matters of the earth are for our exploration and striving, but the ultimate secrets of the Heaven are for G-d alone. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

From Stability Comes Instability

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I remember hearing the phrase (not sure from where), “everything and the opposite.”


I think it refers to how within each thing in life are elements of the exact contrary and opposing force. 


Similar to the interactions of ying and yang, the world is an interplay of opposites–males and females, black and white, fire and water, ebb and flow, good and bad, optimism and pessimism, and so on. 


Everything has a point and it’s counterpoint.


It was interesting to me to see this concept expressed in terms of the financial markets (Wall Street Journal), where bull and bear contend in terms of our finances.


But what was even more fascinating was the notion from the economist, Hyman Minsky, who noted that the very dynamic between stability and instability was inherent within itself.


So for example, Minsky posits that a stable economic market leads to it’s very opposite, instability.


This happens because stability “leads to optimism, optimism leads to excessive risk-taking, and excessive risk-taking leads to instability” (and I imagine this works in reverse as well with instability-pessimism, retrenchment and limiting risk to stability once again).


Thus, success and hubris breeds failure, and similarly failure and repetitive trial and error/hard work results in success.


It is the interflow between ying and yang, the cycle of life, life and death (and rebirth), the seasons come and go, boom and bust, and ever other swinging of the pendulum being polar opposites that we experience. 


The article in the Journal is called “Don’t Fear The Bear Market,” I suppose because we can take comfort that what follows the bear is another bull. 


But the title sort of minimizes the corollary–Don’t (overly) rejoice in the bull–because you know what comes next.


Go cautiously and humbly through life’s swings.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)