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Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Rekindling Our Inner Flame

The holiday of Chanukah begins on Friday night and the entire family is looking forward to kindling the little lights that can dispell much darkness. Many people have a child's view of religion since that was the initial framework in which they were exposed. Fortunately the Web has exposed a tremendous wealth of intellectually and emotionally satisfying literature.

In this article, Joel Padowitz highlights some of the fundamentals of Western thought that originated in Greece:

The Hellenistic world glorified the human mind and body. To the Greek philosopher, the world was run by natural laws, entirely accessible to the human intellect and observation. Phenomena and concepts to which human logic could be applied were pursued, and those that lay beyond the confines of pure reason or sensory perception were shunned as folly.

The foundation of modern Western thought derives from this view. We see as an illustration of this point the widespread modern-day materialistic assumption that there exists nothing beyond the physical world. Such a view relegates elevated notions such as freewill, love, and the human soul to the base realm of biochemical phenomena. Consistent with this view is today's ubiquitous "relative morality" which denies the existence any absolute right or wrong. Existentialism, the philosophy of life's absurd futility and inherent meaninglessness is also a natural outgrowth of Hellenistic thought. These disheartening conclusions, held by so many today, emerge from the perspective of the world as a circus of atomic nuts and bolts lacking any overall purpose or deliberate design.

Mr Padowitz points out the limitations of a materialistic viewpoint:

This is the "darkness" of Greece. What Greek culture exiled was the spark of the human soul and spirit. Traditional Jews on the other hand, recognized the intellect as the soul's most powerful and reliable tool -- but nothing more. They were bold enough to accept their tradition that concurred with universal human intuition: that objective moral and spiritual realties exist, despite the intellect's inability to articulate them comprehensively. This very same debate rages today between secular thought and Judaism.

We need the spark, we need the soul, we need the spirit - perhaps now more than ever. Read the whole article and enjoy some of the other delicious fruits of insight on the sidebar.