Sunday, January 27, 2008
"The Party" from 1984 vs. Yiddishkeit - Compare/Contrast/L'havdil
In George Orwell's book, 1984, he describes a world in which the totalitarian government ("The Party") seeks to have such total and complete domination over everyone in the country that their ultimate goal will not be acheived until even the innermost thoughts and beliefs of the Party members are competely defined by The Party's will.
This is true in the book ad kedei kach (to the extent) that when The Party says that something that happened yesterday didn't happen, the Party member must instantly change his memory of what happened yesterday and then erase his memory of the fact that he changed his memory at all. Winston, the main character's, sense of having a concrete perception of reality is so ingrained that he bristles and denies any possiblity of changing his own knowledge about realty just because of the will of The Party.
Mentally and physically, The Party breaks down any and all sense of self that Winston had, and fills up the empty shell that was previously occuppied by Winston's own sense of self, with the will of The Party.
The differences between anything in Yiddishkeit and the world of 1984 are obvious. The Party seeks to reconstruct people's conception of reality by replacing emes with sheker (truth with falsehood). Whereas Yiddishkeit teaches that we must correct our thinking from sheker to emes. The Party is motivated by and utilizes hate (Two Minutes Hate). Whereas Yiddishkeit's self-elevation program is synonymous with the ideas of Chesed and Ahava, kindness and love. The Party seeks to dominate the people. Whereas in Yiddishkeit, Hashem only desires to elevate and give goodness and truth to people.
One thing that strikes me about the book is that there is one similarity. The Party asserts that its reality is true, and that one must overcome their own personal perception of reality. L'havdil, in Torah also, we must know that the world and the reality that we see around us is the least real conception of reality. The world is merely the mask that hides the true nature of the universe which is that Ein Ode Milvado, there is nothing besides Him.
In Yiddishkeit, the idea is that the highest ideal is not to be wedded to our concrete, finite perception of reality. But rather, to nullify our perceptions to the Oneness of the Creator. The ideas of Bitul and Hiskalelus, total self-nullification and inclusion in the Divine Oneness, are the highest ideal!
I read this book about 12 years ago, and what struck me about it is that there is a similarity, l'havdil, in the thought process that O'Brian (the main antagonist in the story) forced upon Winston, and the thought process involved in letting go one one's ego and starting to perceive the Oneness of G-d that lies behind and within all of reality, and letting one's self go, in order to merge one's perception with the Divine reality.
(Picture courtesy of madisonpubliclibrary.org)
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