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Old 06-05-2017, 02:32 AM
William A. Baurle William A. Baurle is offline
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Location: Arizona, USA
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Default Testing, testing, 123

Let's try one amazing quote.

I was reading Wikipedia's article on Maxim Gorky (having originally been appalled by one quote of his I read, which I will get to later), and happened on a fantastic set of words:

In 1916, Gorky said that the teachings of the ancient Jewish sage Hillel the Elder deeply influenced his life: "In my early youth I read...the words of...Hillel, if I remember rightly: 'If thou art not for thyself, who will be for thee? But if thou art for thyself alone, wherefore art thou'?
This is a fantastic statement, and may act as a springboard for better communication among us Spherians.

I won't write a lot here, but only offer what I've written in my own blogs, and may have written at Eratosphere. My memory is terrible, please bear with me.

The only way to protect the community is by exalting the individual; and the only way to protect the individual, is by preserving the community. - Moi
Sounds like a contradiction, but, in my many years of ferverish study, I have come to the conclusion that it's true.

It's NOT an either/or game. The truth, and the best means to safeguard humanity, is not on the left, or the right, but in the middle.*


*The Point. As mentioned by Julian of Norwich, and Euclid, is the beginning. It's where it starts, everything. Think Big Bang, think geometry. Geometry starts with a point, and draws a line. And goes from there.

Reality, the truth, is in the middle. Sound like Woo? It's not. It's reality.

Last edited by William A. Baurle; 06-05-2017 at 02:38 AM.
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Old 06-05-2017, 07:46 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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Actually, Gorky did not remember the words correctly. Hillel's famous maxim was in the first person, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?" Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14

The middle part, notably, doesn't ask "why am I?" but "who am I?" -- that is, it suggests the idea of being for others is part of being for oneself. Being for oneself and being for others are not in opposition but are two sides of the same coin.

I'm pretty sure that any kid who has ever gone to even the most basic Hebrew school is familiar with these words, which are practically as famous as the Golden Rule (and very much related in terms of emphasizing one's own personal worth while acknowledging the equal worth of others).

I don't think it has a lot to do with "protecting" the individual or the community, but to me it has more to do with how a person ought to live and think about his own life. Even in the first part, Hillel isn't saying that his self should be "protected" for its own sake. The purpose of being "for" one's self is to allow others to know the real you and be "for" you. And by the same token, you are called upon to perform that same role on behalf of others not as an act of sacrifice but as part of the process of being for yourself.

There's been a lot written on these words. Here's something I stumbled on just now that is interesting.
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Old 06-05-2017, 08:54 AM
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Douglas G. Brown Douglas G. Brown is offline
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Roger, thanks for posting this link. These are words well said.
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Old 06-05-2017, 10:56 AM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Yes, thanks Roger for the link.

Gorky was such an opportunist when it came to aligning himself with Lenin I find it hard to give anything he said much weight. His later failure to intervene more to help his fellow writers being abused by the state has stopped me from reading more of him. I do wonder if he drifted into Bolshevikism because he realized he was a pale light compared to the ones persecuted? Who knows. I do know he isn't someone I turn to for moral advice.
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Old 06-05-2017, 11:59 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Location: TX
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The Hillel quote perhaps expands on a point I used to draw out of the New Testament for clients, citing "Love thy neighbor as thyself". My argument was that people hear part I of that quote, and forget that self and neighbor here are in symbiosis, they can't come apart. Care for self, and care for others, go hand in hand.
Jesus was of course, like Hillel, a product of the Jewish tradition.
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Old 06-05-2017, 08:05 PM
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Michael Ferris Michael Ferris is offline
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I enjoyed that link, too, Rogerbob. It made me think of Donne: "no man is an island".

Bill, your musings called to mind this by Auden, which I've always loved: "truth, in any serious sense / like orthodoxy, is a reticence". I remember from school days that orthodoxy is usually a point between two opposing heresies.
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Old 06-06-2017, 12:48 AM
William A. Baurle William A. Baurle is offline
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Yes indeed, thanks Rogerbob (I don't know how I should address you), for that link. I haven't read all of it yet, but just wanted to quote this:

There is a unique "I" in the universe and it has only been entrusted to one human being: you. If that unique "I" does not somehow find expression, then the world will never know it. A precious unique "I" has failed to be experienced. That is a tragedy.

However, once that "I" has discovered and learned to express its individuality, it needs to take the next step and bring it out into the world. Each of us has something unique to contribute and no one else can bring it into the world.
I love it. I will certainly have to dig even deeper and read more of Hillel.

I won't even bother with the original Gorky quote that I picked up from another source, which caused me to want to read more about him. The quote was appalling, and I find it astonishing that someone who started out so in touch with humanity, a humanist, with a deep sympathy for the common people and for the individual, could have become what he became.

This is one of the reasons I shy away from and habitually deflect attention to myself. I think it's why I don't seek formal publication, popularity, or notoriety of any kind. It's not that I really think I'm corruptible, but I fear and resist being in any position of authority. I am uncomfortable having any kind of power.
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