Letters to God – Part 10: Memories

source: http://mashable.com/2013/04/02/obama-brain/

These weeks are weeks of memories. First with Pesach, where we remember how we left Egypt. Then the Holocaust remembrance day, where we remember the atrocities that happened during WW2, both what was done to the Jewish people, and for all others that perished for nothing during this time. And this week we remember all of the fallen for the creation of Israel, and those that keep dying so that we can keep on living here.

And because my son keeps forgetting, I have been thinking a lot about memories. You know, since “the incident” back in February, my son’s memory is not working “properly”. He remembers everything before that day, but from that day on, things get blurred. Most times he doesn’t remember the name of the rehab center we are at, not to say the name of the people who are treating him each day (but here I have to say that it is also hard for me to remember their names, because there are many of them, so this may be something normal :-)).

As far as I know, the mechanism of how memories are created in our heads, and how they are retrieved when needed, is one great question mark for us. Our brain is a big mass of cells of many types and we have very little knowledge of how they work and interact (there have been many advances, but we are just starting). And as a friend of mine said, it is a very good question if using the brain we will be able to understand it. Similar (for me) to the what Goedel showed in his incompleteness theorem, where every axiomatic system contains statements that can never be either demonstrated or refuted (put in laymen terms).

But going back to memories, there is a very interesting mechanism going on here. From my personal experience, memories are something we create as a mirror of the world we are living in. But not a perfect mirror. We modify our memories to match our dreams, our hopes, our life. I sometimes remember things one way, the way I wanted them to be, but in reality something different happened. Not so different to make for my mind not to accept the changes, but slightly different. And I unconsciously make these changes so that I remember things as I wanted them to be. Because that is how I am wired.

And back to my son, I am not sure how much of his memories are simply being suppressed because they are unpleasant, and how much because of his injuries. In his place, I would also love to forget most of what has happened in the last two and a half months. I also have many memories that I would like to forget. Because they hurt. Because they are unpleasant. But we have no control on what we remember and what we forget. We only get the final results.

And on the other side of the spectrum, there are things that we forget and we would like to remember. Like that first kiss with our loved one, or the day our kids were born (I have vague memories of these… too traumatic I guess :-)). And there are things that we must remember, like leaving Egypt, like the Holocaust, like the fallen for our country. We must remember even though our mind would like to forget.

Letters to God – Part 9: Remembering

Today in Israel is Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day when we remember the horrors that occurred not long ago in Europe during World War II. I’m positive you are acquainted with what happened during that time, right? And so I’m taking a step back from my personal suffering and going more global than usual, but the questions are more or less the same… Well, it is actually only one question: Why?

It is written that you are a God of justice. But you make it very hard for us to understand what is the meaning of your justice. There were many bad people killed during that war, evil people who wanted to harm, destroy, an annihilate entire nations. But most of them were not like that. Millions of children who did nothing wrong, who just made the mistake of being born in the wrong place at the wrong time. And what about all of the righteous people who died? Those who prayed for you every day and every night, even when they saw the fires near them, even when they could not sleep from hunger and cold, even then they kept on praying. And they prayed until their last minute.

After what I have lived the last two months, I have a better understanding on why they prayed. But I still don’t understand why this is needed from us. Believing in you means that all of this world has a purpose, that we are on a journey to somewhere. Today it actually came to me that the Holocaust should be sadder to non-believer humanists than to believers. Because if you think we humans have evolved over animals, that we have grown to think, things like the holocaust (and other atrocities that keep on going every day) just don’t make sense. But for believers this is just the way that you have set things, and it is good. Sorry, but I don’t see how this can be defined as good.

Oh dear God, please open our eyes so that we can understand all of this suffering and all of this pain. We want a world of love, a world of abundance, a world of peace and quiet. A better world that the one we currently live in.

Letters to God – Part 8: Pesach

We jews live from holiday to holiday. We finish Rosh HaShana (New Year) and start preparing for the fast of Yom Kippur (Day of Attonement). When this one ends we begin building the Succa. After Succot we have a bit of rest, but fairly fast we start thinking of Sufganiot (kind of donuts) for Hannuka. and then some dried fruits for Tu BiShvat, then costumes for Purim, and after this comes the great craziness of Judaims – Pesach.

Every year that Pesach comes I ask myself once again if this is what you meant for us to do. We are told not to have anything that leavens in our houses. But you know, we humans always think we don’t understand what you said, and maybe you also meant that we have to go crazy and buy food like world is going to end, and clean our houses as if we have loaves of bread hidden under the staircases. Oh, and changing all of the dishes, pots, pans… While sitting here at 11pm washing the Pesach dishes, I imagine you looking at us and shaking your head from side to side. But what can we do. This is how you made us.

Every year in Pesach I do my yearly Gefilte Fish for Pesach, and I shared some pictures of it with my friends. But this year I am exempted from doing it, because we are doing the Seder in the Rehab Hospital with my son. So I am doubly happy, both because we can have a family Seder all of us together, and because I don’t have to do any cooking!

But seriously, today I read again the summary of the first operation my son had when we took him to the hospital, and my skin crawls as I understand again how close we were to losing him. Every moment we have with each other is blessed. It is hard to see it this way all the time, but it is the truth. And it takes extreme events like this to make us understand this. And we keep on forgetting it.

Oh well, the dishwasher finished so I have to go and clean some more plates to be ready for the upcoming holiday. Thanks G-d for all the work you have given us. It really makes us happy 🙂

Good Bye Terry Pratchett

This was really sad news. On the 12th of March, about two weeks ago, one of my heroes died.

I don’t remember how I discovered his books, but the moment I started I couldn’t stop. His writing was hilarious, and also very smart. His stories were completely crazy, but at the same time completely real. Pratchett had such a deep understanding of human behavior, both of the individual, and of a society, that it always impressed me.

It is very sad to see him go. But it seems that life is like that.

Good bye Sir Terry Pratchett. And I hope you managed to avoid the rush.

Letters to God – Part 7: Purim

source: http://kosherinvenice.blogspot.co.il/2012/03/its-jewish-venice-purim-time.html

Yes God, I know Purim was a while ago, and an eternity for me. But you know I’ve been busy and I also managed to destroy my computer last week… So just now I managed to sit down to write.

What can I say, Purim, the most waited festival for the children. Everyone puts on a costume, we all read the Megila together, give each other sweets (and let our children intoxicate on them for one day). A fun day overall.

But as you know, this Purim we had to stay with my son in the hospital. And what was very interesting is that this wasn’t a sad Purim. For me, it was the best one ever. For starters, my son is alive and getting better each day, which by itself is something that keeps me happy. But more than that, while in his room at the hospital, about every 10 minutes someone came by to give their blessings. Some came with a guitar and sang, some gave candies and more intoxicating sweets, another group of youngsters had almost a full orchestra in our room. I saw mothers with their kids come and spend their “vacation” day on visiting the ward and giving each child a drawing and a get-well gift. It was so inspiring, so energizing, so wonderful!

Seeing so much love gives so much strength… Than you God for this great day you gave me.

But next year, can you please arrange for me something with a BBQ in it?

Letters to God – Part 6: Unconditional Love

source: http://thelongestisland.blogspot.co.il/2011/03/check-out-bernard-schweizers-blog-post.html

It seems like ages ago, but only 12 day have passed since my son gave me this lesson. We were driving home from his weekly treatment, and he was in a very bad mood, with no explainable reason. Probably because we said no to something he wanted. Yea, I think it was that.

As we were driving down the road he started saying bad things, and hitting my chair, so I stopped at a bus station and sat with him there to understand what is happening. He was so mad! And then he started crying, because he could not control himself. He said he was bad, and that he made me mad with no reason. We cried together for some time, and I told him that I love him always. That he can be angry at me, and its OK. And that sometimes I can also be angry at him, and that this is also OK. We are humans, we are full of feelings that we can’t fully control, and anger is one of them.

But that day I learned about unconditional love. The love you have for your child is like this. No matter how angry you are at him, you still love him. And no matter how angry he is at you, he still loves you.

And yes, I have been angry with you. And a part of me is still angry at you. For all the suffering, for all the sickness, for all the pain.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t love you.

And even if you do things that I don’t understand, and that make me very angry, there is a reason for everything. But as I am a child, I cannot understand it.

And I know that you love me.

Letters to God – Part 5: Crying

source: http://formybeautifullove.blogspot.co.il/2011/05/poem-6.html

Life is tough. Not only having to deal with what we have but also being always afraid of the unknown, and of the future and what it will bring us. Knowing that we don’t know a thing.

Trying to maintain a normal life with this burden you gave us, or as a good manager would say, this “challenge”. But we have more in our life, and they need our attention, our love, our caring. The world doesn’t stop because we have to take care of things. It keeps going and we must play catch every single day.

We think that life changes us, but we are a tough nut to crack. And even knowing that the most basic things in life cannot be taken for granted, the small details of life make us angry. And this makes us even angrier.

And sometimes we just want to cry.

And this is OK.

Because sometimes this is the only thing that we can do.

Letters to God – Part 4: Punishment

source: http://wobble-house.blogspot.co.il/2012/03/concept-of-god.html

Last week I started a new ritual in my daily: I come early from work (before sunset) and walk around the block with my son, while he has a patch on his good eye. Last week we found out (once again by chance) that he lost almost all of his sight in one eye :-(, so I want to do a more daily follow-up on this, and also use this time to talk to him and understand how he feels.

Yesterday was tough. In the middle of the walk, while talking about an eye exam he was doing today (and after doing it once, hates it), he asked one question: Why was I punished with this? Why did God punish me?

Tough one, ah?

First I had to stop myself from crying. After I managed this, I tried to explain to him that he was not being punished. That we simply don’t understand what God wants from us and that if he gave him what he did, it must be for a purpose, but we are simply too dumb and simple to understand this.

The conversation went “uphill” from that point, and we talked about all of the bad things that happen in the world (well, not all but many), and how, if I was to make the world, people would never get sick and would never die. He thought this would be boring, having all of the time the same people around, doing the same jobs. So we settled on having no sickness and when people got bored, they would simply go to sleep forever. Deep thoughts for a seven-year old kid.

So God, tell me. Just between you and me. Are you punishing us or is this really the way you meant the world to be?

Scott Adams on Religion

If you are an engineer, you must know Dilbert. If not, please go there now and come back after you have read all of it. I’ll wait.

You’re back? good. Now you should also subscribe and read to the blog of Scott Adams, the creator if Dilbert. I don’t agree with all of his views, but he does make the mind exercise. And since lately I am talking about religion and reality and how things work, this phrase in one of his posts (at the bottom) just “clicked”:

I’m not a believer, but I’ve evolved to be pro-religion because I observe religion to be a functional interface to a reality our brains aren’t designed to understand.

So maybe we’ll never understand.

Letters to God – Part 3: A Theory of Everything

Hi God. It’s been a long time since my last letter, but I have been thinking a lot about how to write this post and what would be the best way to explain what I want to say. And just like they say, perfect is the enemy of good… So let’s just get started and see how this goes.

The saying goes that “Everything is for the good” is a typical Israeli/Jewish saying that is told to people in hard times. Many people also read/hear this as “everything is for my good”, but I think they are wrong. Everything is for the good, but not personal, but general. For the goodness of your general plan of which you still don’t want to share any details.

But if you have a plan, what about our free will? How can you decide the direction in which the world is/will go but at the same time let us do whatever we think our mind chooses?

I think both can be done at the same time. And this is my “Theory of Everything”. If we look at the world around us, what are we? We are our reactions to our inputs (yes… I’m a software developer…). And what are our inputs but the creation of our brain? If you take a look at what surrounds us, take a deeper look. Deeper. There is mostly empty space. Even the densest of materials in the world is composed of atoms that are composed of a nucleus and a cloud of electrons with LOADS of space in between. Therefore when we touch something there is no real contact between elements. What we feel is the force that is applied between the two things, the energy that one has against the energy that the other one has.

So the world is energy. Nice. But let’s go back to us and our inputs. I am now sitting in the train, writing this post. Every second, microsecond, picosecond, $epsilon$, is a point where I have made a decision. Maybe not a conscious decision but a decision anyhow. And there are millions of possibilities every second. Will I write an ‘a’ or a ‘b’? Will I click the keyboard with my first finger or my second finger? Will I breathe now or in one millisecond? We can visualize this as a graph (for the CS grads out there, a tree):

Every point in time is a jump that moves you forward in this decision graph. And every decision you make changes the possible path that you can take in the future:

And we are all just traveling together in this graph, moving forward as we take multiple, infinitesimal decisions. And we are all moving together because the choices we have at each step are not only affected by our decisions, but also by the decisions taken by all of the people in the world (yes, the butterfly effect). At every step there is a “decision plane” with all of the possible paths that everybody can take, and each move creates a new plane of choices for the whole world (or universe). I have a great picture in my mind of how this should look, and I’ll try to reproduce it:

Now how is this related to the existence or absence of free will? And how is this related to “everything is for the good”? First, while we have free will to make the choice of how we move from one decision plane to the other, we are not the creators. And while each decision plane may seem to us as random, it is predesigned to take us in a specific direction of all the real possible directions. Even if the next decision plane is infinite, it doesn’t have to contain all of the options, but just the option that will take us on a journey to the final destination. So we have free will, and we have infinite choices, but there is some force that is directing us (all of us) towards a final destination. And this destination is by definition good. So “everything is for the good”. Not my personal good, not any private personal good, but the good of the destination (by definition).

There are yet more things that can be explained using this theory, such as deja-vus and prophecy, but this letter is getting long so I’ll leave this for next time. As usual, it was very nice writing to you, and as like always, I await your answer, even if by my theory, this will never happen. Or maybe already planned. Who knows…