A young man once went to the home of an older Chassid. He knocked on the door but nobody answered. He knocked again; he came back- tried repeatedly- until finally the older Chassid answered the door. And the young man said: “I came to get instruction to be taught how to be a mentsch. Teach me how to be a mentsch”. The older Chassid replied “the lesson has already begun. I didn’t let you in when I didn’t want you to come in, and I do let you in when I want you to come in. A mentsch can bring in what he wants and leave out what he doesn’t want. A mentsch is not a victim of his environment”.
Roses are red
Violets are blue
But beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
Round is round
Square is square
But beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
Why? What is beauty? What makes it so different? (I know… we’re talking about intimacy. I’m getting to it…)
Beauty is the result of harmony. Harmony is the absence of conflict. When you have two colors and they blend nicely, you have a beautiful shade of color. Red alone is red. Yellow alone is yellow. To become beautiful, the two have to mix. But if they mix badly, if they clash, the result will be ugliness.
If the colors blend pleasantly you have beauty. But the beauty is not a thing you can point to. You still have only the two colors, red and yellow, no new ingredient has been introduced. The beauty is what you don’t see, namely, conflict. The red is not arrogant, demanding all the attention. Nor is the yellow. They leave room for each other. They absorb each other. It is that humility that is beautiful. But how do we see humility? We see the absence of conflict; we see what is not: nothing comes between them and that pleases the eye.
Holiness is like that, too. It is not something you can see; it is the absence of conflict. It is holy because of what it doesn’t have – duality.
Now to intimacy. When two people can remove all possible obstructions between them; when nothing at all gets between them; when they have a connection that is not dependent on any thing – that is intimacy.
Love can come from having many things in common, but intimacy is much more than love. Intimacy is more sacred, more pure, more dangerous and it can make babies!
The baby is not produced by some things alone – just some stuff contributed my mother and father. Babies are made by what is absent between them – duality. “And they shall become one flesh”. Remove all things that separate one person from another. They become one. That which allows such oneness can also produce a child.
So here’s the thing: Intimacy that is motivated by the desire for conquest is not the real thing. Conquest is a thing that comes between them. Sexual pleasure is also a thing that can come between man and wife. Ask your grandmother, “What do husband and wife do behind closed doors?” and she says, “Nothing.” Do you think she’s lying or not willing to tell you? She is telling you the truth. ‘No-thing’ is the perfect description of intimacy. If they were doing ‘some-thing’ it would no longer be intimate.
So, you see, ‘no-thing’ really is everything.
In a materialistic society, it is hard to relate to what is not a thing. We don’t understand G-d, beauty, holiness or intimacy because we are busy looking for the thing. But enough already…
Holiness is a state of harmony; oneness. Duality is unholy. Divisiveness is evil. Fragmentation is dead. Holiness has a cadence. So does life. The parts of life all flow together in harmony creating a seamless and therefore pleasant experience.
Sophistication has brought ruin to life. Because we are sophisticated we think physical contact between man and women is just polite (a hand shake) and not sexual. We also think sex need not be intimate (or meaningful), but that it can be casual; exploratory; recreational. We also think intimacy need not mean marriage: a meaningful relationship doesn’t have to be permanent. We then think marriage need not be a family; (married with children or married without children.) So, touch is not sexual, sex is not intimate, intimacy is not marriage, marriage is not children. Like pearls without a string, the precious parts of life never become a necklace; they don’t hang together.
But wait! There is more.
If touch is not sex, sex is not intimate, intimate is not marriage and marriage is not children, then… children doesn’t mean marriage and marriage doesn’t mean intimate. You can have a child without marriage and you can have a child without being intimate. But what kind of child can this create? A cute little thing that will resent you, hate itself and be bent on self destruction?
Holiness is life; cadence. Un-holiness is de-cadence! It breaks the rhythm; life decomposes into a series of good feelings. Moments of pleasure, not one of which ever reaches critical mass and together do not produce life. Soon they lose pleasure and become empty rituals with only a memory of joy, what follows is ennui, despair, Prozac, etc. To regain life, find the sanctity. Find the thread that brings it all together; the whole that is greater then the sum of its parts. That which is not a thing, that which turns things into life. It’s called intimacy. But enough already…
Women have many fears. Men fear nothing.
This is not to imply that men are fearless – not so! Men have one great fear, and what they fear is nothing – because man comes from nothing. Man was created from nothing (dust) and will return to nothing (dust.) Thus, man’s primal memory is of nothingness. G-d fashioned man out of earth and breathed into him a life – man existed before he lived – this memory of nothingness haunts man all his life and make him desperate to prove that he is something.
Men have a more fragile ego which they hope to hide with their machismo. To a man, every slight or criticism suggests that he is, in the end, really nothing. That hurts. Man is afraid of his own annihilation; women have no such fear.
Woman was created from a living man. Her primal memory is of being a man. Crush a woman’s spirit and she will revert to primordial state by losing her identity in some guy. She will become him. Crush a man and he will become a nothing.
Treat a man like dirt and he is frightened. Treat a woman like dirt and she is indignant.
Man needs to go from zero to one and always worries whether he made it. Woman needs to go from one to ten; for her zero is not in the equation.
When Hillel told the man on one foot “That which is hateful to you do not do unto to others” he was referring to ‘that’ thing which all men hate – being reminded of their nothingness.
Men spend their lives trying to prove themselves. Wealth, power, fame, women. Whatever goes from zero to sixty, but none of it works.
The most accomplished men have not rid themselves of this demon. One misstep, one criticism can cause annihilation. The most powerful men are often the most paranoid.
Now we know why men are not comfortable with what s not: “It’s not about you” or “its not what you have that counts” or “ask not…” or “Thou shalt not”.
Men just don’t like what is not. It suggests nothingness. In fact, men don’t even like ‘no.’ Being told ‘no’ destroys a man because he hears ‘no-thing’ and he must protect himself from annihilation. (A woman should never be in a position where she has to say ‘no’ to a man she likes.)
But… however… on the other hand… conversely, should a man accept his nothingness and make peace with the fact, he will free himself of his demon. Humility for a man is life-giving: “If in fact I am nothing and it is not about me, then whom shall I serve? What good shall I do? I am available. Send me. “Hineini!”
Hineini means, “I have resolved my obsession with survival, I have disarmed my ghost that haunts men and I am not longer distracted. So what do you need?”
Whereas women are capable of nurturing by nature – “I am something, I don’t need to ‘become’, so if someone does need I can help” – men can become nurturers if and when they become comfortable with their insignificance. This leads us to another subject: intimacy. But enough already….