To Life! – Le’ Chaim!

Recent scientific news tell us something our ancestors already knew:  life is precious, life is rare!   On this day of remembrance, let us praise life.  Let us praise the Godly and magical concept of life that brings us all here together: humans and animals and plants.

Let us acknowledge that we are all products of life, first and foremost by smiling at one another!  Today! Smile at your goldfish, at your tomato plant, at your neighbors and at strangers.,

Let us remember kindly those who brought us life, our parents and their parents and their parents.  Let us remember the innocents of all nations and all faiths who perished at the hands of others,

Let us acknowledge our difference of opinions but recognize the miracle of life that unites us all.

To life, Le’ Chaim!

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Where is God?

rnaAs the French singer Serge Gainsbourg once said: “Man created God. The inverse remains to be proven…”  Men invented religion to explain the unexplainable, namely the existence of life on this planet.  One God, several Gods…   Science tells us that life on Earth began with biology about 3.5 billion years ago when non-living organic compounds gave rise to microbial organisms through a process called abiogenesis.  The scientific consensus seems to be that the precursor molecules necessary for this process originated outside of the Earth.

People looking for the existence of God may ask what is God?, what is its power? where is God?  how does it manifest itself? I don’t know the answers to these questions, and I do not believe the ones regularly found in religious writings, except perhaps a symbolic interpretation of the creation presented in Genesis.

To me, the mystery of God lies in the nature of life, and what enables life to live. Three concepts (there may be more) are to me at the heart of this Godly mystery:  The first one is reproduction. Each individual organism exists as the result of reproduction, whether sexual or asexual. It is the nature of the reproductive process and the intelligence contained in each organism that enables every living thing to make a copy or likeness of itself, and thereby provide for the continued existence of its species.  I am an engineer, and I can’t help but think in terms of processes and information, but the idea that any organism would have the knowledge and the wherewithal to carry out a process of reproduction within its species is mind-blowing…

The second concept is that of healing.  Most living organisms are able to sense when they are hurt or attacked and are able to react with a plan to heal themselves. Again, the fact that organisms are able to diagnose themselves (to some degree) and implement a healing mechanism (that may or may not be successful) is also mind-blowing.  Finally, the concept of adaptation is part of the miracle of life.  As organisms compete for resources and reproduce, life has given them the process of adaptation by which they evolve over time and stay alive.

These three intrinsic processes are to me at the heart of the mystery of life.  Is life all about trial and error?  I don’t think so.  Where did the knowledge and the ability to sustain life in this vast, dark and cold universe come from?

Robin Williams, Suicide and Judaism

After the shock of learning of Robin Williams’ passing, my first reaction was anger.  How can a man so loved by others take his own life?  What kind of message does this send to others around the World who may think of doing the same?   I quickly followed that thought with another one.  When my mother first developed the symptoms of Alzheimer, repeating the same questions incessantly, I told my kids: “It is not really her, it is her disease speaking”.   There are studies, some over 100 years old  (for instance Morselli, Enrico Agostino, 1852-1929) that suggest that the suicide rate among Jews in the country where they live is less than that of other faiths.  This has been corroborated by studies in Israel and in other areas. 

The reasons are not obvious. They stem, I believe, from the strong value system that has sustained the Jewish people throughout the last 4,000 years (see my blog on this). The key concept is the  belief in only one God which leads, according to Martin Buber, to a personal relationship between man and God.  This idea of a covenant with God, according to Max Dimont, is what gives the Jewish people the will to survive.

Many Jews (including me) assumed that Robin Williams was a Jew (Jewish Times online) and were therefore doubly shocked to learn about the manner in which he died.  The fact that he is not Jewish does not take any of his genius or the joy that he brought his fans away, but perhaps it would have changed the way he thought about his life.  God has given us free will, but God has also created and given us precious life.

 

See also: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14101-suicide ,  http://www.gallup.com/poll/108625/More-Religious-Countries-Lower-Suicide-Rates.aspxwww.mdpi.com/2077-1444/3/3/725/pdf