I am major gullible. Tell me something, I will believe you.
After being made a fool of on more than one occasion, I decided to develop some street smarts. Not easy, when one's inclinations are toward the bookish, but I've tried to perfect my "Yeah, sure" accompanied by an eye roll.
But when I read Frank Bruni's article on the mind-boggling potential of humankind's ability to devolve into sheep (and mean sheep at that), I began to strut my jaded stuff. Where it matters, it seems, I am willing to ask the necessary questions.
I guess I have BY to blame for that.
"Ta, you want to hear what I learned today?"
"OK, let's hear."
Five minutes pass . . .
"That's not right. What the meforash actually says . . ."
After ten episodes of that, I automatically mentally dissect any morah-derived tale on the basis of "Does this make sense?"
When did I stop being gullible? I haven't. Yet I am amazed at how many shiurim I attend where the women make "ooh, ah" noises for the flimsiest of concepts.
. . . the human capacity for credulousness, along with obedience.
As Jews, there is definitely a measure of blind faith. But it does not mean that whatever someone says about our religion is automatically correct.
People routinely buy into outlandish claims that calm particular anxieties, fill given needs or affirm preferred worldviews . . .
It seems all too often "they said so" is considered valid explanation enough for a major life choice. But free will is considered to be a major cornerstone of our belief; it must mean we should implement it every once in a while.
People also routinely elect trust over skepticism because it’s easier, more convenient. . . . People nonetheless accepted them because the alternative meant confronting outright mendacity from otherwise respected authorities, trading the calm of certainty for the disquiet of doubt, or potentially hunkering down to the hard work of muddling through the elusive truth of things. Better simply to be told what’s what . . . It’s infinitely more efficient to follow a chosen leader and walk in lock step with a chosen tribe.
Even in our world, our choices can make us feel, at times, like an outsider. But isn't siding with one's convictions preferable than baa-ing along with the masses?
. . . once a person has decided to believe you, he or she is more likely to continue to, because to rebel at a late juncture is to admit that you’ve been duped all along.
Acknowledging having taken the wrong fork shows great strength, not great weakness. But there are many who refuse to admit their misstep. Sticking to that wrong path rarely means meeting up with the ideal road; chances are that it'll be the bog instead.
His article concludes with a quote from the film "Compliance": “It never occurred to you to think twice?”
Our sechel is one of the greatest gifts from God. Why not use it?