Wednesday, January 07, 2009
[without discipline, nothing is possible]
I think that we all recognize that self-discipline is something crucial for a successful life. The question is, however, how to obtain it.
A recent article in the New York Times points out that religious people are on the average more disciplined than secular people.
I have also noticed that people who suffer from severe addiction disorders, such as alcohol and drugs, are seldom if ever able to recover unless they seriously embrace monotheism. The Twelve Steps meetings have basically reinvented church while rehab centers have reinvented the monastery. Among Orthodox Jews, addiction disorders are very rare. I am aware of only two Sabbath observant residential rehabilitation facilities in the United States - Chabad Residential Treatment Center For Men in Los Angeles, California and Yatzkan Center in Brooklyn, NY for addicted teenage boys age 14-17. Both these centers seem to be very small and serve non-Orthodox as well as Orthodox. When I called, Chabad told me that they have 35 beds and accept non-Jewish patients as well. Over 1.46 million drivers were arrested in 2006 for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. This is an arrest rate of 1 for every 139 licensed drivers in the United States. I am not aware of any Orthodox Jew ever having been arrested for driving while intoxicated, although proportionally it should be about 1,000 annually.
I personally have found that Judaism is a hugely effective tool for maintaining self-control – for doing in practice what I know mentally is the best thing. For example, making vows can be very powerful. Each week I can read a list of vows along the lines of:
The following fast days will be obligatory only if I definitely and knowingly require myself to observe them, and I am aware that I am required to observe them an hour after having fulfilled the conditions needed to require the fast.
I hereby accept upon myself that if later this week or next week I knowingly unblock any webpage from ContentProtect software I will be required to fast 1 day during this month of --------- or next month of -----------.
Conversely, I believe that people who leave Orthodoxy generally have a very low level of self control and self discipline. Yossi, the main subject of Hella Winston’s book Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels, is 25 years old. He is divorced, has no children, no job, no secular education, he drinks heavily and he lives with his grandmother. I have so far yet to come across someone who has left Orthodoxy in recent years and afterwards achieved the “American Dream” of a good job, a house, a car and a stable family life.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 1:09 PM