You don’t always have to finish the job.
This post presents a philosophical idea inspired by the text of today’s Daf. The Daf is one page in the Talmud that tens of thousands of people study each day. I explain the connection to the text in a comment below. My purpose is to show that there are underlying philosophical assumptions in the Talmud that can have great significance for anybody today trying to understand our complex reality.
Imagine being a member of a tribe from centuries ago, where you and your fellow tribespeople invested years in building a long boat that would provide fishing and defense abilities. With around a hundred able-bodied adults in your tribe, you must now carry the boat you’ve just completed for many miles across land to reach the sea. The journey is grueling, and dropping the boat would shatter all the hard work you and your tribe have put into it over the years. At any given time, about thirty people must lift the boat, and there have been several close calls where it almost slipped from their grasp. With a deep sense of concern, you take your turn helping to carry the boat, doing your best to support it as much as possible.
As a member of the tribe, you might not be as young or as strong as many of the others. As just one person, you might think that your effort alone might not make much difference in the grand scheme of things. However, even if you give it your all, if too many others do not contribute as much, the boat might still fail to reach its destination. Despite this, you know that the right thing for you to do is to try your best and hope that many others do the same. In a small tribe where everyone knows everyone, you understand that each person’s contribution can make a difference.
Here’s another story about the same tribe. This time, the tribe has received a serious insult from another tribe, and now all of you must decide whether to respond aggressively, potentially leading to war. However, not responding at all could also result in equally disastrous consequences. With everyone in the tribe arguing about what to do, you are doing your best to persuade your friends to support your suggestion. Even though you have limited influence and are unsure about the right strategy, you understand that in this life and death situation, every voice in the small tribe matters.
Let’s fast forward to today. The tribe has grown to a staggering eight billion people, and the boat about to fall and smash is now just a metaphor. Yet again, there are countless opinions on what must be done, and you find yourself deeply concerned that the path the tribe is taking will only lead to global devastation.
Your only option is to try and impact the discourse, but the question has now become: how many people will actually hear your voice? You turn to YouTube, only to be bombarded by shrill voices with millions of views, many of which are offering the wrong solutions. You understand that it’s logically impossible for each of the eight billion people on this planet to reach a million others with their voice – those numbers you see are the exception, but the algorithm puts those people on top of the list, giving the false impression that they are the rule.
So what should you do? Do you give up and sink into cynicism, or do you realize that you still have the same obligation as you always did – to try your best, to be heard by at least one set of ears other than your own? You know you’re not going to solve the problems alone, nor can you complete the job by yourself. However, you also know that you have no right to pull back and do nothing.
Our minds are adapted for the one hundred person scenario, but we now live in the eight billion reality. It’s essential to use our rational capacity to override our instinctive frustration. The duty to search for a solution that others will accept, to make your voice heard as widely as possible, and to actually contribute to creating as much of the solution as you can, has not diminished.
submitted by /u/eliyah23rd