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A thought inspired by Thursday’s Daf (page) in the Talmud, Nedarim 65

A thought inspired by Thursday’s Daf (page) in the Talmud, Nedarim 65

If your mind is a committee, can your decisions stand the test of time?

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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.

Think of your mind as a whole committee trying to decide what to do. This guy wants to break the deal and that one argues that breaking the deal will ruin your reputation. This member of the committee says we should stick to the diet and that one wants to eat the cake. This one wants to help some poor soul and that one thinks we don’t have the time. Another one chimes in that everybody will say what a nice guy you are if they see you helping him.

So, the committee finally makes a decision. Many members of the committee agreed only very reluctantly. Will the decision hold? Will they all stick to the deal?

Your mind is like that committee – many voices, each with their own desires, where diverse agendas dominate your decisions at different times. As a committee, you try to steer a consistent path that keeps as many members satisfied as possible. Decisions require a lot of back room deals with many compromises. Many members of the committee are in the shadows, with some of the negotiations happening out of sight.

When you finally negotiate a “deal”, is your decision stable and firm?

You see, when some of the players agreed to the deal, they were feeling a little sleepy. When the stimulus is right in front of you, that same player, a part of you like all the others, can suddenly become very activated. Suddenly, the guy who agreed, changes his mind.

You agreed to stick to a diet, but when the cake is right there, the desire wakes up and now one committee member changes its mind. You decided to do the job, but now that the time has come to start, the effort seems too great and some voices resist.

The moment when the cake is right there is the true test of the decision. Now you find out if you really had made the decision or were just fooling yourself.

What prevents us from acting as a unified self, what breaks us apart, is that the activation of different desires becomes extreme when the stimulus become present, vivid and immediate. The more far-seeing members of the committee must firstly call for calm deliberation and secondly, prepare for the storm when it comes.

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