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A thought inspired by Tuesday’s Daf (page) in the Talmud, Gittin 42

A thought inspired by Tuesday’s Daf (page) in the Talmud, Gittin 42

It doesn’t happen till you notice it.

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.

Often, things happen to us and we don’t pay attention or take notice. It’s as if we’re not really there.

Has it ever happened to you that you come home hungry and mentally exhausted? You make a simple but wholesome meal, and you sit down to watch something while you’re eating it. Even for simple food, eating when you’re hungry is normally accompanied by fantastic feelings and emotions, but as the moving images and sounds capture all your attention, you suddenly look down at your plate, and it is empty. You missed the entire episode; it is as if it were not you who ate the meal.

Our bodies and large sections of our minds are capable of working without supervision; we can perform many tasks automatically.

In other examples, complex and demanding tasks or highly stimulating activities sometimes consume all of our attention. In those cases, we are indeed paying attention, but the mission and goal use our brain as a computing device that is not aware of a “self”, a human mind that is also theoretically present. The mind is solely occupied by external objects and calculations – it might as well be an unconscious computer.

Lack of attention and awareness of our “self” or the humanity of others can also operate on longer time scales. Sometimes we are paying attention, but every day seems so similar to the last, and we fall into routines so that the days just seem to pass by. Our core relationships are taken for granted, and the years fly by, and before we notice, our children, partner, or parents grow up or grow old.

If you weren’t there, it didn’t happen. Objectively, yes, some machine that looks like you might have been present, but subjectively there is no record and it ever happened.

It is as if we are given a choice about all those elements in life that seem to happen voluntarily or involuntarily. For every moment in our life, we can choose to register and accept it or ignore it. Our life consists only of the content we registered at the time.

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Source: Reditt