Religion & Beliefs

“Just L—ing!”

“Just looking.” What is wrong with just looking? Does it harm anyone just to look? I had said that I would blog about evil today, but certain events this week have led me to write about lust instead. One of … Read More

By / June 8, 2007

“Just looking.” What is wrong with just looking? Does it harm anyone just to look? I had said that I would blog about evil today, but certain events this week have led me to write about lust instead. One of those events was pricing a fence for our back yard. Sticker shock! Could a fence be so important that someone could spend three months' salary on one? What did Robert Frost mean by this line: Good fences make good neighbors. (Bonus points if you can recall the name of the poem.)

Is the poem about the irony of meeting your neighbor only when building a wall between you, or is it a metaphor for constructing social fences between people? Social fences make good relationships?

There are several religious Jewish families in our neighborhood. We’re even friendly with some of them. We recently saw some of these Jewish daughters hanging out with some teenage boys who are not Jewish. Normal for a secular teenage girl, unusual for a religious one. Then they were playing some kind of game that kids play. But one of the non-Jewish boys was overheard taunting one of the girls, “You can’t touch me because you’re Jewish!” I’m certain that he didn’t make that up. Good fences…. Maybe he meant good fences as opposed to bad fences. The narrator’s voice comes across as critical of the wall, but acknowledges that his neighbor’s belief in the wall comes from his father – that is, from tradition. He has a tradition that good fences make good neighbors, but he may not know why. Another Jewish fence besides the touching thing is the looking thing. If you have a significant someone in your life, man or woman, how do you feel when he or she looks at other women or men? How would it feel if you were absolutely certain that he or she never had eyes for anyone else?

How do you yourself feel when you're playing the seeker?

That feeling is totally physical. There is nothing spiritual about it. Once, after hearing me say this, some guy challenged me -”Isn’t it possible to look at a woman and just appreciate her beauty without it being sexual?” Well, I guess theoretically, but not practical for 99.9999995 percent of the men out there.
Meaning, there are approximately three dozen men on the entire planet who can pull it off. Judaism says that if you look merely at a woman-who’s-not-your-wife’s little finger in an aroused way, you are objectifying her, which is bad for you. Makes you more of an animal, less of a holy soul. What’s a poor fella to do? Well, he could start by finding a soul mate. And with her channel all of that physical energy into a synergistic spiritual fusion that can only happen when you’ve made a binding commitment to each other. A soul mate isn’t the solution, but she can help. Like any addiction, the surest way out of the wandering eye syndrome is a 12-step method. The first step is to admit you have a problem. So men (and women) should at least be honest. Instead of “just looking” they should say, “Just lusting”. It’s not going to make your partner feel better, but it’s the way to start. Here’s a little exercise you can do: next time you're out there – try counting how many times in one hour you wander after your eyes. Then challenge yourself to go an entire hour without seeking. As usual, please share your results below!

This is my final guest blog of the week. Thank you to Jewcy for inviting me and thank you everyone for welcoming me here. Your comments and feedback have been always interesting, at times uplifting and occasionally moving. I will continue to blog my Friday Table Talk over at my usual space, (if there is enough clamor, maybe the good folks at Jewcy will invite me back some time!) Please stay in touch, and don't forget to check out the book that everyone's talking about.

Wishing you a truly Shabbat Shalom.

PS – Does anyone remember Opus the Penguin?