Staying Sane in a Crazy World Preamble: by Rabbi Sherwin Wine
I am a believer.
But I am not a believer in a conventional sense.
I believe that we live in a crazy world, that there is no guarantee that the good will be rewarded and that the wicked will be punished.
I believe that the strength to cope with a crazy world comes from within ourselves, from the undiscovered power we have to look reality in the face and to go on living.
I believe that the best faith is faith in oneself and that the sign of this faith is that we allow our reasoning mind to discipline our action.
I believe that the love of life means the love of reason and the love of beauty.
I believe that staying sane in a crazy world is not easy, but that in the long run, it is the foundation of our survival and self-esteem.
I believe that human dignity comes from the courage to live with reality and to enjoy its challenge.
From the Introduction
This book is also about the importance of courage.
The world that reason points to is often very harsh. Living in the real world is rarely blissful. It features daily frustration of desire and disappointment. Anxiety, stress and painful surprises are regular occurrences. Indifference, rudeness and broken promises are part of the human landscape. Facing the trials of ordinary living requires extraordinary strength and courage.
We humans are prisoners of our imaginations. We can remember the past. We can worry about the future. We know that we are going to die. We are aware of dangers that we can neither see nor hear. The contented animal bliss of living in the now is not really possible, even when we pretend that it is. If most humans choose large doses of fantasy to alleviate the fear, that choice is understandable, even if it is not admirable.
Is it possible to live with the world that reason tells us exists? Is it possible to find happiness in a system of shrinking fantasies? Is it possible to look the real universe in its realistic face and discover that it is still wonderful and exciting?
There is no doubt about it. Realistic living takes courage. Our limitations are real. The immutable past is real. Aging is real. Death is real. Facing up to these realities, accepting them and designing out lives around them is no easy task. It is frightening. Only bravery can provide the bridge between desire and satisfaction.
There are many people who refuse to choose realism because courage is too demanding and too exhausting. They prefer the fantasy world where love and security are ultimately guaranteed. They conjure up a new universe to dispel their fears and resist any attempt to discover that it is an illusion. They believe because they need to believe. And many realists envy their seeming peace of mind.
The real world can allow us the opportunity of happiness. But it can also make us nervous. There are no guarantees. There is so much risk. There are so many choices. And the consequences are so uncertain.
Reason, by itself, is never enough. It can only point to the truth. It cannot give us the will to live with it. Reason needs courage to provide the fuel for happiness. Courage needs reason to chart the path.
This book is about the path of courage. This path requires knowledge, desire, will and persistence. To traverse it successfully is to find a new kind of strength. That strength is the strength of human dignity.
Over the last forty years, as a rabbi and as a founding leader in the movement of Humanistic Judaism, I have encountered many people who have taken this path of rational courage. Some failed along the way. Others inspired me with their bravery. The story of their determination and my own personal experience is contained in the message that follows.