Thursday, August 04, 2005

It begins... again

The first question that must be answered by any blogger (or indeed, any author or speaker) is why. What is the purpose of my taking the time to write my thoughts? Does this purpose involve a desire for me to share my thoughts to other people? If so, what is the desired purpose that I hope to achieve by sharing my thoughts with other people?

This is my third attempt at blogging. My first was an online notebook that I used to give mussar to myself for any of my failures during the day (in addition to making note of any successes as a means of positive reinforcement). My second was an online notebook that I used to record Torah-related thoughts so that I would more easily remember them. As for this one... I'm not sure yet, but allow me to explain what spurred me to create this blog.

The name of this, my newest foray into the blogosphere, is HaProzdor, a Hebrew word defined as any of lobby, antechamber, or hallway. After graduating college a year ago, I began doing research at a lab in a university. One of the characteristics of research (especially the "wet" type) is that it often involves a lot of waiting - waiting for solutions to heat up, waiting for reactions to run, and so forth. In the ideal situation, it is possible to overlay periods of inactivity in one area with periods of activity in another; sometimes it is not. Over the course of the year, therefore, I have had time to think about the value of time and the methods of converting this potential value to actual value. Certain activities have a positive value, in that they result in some sort of tangible benefit. Others may have a lesser positive value, or a nil value, or even a negative value.

In Pirkei Avos, two words are used to describe the final judgement to which all human beings are subjected: "din" and "cheshbon". The first, literally meaning "judgement", is explained to be a simply tally of one's credits and demerits. Expressed simply, if one does a mitzvah, he or she receives a plus; if one does a sin, he or she receives a minus. The latter term, meaning "accounting" is a more complex calculation. One's score in the cheshbon is not only a function of what one does or does not do, but also of what one could have done. If one learns for an hour and spends an hour doing an arbitrary activity of nil value, he receives reward for that hour, but if he had the opportunity and ability to learn for the two full hours, he loses credit in his cheshbon. If one, for whatever reason, could not have been expected to learn for any more than one-and-a-half of those two hours, he is penalized less than the first person would be. Granted, this is a vast oversimplification of the concepts, but with that in mind, it expresses my point clearly.

One of the primary reasons why I created my first two blogs was actually with this in mind. The first time, I created a blog to improve my cheshbon indirectly, by being more aware of it. The second time, I created a blog to affect my cheshbon. Even when I could not move myself to engage in some worthwhile activity, if I could at least write about engaging in worthwhile activities, I could perhaps glean value in that manner. This blog is somewhat similar to the second, although perhaps a bit broader in scope, and therefore also vaguely analogous to the first. Rather than just thinking thoughts that I hope are of value, perhaps by writing them down I can better integrate them into my life.

Welcome to the antechamber. I can't guarantee that anything interesting will be going on here, but if you'd like to sit and wait, also, you're welcome to.


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