Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Curious About Your Intent

A Jewish woman writes:

Okay Mr. Luke Ford...

Chances are likely that either a) your account will regard this email as spam or b) your own eyes--undoubtedly due to dealing with thousands of incoming furious emails daily--will also regard this as spam and you won't bother reading it in any case. But because of a class on midrash & ethics I'm taking and a section we're doing on lashon hara I just read your shocking expose of Gafni--by whom I admit I was also fooled once upon a time. So then I tried to figure out who you are that you could write all this, and I discovered your website and related links, where I found mentions of your next book about rabbis who molest girls.

So here's my question:

What do you get out of all this?

I mean, besides fame and money, the obvious answers, I suppose--

But really, do you get some sort of fulfillment from waving around a red flag, pointing a great big finger and saying, "this one's a liar!" "this one's a rapist!" and so on and so forth? You must have some sort of beef against what you consider to be the "establishment", no? I mean I didn't read your other profiles in full, but are there any--is there anyone--you admire? Are there any you praise? Something must have brought you to Judaism, but now it looks like you're intent on destroying its leaders--and hey, in the Orthodox world, to be quite honest that's pretty much fine with me. And yes, yes, undoubtedly Gafni is a world-class creep and very dangerous to the kind of little girls who were never taught how to take care of themselves, and sure he needs to be exposed, so kol hakavod on that one, I guess. But haven't you noticed something about yourself, that this in particular seems to be your obsession? Especially after your creepy little blog about shaking hands with women, yeesh...I always thought the shomer negiah stuff was beyond idiotic, but I suppose if the majority of men are as ridiculous about these things as you are about that then clearly I need to think twice before I offer to shake hands with another man. But surely not all men are like that, and possibly, you know, the shomer negiah thing and the obsession with molesters is, well, related...and a little...well...taking things further than they need to go? You think?

I'm just curious about what you think you're really after here.

I reply:

I get emails like yours all the time.

I can't expect most people to know about the economics of book publishing, but there are a thousands things I could do that would make more money (work at McDonalds) or gain more fame (write about other topics etc).

The reason to write this (same reason for my other books) is that it is an important matter that nobody else is doing adequately. It is an important and compelling topic that I can do well and contribute to the world and to the Jewish community. That leaves me with a deep unshakeable sense of leading a meaningful life (that comes from doing what you do well in a way that is a blessing to others).

As for my own psychology, that is between me and my friends and my shrink and my rabbi etc.

As for my general motivation to create and to make laughter, I do what I do the best I can and know that some people will understand and appreciate it. I do not write to gain general approval. I write for the narrow audience that gets my work, and I do not worry about the 90% who do not.

When you have to explain humor, it ceases to be funny. You either get it or you don't. I'm not going to write in crayon with different colors to distinguish satire from straight reportage. You should not read a phone bill the same way you read a love letter. You have to have some literary sensitivity to different forms of writing.

Regarding people and institutions I adore, I've written about them in depth.

Regarding lashon hara, Judaism's sacred texts have no problem with holding Jewish leaders accountable for their behavior. "Thou art the man!"

When you expose misdeeds, you get heat from the narrow group of people affected negatively (as well as from people who have a kneejerk response to anything that is hurtful or smacks of gossip), but you rarely hear from the majority of people who are wiser and better informed because of your work (because they have no incentive to thank you because they don't think about who brought them the information, but those affected adversely have every incentive to complain).

Cheers, Luke

PS The deepest things I am after in life I am not likely to disclose to a stranger.