It’s A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad World

“Oh, it’s just such a beautiful world, isn’t it?”

There are a group of shiny, glowing, blond people that want us to believe this line. They want us to look at the world, to look at the trees and the stars and see how great and amazing everything is.

I used to be one of those people, although I wasn’t quite that shiny and glowing. Sweating a bit, which helped me glow, I guess. But for the most part, I just really wanted to listen to the glowing, shiny people.

They’re the type of people that try to tell us that everyone has some good in them, that if we look deep enough, we can see how glorious every freaking soul is, and that at the end of the day, we all deserve kisses and ice creams just for existing.

Then I became religious.

And slowly, slowly my mind started to shift.

See, there’s this thing about looking at things like a Jew, rather than the happy blond people of the world. A Jew’s state of mind is naturally dark. Look at Woody Allen. Look at Larry David. These aren’t people that we consider to be Jewish in a religious sense, but they exude “Jewishness”. And that Jewishness is dark. It’s pessimistic.

woody allen

I fought it for a while, mind you. I would learn that we are living in “Galut” the time before anything good is happening, and I would get all itchy. But what about all the nice people I know, what about how perfect the world is?

But the more I thought about it the more clear it became.

See, when you live in the north suburbs of Chicago, where everyone has some money and there aren’t so many real problems, it’s easy to think that maybe the world is good. Even if you got bullied like me. Those bullies had souls, didn’t they?

But when I got out of my first world bubble a bit, and started to really look at the world, things didn’t look so good, really. I noticed the people starving in Africa. Oh and in Asia. Oh and in the Middle East. And in New York. And everywhere, basically.

Oh and then I thought about the people blowing up buses in Israel.

And then I realized that even the first world isn’t so great. I started reading about how the bankers have been using our economy as their own piggy bank and how nothing has gotten better since the recession. I started realizing that our leaders have gone down the drain.

And I realized that the Jews, far from being safe since World War II, are continually being put in more danger. Let’s not get into the details, but if you’ve been paying attention to the world, you know what’s going down.

Once I started to embrace it, it became impossible to ignore.

The world is a horrible, ugly, disgusting place.

Not only that, it’s getting worse. Every step the world takes towards the future is a step downwards. In a physical sense we are slowing improving, but in a spiritual and moral sense, things are just plain getting ugly.

Now, you would think these sorts of realizations would make a person go into a tail dive into depression. And, I’ll level with you, at first it was hard to see, especially when I started to realize that this level of degradation wasn’t reserved to the secular world, but actually applied even more strongly to the religious Jewish world. A world that, to a baal teshuva, can seem inviting and beautiful at first, but quickly shows its true colors once one digs deeper.

So yeah, it was tough.

But the more it became internalized, and the more I learned about Galut through Chassidus, something in me started to slowly click.

All of a sudden, I was starting to have this positive view of the world. Well, not the world, but my experiences within it.

Why?

Well, here’s the deal. Have you ever been in a situation you found totally grim? Like, you were low on money, or you lived in a place you hated? Something special happens in situations like that. Rather than trying to fool ourselves into believing that life is okay, that we have money, that we can afford that fancy dinner, we accept our situation, and learn to manage it. In other words, instead of overspending our little bit of money, we learn how to live a happy life within that darkness.

This is what happens when someone accepts that the world is dark. Rather than causing depression, it actually leads to a happy life.

See, there are people out there that want to believe that everyone is good. These people are tricked and manipulated more often than not. One only has to look at the way people trust everything the UN says, or believe that the Palestinian leadership is some sort of partner for peace to see the incredible danger one can be put in when one trusts evil.

No, friends. We live in Galut. We live in the dark depths of a crappy world that’s nowhere near it should be. And when we accept that, we can use that information to make ourselves stronger. Not just to make ourselves stronger but to be able to separate the evil from the good, to see the sparks of light within the black sea of this miserable world.

And as we do that, as pick up those sparks, look at them and embrace them, we can share them with a world that so very dearly wants itself to be good. We can say, “Hey, the world may not be good, but lets you and me take this spark and use it to light up the other parts of the world that have the potential to be lit up. Let’s you and me turn the world into the vision we have for it.”

And soon enough, dear reader, it will happen.

  • Rebecca Klempner

    I’m usually just a lurker here on Pop Chassid, but I had to say something this time.

    Yes, the world we see is a dark place. Yes, there is crime, genocide, anger, immorality, manipulation, pettiness, cruelty, ugliness, materialistic–I could go on, but I won’t.

    The problem is that what I just described–what you described above–is just that: the world we see. According to our tradition, the world we see is neither the whole story, nor is it lasting. Human beings are more than their small, inappropriate actions–they are neshamos trapped inside yearning to show themselves. The events that devastate us today are part of Hashem’s larger picture of redemption.

    The yetzer hara wants us to equate all the ugliness and evil that surrounds us with the whole picture, and to be distracted from seeing that inner goodness. As you say in your post, we have to collect the sparks of Godliness. The whole point is that they ARE there.

    There’s a flip side to the nastiness of Galus. It helps you focus on the goal. It’s easier to yearn for Moshiach when people shoot small children or blow themselves up in shopping malls than when we are sitting in a big house with a full stomach surrounded by happy healthy children and have no troubles at all. It’s easier to find some chessed to do in order to achieve that goal, too.

    I think it’s important to realize the world isn’t a pretty place full of bunnies and ice cream and fields of flowers and nothing remotely scary or bad. There’s a lot we want to protect ourselves and our children from. But I think it’s a mistake to see only the bad, just like it’s a mistake to see only the good. Hashem wants us to appreciate beauty in His world (He gave us brachos for scents and tasty food and even seeing majestic things like oceans, lightning, and unusual animals), and he wants us to beautify is still more through collecting the sparks.

    • Hi Rebecca.

      Just so you know, one of my best feelings as a blogger is when one of the “lurkers” comes out of the woodwork to comment. Usually the lurkers are the ones who have the deepest things to say, in my experience.

      I totally hear what you’re saying, just so you know, and I think it’s 100% true. And I hope that the post didn’t come off as saying that we should only see the bad. In fact, it was awesome to hear another positive side of Galus. I think that’s actually the point of my post, in the end. The more we accept Galus the more we see those positive aspects to it.

      I also want to add that I still believe the world is beautiful, even now, but as you said, I think it’s important to acknowledge that the shallow level of the world, the obvious level, is MEANT to be dark and horrible. When we see that, we can see the actual light that exists beneath the surface.

  • BirdieWaters

    …just spent about 15 minutes gathering my thoughts and commenting to this post, but when I logged in, it deleted the entire thing : / For what it’s worth, I found this post amazing. It hits me right where I’m at with such synchronicity. Wow. Thanks for sharing your inspiration.

    Kol tuv

    • Oh man, wish I could have seen it 🙁

      I’m so glad you liked the post. I was worried it might be seen as overly negative, so I’m happy you see the real message in it. Maybe sometime you could give me an idea of what you wrote.

      • BirdieWaters

        Well it’s morning now so I have a little more energy and time so I’ll take a crack at it again. I was nervous at the outset, wondering how far you’d take the reality of “reality” in your post, but you did not disappoint! Instead you knocked it out of the park. In my life I’ve had two major paradigm shifts and in the last two months, I’ve gone through another which is why I’m able to look at what you wrote and see what you mean so vividly where I wouldn’t have 6 months ago.

        4 years ago I was 35 and in a settled place in my life (kids in school, able to stay at home, more maturity etc…) where there was free time for researching and learning. Call me a late bloomer, but it wasn’t until then that I saw the utter corruption that has always permeated this country & the world. You’d think I’d gone to public school all my life lol So I was learning about the big banks, the voter fraud, the military industrial complex, the UN, et al. When I found out about all that corruption going on right under my nose since “forever”, I decided I’d get to the bottom of it so as to never have the wool pulled over my eyes again. “If the powers that be are going to be corrupt, they’re not going to do it secretly!”, I thought. So I studied history, I studied politics, world events all the while talking and talking and talking about it to anyone who’d listen because you *know* that you MUST WAKE PEOPLE UP! Wake those sleeping sheep! lol 4 years of that, thinking it would be advantageous. So then I realized it wasn’t. Not in the way I was going about it.

        Then I began delving into biology and physics…quantum mechanics, digital physics, that sort of thing, in the same way I’d poured myself into the other reality. Wow. What a change. I started out with a video lecture I “stumbled upon” : ) at Torah Cafe. It was about the double slit and schrodinger’s cat and his theory of how it related to Creation. I was an unstoppable researcher once again, but on a different course, barukh HaShem!

        Turns out scientists on the leading edge are coming to realizations about the way HaShem created us – beings with powerful, creative minds. Their findings are confirming many concepts we’ve read in the Tanakh…also overlapping ideas found in other ancient writings of the nations (little wonder since we’re all from the same source). Science confirming spirituality. We have amazing creative capacities and science is just now beginning to admit that the conscious mind is vast, unexplored, powerful frontier that, so it seems, ancient wisdom was right all along – whaddya know? : )

        That said, concenring this contrast you mention in your post, you said said “We live in Galut. We live in the dark depths of a crappy world that’s nowhere near it should be. And when we accept that, we can use that information to make ourselves stronger.”

        How profoundly accurate!!! It’s paramount/fundamental that we see reality as it is (not advocating studying the bad under a microscope for 4 years tho’ lol). We must have choice and contrast in order to evolve. If we see what we don’t want, then, all the more, we are able to formulate thoughts and speak about what we DO want in order to bring that into reality.There must be a realization of contrast first. I understand the reservations of a few comments I read, but you didn’t say we should stand there staring at the ugliness forever. Indeed we shouldn’t! You moved brilliantly past it rather than skipping over that vital step.

        We have to use the evil and dis-ease that exists in the world for what it is – a catalyst propelling us onward & upward. If we don’t, we continue to stare at and react only to “what is” at the moment which does nothing but create more of the same.

        We then begin to place our focus on the good. thinking of it, talking about it and looking for more of it, then we have the ability to create THAT world. It’s as if it draws itself toward us – whatever it is we’re choosing. We all create the world we live in (obviously), even if we don’t realize the creative power and responsibility we have built in.

        In Mishlei 15 it’s written “The heart of him that hath discernment seeketh knowledge; but the mouth of fools feedeth on folly.” Is our mouth feeding on folly when we think on and speak about folly constantly, whether it be current events or past? It’s not about denying reality or the past either. It’s deciding what thought and word serves you and humanity most and choosing that. It’s moving toward or away from what we desire by our thoughts, emotions, speech and actions. That would mean that we’ve got no one to blame but ourselves for what surrounds us. It would also mean that we’re no one’s victim. Quite empowering and sobering. We’re made in HaShem’s image. He is the Creator who created with His “words”.

        In Kohelet we’re told to cast our bread on the water and after many days, we will find it. Suppose we cast our thoughts/focus/words many days on the negative around us. What will we find after many days? More of the same? What if we do the opposite instead…the way you did here?

        In Mishlei 15 it also says ” All the days of the poor are evil; but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.” This is neither a prolonged focus on evil nor a denial of reality, but a choice to create differently. Most people in the world just don’t realize they have the choice which made your post all the more brilliant. They simply keep reacting to what’s behind them or before them rather than being an active creator of what they do want. When he speaks of the merry heart having a continual feast, it’s poetic, but perhaps more literal than we realized. Check in to neuropeptides and stress…very interesting. You put it similarly “This is what happens when someone accepts that the world is dark. Rather
        than causing depression, it actually leads to a happy life.”
        It leads to it only if we know we can play an active role in it. We’re all the more merry when we see both sides, focus on the good and have enormous appreciation for it while we’re on our way to the better manifestation. It’s akin to a perpetual motion machine, one in which we determine the direction.

        You said so well, “…lets you and me take this spark and use it to light up the other parts of the world that have the potential to be lit up. Let’s you and
        me turn the world into the vision we have for it. And soon enough, dear reader, it will happen.”

        Now THAT get’s me excited!! You’ve looked at the contrast, chosen the good and are setting out on the journey (with hope and appreciation) towards the manifestation of the vision you see. I don’t know that it gets any better than that.

        Again thank you for this post. It was my great pleasure to read it and it will continue to be my great pleasure to join with you in the journey.

        L’shalom!

        • Wow, Birdie, thank you so much for this. Very deeply thought and expressed. It’s always a pleasure to read such reflection on my blog, and I hope to see more comments from you in the future.

          As for specifically what you said, I think it’s awesome. I think the point about contrast is essential. That’s what it comes down to. While many other religions, especially Eastern ones, tend to focus only on the oneness of the world, Judaism accepts that oneness but still constantly reminds us that on a shallower level we are in a world of division. It’s why we separate Shabbat from the rest of the week, why we pray about separation regularly, and more. All about the contrast.

          Anyway, loved loved loved your comment and looking forward to continuing to hear from you.

          • BirdieWaters

            Thanks. I appreciate the opportunity to read your posts. Here’s to contrast and low entropy : )

  • I discuss briefly how Chassidus looks at the world here:

    The Hebrew word for world, olam, is etymologically related to the word he’elem, concealment, for the nature of the world is to conceal the reality of G–dliness.[1] The reason for this is that the world receives its sustenance from the spiritual energy of Kelipah, lit. “a shell,” i.e., a force that conceals the true reality of G–dliness.

    Our world is “a world of physicality and gross coarseness. It is the lowest of all levels; nothing is lower than it in terms of the concealment of Hashem’s light, and the doubled and redoubled darkness within it. [This spiritual darkness is so intense that] it is filled with forces of Kelipah and of ‘the other side’ that are totally against Hashem and that say ‘I exist, and nothing else exists but me.’”[2]

    This also plays itself out in human experience. Since the Kelipah in this world is the “dregs of the coarse Kelipos … all the events of this world are difficult and evil, and the wicked prevail in it.”[3] (It is no wonder then that the soul only enters the body “against its will”[4]!) Thus, we are warned, “All paths [in this world] should be presumed dangerous,”[5] which Chassidus interprets to refer to the constant spiritual tests that the Jew faces.[6] This necessitates a constant, daily struggle, lest this atmosphere harm the Jew.[7]

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  • Luke

    Hello, Please let me say a few things about this subject, if I could please have your attention for a few minutes. When trying to understand the bigger pictures, like the state of the world, it is very helpful and beneficial to read what the Bible says, rather than letting ourselves become fanatical in our own personal opinions. Regarding the subject of why the world is so bad, the Bible says this:
    “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19.)
    This means there is a “wicked one” who has power, or influence over this world. Here’s what the book of Revelation says about this subject:
    “Down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth; he was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him.” (Rev 12:9).
    So, the Bible shows us that the whole world is being misled by that “wicked one”. This is the Bible’s explanation of why the world is so bad.
    The book of Daniel shows us that the above scripture happened in 1914. (There is a mathematical calculation).
    1914 is the beginning of “the last days”.
    Revelation 12:12 says “Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.” So we know that this terrible world only has a short time left. The suffering will not go on forever. The book of Revelation (the last book of the Bible) goes on to say this:
    “God himself will be with them.  And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:4).
    The Earth will be restored to the paradise it was before Adam allowed himself to be misled by “the wicked one”.
    The Bible also shows us what we need to do to survive the “Great Tribulation” which is about to start, and to receive everlasting life in that new world.
    If you would like to know more about what the Bible says, you are very welcome to contact me; or you could go to jw.org .

    Thanks for your attention.

  • jess

    Great article thanks for writing 🙂

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  • Talya

    Your gutsy. And it’s so true. To fix this world you have to face the truth. Which is hard. And recently, I did! To a full extent. I still try and ignore it, because I’m extremely sensitive. And the reason is, I know exactly what is out there. I cry if I know something bad happened to someone, even if I wasn’t there. Being there wouldn’t make me realize anything. Because I know how bad it is. And that’s why I’m so strong, and I am ready to help the world. So thank you.

  • Adnan

    I did not know about this platform until tonight, nor am I jewish, so I am not sure about some of the terms used here.

    But, when I typed in, ‘realizing the world is a dark place,’ in Google, this came up on the top. 🙂

    And, I like the direction it provides. The author’s introspection is helpful sorting my own.

    Thank you!

    Regards,

  • James Moore

    Feel like this article should be called ‘Israeli Nationalism FTW, Palestinians are devils’. It literally just looks like an opportunity to rant about Palestine while masking it with something else.

    On a side note, you wouldn’t like it either if a bunch of losers went over and took over your country. Don’t expect them to be welcoming you in and offering up their land and their rights to Israel.

  • actionjackson

    I’m not Jewish, so excuse me if I misinterpret or step on feet or cultures, but what I am is severely depressed. Everyday waking for me is fearing my mind pushing me closer and closer to the permanent solution. From the refugee crisis, to racism in my country, to classism and corporate greed destroying the world.

    This gave me perspective. I always thought people were struggling too hard to paint everything as perfect and shiny. These people always correlated with where they were in life. These people had me struggling to balance living life in a first world country (at a deficit as a person dancing along the edge of poverty and as a minority) and my real crippling feelings I had for my fellow humans overseas that are experiencing atrocities I can’t even imagine outside of how I shudder at the thought of it happening, let alone what it could have meant to me.

    I’m intrigued by this “Galus” concept. I think this world is in that precursor state as people realize the shortcuts to life imbued in us by older generations, the shortcuts to understanding, relating, and living with other people, are what has caused this world to be the level of ugly it is. This helped to remind me that mankind’s biggest issue is and always will be mankind, and that mankind isn’t this immortal unstoppable unchanging unflinching omnipresent machination.

    I will continue to try and convince myself that using my dim light to light up random corners for whomever I can when I get the ability to do so. At the very least I will die smirking that this world things it can kill off good, as good keeps on coming.

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  • Adbhut Utkarsh

    Wow, even I think this all, and I have started to think about all this few years back. Even I sometimes think the world is a terrible place, of course it is, there are many good things also, but actually it’s us humans who are terrible. Not all, there are still those good hearted people living, but if we compare them to the number of bad ones, then the good ones are defeated. The way we are developing our world is just creating a better lifestyle for us, but the Earth is constantly getting tortured. If we continue like this and make everything worse. Mark my words, currently it’s the animals who are endangered and being extinct, in the next 50 years or even the next 20 years and so on, it would be us on the list. And the Earth too.

  • Jake Mcjones

    I figured this out already. The reason why the world is bad is because people don’t teach wisdom, kindness, humbleness, respect, loyalty, and these kinds of values. Instead people are all programmed by tv and music to believe that in order to be happy you have to be a stuck up egotistical person in order to gather material possessions which are supposed to make you happy but in the end you find out that you’re still empty. The happiness of the world is a good person, a person that can make you feel valued, that’s the best thing we can have. The truth is that we all need each other or else we would be lonely. We need love, affection, friendship, companionship, and to be with others but since we are not taught to love, appreciate, respect, and value one another then we don’t try our best to be kind to one another. Ignorance is what is destroying this world and it’s the ignorance of not knowing how to be satisfied, truthful, honest, honorable, thoughtful, considerate of others. If we want this to be a peaceful and kind world then we must pour all of our passion into being peaceful people and stop promoting violence, over sexualization which causes so many problems in society like to many foster children and abortions, too much alcohol and drug abuse which cause people to act different, and stopen with the materialism already. Education, logic, thinking, learning, improving, and progressing is what we should be focused on not the way our hair looks or how young we are because we are all going to get old so use this existence to make a positive difference!!! I hope this helped 😉

  • Rover

    This is not meant to be a racist comment, but its something I wonder about.
    1.] The worst people in the world are Bankers. I think everyone agrees on that. For instance over 100 million people fell below the poverty line the last time the banks were bailed out in 2010. Which basically means they are poorer and have a shorter life expectancy.
    The Banks are responsible for so much evil its untrue. Lets take that at face value and then ask;

    Why are they all Jewish? The Rothschilds, rockefellers, Soros etc…….These people rule the world.

    Is it because unlike Christians, the Jews dont believe in a fire and brimstone hell? Or even punishment?

    Serious question………