Friday, February 24, 2012

Independent Study Update & Tidbits

Yesterday I was able to meet with Prof. Fox regarding my independent study/Jewish Studies capstone, and now I officially have a focus for my paper! Hooray.

I will be writing first of the Bible and midrash and their suggested views regarding illness, visiting the sick, and other such practices. And then I will contrast those ideas with more modern psychological (and likely some religious) texts regarding pastoral care.

This is exciting. Before, I was reading through the stacks of books that Prof. Fox had given me, and finding tidbits interesting, but having no notion of what I would possibly focus my final paper on.

Here are some of my tidbits of interest:
Anne Brener, in her book Mourning & Mitzvah, wrote of how people are able to find comfort through Jewish rituals because these are embedded with universal truths about the needs of people in tradition. This struck me because I had previously struggled concerning religious rituals, wondering if they lack applicability to those who not believe in God. I appreciate her distinction regarding Jewish rituals as a manner in which to find comfort, and to build a context in which one is able to stay during this time of difficult transition.

In Jewish Relational Care A-Z, Jack H. Bloom wrote an essay regarding language; more specifically, language as it defines our own personal realities, and ways in which to build rapport (as a pastoral care worker) while visiting with the infirm (he mentions normalizing other people's experiences through acceptance and respect, while keeping in mind the person's individual background). His article was interesting to me because I have been recently pondering how one would go into a pastoral care situation feeling prepared to discuss tough topics with folks - I don't think that his article is the end-all-be-all of proper language usage in these situations, but it was an interesting beginning in starting to read about such things.

In Jewish Reflections on Death, Daniel Jeremy Silver wrote an essay entitled "The Right to Die?". I was drawn to this article because this is a topic that I have struggled with in the past - last semester I wrote a final paper for my COPACE (On Death & Dying) course regarding suicide and an individual's right to die versus overall implications for society. Albeit informative, his article didn't deal with suicide and other such end of life issues, so much as it dealt with Jewish reflections on mitigating pain while not sanctioning euthanasia. He personally defined death as "departure of the soul", with the soul being made up of personality, control, individuality, capacity, and awareness. I'm still unsure how I would personally define death (ad hoc committee of Harvard University criteria?), but I am 100% against extending life if it is being done only to assuage guilt. Of course, our reasoning for keeping folks going are never so simply stated.

On other notes (unrelated to death/illness/mourning), I've begun collecting data for my Lab in Social Psych! Hooray. Three participants down, a billion more to go (not really, but neeearly).

I'm going to finish up a bit of reading for my Women in Society class, so I will end here. I hope that everyone has a lovely weekend!


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