Candles Always Cry

And Other Stories

Halakhic Man, Part I

A theological essay by Rabbi J.B. Soloveichik

Summary

Cognitive man –

The man of reason, the man who seeks an explanation for anything, who accepts only what is rational, and whose behavior follows his intellect. The scientist, the mathematician – disciplined, principled.
Math might be one of the purest forms of cognition since a world in math is an idealized, perfect version of our reality. One starts with ideal and then find how the world fits to what must be true, mathematically.

Homo Religiosus –
The artist. He revels in mystery. He wants outside of reason, beyond it, to the infinity he knows but can’t explain – the depth of feeling, the blurring of pain and pleasure, the in turns enormity and utter insignificance of the human being.
The religious man experiences intense conflict, periods of ecstasy, is constantly in the throes of a tumultuous questioning of existence and identity.

The religious man looks for questions he can’t answer; cognitive man looks for answers that are unquestionable.

Halakhic man –
He is, of course, the combination of both. He is a cognitive man, because to him, the world is a place to implement the idealized world that Halakha describes. He first seeks to understand what such a world would look like – hence the endless discussion of distance and size, endless what if scenarios, and pages devoted to the elucidation of one word.
He is a religious man because his cognition of the Halakhic world brings him closer and closer to truth, which he feels absolutely, but always within the framework of Halakha.

The implications –
Halakhic man does not suffer from the dualism usually associated with religion.

In mind: There is no schizophrenia, no yo-yoing between the heights of spiritual ecstasy and the depths of soul-sucking materialism.
Unlike the mystic, he does not presume to find G-d only outside of reality, in rapturous awe, or overwhelming love. The whole of his relationship with G-d consists of his interaction with this world, of his realizing the idealized Halakhic map, in practice.

In heart: Halakhic man is not uncomfortable in this world. He doesn’t see it as a dark and evil place, devoid of G-dliness. It is not an obstacle to but the means by which he encounters G-d.

In behavior: There is no dualism in his behavior. He is not one man during prayer, and another in the marketplace. His relationship with G-d doesn’t end at the door of the prayer-house. It penetrates every moment, every place, every aspect of his own nature. Every waking moment, there is a Halakhic model to inform his behavior.

Nevertheless, he is not devoid of the depth of emotion for which the homo religiosus, only it is contained. Instead of a futile quest, and the confusion/hopelessness/emptiness/madness that often accompanies it, the religious experience of the Halakhic man is grounded in knowledge and reason.

Thoughts/Questions

In Chapter IX (pg. 49-63) the author highlights the difference between Halakhic man and a prototypical follower of the Chabad branch of Chassidism.

He argues that according to Chabad there is an inherent dualism, which results in exactly the characteristics that Halakhic man is free of. According to the Chabad doctrine G-d is in exile in this world of lies and faithlessness (Shecinta Begalusa). Therefore, the Chasid (one who studies Chassidism) desires to escape this world, his soul reaches heavenward – to free itself, to free G-d. He is torn between two worlds, and dismayed by the state of the reality he is forced to live with every day.

To support the idea that this world is anathema to a Chasid, he cites a discussion about whether G-d created the world for the sake of his kindness, or his will. The mystics (presumably this means or includes Chabad since most of the quoted material here is from Chabad sources) take the position that G-d created the world out of kindness, while Halakhic man says that G-d created it for his will. The difference being that if G-d created it out of kindness, it indicates a concession on G-d’s part, a lowering of Himself for the sake of creation. If He created it for His own will, then the world is clearly not a contradiction to Him. He desired it, and desired man to be in it, not to abandon it for inclusion in the oneness of G-d.

The advantage of the Halakhic man is that he’s free of all this conflict and depression. This is his only world.

This argument is missing two points.

First, Chapter 36 of Tanya – the same book and author that Rabbi Soloveichik quotes to argue his point – starts with a paraphrased quote from the Midrash, “G-d desired to make for himself a dwelling place in the lower realms.” It is explained to mean that the motivation to create the world was an inexplicable desire to be hidden and then recognized. In other words. That is the crux of the Chassidic understanding of – to bring G-d here.

In fact, Rabbi Soloveichik notes this himself in footnote 65. “It is interesting that even Habad doctrine understood creation from a voluntaristic standpoint…. But this entire matter is of exceptional profundity.”

According to that, the Halakhic and Hassidic men are in agreement that this world is not a necessary evil. It is, or could be through our effort, G-d’s happy place.

But there the agreement ends. R.S. claims that there is only downward motion of putting G-d’s vision of this world into practice. In Chassidus the yo-yoing described earlier – on one hand to cleave to G-d, on the other to engage the world – that is the necessary pulse of life. It is necessary both to wish for a purer, truer place and at the same time to transcribe G-d’s plan, outlined in the Torah and Halakha, into the real world. To bring Him here.

I’m assuming I’m missing something here. Rabbi S. knew all this. Nevertheless he a. gives the impression that Chabad Chassidus does not believe that this world is G-d’s goal and b. never mentions the yo-yo theory – leaving us with either the desire to escape the world, or to live solely within it.

Those two ideas are deeply ingrained in me, so I’m going to need to address them if I am to understand what R.S. really means.

An interesting aside that may or may not be important: R.S. quotes a Midrash to prove his point that the world is the end, not the means – which at that point would have been revolutionary (1944). That same Midrash is used to illustrate the same point in the Chabad Rebbe’s first discourse in 1951, which is basically his manifesto. The two draw different conclusions from there, but is it a coincidence?

So I’m left with this –
What’s wrong with the bi-directional approach? We need to desire something above and beyond us, and G-d needs to penetrate every beautiful and vile and picayune part of our lives.
Is the approach of the last two Chabad Rebiim, that this world is G-d’s true home, revolutionary even within Chassidus? Whose ideas influenced whose?
From the prospective of Rabbi Soloveichik – what is truly the advantage of the Halakhic man over the approach of the Chabad Chasid?

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Be the change Obama promised

This Tuesday, Election Day, there will be no winners.

If the campaigns of our candidates are to be believed, Romney is a greedy liar whose policies will hurt the middle class, and Obama is an incompetent anti-capitalist who is undermining America with increased government dependence.

I believe both of them.

Neither candidate seems capable of reinvigorating the economy, reducing inequality, closing the deficit, paying for an entire generation to retire, improving America’s dismal education system; all while dealing with China, Russia, the Middle East and Europe’s continuing recession.

More importantly, neither Romney nor Obama will be able to bridge the partisan chasm that exists right now. Listen to any political pundit, newspaper, blogger, TV anchor – hell, listen to the candidates themselves. The way they, and we, talk about each other, talk about how the future of America belongs to one party or the other, meaning to one or the other half of Americans – this isn’t the United States we’re dealing with anymore. This is North and South. Yankees and Greybacks.

I love this country and wish that I believed that voting for one man or another, or for this or that policy would make a difference. But I don’t. I’ve tried to be a good citizen, to listen to the debates, be informed, follow the issues – but I can’t. It makes me sick. It makes me sad. It makes me feel like a little kid whose parents are yelling in the next room and the only thing they can do to make it stop is hide under the blanket and cover their ears.

Which I don’t intend to do. I will go out to the polls on Tuesday and wear a sticker that says ‘I voted’ and play my part in this democracy.

However, I do believe there is another way.

There is a much more important role that we individuals play, and it’s unrelated to who is president or which party is in power. A presidential election encourages us to discuss and evaluate what it means to be a citizen, an American, and a human being – but we don’t need politicians to implement those values for us. Once we’ve defined our values – hard work, social justice, entrepreneurship, patriotism, civil rights, or whatever else they may be – we can implement them ourselves, in our own lives.

Get educated, start at a non-profit, start a business, pray, donate, volunteer, promote ideas you support, think, create, share. Be the change Obama promised us.

This Tuesday, elect yourself.

Written for but unpublished on my school newspaper, hence the imperative tone.

Guide to Madness

The rain is the color of instant coffee
A No Parking sign leans at an angle somewhere between 45 and 90
Nothing else is certain
The orange pixelated letters announcing the upcoming bus stop
Are blurred
The truth of many conversations
As a unit, is background noise
It’s raining only at the edge of the awnings

Madness is a popular word
People are proud to be mad
And prouder still to know that they are
Madness means different
Or it means entertaining, to watch
It means neurotic New York Jews
Drug induced genius, tormented artist,
Justified, worshiped, voracious need.

Madness is the space between what’s true
And what’s unknown. The interpretable space –
As David Foster Wallace would say
The never-quiet fears and hopes
Fears of the hopes
The always in question, in flux
The stay up at night, alone in a crowd
Driving down a dark highway, with a heart broke

But enter the filthy, the hopeless
The survivors of suicide
The unsuccessfully mad
The person you once knew who is no longer herself
This is unacceptable madness
This is tragedy that no art can justify
She had so much potential
This is perversion, waste of a life

The space between normal and broken
Between conformity and a self
Between the beginning of your mind
And the end of you soul
There’s more there than every
Beautiful sunset and child’s smile
Every distant star and mathematical discovery
It’s easy to stay.

Single in a Big City

Office GirlOffice Girl by Joe Meno
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s whimsical.
The story, and the writing style.
I like the idea of art terrorism, but not if it hurts people.
I like the exploration of twenty-something aimlessness, of the lonely single in a big city, of life and success being less interchangeable than we realize. It’s okay that there’s no real resolution, maybe because when you’re twenty-something, oftentimes things aren’t yet resolved.
It could still go either way.
You might find a calling a passion, you may end up being okay with the status quo, you might find belonging and acceptance in love or in community, and then maybe the does-anything-really-matter won’t matter as much.
Or not.
If you’re twenty-something it may feel vindicating. If you’re past that stage (I imagine) it’ll be either nostalgic, or I’m-so-over-that.

In terms of writing – it is a fun style, different, and there’s some great imagery. There are lots of sentences beginning with so or and so or and then, and the pacing from one page/chapter to the next is like taking a lot of quick breaths. Overall it feels amateurish sometimes, too conscious of itself.

750 Word Challenge

I accepted a challenge to write 750 words every day in August on a website called 750words.com.

The reasoning behind the 750 words is a method called Morning Pages from a book called The Artist’s Way. The idea is to dump everything that’s in your brain first thing in the morning onto paper, as a  creative release. It’s supposed to clear your mind and let your creativity flourish.

It’s similar to the daily practice described in ‘Writing Down the Bones’ by Natalie Goldberg. Her method is also to write every day (8 minutes as opposed to 3 pages), and also to just release whatever’s in your mind, but it’s more of a writing exercise. It’s meant to train yourself to let go, let the editor, the censor go — to get in touch with your  the first layer of your consciousness, the one that gets regulated and filtered in order to fit in to what’s right and appropriate. Similar, but not the same.

I made it until day 27. Strangely, I don’t feel so bad about not making it to the end, which is surprising to me.  I’m usually pretty insistent on ‘winning’. I’m an ends rather than a means kind of person.

When I accepted the challenge I decided that I would do it every morning at 8am, or basically, first thing in the morning. And that’s the only reason I lasted as long as I did. It’s also why I enjoyed the process. I enjoyed the routine of it. It gave some semblance of order to my day, and by some semblance, I mean it was never at 8, and rarely first thing in the morning. Sometimes I’d get distracted by email, or I’d have to answer an early phone call or go to an appointment, sometimes I’d choose to make breakfast. But over all, there was something – the same thing – that was supposed to happen every day. It’s made me want to figure out how else to introduce rituals and routines to my day, in a way that doesn’t add pressure to it, like “Oh my goodness, I need to do this.”

In terms of the writing, I’m not sure how I felt about it. Most days I was literally counting the words and stopped as soon as I hit 750. It was a lot of what I need to do today and things I was worried about – which might be the point – but it’s also not very fun. I plan to continue but I’ll reread Natalie Goldberg and try to follow her method and see if that works better for me. I’m afraid to stop, that’s the truth. I like what it did for me.

One more thing — the site is beautifully designed. And by beautiful, I mean you don’t notice the design. It doesn’t feel like anything else on the web. It feels like a sacred, private place. The site (aka the creator of the site) also gives you cool stats about your writing, your sentiment while writing and even gives you a rating for violence, sexual content etc. If you like the quantified self, you’ll love the site.

Two Six

She sat on the second floor patio in the faded deck chair, fading herself in the low hanging sunset. The beginning of evening blew around her and she pulled her cardigan a little tighter. She sat, leaning over, knees apart, hands clasped together. She dropped her head so that the sunset clouds disappeared and the peach tile of the patio floor rose up to meet her. Rocking softly, she shivered again at the touch of the wind.

She had only her thoughts and the view of the neighbor’s yard and the pool down below. A bird landed on the electric wires between their yard and the neighbor’s, calling to its mates. Was it slang? she wondered, the short, four letter sounds the bird made. It flew up and over the neighbor’s garage, flapping and nearly barking. The electric wire swung back into place, or was it her imagination? The weight of a bird shouldn’t be enough to move it.

She went inside and came out a moment later with a book and the last of a pack of frozen raspberries. She had left the raspberries out last night and now they had congealed into one block of tart raspberry ice and she sucked on it and opened the book to page 263. The words entered and started small electric explosions in her brain, one after another, sluggish at first and then taking over more and more of the neural pathways, until a shadow fell across the book just a page or two in. The bird was back, circling low above her, blacker now against the bluer sky. It dipped and then rose again and she noticed a strip of white in its black feathers. Maybe it was getting old.

Raspberry juice dripped onto the page in the book, kissing one word pink. The word was ‘one’, and then the pink bled a little onto the next word ‘shoulder’, and down a little, icing the top of the word ‘why’. It could have been any word, she mused. Which word would I have chosen? She examined every word on the page, each one an isolated unit, connected only to the word above it or below it. Only said, I am, dark box, every coffin, how, silly, who, whore, me, him, her. The words took turns on the runway and slunk away when she realized their nakedness.

She closed the book with a sigh now because the words were gone, and looked at the square patio tiles again, stained with rain and the time she ate chocolate ice cream out here. She looked up to the sky and it was the grainy color of a VHS film with unsuccessful stars beginning to show, like a man’s three day stubble. She looked again at the yard and the pool but nothing had changed.

She could still taste the sweetness of the raspberries and see the last of the sunset and breathe the crisp air and hear the sounds of a Friday night restaurant and the all of it – the beauty of it and the normalcy of it and the nearness of it and the loneliness of it – it hugged her and then left her.

The arriving night took all the words away, and left only the cricket to sing, and the bird that came even though she couldn’t see it, and left her with her hands clasped under her chin, holding it up.

A tied man cannot unbind himself, she whispered too quietly for the stars to hear.

Habits and Goals

I wish I were smart enough to be an expert on something. That’s what all the promoters and marketers and social media hacks say, “Become an expert in you field.” I’ve been on Twitter long enough to know that the best and probably the only way to build an audience if you’re not already famous is to stick relentlessly to one topic. Because that’s how people know you. And trust you. And worship you. And buy from you.

Well, I’m sorry but I’m not an expert. I don’t do any one thing all the time. I read a lot and I ask a lot of questions and I breathe a lot.

So I’m not going to teach you anything. I’m just going to try and discover the answer to something, mostly for the journey of it, and probably just to find the real question. Answers are boring and final and usually restricted to certain conditions that never apply in your particular case.

Today, my question is about habits, and goals.

First of all, habits and goals are different. A habit is about consistency, and a goal is about progress.

So let’s say you want to exercise more, is it better to say “I will exercise 3 times a week for 30 minutes each time” or “By the end of this month I will be able to lift X pounds”?

Each requires a different kind of discipline, which requires its own kind of study.

Interestingly, often a goal is reached by building good habits, and habits, if tracked, can use count as goals. Such as counting mileage in running, or a streak of writing each day.

Both also require reinforcement and feedback – from friends, from visible progress, from tracking devices.

And it’s true for both that tools and techniques make them easier. The more you automate the process, or provide external motivation, or get it into routine, the less you have to work to get it done. So, a weekly class, working out with a partner, using a tracking device or app, can help make it easier to accomplish.

This brings me to a question that motivated this search. What about work? You have a paper to write, a client proposal to write up, research to do, and you’ve been procrastinating. Do you tell yourself “I will work for 3 hours” or do you tell yourself “I will finish the rough draft” “I will have a list of ten options for the client”?

Is this similar to habits vs. goals? Maybe.

I wonder if the difference is about being able to say, “I did what I had to do” and saying “It is done.”

If you want to win a race, it makes no difference if you can check off your practice schedule if your time isn’t getting better.

But then the question becomes “Is it done” or “Is it done well”?

And that has to do with whether or not it’s a quantifiable goal.

When you’re running. You either made the time or you didn’t.

When you’re writing a paper, there’s a finished A paper and a finished C paper. There’s an email that you believe has the best pitch you could have written, or it’s an email that you sent because you wanted it off your list?

In my life so far I’ve found that I’m more of a goal person than a consistency person. In fact, consistency kills me every time, and I get quickly depressed. This is especially true since on my motivated days I want to change everything in my life – do laundry on time, eat better, eat more, sleep more, write more blogposts, do spiritual stuff more often, volunteer, be kind, make time for others etc. etc.

Even with the best of intentions, it can get quite hard to habitize all those resolutions.

It works better for me to say “I will read 50 books this year” than “I will read one book a week.”

But one of my goals in life is to be less critical, and more optimistic, which is definitely unquantifiable. The best way (that I know) to accomplish a change like that is to write down one time each day that you actively banished an unkind thought about someone or something and replaced it with a positive one. (Writing it down is essential because it forces you to be conscious of what you’re thinking.)

This relies only on your consistency measure. You can only count on keeping track of the habit, not the progress, because how will if you’re actually a more positive person?

I think it boils down to this: any habit that you do has to be for some purpose. You don’t do push ups just to do push ups, you do them to be more fit. But then how do you know you’re more fit, just because you checked it off your list?

So there are two options:

Working towards a measurable goal by measuring progress, not consistency – so no habits, just build up to a goal.

Working towards a non-measurable goal by consistency because you don’t have another way to judge it.

When it comes to something like writing, or accomplishing creative work, habits can help you get better at what you do, but the final product doesn’t fall under this category. It’s not a defined destination (unlike a goal), but it does have to end somewhere (unlike a habit).

All this does not answer the question of how to get yourself to work – by time or by project – so that still has to be explored.

Some great stuff I found regarding habits:

  • Buster Benson. He’s created a bunch of tools around habit tracking and habit building. 750words.com is for writers who want to write every day, HealthMonth is a social and gamified way to build habits, Peabrain will help you keep track of anything from your phone via SMS, and the Hipster Habbit App is a non-digital, printable, 30 day habit-tracking calendar to carry around in your wallet.
  • He’s shared his very practical and very motivational thoughts on habits in The Habit Manifesto.
  • Seinfeld’s ‘Don’t Break the Chain‘ tip seems to work for some though it didn’t work for me. I was so excited when I first read about it because it involves calendars and markers but I fizzled out pretty quickly. I’ll try it again some day.

Journalism Rules from David Foster Wallace

Wallace probably made a terrible journalist. At least the essays I’ve read of his so far are ridiculously detailed and personal and more like a really long journal entry than a sober, informative journalistic report of a particular event.

Which is why it’s so much fun to read.

The essay I just read is called, “Tennis Player Michael Joyce’s Professional Artistry as a Paradigm of Certain STuff about Choice, Freedom, Discipline, Joy, Grotesquerie, and Human Completeness”, sixth essay in the book, “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.”

(If that doesn’t give you an idea for Wallace’s penchant for wordiness and maximalist sentence structure, you’ll probably be bored by the rest of this post.)

The essay is about the Canadian Open in 1995, or more specifically about the pre-tournament, the week before the televised event, in which 128 qualified players play against each other for the top eight spots. Wallace follows Michael Joyce, a star-material tennis player.

Wallace doesn’t follow any rules that I can discern. He uses footnotes and parenthesis and brackets to say what he wants to say, and comment on what it is he is saying, and then wanders off onto tangents that keep branching out further. He doesn’t follow chronological order, and sometimes rambles, sometimes educates, sometimes narrates.

Wallace goes into incredible, relentless detail about everything. He spends pages describing the techniques of certain players, the play-by-play of the games he watched, the weather, the clothes that the players are wearing, Joyce’s reactions, Joyce’s tics, Joyce’s facial expressions, Joyce’s hair.

He spends an entire paragraph discussing the bathroom for the media at the event, as a footnote to his description of the endless lines at the two public bathrooms, in a section about the general atmosphere at the event.

“I learn by the second day to go very easy on the Evian water and coffee as I’m wandering around.”

(He talks about Evian water, one of the many sponsors of the event, all throughout the essay. I can’t help but read into it a conscious attempt to bring to our intention the pervasiveness of marketing and branding and the consumer society, mostly because of his own essay on television and U.S. fiction, earlier in the book, which describes the fiction-writer’s use of pop cultural references.)

He doesn’t only talk about himself, he talks about himself as a journalist and is completely candid about his weaknesses in that regard, and in all regards. About a tennis coach that he describes as, “one of the coolest people I’ve ever met”, he confesses in parenthesis, “(so cool I’m kind of scared of him and haven’t call him once since the assignment ended, if that makes sense.)”

The parenthesis is in a footnote which begins by describing this particular coach who was mentioned as an aside, and then goes on to discuss the relationship of coach and athlete after a lament about the difficult, lonely, and insane lifestyle of the pro athlete.

He zooms in on the smallest details, feeds you on them until you’re gorged on the colors and the feels and the tensions and the humidity of the moment, and then zooms way out and talks about free choice, or mastery, or athlete-as-ascetic and themes that are cultural, sociological, national or global in scope.

The level of detail is remarkable – as is the amount of fascination he must have had to notice it, and attention he must have paid to retain it, the energy he must have had to write it and share it, and his belief that somehow we would find a week’s worth of one sport in one town through one man’s eyes as fascinating as he did.

What if he saw the entire world that way? What if every person he met, every stop at the traffic light, every short trip to the coffee shop, had that kind of intensity and that many angles, and held that level of interest for him? What kind of capacity for life (as an observer) at least would you need for that?

(It’s fascinating to me because I can imagine it. That’s the way I am to some extent, and I’ve always felt like it sets me apart. It’s not about the amount of space in the brain, or even the amount of depth. It’s just this voracious capacity to see everything as it is, and then see it also as a symbol with meaning, and unconscious intent, and as a cultural, spiritual, local, global, mental incarnation of something ultimate.)

That, and his disregard for rules, and his waterfall of words, should make for some hyperactive reading, but either I’m hyperactively attuned, or there’s this rhythm that he has, where he moves between peak points of intense visuals, to more relaxed troughs of insightful commentary, with breaks of personal and comedic tones in between, that kind of lulls you, so you’re coasting instead of flailing.

I feel like you could possibly get high on him.

All in a Day

So many amazing things  happened today that I have to write a list:

  • I woke up with a headache which inspired me to make an appointment to get the root canal I’ve been avoiding
  • Almond butter smoothie with the addition of cinnamon. Yumm.
  • A potential new client
  • I discovered lynx, how to disable CSS, and how to SEO grade a WordPress theme
  • The best Mediterranean quinoa salad ever, made by moi
  • I bought a basil plant because it was only 50 cents more expensive than fresh basil, and could possibly outlast the fresh basil. No promises.
  • I spoke to my little sister and heard about her baby and her Canadian emergency room visit
  • Sent in job application that’s been stressing me for weeks
  • Dinner with friends at La Siene
  • Thirty Fifth drink at La Siene (aka sake bourbon lemon amazingness)
  • Talked about the 21 species that are the exceptions to the rule that females invest more than men in reproduction, with my super-rational-smart-athiest friend, while sitting on the front lawn int he middle of the night
  • Being happy

Thank you to the powers that be.

Gender roles solved by the Pythagorean Theorum

Two unrelated pieces of Talmud- one about the role of mankind and one about the role of women – talk about bread and wheat, and lead to a surprising conclusion. Check it out:

On humankind

The Talmud records a number of conversations between Turnus Rufus, a Roman official stationed in Judea in the 2nd century, and Rabbi Akiva. The Midrash Tanchuma records one such conversation (Midrash Tanchuma, Parashas Tazria, 8):

The evil Turnus Rufus asked Rabbi Akiva, “Which are better, things made by the Almighty or things made by flesh and blood?”He replied, “Things made by flesh and blood are better!”
Turnus Rufus said to him, “But heaven and earth, can a human being make anything like these?”

Rabbi Akiva brought him wheat and cakes and said to him, “These are made by the Almighty and these are made by man. Aren’t these (cakes) better than the wheat?”

Turnus Rufus blieved that G-d/nature was perfect and should not be messed with. Rabbi Akiva disagreed. He was of the opinion that humankind had a role to play in the process of creation, that of perfecting and improving the world. The role of humankind is to take wheat and turn it into bread.

On womankind

In the second chapter of the Torah, the first woman is created as a “helpmate opposite him”. The Gemara in Yevamos discusses the meaning of this verse (Yevamos 63 1):

R’ Yosi:
It says in the Torah, “I will make him a helpmate.” How does a woman help a man?
Eliyahu:
A man brings wheat. Does he grind the wheat? Flax. Does he wear the flax?

The man may bring home the wheat but it is useless until the woman makes it into bread, or weaves the cotton into clothing. He provides. She completes. The role of a woman is to take wheat and make it into bread.

Conclusion (a la the Pythagorean Theorum)

If humankind=turning wheat into cakes
and womankind=turning wheat into cakes
then humankind=womankind

Sorry guys.

Sources:Midrash Tanchuma http://marker.to/exHSqk, http://marker.to/5oe45f  Bereishis 2:18 http://marker.to/bHYbEQ Yevamos 63 http://marker.to/3SLsYw