Another blog I read quite frequently (Mudflats) had a post about a golem recently in relation to national politics. I hadn’t thought about the golem in a long time…but this triggered some interesting/challenging thoughts.
For those who may not know the story of the golem, it’s a Jewish legend about a creature created to follow its creator’s instructions to the letter. It has no soul, no mind…. Once it is created, it is very difficult to destroy. One version of the legend says that in order to animate the golem, the word “truth” is written across its forehead in Hebrew. To destroy it, the last letter must be removed, and that changes the word “truth” to “death.” Accomplishing that task is nowhere near as easy as creating the golem in the first place.
The problem with the golem is that once it is given an order by its creator, it follows it exactly as given…not necessarily as the creator expects it to. And so sometimes the golem destroys what the creator expected it to protect…and sometimes it turns back on its creator.
The story of the golem is not unrelated to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Again, an individual creates a being to follow orders–and again, things don’t turn out as expected. Without a mind or soul, the being is limited to following the words of the orders exactly as they are given–not as the creator imagined the orders.
In many ways, the golem is a false god, created in a human image. If each of us were to create one–and I think in many ways we do–each golem would be different. But the end result would be the same…destruction.
The only way out that I see is to recognize that we are not in charge of the whole world…we are only in charge of ourselves. We may know our version of “truth”…but we need to learn that it is only our version, and that is a partial version. It is by listening to each other–truly listening, so that we can learn–that we can begin to put together pieces of the truth.
Otherwise, we will continue to create golems…and once we create them, struggle to control/destroy them before they turn on us.