Saturday, October 20, 2007

Maybe People Are Just Sad

My parents are both baalei teshuva and I've asked them about their stories multiple times. Because I like stories. And because, why wouldn't you ask something like that, providing you're comfortable enough to? And my parents, bless them, like to tell stories. I don't know where they got that from, because apparently, no one else we're related to does. But.

So my father has told me many times; his feeling of emptiness, his sense that there was more, his inability to logically accept what Traditional Jews have adopted as their creed. (A question; it has become my impression that Traditional Jews - a movement somewhere between Reform and Conservative- only exist in the Midwest. Is this true? Has anyone else heard of them? As an American movement, I mean.) The complete story is actually fairly complex and fascinating, but I'm not gonna go into all that now. The basis of it, the beginning, was his sense of lacking and his philosophical nature, coupled with a nice bit of Jewish intellectual elitism.

Here's the thing. So I grew up religous. And I was pretty good with my perception of things up until about two and a half years ago. But even before that, long before, I had the same sense of emptiness and futility. It wasn't my dominant feeling, usually. I did get a lot of meaning and fulfillment out of my Judaism. But I was still existentially sad.

I have to say, it had a lot to do with my zionism, and the fact that I made aliyah. I'm not going to say that I blamed America for my existential depression, because I was too logical and realistic for that, even then. But I saw America as a hollow shell, somewhere that there was no reason to be. I would look out the window - any random window, at any random time - and think "Why? Why am I here? Why?" And the answer was always, "Because I'm still a kid and I can't get to Israel yet." Which was, if not satisfactory, at least true.

The reason I don't cite this as my motivation for aliyah - well there are several actually. For one thing, it's far too difficult to explain in ten words or less. Secondly, people consider you an unrealistic idealist and don't take you seriously. And thirdly because I always knew that Israel would not solve all my existential issues. It's just the right place to be. Which does help. I still can't stand being in America or too long, despite the fact that all my family and half my friends are there, for the very same reasons; the vapidity, the shallowness, the pointlessness. Whatever you want to say about Israel, there's a reason to be here, there is always a point to being here, and that's enough. But has it solved my existential depression? The futility and hopelessness of human existence, G-d or no G-d? Not in the slightest.

So this is my new theory: maybe people are just sad. People who can conceive of something vaguely like what infinity might be, or might not be, maybe people who can think will always just be existentially sad, whether or not they have religion. I mean, religion provides a lot that can make you feel better in between times. But does it solve that ultimate ache which is a lack of understanding, that longing for non-futility? Even if you believe.

The answer is, not really in any way at all.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Question On A Story

70th post and over 5,000 hits. I know most of them were me, probably, but still. I think it's kind of cool.

So, you know that whole ladder metaphor they use to tell us that you can't stay the same, you're either improving or getting worse? Spiritually, I mean. They say, "people think they're just fine the way they are, that they can just stay the same and not work on themselves and grow in Torah and avodah etc. But that's never true. It's like a ladder, right? You can't stand still on a ladder, you're either going up or going down."

But the thing is, you can stand still on a ladder. It would be sort of silly to, for an indefinite amount of time, because, I mean, why would you? A ladder is generally a means to an end, not a place to hang out. But it's physically possible. Nothing and no one is really making you get off that ladder, if you really want to stay on it.

Sometimes I like to think that it's flawed metaphors like this that really started all the trouble to begin with....

Friday, October 05, 2007

simchat torah

why does watching a group of man in black suits and hats dancing around in a circle and being fantastically silly make me feel all warm and mushy about Jews and why I love them? There is absolutely no reason why watching Jews dance should make me love them more. But it does. Why is that?