We all return Your original favor by imagining You in *our* own image, so I’d like to think You are the easy-to-talk-to type, and not One to demand formalities. I have the utmost respect for You and Your works (especially Vermont and Jon Hamm – really – super job!) but I’m not connecting to all the chest-beating and trembling, and I’m really hoping there’s still room for a different kind of faithful.
Getting right down to it, I’ve been wondering what exactly You were up to, in the long run. Not that it’s any of my business, but a journalist / blogger will always try for the best source. Why not aim for The Source?
Last year before Rosh Hashana, I was preoccupied with how unready I personally felt for the New Year, and how artificial it felt to me, to impose our relationship with You onto specific calendar days. I want to feel the door is open to You *every* day, feel on the brink of both possible greatness and possible demise *every* day.
That challenge of living on the hairline chasm between personal, perhaps far-reaching, efficacy and ultimate powerlessness is the only thing (other than a Very Hungry 5-year-old, You know the one), that gets me out of bed. If life was a sure bet one way or another, if it were about making resolutions one month and spending the next eleven breaking them and hoping not to get caught, there would barely be a point.
The only thing that makes sense to me is total, continuous engagement on a somewhat familiar, somewhat relaxed scale.
That said, on a global level, things make less and less sense every day, nothing is familiar, and few made of flesh and blood seem to bear any real wisdom. That is what concerns me this year. It was my sincerest hope during this long, oppressive summer (And really! What was up with *that*?!) that if I read more, and wrote less, the truth about the world would begin to emerge.
But despite the many therapeutic qualities of silence and reflection, they do not create either truth or wisdom. Only You do.
So here’s what I’m hoping You can answer for me. I have a rather long list of things I do not understand, but I will focus on only two main points for now, the headliners. One:
Do You believe – given the current reality of our world rather than any idealized version You’d had in Mind – in democracy, critical prosperity for all levels of society, scientific advances, basic human rights, and broad personal freedoms for men and women alike? I ask this sincerely because it seems that many of those who don’t believe in these things (and here I refer to some of my own co-religionists, as well) are winning, at least demographically. And they say it’s all Your will.
I’d like to think that the way I have chosen, the middle road of tradition and belief alongside a modern outlook and education, is the ideal, but ultimately, I really can’t claim to know one way or another. Maybe You like the ‘fundies’ better. Or maybe I am talking to No One. I hope not.
One thing, though, that I was pretty sure about was that if, in imagining You in their own image, a particular religion, or group within a religion, chooses to be parochial, paternalistic, fundamentalist – that is their business, their own road to You. *Up and until* these groups begin insisting that everyone join them, or at least meet all of their sometimes insane, sometimes inhumane demands. Or else.
Could that really be what You want? Do You desire devotion so fierce it eclipses mutual respect, common decency, or eradicates a value system where being alive and building the world is at the center? Do you really prefer xenophobia over inclusiveness?
And if not, how do you allow so many people with this type of twisted, compartmentalized passion to invoke You, some (thankfully, not my co-religionists) screaming Your name while committing murder, of pregnant women? Surely You are aware how much damage these adherents do to Your image, how many people are afraid to approach You because You have been claimed by the malleable mob and their manipulative preachers, rabbis, imams, and news networks. Don’t You care?
Here I will change course to point two – and perhaps alienate a whole different group of readers – to ask You about another great mystery, apropos malleable mobs, one that has continued to vex me for a number of years. I wouldn’t bother You with it if any human being had ever addressed the issue adequately:
How have Islamic extremists managed to recruit the “liberal” West to their cause in the Middle East, while that same group reviles extremist Jews and extremist Christians? How can it be that the very people who largely don’t even believe in One United You are championing the fight of, or at least choosing to actively close their eyes to, the most zealous of the peoples who do, the people most intent on imposing draconic beliefs on others – - are in fact helping to undermine the more moderate elements within Islam?
How has this alliance arisen? Is it what Seinfeld would call a “bizarro miracle”? And what are actual liberals supposed to do now? Christians, Jews, and Muslims who don’t really care to sign up with or countenance ANY fanatic?
Are You having a laugh with Kafka up there, letting him write history for a few years while You do natural disaster? (And You do it so well, I must add.)
Could it be that Infinitely Merciful You are somehow perversely enjoying the irony here, like many flesh and blood pundits seem to? I hope not. There is real suffering to address.
Could it be – and again, I hope not – that most people are actually much less concerned with ideologies than they are with simply winning? That is to say, perhaps many of the theoretically noble values invoked in leftist arguments about the Middle East – most of them oddly centered around a tiny strip of (for the most part) democratically administered land which activists claim to want to “free” more than any of the huge, very un-free strips of land all around it – are for the benefit of convincing oneself of one’s morality, but in fact, it is simply the easiest path, siding with the scariest majority in the area?
Wouldn’t a truer, harder path – taking on the actual self-appointed lords of the third world instead of right wing Jews and Christians, however dogmatic and demagogic they sometimes are – help the masses of people truly in need of help so much more effectively? Wouldn’t that ultimately be a more direct road to peace?
Could it be that people just don’t want to lose? Is this also the mass attraction of our own more parochial and extreme elements? That the Ultras appear to have the numbers and growth game in the bag, making them a safer bet?
Could it also be what this disparate cooperation of groups has in common, in addition to the utter certainty in their own correctness, is that there is not such a great distance between laziness and zeal?
All and Nothing both require far less effort than integrating passion with moderation, empathy with clarity, a desire for change with responsibilities attached for everyone, optimism with measured realism. Complex integration is far more dicey, as well, because you lose all manner of friends along the way, who only buy whole packages of beliefs, not assorted.
This type of nuanced geopolitical ideology and spiritual way defies trends, and as such, will not get lists of celebrities to sign on it or tweet about it. It is hard to fundraise for. It rarely goes viral. It is not always fun, either, but I hope You do not mistake reflectiveness for lack of enthusiasm or commitment the way people do.
In any event, even a small response (like, a cool front on Yom Kippur if You plan on jumping in to deal with any of this, for example) would be most appreciated. In the meantime, rest up! Lots of prayers coming Your way very soon.
And if it gets overwhelming and You need to get away for a while, I know quite a few places You can hang out where no one would recognize You in a million years.
Even if they were looking right at You.
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