Memo to the Master of the Universe

Sep 7th, 2010

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M.O.T.U. –

Hello, again.

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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  1. 9 Responses to “Memo to the Master of the Universe”

  2. Word-perfect. Beautiful. Thank you.

    By Masha on Sep 7, 2010

  3. Great stuff, S. An excellent way to wake up those who might be sleeping during this important time of year. We all need to ask some questions…of G-d and ourselves.

    By Your Bro on Sep 7, 2010

  4. you did it express so beautifully what is on so many minds!! As your former Morah (in grade 3) I am proud!! Shana Tova to your and the men in your family and a special regards to your parents!!

    By BubbyT on Sep 7, 2010

  5. I certainly hope he gets the memo. I’ll have my thermometer out Yom Kippur morning to check…

    By Rachel Inbar on Sep 7, 2010

  6. Could you please write me a similar letter, unlike you addressee I will provide and reply and I have the feeling will enjoy it much more that the stern judge.

    I would seal my reply to you with a kiss laced with honey for the best year ever.

    By Ben Atlas on Sep 7, 2010

  7. Dear Sarah. Hi. It’s me. Yes, yes I know. It SAYS Geoffrey Cantor. It was the G, ok? Bu he doesn’t know I’m writing…shhh. He’s sleeping on a train that I made appear on the track 30 mins before it was scheduled to leave so he could have a little snooze in the airconditioned car. Great invention, that.
    Anyway, about your epistle. I think it is safe to say that in the great scheme of things, I don’t cotton much to the extremists of any sort. But I do beloved in free will. Remember Eve? Adam too. He could have said “I’d rather not,” but no. Your history is full of adversity. And my existence? The practices of the so-called faithful matter no more than the behavior or the faithless. It is a rare thing for me to get personal. Trust me, I’ll sort it out in my time. But remember, Saraleigh, I may have been formed in your image, or you in mine. But my existence is absolute an unknowable. That you chose to write is very flattering, by the way. I’ll see what I can do about the weather I’ve YK, by the way.
    The idea of democracy? Mine. Man’s will to follow? Man’s. (Use that formula for most of what you asked). I’m about the big picture, the long term view. I’m sorry. It’s the best I can do. Anyway, Geof’s iPhone is dying, and I have VERY big thumbs. I hope that helped. And keep those letters coming. The are much more interesting than all of the Santa mail I get in late November! Oy. Shana Tova from my otherworldly place. Gonna go tuck Abbas into bed.

    By Geoffrey Cantor on Sep 8, 2010

  8. Forgive the iPhone typos. It’s “but” not “bu”, It’s “believe” not beloved, it’s “on YK”, not “I’ve YK”. I’m sure there are more but, Go—sh…gosh he makes it tough.

    By Geoffrey Cantor on Sep 8, 2010

  9. First shana tova to you and yours from one of the tribe.

    Second, like you, I have been writing and “figgering” and trying to make sense of lots of things this year. ANd I have come to place where I have realized that this is what we have: a techno-world where people are largely uninformed with regard to the actual issues. They hear things in tiny sound-bytes and make snap decisions without really reading or thinking about how things are connected.

    The Great One gave us free will. She did. And we are blowing it. Every day. Every day we can start anew, and yet every day we choose the same thing. We choose to hurt each other. We choose to sit beside our loved ones and instead of plugging into them, giving them all our attention, we prefer to plug into our technology: our “Blah-berries” and im-so-importantPhones. We tune others out with our pods and pads. We walk by people who are in trouble.

    So, yes, I think we are lazy. And the flaw with democracies (if we learn nothing else from Lord of the Flies) is that we need everyone to believe in them and be engaged. Speaking as an educator, folks in this country like to pull a Bartleby the Scribner here. Most would just “prefer not to.” Most people are not invested in anything beyond Farmville or Facebook.

    Alas, I think your questions are not best directed to the Source. The Source gave us everything, and we said, “I want more. Gimmee that fruit over there, the one with a side order of knowledge.” But now we don’t even want knowledge. Gimmee knowledge has shifted to gimmee entertainment and gimmee cars and gimmee stuff cooler stuff than my neighbor.

    Don’t know what to tell you. But I do wish you and easy fast. Maybe something will come to you on Yom Kippur.

    By RASJ on Sep 12, 2010

  10. I am thrilled to have expanded my readership to New England and The Kingdom of Heaven in the same post. As to whether most of our problems are man made or Divine, I completely agree that human beings made the mess.

    My only question is whether we are capable of extracting ourselves from it, or whether we might need just a little bit of help to solve, some type of guidance or direction. Then again, maybe we have that, and can’t see it. Who knows?

    By Sara K. Eisen on Sep 12, 2010

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