This is not so.
We cannot learn without asking questions, and we cannot learn without admitting that sometimes we want to revolt, rebel, provoke God's wrath, defy Him, in short, act from our own position of authority.
Perhaps not everyone feels this way. Why then, do I write about it? Why do I confess this? Why expose such vulnerabilities?
This is why.
- "A sober friend once said to me, "When I was still drinking, I was a sedated monster. After I got sober, I was just a monster." He told me about his monster. His sounded just like mine without quite so much mascara. When people shine a little light on their monster, we find out how similar most of our monsters are. The secrecy, the obfuscation, the fact that these monsters can only be hinted at, gives us the sense that they must be very bad indeed. But when people let their monsters out for a little onstage interview, it turns out that we've all done or thought the same things, that this is our lot, our condition. We don't end up with a brand on our forehead. Instead, we compare notes.
"We write to expose the unexposed. If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must. Otherwise, you'll just be rearranging furniture in rooms you've already been in. Most human beings are dedicated to keeping that one door shut. But the writer's job is to see what's behind it, to see the bleak unspeakable stuff, and to turn the unspeakable into words- not just into any words, but if we can, into rhythm and blues."
~Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, 198
I think that if we are truthful, we will be rewarded with truth.
There are some people who try to keep their doubts and confusion and their anger with God to themselves, because they have been taught to feel guilty about honestly expressing any of this. Perhaps they have been told it is a sin. They eat themselves up with guilt and pain and try to conform to the expectations others have of them. And I find that this often leads to resentment, and what is worse, self-loathing.
People often feel they are all alone. I must be the one who is messed up, crazy, because nobody else in my school/community/family sometimes wants to defy God, or thinks the way I do. That's the kind of thought that runs through our minds.
I think it's better if we own our thoughts. If there were an open forum for discussion. If someone would say, we find this idea difficult, or that idea problematic, or did you ever think about doing this? And to realize that other people did, or do, and that you're not alone, that you can be honest with one another without eliciting scorn or mockery or someone looking down at you and telling you that you're a sinner, would mean the world to you.
But we're not honest in that way. Especially not in school. Because we're all scared of what the other person will think. So we go on pretending that we're all secure, that none of us ever feel the desire to do something wrong, or if we do, it's because we're all sinners and bad people.
Lamott thinks differently. If we let out our monsters, she writes, we'll find that many of us share similar doubts, ideas, flaws or failings. And we'll take comfort in that, because we'll know that we're not alone, and we're not as bad as we thought we were.
And you know what happens when we explore our thoughts and feelings? When we dare to look places we hadn't looked before?
- "Truth, or reality, or whatever you want to call it is the bedrock of life. A black man at my church who is nearing one hundred thundered last Sunday, "God is your home," and I pass this on mostly because all of the interesting characters I've ever worked with-including myself- have had at their center a feeling of otherness, of homesickness. And it's wonderful to watch someone finally open that forbidden door that has kept him or her away. What gets exposed is not people's baseness but their humanity. It turns out that the truth, or reality, is our home.
"Look at the two extremes. Maybe you find truth in Samuel Beckett-that we're very much alone and it's all scary and annoying and it smells like dirty feet and the most you can hope for is that periodically someone will offer a hand or a rag or a tiny word of encouragement just when you're going under. The redemption in Beckett is so small: in the second act of Waiting for Godot, the barren dying twig of a tree has put out a leaf. Just one leaf. It's not much; still Beckett didn't commit suicide. He wrote.
"Or maybe truth as you understand it is 180 degrees away- that God is everywhere and we are all where we're supposed to be and more will be revealed one day. Maybe you feel that Wordsworth was right, maybe Rumi, maybe Stephen Mitchell writing on Job: "The physical body is acknowledged as dust, the personal drama of delusion. It is as if the world we perceive through our senses, that whole gorgeous and terrible pageant, were the breath-thin surface of a bubble, and everything else, inside and outside, is pure radiance. Both suffering and joy come then like a brief reflection, and death like a pin."
"But you can't get to any of these truths by sitting in a field smiling beatifically, avoiding your anger and damage and grief. Your anger and damage and grief are the way to the truth. We don't have much truth to express unless we have gone into those rooms and closets and woods and abysses that we were told not to go in to. When we have gone in and looked around for a long while, just breathing and finally taking it in- then we will be able to speak in our own voice and to stay in the present moment. And that moment is home."
~Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, 201
So I write into silence.
I write this for myself as I was, the person who forbade myself to acknowledge thoughts or feelings that went contrary to something I was supposed to think or feel.
I write for those of you who will perhaps read this with shining eyes, realizing that you are not alone. I write for those of you who question. I write this so that you won't have to question yourself and doubt yourself and even hate yourself for being, as you've been told, a bad person, trying to hide your monster and believing that nobody else has a monster quite as evil as yours.
Because I do. And there are others who do, too, even if they can't admit it, or won't. We are good people, you and I, despite our monsters, and being good doesn't mean that we have no desire for the forbidden. Of course we do. How could we not?
The question is what we do with this desire. How we channel it. Whether we are honest about it.
I believe in honesty; I believe in writing the truth. I believe in tackling and confronting my anger and damage and grief, as Lamott would say. I believe in dealing with it, not avoiding it. Working with my thoughts, not pretending they don't exist.
And I believe in truth-seeking.
Inquiry into the arguments made against a religion are necessary for an examined understanding of the religion. From the little I read tonight, this is the premise of The Kuzari, which I hope will be helpful. But it does not end there. The problem is that I do not feel myself to be able to refute arguments until I have a complete understanding of Judaism, which I cannot acquire unless I achieve a very high level of learning. The search for truth is important nonetheless, which leads me to think that I may have to allow for questions that I cannot answer, the most maddening type of question.
Ideally, what I strive for is a deep belief and love for Judaism, but an examined Judaism. I want to search for the truth, and I mean to end up where I began, but stronger and far more qualified, having looked at the other avenues. I want to understand my commitment to Judaism and to understand why I am committed. I want to do so honestly.
I want to understand not only my view, but the views of others.
This is my truth-seeking. Welcome to the monsters; let's look behind the doors. Let us face everything with courage, and God will guide us on the journey.