Friday, May 13, 2005

Wanderings into the Dark Side

Absolutely no studying happened last night. However, I did nothing else except sit in front of my desk with the books. Apparently I surfed the web until my eyes got tired.

This morning I woke up and I said my preliminary prayers (berachot). I came up with the idea that in addition to using my alarm clock to remind me to wake up, I could use it to remind me to pray, do my laundry, and do each progressive step that I need to do today.

I set up a facade that I was going to a friend in the city for Shabbos (Sabbath), but in reality I will be staying at home where there is no synagogue within comfortable walking distance. Had I said that I was staying home, my Rabbi would have seen right through me and would have known that I intended to study on Shabbos, a grey-area semi-permissible act which we came to the conclusion that I would not do so that I would not get into the habit of doing lawyerlike "reading" when I am married. However, it is not a transgression or a violation of any law, as I do not plan to write or use electricity or do anything that would desecrate the Sabbath. However, I feel that I have slacked so much in my studies with this whole shidduch dating experience that G-d owes me this leeway.

I was also joking around with a friend before I met this girl that G-d and I had an agreement that if this doesn't work out, I will go ballroom dancing which involves touching women, holding hands, being in a place I shouldn't be, and leading myself into the hands of temptations where something can lead to something else and I would likely not be strong enough to say no. I will not kid myself -- if I go down this path, I will be putting my values in jeopardy because we both know that I am not strong enough to withstand secular influences. Perhaps it is my way to scream out to G-d "YOU TOOK AWAY SOMETHING POTENTIALLY GOOD IN MY LIFE AND I GAVE HER UP SO THAT I CAN SERVE YOU. EVEN THOUGH I DEFENDED YOU AND HELD BY YOUR WAYS, YOU STILL TOOK HER AWAY FROM ME." This would have been a good match. I knew it, she knew it, my rabbis knew it, and the shadchan (matchmaker) knew it. This didn't happen because I was too religious. Thank you G-d.

I must say that from the amount of anger and frustration I am generating from the thought that I lost another good girl because I was religious (this has happened before), it doesn't put G-d on my favorites list. I am defending some power that I force myself to believe in every day. With regret and sorrow, this is one of those times that I will likely grit my teeth and admit that I am all talk, because the truth is that I likely will not go out to this bar or this dance club because it is times like this that I need to remind myself that I am 28 years old, which is roughly 107 lifetimes away from 3000 years ago, when us Jews were slaves in Egypt. G-d took us out and performed miracles so that we would be "his" slaves. (I used a lower-case "h" because I am angry at him; normally when you refer to G-d you use an upper-case "H"). Nevertheless, he built us a temple and gave us the Torah, and I've seen them both with my own eyes, so I can not deny that I am a slave to G-d just as are all other Jews. So naturally my will succumbs to His will and I will grin and bear this experience just as I have done for all others. This is one more step in the right direction.

I could not help to notice, however, what is the wrong direction? "What is the 'Dark Side' and Why Do Some People Choose It?" by Mark Thornton is an article that I was reading early this morning about Anakin Skywalker's turn to the dark side. The article can be found here.

In short, the author traces Anakin's turning to the dark side to three factors. 1) He had no father around when he was growing up. 2) He and his mother were slaves. 3) He abandoned his mother only to return years later to find that she had been horribly brutalized, surviving just long enough to die in his arms.

I couldn't help but to notice the similarities between Anakin's childhood and mine. Firstly, my father was never around when I was a child. He didn't raise me; his influence was only felt through the strength of his hands and the dents in the wall from me slamming against them from the force of his hits. He left my mother and took everything away from her when they got divorced. He even broke her bras one by one, foreclosed on the house, and emptied all of my mom's bank accounts including my account which contained all the money I ever saved. (Even though it was not much, a child's account, [a father's own child's account] with around $1500 from savings coming from quarters, years of mowing other people's lawns, and years of discipline from unspent allowance is a lot to steal.) If you see the movie "War of the Roses", you will know the story of my parents, because everything that the man did, my father did.

As for 2), our slavery was to a life of poverty and depression. My mother worked many jobs just so that we could survive. I don't want to go into it because I hate poverty sob stories. As for the 3), I left and abandoned my mother when I moved out when I was sixteen. (I ran away many times during my childhood, but my first successful abandonment was when I was sixteen.) The difference is that my mother did not die (chos v'sholom), but for years I felt that inside she did. I have lived with guilt my whole adult life that I could not save my mother from the torments that she experienced when I was younger. I wished I would have been stronger so that I could save her, and I vowed to G-d that I would be strong so that I wouldn't fail her again.

The difference between Anakin and I is that while we both had masters (he had Obi Wan and I have my mashpia) who guided us on the right path, I have no sith teaching me the ways of dark magic. Further, there is no force which leads me to the dark side except for my animal soul (nefesh habahamas) which is within me, and I am clearly aware of its presence and its temptations; more importantly, I am stronger than it.

Lastly, in Star Wars, there is no G-d. There is only the influence of truth and moral integrity which causes the individual with free choice to choose which side of the force he will join; good or bad. In my life, there is a G-d who is all-powerful and all-knowing who will kick my ass if I get out of line. Since my experiences which have led me to becoming religious, He has tagged me as one of His slaves.

I can become unobservant and break away from yiddishkeit (orthodox Chassidic Judaism) at any time, but I will never be able to UNLEARN everything that I have learned. This is forever burned and engraved within me, and I will never be able to abandon it. I suppose it is possible to rationalize it away, but deep down I will know the truth and I will be filled with guilt because once truth finds a person, that person can never hide from it again; it will always be with that person, even if it is hidden in a closet or under the bed -- haunting that person until he realizes and acknowledges its presence and its validity. Additionally, if I did reject it, then all that I have been through and all that I have lost including this girl and the others will have been for nothing.

With all this said, I do not plan on abandoning anything. I will continue steadfast on this path of truth and freedom regardless of the obstacles that come my way. G-d is bigger than me, and bigger than any philosophy I can dream up. I remember my goal in life, namely to tap into his wisdom and bring it down to our level so that others can connect to it through technological means for good, and I will adhere to that mission regardless of the costs. Thank you, readers, for staying with me throughout this ordeal.


Daphnewood said...

Ok quick version fo the lost "touch" email. Your view of dancing just spurred me on and now you must read my full wrath. So hang on. Touching is NOT evil. Why you think this is beyond me but I know you are not alone in this ideology. Man made touching into something nasty and dirty NOT GOD. There are many premature babies in the hospital that volunteers line up to hug. Why? because those babies DIE w/o touch. They thrive on human contact. Kangaroo therapy (skin to skin contact w/infants)has been shown to push thriving growth along. Not only babies need touch but adults do too. No, it does not need to be sexual. You are only having sexual thoughts because, well honestly because you aren't getting any sex right now. But if people could see that touching isn't always sexual and just take a pat on the shoulder or a hug for what it is, human souls connecting for a moment then people would be better off. I say go dancing and I really don't think God would mind. I know our 'religions' are different but criminy Hirsch, God himself wants to hug you, touch you and talk to you. He does that through others we meet. The one thing I have learned in life is that all things happen for a reason. This girl did not work out but it is better to know that now than 5 years down the line when children are involved.

I am sorry for the ranting. You are not the only one in the world that has this view on touching. I just wish more people would see how good and necessary it is for living. anyway, again I am sorry. It really is not picking apart your faith, it is about the cultural value of touching in America.

with warm thoughts and a HUG,
your rebel friend

Rowan said...

Hi there! You visited my site recently. I have to respond to your post (late albeit) in that I was raised in a fundamentalist home as a Salvationist, I know what you are speaking of when you say you have troubles lettinjg go of old beliefs. I have not really steadily attended church since I was about 13. I hear thats a common age when faith takes other directions. I still believe I go to church in my heart however, and to me, that's what matters most. I also don't believe in any one religious god, I believe we all are working towards pleasing the same god, we just identify with Him differently. In my church, it was forbidden to date unchaporoned, to dance (especially with the oppostite sex), to think unpure thoughts of any form, to smoke, to drink, to own much in the way of worldly possessions, and many more "laws" if youwill. I took ballroom dancing for 3 years a couple years back. As I became more advanced, there developed problems due to my inability to dance suggestively and more "sexy" if you will. I just couldn't do it, no matter how badly I wanted to please my instructor, I couldn't get over the fact that I knew in my heart it was wrong, I was raised in a God fearing home where it was wrong. I may not necessarily believe that today, but I know that something in me stops me from doing this sort of thing. It is the religion that stays with me, like you put it so eloquently, it never leaves you.

I am thoroughly enjoying reading your blog. You bring tears to my eyes with your raw emotion and honesty. I think you are a beautiful person. I myself have had similar probs in life, my family life does not sound too much different than your own. I am past the "physical" problems of this, but the "spiritual" will never leave me. My parents have both passed on, and yet, they are still here lording things over me that I know now I will never recover from. Keep blog swapping, you are amazing and worthy of much love.

Anonymous said...

First: People have free choice. Blaming parents for what a person becomes is escaping blame. Yes, in retrospect, historians can consider what influenced a child. However, the person himself should never fall in the trap of blaming others for turning to bad. Ultimately, a person has free choice, and as you know, G-d doesn't give anyone a test he or she can't handle.

Second: I understand this girl was wonderful. However, why did you ever go out with her if she wasn't religious. The whole point of shidduchim, with all the preliminary background checks, is to prevent such situations from arising. It really should have never come to this. Good luck on your finals and my blessings for you to meet a great girl.


Zoe Strickman said...

Wow, so many quality responses. Thank you all. I'll respond in reverse order.

JMO - I am a little bit confused about the religious thing myself - everyone said that she became religious; something slipped through the cracks. I guess when we are not dealing with FFBs, the path isn't so straight. Parents: I have been known to give credit and blame to them for my childhood; they are human and did the best they could. The point of the comparison was how I found it interesting how much one's childhood environment can shape and influence that child as he grows up. Everyone has free will, but they work with the deck they were dealt. Thank you for your comment.

Rowan: You and I have a lot to talk about. I will keep reading your blog and will stay in touch. Your comments are comforting because I always wonder whether the feelings I express are the real feelings that are inside. It's good to get congruence reflected back. KIT.

Daphne: I couldn't help but to agree with everything you said, without any "but"s. A person dies without touch, and all I can say is that it is my intuition that people were not meant to be alone by the time they were my age; the fact that there are people who are bursting out and becoming religious in their mid to late 20's like I did is a new phenomenon that I am sure even G-d knew about, but realistically didn't expect. There are so many mechanisms both spiritual and physical going on that we are unaware of; loneliness and the lack of touch could be one quirky effect of something G-d did not intend. I once wrote a paper that conveyed almost the same thought as you wrote, and so I am right there with you. The qualification is that religion says no touching before marriage and so I follow it although I disagree with it. Who is smarter, me or Him? ;) Hopefully the lack of touch won't be going on for too much longer. I suppose the answer lies in the merit of channeling energies such as one's touch in the right direction and into the right vessel. Perhaps it is like cooking a cake -- the individual ingredients alone seem to be nasty and disgusting. When the ingredients come together, yummy chocolate cake!