Wednesday, June 22, 2005

"Black and White" or Color, Deeper...

I don’t know whether my thoughts tonight have their source in evil or in truth, nevertheless, I am stating them as feelings and I am not holding by them until I think this through with a clear head.

I am uncommiting myself from the practice of law, and I am uncommitting myself from living a religious life according to Chassidic strict observances. I no longer even want to wear the title of having the status of being frum because I do not want to be a hypocrite just in case I ever go down the path I am about to describe. I see being called frum was a belt earned as one earns a black belt in one of the martial arts, and it is one that I am not sure that I deserve or want.

The fuse that has blown within my head is the one that has the need to live life to its fullest, and to destroy mediocrity in its hiding place of complacency and in its forcing us to limit our thoughts to fit within a box. I have made so many changes and I have made so many sacrifices to reach my pinnacle of religious heights and I did it because I was looking for truth. But if religion and hiding from music, art, and beauty is truth then I don’t think I want truth anymore. I think I would rather choose evil.

I can’t believe music of all things is my weak point. I don’t even like music. I’ve hidden from the opera and I have shunned musicians, artists, and actors as being stupid and flamboyant for their own self-grandeur for years since I was shunned myself by my peers at the Pleasant Acres Farm Campground for being an opera singer when I was a child. I couldn’t bear the pain of being ridiculed by my friends for something they did not understand.

It was after that experience of being called an opera singer that I rejoined mainstream life**. I went back to being a regular person, leaving the magic and the gifts that were allegedly bestowed upon me in a dream-like past. I went back to elementary school, I graduated high school; I went to college, and I graduated with a science background that prepared me to become a doctor. I detoured off the beaten path and I worked for a few years in plastic manufacturing and sales; I had a few business pursuits fail me; I got accepted into an Int’l MBA program; I got the interview of my dreams as a coach for Anthony Robbins; instead, I went to rabbinical school and then law school; now I am one year away from getting my degree and taking the bar exam.

**While I was in the shower tonight, I couldn’t help but to notice a rift in my timeline. What happened around the time that I took such a sidestep in my life’s path of acting and music? It came to me that around the time everything musical ended, my family also fell apart. My parents got divorced, and as far as I can understand it, the hard times hit and life's dreams crumbled around me. I built to surround me this strong character that you see today with walls that were unbreakable. I believe that this might have been around the time that I stopped living life and I began decorating the walls of it.

I have never been able to put my finger on it, but I have never had the comfort of feeling that everything in my life was the way it should be, and deep inside, something has always felt terribly wrong. My search for truth has always been to rectify that wrong feeling and to fill that void deep inside my heart.

I am getting worried that I might not be on the right path, and I am also feeling that I am heading deeper and deeper down a path that I might not want to take. Which path I take should ultimately decide who I will take for a wife, and what kind of family I will have. If I make one decision and shift paths, this would be unfair to the kind of woman I would typically meet today, and so I feel the need to either explore the options quickly and make them known now before I marry, or to delay finding a wife until I have sorted this out. The preferred route will be to find a woman who will have her feet in both worlds, but who adheres to her moral beliefs.

G-d puts everyone on this planet for a reason, and we learn in Chassidus that nothing happens for no reason. There is a purpose for everything, and the one thought on my mind right now was the last shidduch that ended without an explanation.

I have come up with one hundred explanations, and probably all of them are true. The version of the story I have settled upon believing was that this girl could not marry a Cohen because of something that happened to her long ago that was not her fault or her intent, nevertheless, she was halachically barred (halacha is Jewish law) from pursuing a marriage relationship with me because of her misfortunate event. When she found out how much religion meant to me, she broke it off because she couldn’t bear the thought of entering into a marriage that was based on a lie and a violation of Jewish law, especially because she knew I would never be comfortable starting a marriage that had its roots in sin. I suppose it probably took her a few weeks to reconcile this truth because while we got along well, I am now of the opinion that all those other problems were fronts for the big one that in the end she couldn’t move forward. Rather than lie to me and risk a later break up and rather than disclosing this unfortunate blemish, she ended it and took the blame that she generally could not commit. I like this version of the truth because it puts her in the best light where she left me in mesirus nefesh (self-sacrifice) and reverence for the truth that we couldn’t be together because of religious reasons.

However, G-d does not make mistakes, and he brought her in to my life and took her out from my life for a reason. I suppose that we both grew from the experience, but specifically, on the surface, the lesson here was that I was not required to wear only black and white, but that I could have color in my life as well.

Deepen that concept and you arrive at the topic of tonight. Color and black and white. Black and white stands for all that is purely good or purely evil, namely extremes. It is the way we learned to dress in yeshiva (rabbinical school), and it is the way we learned to think. Yet the Lubavicher Rebbe stressed that a person should always walk the middle path, never to live in extremes. Of course I am taking his statement far out of context because he would want a person to be as religious as possible; nevertheless, the understanding for me tonight is that Judaism represents black and white. Color represents music, art, touch, a woman’s voice, and shades of the truth. The lesson that took place the night before she ended the shidduch was that there is no requirement to wear exclusively black and white, and that a life of music is not contradictory to a life of religious Judaism.

Therefore, it is my understanding tonight that I have fallen off my path long ago and that I have not yet found my way back. The life of a lawyer, a wife and children, all formed on the backbone of Chassidic Jewish observance might not be the truth I want to live, and if it is, it certainly is not the whole picture. It might be true that the color I am searching for is evil and is a lie, but I might be willing to take that chance. I no longer wish to live in a box of black and white self-limiting thought. I no longer am committed to living a normal religious life, and I am no longer committed to living the life of a lawyer. I have not yet found my truth. This is a nice resting place, but it is not it. For this reason, I will continue my search.

Now for the disclaimers. I have committed to finishing law school, and I have committed to the religious practices I have taken on so far. However, I am not comfortable with the concept of kol isha (the prohibition against listening to a woman’s live voice), just as I am not comfortable with the no singing, no acting, no opera rule. I once promised to myself that I would never draw lines to indicate that I would not pass a certain level of observance, however I feel strong enough about this for a line to be drawn – not between myself and religious observance, but between me and G-d. I know that hearing a woman sing is forbidden, just as I know some other things are forbidden as well. Right or wrong, I side with G-d and I believe that I would be wrong for doing these opera, music, dancing, and acting-related activities. However, I can not commit to not doing them. For that reason, I revoke the title of being frum and I remain a moral person.


Daphnewood said...

I go away for one weekend and you make tons of life altering decisions. Boy, I need to stay closer to home I guess. Zoe, you are a cool guy and from day one I could tell you were "soul searching". These decisions and revoking of decisions will keep happening until you get to a comfortable place in your life where you can grow the most. Anyway, I will write an email to you later. Right now I am still groggy from my trip.

hugs to you

Rowan said...

I believe that this might have been around the time that I stopped living life and I began decorating the walls of it.

What a perfect analogy! I myself feel this way often. Hence, the quote at the beginning of my blog, I have the perfect life - at least from the outside looking in. I'm young, urban and successful. I'm also medicated, unhappy, and deranged.

I think religion and morallity is what applies to you, not necessarily what applies to the whole. I think that these "rules" are standardization for the masses, and that you have to take that information, define it for yourself, and live as moral a life as you feel good about in the eyes of God. I think that this is what you are coming to terms with, and I think that "goodness" is an intention, not an action. I was raised as a fundamentalist, where dancing, smoking, drinking, television, for a long time even cars, and anything that would indicate vanity are strictly forbidden. Myself, I keep these things in mind, recognize the difference in things that should be reverred and things that really should be avoided, and if I can balance out at the end of the day and be able to say, yeah, I was a good person today, I feel worthy of calling myself a believer and follower of God (not Christ as I know so many Christians should claim).

Rowan said...

...." then I am ok.

(whooops this should have been at the end of the previous statement)