I don't think I'm the most religious person in the world. I flirted with hassidism, mysticism, kabbalism, atheism, buddhism, agnosticism, and, in all likelihood, every other theistic, and non-theistic, "ism" that (dis)organized religion has to offer. I don't have a place that I mine for meaning, nor do I have enough conviction in any one of my forays to subscribe to a belief set. I have discovered, though, after years of searching and myriad vicissitudes, that there's no place for pride in belief. The notion that ego plays a part in belief is embarrassing and childlike, but, inarguably, the biggest deterrent to finding peace has been the conviction that I don't want to prop my psyche on a crutch. I want to earn my happiness and sadness, and I don't want God or a mantra to dictate how connected I feel.
Having spent a few months in Tsfat, I found a way to set aside narcissism for stretches, if not harmonious inner peace. Anyone who's been following my blogs for the last few days (me, Evy, Alter, and a drunk pedophile with a myspace account, probably) might have observed the frequent recurrence of Avi Shimon Christopherson, who was my spiritual adviser, dorm (read: drug) counselor, and good friend in Tsfat. I took a few minutes off from work to speak with him about whats happening in Israel, and what I got was a deeply religious view. Im going to convey a bunch of what he said, and feel free to agree or disagree with his approach, but please allow yourself to be edified. If theres one thing Ive learned by now, it is to never discount someones philosophy, because you might be spouting the same ethos in a couple of years. Plus, ASCs only motivation is macro- and microcosmic serenity; fire and brimstone are overlooked for peace and love. You can check his profile on myspace and see for yourself: scroll through my friends and look for Holy Moly. Hes the one with the spiritual burnish and fire-red beard.
"We have to understand why it is that our enemies strike us, and what gives them strength to strike us. The way the Creator made the world is that, when we break the system, we get what we deserve," said ASC. "We have to look at the actions that are causing these things to happen."
Like pillaging fossil fuels in a feverish monetary orgy, ripping holes in the ozone layer, and pumping the global climate to precarious heights. Like killing, stealing, and raping; like scandal, adultery, and acrimony.
"If it weren't Hezbollah attacking us, it would be a tsunami, or wild bears, or another method," said ASC. "It's easier for a person to fight wars and spend millions of dollars than to take one journey into his own heart and see if he's doing something wrong.
"The first step is to shut off your cell phone and sit with the Creator and say, 'I'm here to talk with you. There's a lot of pain, a lot of suffering, and I want to do something to change it.' In the words of Coldplay (Politik, first track on Rush of Blood to the Head, for those who are interested), you have to ask, 'Am I part of the cure, or am I part of the disease?' We're either causing good things or bad things to happen; no one is neutral."
For many of us, going to synagogue or church is a foreboding, if not appalling, notion. ASC assured that officially ordained places or modes of prayer don't have to figure in to this equation. Verizon and Cingular have got to go, but abhorrence is fine, so long as you promise to turn the ringer off.
It was at this point in the conversation that I started getting uneasy, and not just because my boss was hovering over me like an ominous patch of clouds. I don't have a great interest in turning my phone off and talking to God. I didnt tell ASC, but I'm in a fight with the Almighty--which I'm winning, by the way, but I expect that to change--and I'd much rather listen to my iPod and blog aimlessly than talk to my adversary.
"The world doesnt revolve around MySpace and iPods," he responded, without knowing that he was responding.
Agreed, but meditation and communion with the Divine won't end a ground war, or help feed soldiers on the Lebanese front. To that, ASC responded with the most time-tested of all educational tools: the analogy.
"A healthy person can take preventative measures to not become sick, like watching his/her diet," offered ASC. "But once he/she becomes sick, though, he/she has to work on a couple of levels: fighting the virus to heal the injured part of the body, and then going back to that original diet to not get sick again. The Jewish nation is like one body. Now that we didn't do what we had to do, we have to fight to remove the cancer (Hezbollah, militants, Jihad, etc), which is what the army is doing, and then look inside ourselves to remove the root of all of this."
I do not necessarily endorse any one particular worldview, but I give credence to the suggestion that the world is vomiting its poison. Mother nature is wretching, and everything we see on the news is a big, disgusting machination. Maybe we aren't doing our part, and maybe, if we decide to get our collective act together, we won't have as much hardship. Anyone who thinks differently can rest assured that it is exactly that type of mindless opposition that got us into this mess in the first place. Thanks a lot. No, really, I mean it.