It's too bloody late at night to be doing this, but I'd sort of expected myself to do this before Passover, and that's tomorrow, and tonight is the last time I have internet access before it's over.
How to begin? Two or three weeks ago. Or was it four? No, I'll give you a general overview first.
I was born an Orthodox Jew. What sets us apart from other Jews is the fact that we wear a little piece of cloth on our heads. You may have heard of it. It signifies, essentially, our membership in the social club of cloth-wearers, though ostensibly (originally?) it's supposed to communicate that we accept the general body of Jewish religious law (aka "Halakha"), and generally speaking rabbinical authority over us.
I have long had issues with the social club aspect of it. I don't want to be set apart from other Jews. I don't want to be set apart from Gentiles. I'm still waiting for someone to come up with a convincing argument for how tribalism is not all bad in every aspect.
The revelation - of however many weeks ago - was that I don't actually like the rabbinical authority side of it either. It is difficult to explain how this would be news to someone either non-believing or believing. It is an issue you would usually have faced many times before. It's not that I haven't. My view had been that there exists a G-d (though I'm not sure how long I'm going to keep up this rather bizarre habit of not fully spelling out his denotation), and that it would make sense for there to be a spiritual discipline he'd like us to follow, and that from my personal experience religious Jewish life contains at least some of it.
What I discovered, to my considerable surprise, as it happens on the last Jewish holiday (we're on the eve of the next), was that rabbinical authority and traditional Jewish law have little to do with this. Some of the commandments of Judaism I keep because they seem or feel important, but I really, truthfully, sincerely couldn't give two shits what the rabbis think about it. It's not dependent on them. I'm not dependent on them. Haven't been for a good few years.
No, the reason keeping me wearing the piece of cloth on my head had all along been the first, more immediately stupid one. I wanted to feel I belonged, and maybe more significantly, I didn't think it was a problem for me to mislead my surroundings, because how is it any of their fucking business how I live my spiritual life?
Well, it isn't their business, but it's still a problem, for that reason I mentioned in my previous post - separation of inner and outer worlds. I could explain, but it would take a while. It's to do with the doctrine of Taoism, which I'll doubtless endlessly expound on if I ever get this thing going.
So I took my piece of cloth off, three-odd weeks ago. This is technically a dramatic, drastic move for someone of my religious/cultural/whatever background, but to my surprise it didn't have nearly as profound an effect on my life as I'd expected; I'd just started work with people who didn't previously know me as Orthodox, I am no longer in any real contact with Orthodox friends, and due to a general frankness between us nobody in my family really got excited, except for my dad who I'd previously sat down to try and explain this to (about as successfully as I'd just attempted to explain to you), and he was upset, but in any case did not react the way a religious father is "supposed" to, in terms of hysteria and antagonism. The only place where it might have caused some raised eyebrows was the religious community, as symbolized mainly by our synagogue - which I have generally shunned, seeing no reason to break this custom now. I guess I just don't know anybody sufficiently stupid for my removal of a piece of cloth to mean the shit-storm that it traditionally does.
When asked, or occasionally voluntarily when I felt the issue was coming up, I'd say that I haven't actually changed my religious outlook in any way - I'd just removed the kipa from my head (some call it a yarmulke; we call it a "kipa", which means a dome, for what it's worth).
The cause of this latest crisis, has been three days ago, when I realized this isn't actually true either. I am not partial right now to Judaism. I'm not even neutral. I'm not even indifferent.
Every time a Jewish religious issue has come up - especially when we were meant to consider it "binding" - I have been filled with a sense of acute latent ridiculousness. It has felt bizarre to even be expected to humour these notions. I'd hear people going on about Judaism and be completely bewildered. The unfailingly persistent sentiment has been "what have these people been smoking?"
Because, and this may not make sense to a non-believer, or someone who has never believed, the ultimate "proof" for religion has never been logical, but more a sort of atmosphere you'd inhale by participating in it. And no, I'm not talking about the feeling of belonging. That's there too, but there's also a legitimate spiritual feeling that is in the end stronger than any logical argument. I do still get this feeling - quite often in fact - but pretty much never from Judaism.
And the question I've been asking myself, is where has it gone? Where the fuck has it gone? If a spiritual feeling is a genuine, essential component of something, that is stronger than any logic, then how can I feel it there one period of my life and not the next? It's like it's jamming a wedge through my whole metaphysical pseudologic. And I need that! It may seem to you like I'm speaking spiritobabble, but I'm not usually inclined to leave my sharp, dry, proven analytical skills behind and go for esoteric ways of thinking. This makes sense to me. It's making sense of my life in a way I've never experienced before. When you actually, deeply feel something, that means it's there.
The obvious logical answer, is that it belongs to some of Judaism but not to the whole package. Orthodox Judaism is more packed with rituals and dogmas and precise pedantic rules than anyone not familiar with it could imagine. None of the other recognized religions come close. There are heated, in-depth discussions of subjects beyond your dullest imagination. It requires a fervent faith in the system to not stare gape-eyed at these proceedings and be boggled by how these people could for a moment consider these subjects remotely significant to anything at all. I wish I had some examples to give you but the hour is late. The bottom line is, I do not have this fervent faith. I no longer believe in "the system".
I may still be some form of religious Jew, but I have long been out of the Orthodox school and sect. It is time to come to grips with the fact that this is part of my identity - or more precisely, that Orthodox Judaism is no longer part of my identity. I need to stop hanging on to its festering remains as if they mean something. They don't. They mean that I don't walk the way I talk, or in this case that I don't talk the way I think.
It is about authenticity, to neatly sum things up. It is important for reasons that seem readily apparent to most people but haven't to me until recently (and which I may yet go into in the future), that what you do and say represent who you are - what you want, believe, and feel. It is important that who you are in your interactions with people is not removed from who you are in how you perceive the world.
You do what you do because you want to do it; not because it is expected of you and it seems prudent and "beneficial" to play along. That's bullshit. I cannot stress enough how much that is bullshit.
And the major Jewish holiday of the year is coming up. It is important that I don't pretend to care more than I do about that. I'll know by next week how well I've handled that task.