Radical Religiosity

Winter and the Future Moon

Sunday after zoom gratefuls: Mark, Tom, Bill, Paul. The technology. The years. The ease of understanding, of knowing. The always new: books, movies, personal learnings. Staying connected. All good, all special.

Thought as a way of preparing for my first class at the Kabbalah Experience, I’d summarize my reaction to starting Art Green’s book, Radical Judaism through to the Torah chapter. I’ve read the introduction, YHWH: God and Being, and the History of God. 78 pages out of 166. Almost half.

A slim, blue book, Radical Judaism contains a new (or, better, a newer) way of thinking about religion. Since I’ve had as a background project for many years now reimagining faith, then reconstructing and reenchanting faith, Green’s work spoke to me in a special, dialogical way.

Here’s an example. In the introduction he explains that theodicy, how can there be evil in the world if god is good? and critical history, the academic study of the Torah, the Hebrew scriptures, and, I would add, the New Testament, pushed him out of a faith he’d readopted in childhood. His parents were atheists.

In the 1980’s it occurred to me that Joseph would have been beyond the pale of salvation if he had been raised in Bengal by his parents, a Hindu. In this case theodicy relates to a god not big enough all of earth’s children. Not a true god, then.

In seminary I’d become fascinated by biblical study. I loved the stories. I loved the application of analytical thinking to sacred text. I saw the bare ground on which the claim of total inspiration rested. When I entered seminary, I was not a believer, and these courses pushed me further away from any normal faith.

I took my faith from the words of Jesus and the prophets about justice. This was the worldview that mattered to me. There was a lot of prayer, contemplative and petitionary. There were many meditative moments, visions, but even with lectio divina, a form of sacred reading of scripture, I never found my way to God, the father, or to God the general. I did have hints of God as immanent, but I found transcendence a bridge too far, taking me out of this world into one I suspected was really fantasy.

The realization about God and Joseph broke the slim rope connecting me to the Christian tradition, making ministry impossible. Christianity is not big enough, though Judaism is, to hold doubts about the central tenets of faith. Neither is Islam for that matter. Judaism is unusual in this regard.

Green made a comment in the introduction that taught me a valuable lesson: “I was no longer a believer, in the usual sense of that term, but I learned rather quickly that I was still a religious person…” p. 3, Radical Judaism. What was the lesson? Obvious to others, I imagine, but not to me. I am a religious person.

What does that mean? It involves a questing spirit, a questioning spirit, seeking through philosophy, poetry, religious texts, for answers to the big questions about life, death, our purpose. It also involves, I’m learning again, some sort of community.

So the first connection with Art Green was a remarkable similarity in our journeys. More on this later.

Cook, Do Laundry, Shop

Winter and the Future Moon

Sunday gratefuls: Kate’s better breathing last night. Our money. That stuffed green pepper recipe. Being able to communicate with Joe, Mary, and Mark so easily in spite of the thousands of miles. The guy who brought out my King Sooper Order. The dark of night. The light of day.

Having Murdoch here. Has made things more complex. Kep and Murdoch cannot be in the same space. Kep and Gertie can’t be together outdoors. Rigel and Murdoch sleep together now in the dog room, aka the guest room. I believe it’s better for Murdoch to have a warm body near him since he slept with Joe and Seoah. Can’t prove it, but it seems to help.

Means I have to have dog management on my mind all day. Like having toddlers. And, like having toddlers, it’s both fun and exhausting.

Speaking of sexism. Oh, I wasn’t? Well, let’s start right now. Realized that my tension between the domestic work I’m doing and the work that expresses me was due to unexamined sexism. Domestic work is work done by women. Perhaps not quite as much any more, but studies show women still do the bulk of home related work.

The man came home from the office, tired from a day at real work. He expected a meal on the table, a clean house, well disciplined kids, a full pantry, clean laundry. He expected it. That it involved real labor, of the back straining, calf tightening sort either didn’t occur to him or he didn’t care. After all…

I transported that same attitude to my own home work. It was something to get done with so I could back to the real work. No.

Chop wood. Carry water. The sacred is found in ordinary things, ordinary activities. Especially those done out of love. When we look at home work this way, it might be that the valences reverse themselves. Home work, done from love, is the real work and the work done for money, or for ambition, or for self-expression is a lesser work.

Yes, some men work out of their love for their family, true especially in blue collar homes where the work itself is often onerous, repetitive, and unrewarding. But white collar men often work more for their own ambition, for the money, for the status as they do for love.

Meanwhile the work of cleaning dirty clothes, shopping for groceries, paying attention to meals for all the residents of the home, cleaning the house itself, raising children, staying up to date on what needs doing in the home was seen as routine. Necessary, yes, but ordinary, not noteworthy.

I harbored these attitudes. After all these years. And turned them on myself when I got into the position of home worker. Shame on me.

It’s still difficult to settle into cooking, to doing the laundry, shopping, straightening things up, taking care of the dogs as more than chores. To learn, in the Zen way, how to chop wood and carry water. I’m grateful to have this chance to learn in a whole body sense what my mind concluded years ago, but didn’t communicate all the way down to my preset assumptions.