There are loops in life that we get stuck in. Sometimes, of our own creation.
When I began my original Skeptic’s Kaddish series, following the death of my Papa, the title of the series came to me after fishing through my mind for several minutes. At first, I resisted the idea because it felt much too ungainly, but it was truly the most accurate description of my project at the start. The full title was ‘The Skeptic’s Kaddish for the Atheist’. I – a skeptic; my father – an atheist.
Declaring myself a skeptic at the outset burst the floodgates. What did I have to lose at that point? I was no longer pretending, even to myself.
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I’m not sure that I know what a religious experience is, but I imagine that it is something like maintaining this blog because my writing process allows me to make meaning of not living up to my religious ideals. As I board this train of thought, I realize: I don’t even know what my religious ideals are anymore.
Well, at least I own that – here at the ‘Skeptic’s Kaddish’.
There’s also the matter of connection, which religious experiences grant. Connection to… you name it. Writing publicly makes me feel connected. To… myself. To… you. To… Whoever happens to be out there.
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Early on in my kaddish journey, I came to a realization. I might call it powerful, and perhaps it was, but I feel as though my “realizations” are too often obvious to everyone but me.
I realized that by writing about Papa, I was taking a hand in shaping the very little that remained of him – namely the collective memory of him. The dead cannot defend themselves. They can’t respond to our discussions about them; and their limited influence over how they are perceived only diminishes over time. This is true of even the most famous people. [A sudden thought: Perhaps it’s even more true for famous people who are turned into symbols.]
All that remains are memories, but not only mine, and I do not seek to limit my father to my reflections.Me, ‘The Skeptic’s Kaddish’ #9, Oct. 5, 2018
This was a humbling thought. In sorting through my own feelings and recollections publicly, I was also shaping other people’s impressions of my father.
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Recently, I’ve been thinking about this loop that I’ve created.
It began honestly enough, and I continue to strive to be true. This blog began as the ‘Skeptic’s Kaddish’ because, quite simply, I am [still] a skeptic-
- When my 5½-year-old tells me that she believes in God’s omnibenevolence (a word I taught her), I don’t discourage her from this. I support her budding theology, with the caveat that “some people share your beliefs and others don’t.” However, I find myself having to bite my tongue to prevent myself from responding to her too mordantly.
- I recently discovered several online groups for earnest, informed discussions of Judaism between Orthodox Jews and others who have left Orthodoxy, and I find myself significantly more convinced by the formerly Orthodox people’s arguments than those of our believing brethren.
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However, I have come to wonder about the extent to which I have boxed myself into a corner. My reflections always begin from the point of skepticism – after all, this is the “Skeptic’s” kaddish, is it not?
I imagine that commentators and writers of all bents pigeonhole themselves once they’ve established their readerships or audiences… but my blogging is personal, not professional, so I’m not concerned with what others think. Rather, I think, it’s that the label allows me to feel clever. “Look at me,” says my handle, “I’m knowledgeable enough about Judaism to be skeptical of it. Look at me; I’m a serious thinker.”
My blog discourages me from believing, for how would I distinguish myself if I did?
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These words remain mine to write, as I yet live…
But have they come to defined me?