Sunday, March 23, 2008

XGH - this one's for you

A guest post by TikunOlam

The other day I was exploring some of the J-blogs out there. Man, there sure are some interesting reads. And some really disturbing ones. So after I got through much of the thoroughly awesome RenReb’s archives I landed and spent a great deal of time with Angstgnostik. I know, I know, I am EXTREMELY late to the game. Please forgive me.

As I read some of the posts and some of the comments I started to steam. And I mean steam. I started developing this rant in my head that was growing so long that I initially thought I’d have to post about it to make it go away.

So I wrote DovBear and told him about the rant developing in my head. He told me (of course) that I should post about it. He reminded me that “not everyone knows what (I) know.” Well, that itself was validating enough to shut down the rant. So, instead, I decided to try to write a post which will hopefully result in something productive rather than simply a way to release my frustration. So, for what it’s worth, I’d like to relate some of my experiences and thoughts to you in hopes that you find them helpful.

Here is a little about me. I too went through a long, emotional, and painful struggle which resulted in my becoming a non-believer (and ultimately an atheist – I know, boo boo – go ahead). I did it young though, was done by my early twenties. So I have a few years on you in that sense. So let me tell you what you may expect if your experience turns out to be anything like mine.

At first, without Orthodox Judaism to provide me with a sense of meaning and purpose in my life, I went through a prolonged period of loss and grief. For a while I felt unsure of who I was anymore and I didn’t know what to do next. I found myself asking myself, how will I know what is right and wrong? Will I ever be a part of a community again? Can I survive without the structure of a tight knit community where all I have to do is consult a rabbi if I have a question? So, in other words, I’ve been there.

So, anyway, I understand that you are in search of a “spiritual high.” While spiritual experiences for many people are religious in nature, I have found that they do not have to be. In your search, you hit upon an excellent concept when you discovered Maslow and Peak Experiences. I actually teach this area of psychology at a college in the Tri-State area – if we weren’t both anonymous I’d invite you to come and sit in.

So this is the thing I feel very strongly about and needed to tell you– If you are looking for spiritual or peak experiences - you are looking in all the wrong places. You asked:

Is it right to expect religion to provide such experiences?

Well, duh. Not for you, not anymore. How can you expect to have a spiritual or peak experience from something you don’t believe in? So you can imagine what my response is to:

Should I investigate TM or some Eastern Religion? Should I join with the Chassidim? Should I become Geek (sic?) Orthodox and get my kicks from discovering obscure rishonim?

Well, no. Not unless you expect to find any more truth in those religions/denominations than you have in your own.

So here is my advice to you. Stop living life like you are still in the Beit Midrash. This means you have to stop surrounding yourself solely with books, debates, philosophies and concepts and expect that the peak experiences will come. You’ve been there, you’ve done that. You’ve gone through the intellectual part of this struggle. You’ve come to conclusions. If you are looking to have peak experiences – spiritual or not, I ASSURE you, you will not find them by continuing to use a method that you have already found doesn't work for you.

Where will you find them? Well, since I don’t know you, I can’t answer that for you. What I can tell you though, is that peak experiences often come from interpersonal experiences rather than intrapersonal ones. They come from expressing your talents and leaving your mark on the world. They come from meeting new and different people and discovering new and different places and ways of life. They come from making a difference in the world. To find your peak experiences – you have to go out there. Out from behind the computer. Out of the Bait Midrash way of thinking and into the world. Use the good old trial and error method. I assure you, the answers will come.

Oh, and for the record. Don’t do drugs. Kugel however, I am okay with.

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