naomiandruth: Antique calligraphy pen resting on boxed inks (Default)
[personal profile] naomiandruth
On my Tumblr, I'd posted that I was starting to read this book and would share my thoughts on it so here goes.

The Introduction:

I can’t say I’m super thrilled,even if it’s actually exactly what I hoped it would be.

I think I just have something against people who are super excited by Buddhist philosophies after my New Age/Pagan years. (I have nothing against Buddhism in general, but it’s in the same category as Christianity for me in terms of just how useful the ideas are for my personal spirituality - which is to say, ranging from useless to potentially harmful, and mostly just impossible for me to follow.)

I was less than thrilled by his account of having been inspired by a Buddhist-themed Rabbi retreat where they didn’t speak for three days and cycled walking and sitting meditation for the entirety of it. I’m glad he found something that worked for him, but it didn’t fill me with joy at the prospect of the rest of the book. However, I got the book for ideas, not in the hopes of agreeing with it completely, so that’s not enough for me to write it off.

The rest of the ideas in the introduction were pretty nice. I really enjoy the story of what is enough for a miracle in which the story is that there is a place in the forest, a fire to light, the words to say and over the years the specifics are lost but the place and the words remain, or the words remain, or the memory that there was a place and the words and the fire – any of that is enough. It’s helpful for me especially when while I may know what should be done I’m not always able to do it. That knowing and respecting that is enough to be heard.

I can appreciate also the idea that people often begin to see the practice of religion as an act of theatre with nothing ever new to see. To be fair, I believe for many people this is often true. If you’re not actually engaged with the religion, the movements of it can become utterly meaningless. It’s why I left my first religion, and why I often struggled as a pagan. I knew theoretically what was supposed to be done, but I couldn’t access the reasons why and it often gave me nothing new. After the intellectual exercise ended, I didn’t see the point in staying.

(I’m still slightly afraid that this might happen with Judaism, but logically I know there’s several reasons why it won’t go the same way – both for the greater volume of accessible materials, and for the increased access to social spaces and real-world engagements that don’t make me gag like generic pagan ones do.)

Also helpful is the discussion he goes into about the difference between how spirituality is commonly understood versus how he’s working with it in his book. Rather than dividing religion from spirituality in the sense of impersonal vs personal beliefs and actions, he handles it in the sense that spirituality is one’s connection to God within your religion and, also, while he doesn’t state it explicitly, he does implicitly state that it includes your connection to God within the material world in the sense that marching for Civil Rights protests can be “praying with your feet.” That, to me, is a connection to God in material world concerns and very relevant right now isn’t it?

He also discusses Halakah as a word that puts “tradition” in the context of “the way” or “to go” as the root of the word, and Kavanah as “intention.” Obviously his interpretation of kavanah comes from his Buddhist tendencies but I’m interested to see where he takes it.

Some of might be helpful, some not but if nothing else learning what ideas I disagree with and why will be helpful in the end.


naomiandruth: Antique calligraphy pen resting on boxed inks (Default)

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