Monday, August 13, 2012

There is no end to the circle

I learned recently that no argument is truly Talmudic unless it contains disagreement. Wow. I knew there was a lot of bickering ongoing among and between all those medieval European rabbis, but I didn't know that conflict was one of the rules.

I am so Jewish. What do I always say? I say that conversations with people who do not exactly share my values are always the juiciest. That is how I learn. I like hanging out with like minded people. We can reinforce each other's versions of reality and thereby stroke our egos. It's nice and comfortable, but I never learn anything. In my heart of hearts, I believe disagreement can add energy and spark to a conversation, as long as both parties are respectful. I'm Talmudic! I find that kind of hilarious.

Respect is the bottom line. "You're wrong," is really different from "I strongly disagree." When the argument turns into character assassination, that is not enlivening or interesting. It's simply destructive.

You're wrong, whether directed at myself or others, is the location from which I begin to assemble my torches. You're wrong can lead to mob mentality, everyone dropping to the lowest common denominator, like in the Frankenstein movies. I experienced this mob directed you're wrong energy many times when I was part of Reclaiming.

Directed at myself, you're wrong tends to motivate me to put together a self pity torch, stinky like old cheese, misshapen and so shoddy it hardly burns.

I strongly disagree can lead to a nice glass of wine, a sit down, a long and lively discussion such as took place for hundreds of years in Europe during the middle ages. Those rabbis could go on and on. I'm certain in addition to the strongly disagree conversations there was a whole lot of character assassination. Tempers can flare when people disagree. My guess is that the best teachings in that holy text resulted from the strongly disagree exchanges.

In the process of unravelling my torches, I noticed I'm building new torches all the time. For instance, I created a torch of rancor towards myself for making the mistake of getting a tattoo. It burned hard for awhile. Now it isn't raging quite as wildly, but it still burns.

I'm beginning to understand that the process of unwinding the greasy rags and building the cleansing bonfire from the clean sticks is something that must be ongoing. Or, the thought came to me, I could choose a day or a week each year, focus on and gather as many torches as possible, dispose of the smelly rags and burn the torches, then move on into a new cycle.

It took most of the day yesterday to understand this process is in many ways just like what we do during the High Holy Days, when we get things straight with others and ourselves. We unravel our torches, make amends to those we have burned, forgive those who have burned us. On Yom Kippur we attend a huge cleansing bonfire, a burning bush as it were, through fasting and prayer, remembering the ancestors, giving thanks.

You should have seen my face when I put it together, that this process I'm involved in is essentially the High Holy Days. Ha. 

My conflicting feelings about - well - everything are authentically Talmudic. I'm so Jewish! Good to know.



Anonymous said...

People who seem to be so different from us and that we supposedly have nothing in common with can be the best teachers. I've found that to be oddly true through animal rescue where I have connected with people who have political and religious beliefs that would generally horrify me (and still do)yet I find have such compassion when it comes to animals. Some of them are Tea Party people who are in favor of marriage equality. There is no clear definition of people being all bad or all good.

Reya Mellicker said...

I know. It's not so clear cut as we are lead to believe.

ellen abbott said...

Now that you mention the high holy days I realize I am carrying a big torch over the garden club art project. Not sure I'm ready to put that one down yet.

Steve Reed said...

"I strongly disagree" makes the argument about the issue; "You're wrong" makes it personal.