Monday, November 1, 2010

Devil Candy

His conviction fascinates me and yet I can hardly discern whether it is conviction or an extraordinary lack there of that makes him an atheist.

I don't know how or why I consistently find myself debating perfect strangers on a variety of topics, all of which i am vastly unequipped and uniquely unqualified to debate on. As I ride the dark Jerusalem-bound transport from Tel-Aviv, the ambiance is that of a foreign black and white film. Across from me sits the classic intellectual; wire-rimmed glasses, skeptical eyes, with the faintest hint of hunger in his laugh. Ten minutes in and we’ve already begun wrestling the tired debate about the existence of G-d; as if either of us understand the first thing about G-d.

The thing about being an atheist, I’ve always believed, was that you had to be logical. You had to be calculated, which meant you had to be cold and fantastically unfeeling. It was for those reasons this school of thought was forbidden to a person like me, given my track record of emotion.

Something about this guy tells me he too possesses few of those qualities. His questions are hot, his accusations passionate, laced with what seems to be the accumulation of years of pain and challenges. Tetris blocks of hurt and resentment that fell for some time but never quite fit together. Until one day his screen jammed and shut down. And he shut down too. Never played again.

He's smart, I can't deny him that, but as an atheist, he simply is not compelling. I get the feeling he thinks about G-d more often than I do.

But his questions are good. So good, it makes me wonder how many people he's bounced them off before me. How long has he had to manipulate his words so that we can dance in circles around the truth?

I tell him what I’ve learned. Stories of kings and rabbis and paintings so exquisite they couldn’t possibly be the result of accidental spills and random encounters. I tell him about this, about that, I rack my brain for anything that can prove to him that my faith isn’t futile. But nothing I can summon on such short notice is impressive or earth-shattering. Even I am not convinced.

He smiles at first, like he’s going to give in, but then he shakes his head. “Your stories are nice”, he tells me, “but they’re just fables."

He’s quiet for a while, now it's just us and the silence I created. And it gives me time to consider the fact that I can’t properly validate my own beliefs. Loathe as I am to admit, I can't help but wonder if one day my default faith might exhaust. It’s an odd feeling to know you believe in something so urgently and yet you can't explain it, you can't justify its presence or reason with its force.

The silence lasts for several moments before he moves in for the kill. As the words form on his lips my heart sinks deeper into my chest. It dawns slowly, growing voices and faces with each vowel, each syllable confirms my deepest fear.

Of course I believe in G-d- I was never given the option not to. I was told since before I could talk that there was a G-d, as my mother led my right hand to cover my eyes. I was taught in the first grade that in the beginning He created the heavens and the earth. It ran on loop in my head like a chant. I was convinced in elementary school that He's suspended in the air and brainwashed all through high school to know that I could never understand His perfect existence. How convenient... how brilliantly executed, how cunning the efforts to keep me from questioning, from uncovering the truth.

He's right, isn't he?

I was forced into this faith, was I not? I can't remember having been given a choice...Now my heart is beating outside my chest... What if he's right?

"Tell me I'm wrong," he dares me. But I can't; I'm mute with doubt. I can't think of a single response to the proud smile that begins in his eyes and spreads like an avalanche over his features.

"Truth is," I whisper, on the cusp of surrender. And really whatever comes out of my mouth next could narrate the rest of my life.

"I don’t know why I believe...I just do."

As the words tumble from my mouth, I’m not sure whether I’m talking to him or myself.

"You're right. I was taught that there is a G-d. I was taught for years to understand His existence. I was taught to appreciate an existence I could never understand...But never, in all those years was I taught to believe."

No longer do I care to sound trite, or cult-ish, because I may very well be both, and chances are I'm neither.

"Belief can't be taught. And it can't be learned. And the crazy thing is, once you have it you can't unlearn it either."

I have no more points to prove. When I forsake my stupid-smart philosophies and pretentious theories, when I'm not so arrogant as to believe I can understand, my mind shuts down and submits to an inexplicable power. To simple, un-glamourous, honest-to-god belief. Something I cannot nor do I wish to understand.

Is it exhausted? Maybe. Is it cliche? Probably. But it doesn’t stop it from being completely, ridiculously, obnoxiously true.

"Hey it's okay," I tell him, "if you believe." I attempt a wink, which turns out to be more of a face twitch "...I promise I wont tell."


mushky said...

awesome!! perfect! i believe.

Altie said...

:) love this post. Very well written.

thatrandomgirl said...

This is what I've always been trying to say.

mushka said...

thank you :)

Russi said...

Wow! So perfectly written..ohhh I love it!

mushka said...

thanks russi :) i love ur writing too

Mushkie said...

Wow, beautiful. Sometimes it comes from somewhere beyond logic.

Former Dosik said...

Many of the stories that are told to reinforce belief in "Hashem" are often false. Some are even taken from books of fables and changed a bit.

For every story you tell, there is a very real one about someone who lived a good and righteous life and never saw one bit of happiness.

Your ways are the ways of lies and liars. Science has long since disproven anything you have to say.

Most of the stories about the Lubavitcher Rebbe are false or exaggerated. He was a man who tried to do good but was very flawed. His whole idea of good was based on falsehoods that he was taught to believe as well.

Mushka said...

if my blog bothers you so much, you might find that not reading it might do you some good :)

Former Dosik said...

If I save one person from falling for your bullshit and the bullshit of your cult, I will have truly saved a life.

Mushka said...

sure. but i dont understand, if we are all just chemicals thrown together then what is the value of human life? human achievement? who cares about anything in life?

in truth i have no reason to sit here and argue with a person who refuses to stand behind his words. when you attacked my friend i had to say something, but at this point, you are just being ridiculous. you sound like you need a hug. or a sense of humor.

take care :)

Former Dosik said...

Being productive is the value of human life.

When one is not productive by choice - through joining a cult that is fueled by donations - that is criminal.

When one is no longer able to produce due to illness or injury, life must be terminated unless that person or his family can pay for life to continue.

I have a fine sense of humor. And your cult prohibits you from giving me a hug. If you did hug me, I would respond by doing the Chabad thing; sticking a knife up your back.

mushka said...

Aren’t there some rabbis you can bother, can’t you storm the mosques, stalk the Catholic priests or bully the Buddhist monks? Pardon me for asking, but when did I become the face of the believer? Aren’t there others whose beliefs are less hesitant than mine and far more vehement?

It’s curious that you choose to hang around here, with my rainbows and LSD, especially when it riles you so. I wouldn’t read your blog; much less post comments, and I assure you, it’s not because I don’t think you’re crazy.

I think you feel threatened. I think you know the priests would just laugh in your face and the imams wouldn’t give you the time of day. I think you realize the monks can match your logic and the rabbis would tear your ideologies to shreds all the while trying to mekarev you. So you stay here, because you believe you’ll stir me. Or perhaps you imagine that I might be so enlightened by your suave comments, kick off my heels, hang onto your bumper and chase your visions with you deep into the night.

See the thing is- I would love to take you seriously but your intentions are all wrapped up in your craven anonymity; it’s impossible to take anything you say to heart. The most diffident of people, with the most pitiful of esteem can write anything under an anonymous identity just to get a sense of what it’s like to feel powerful without the consequences. Your words have no credibility seeing as there is no man behind to back them. You may very well be playing the devil’s advocate or you might be one of my friends pranking me. For all I know, you are a little child with a thesaurus and an unfortunate access to wikipedia.

Atheists are meant to be intelligent people. But you’ve just reduced your esteemed ideology to unsavory name-calling and crass cyber-bullying.

It’s funny because I don’t give a flying crap what you do or don’t believe. Your obsession with what I believe confounds me. It’s so perfectly manic; it’s grown to be flattering.

I anticipate your response will be a verbal tantrum, ridden with all sorts of logic that is both sterile and mind-numbing. You will be obnoxious, demeaning, and degrading and say things you would probably never say to a woman’s face.

But I’ll know you’re wounded, or just very, very bored, so I’ll forgive you.

Plus I’m pretty sure you are my good friend Mushky…

Mushka B. said...

just found this blog and I'm really enjoying it. You write well, and your ideas are not cliche masked in fancy language:)
I particularly loved this article.... I found your point so so profound, so true and so getting it, if getting it is possible...
I also kinda enjoyed the drama of the comments here:)

mushka said...

thank you mushka! always nice to hear. admittedly, i also kinda enjoyed the drama :)