Sunday, December 24, 2006

Spiritual Identity in Middle Age

So, here I am, admiring our Christmas tree, a middle-aged man with nothing but Jewish roots traced back generations to the permeable borders of eastern Europe in the 1800's and early 1900's. Well, how did I get here, anyway?

Raised in a admantly secular, non-denominational home in suburban New Jersey, I grew up celebrating Christmas and Easter as the ubiquitously plastic-coated, gift-wrapped confections of post-WW II middle American culture that they generally are. My parents, both Jewish New Yorkers, left New York for the Jersey suburbs in 1951, assimilating into a predominantly white Christian culture, with a Christmas tree in the living room and chocolate bunnies in April. Occasionally visiting my observant Jewish cousins and extended family in New York and Long Island, I would get a fleeting taste of the alien Judaic world, returning to the safety and cultural anonymity of our assimilated existence.

Unlike some adult Jews who "rediscover" Judaism later in life, I continue to feel drawn in other spiritual directions, pagan and otherwise. Morphing from teenaged devout atheist to twenty-something agnostic seeker to middle-aged spiritual eclectic, I guess I'm just one who dares to not embrace the root culture, striking out for something uniquely my own. Some would call me confused, others would feel sorry for my loss of identity. Still others would simply see someone caught in a world he never made, making lemonades from so many lemons. However ill-defined, my spirituality and sense of self amidst the great Universality of Being is a constant work in progress, and while this is certainly not a dress rehearsal, I apparently still don't know my lines.

Some day, I'll exit stage left, and whether I meet St. Peter, Moses, the Buddha, Jesus, Paramahansa Yogananda or my old dog Sparkey, I know that ease and bliss await me in that Great Beyond. Will I know the script? Probably not. But just as I did while traipsing the Earth, I'm sure I'll just fake it 'til I make it.
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