Monday, November 23, 2009

Religion...Spirituality...Faith...Devotion...Blind?

Opening a can of worms here: Religion. It is a topic which cannot be avoided. I do live in Israel after all, birthplace to 2 major monotheistic religions and significant landmark to a third. However any growing-up-Christian familiarity I may have known in life has been completely overshadowed by the overt Judaism of this country. Islam is the other main religion here (statistics wise) but unfortunately I've not had much contact with it since the religious and cultural divide is quite thick. As a result, I've become more immersed into the Jewish way of living whether I want to or not. For example: kosher laws, Shabbat closures, Passover dietary restrictions, and the big Yom Kippur shutdown amongst others. I have a new found appreciation for having grown up in a country that separates state and religion.

Though raised Christian, I do not consider myself religious and wouldn't even be deemed Christian by fellow Christians. I have not intentionally sat through a church service in over 10 years nor do I wish to ever again. I do not believe in this. It does not comfort me and I do not believe I need to be in a "house of worship" in order to worship. My relationship with God or whomever can take place in my apartment, a park bench, the supermarket, or a bus. I am also deeply skeptical about the bible or any other religious text. I do not choose to follow its teachings but rather to make my own choices based on common sense and my understanding between right and wrong. Do I believe Mary was immaculately impregnated by God? Where logic has no place, faith moves in and I must confess I do not possess the faith to believe such an occurrence happened. Did Jesus ever exist? I believe so. Was he the son of God? Perhaps, I think so but cannot believe so wholeheartedly. Did Jesus die for me and my sins? I haven't found my answer yet but cannot be fed an answer by the Christian faith. But my life experience has shown me that there is a God and that everything happens for a reason, therefore I cannot consider myself an atheist.

I believe that religion as we know it today has been grossly manipulated by man. The intricate procedures and rituals performed by the devoted are merely choreographic works to me. I cannot take seriously a person who devotes their life entirely to a God they cannot prove exists beyond what their holy book tells them. I believe this stunts individuality and personal choice. Performing kind acts or committing harm in the name of God is a cop out. I believe we must take responsibility for our own actions, rather than credit or blame an external source.

**

Israel is without a doubt a Jewish state. In fact, many Jewish and Zionist organizations around the world work very hard to keep it this way. Masa is one such organization with the intention of bringing young Jews to Israel in the hopes of keeping them here. This is no secret. Everyone in the program, Jewish or not, understands and acknowledges this whether they like it or not. When asked why I did not join the Masa program I simply answer "I am not Jewish".

Last night we watched an Israeli film, "Late Marriage" about a Georgian-Israeli man's family's quest to find him a suitable bride, despite already having a girlfriend. Following the film a discussion began about Judaism, marrying outside the religion, and Jewish identity. I remained mostly silent but the responses around me were enlightening. A surprising number of participants admitted they would not marry someone who wasn't Jewish. Many wished to raise their children with a strong connection to the Jewish faith. Though I respect these wishes, I was also surprised to find that as young Americans who live in a culture where people are constantly courting outside their race, religion, or economic class, they would still feel so strongly against marrying a non-Jew.

Although I live in Jewish country, I have found that many of my Israeli classmates are not particularly religious. Most do not keep kosher, observe Shabbat, and only some fast during Yom Kippur. Though they are all Jews, some cannot remember the last time they were in a synagogue. It is true that the foreigners here with Masa are more religious and connected to the Jewish community than the Israelis who were placed in the Jewish world by default.

**

Upon learning that I am not Jewish, people usually respond with a blunt "then why are you here?" The first time I heard this I was taken aback. Now its just old. I'm here to dance. I have no religious or spiritual connection to this land. I do believe Jesus existed and lived here, but to be frank, this had no place in my decision making process to move to Israel. I am in Israel because of its rapidly developing dance scene and to be a part of the work being made. I am fully aware that many people (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, etc.) are here for reasons rooted in religion and though I respect this, I am finding that I choose not to be a part of this close mindedness.

I am officially tired of religion. It has limited place in my life.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Excuse me while I try to make sense of things

Two days ago in composition class I found myself drawing and writing in my notebook between bits of choreographic showings by my classmates. Okay, I confess some of the doodles happened during the bits as well. Point is, I became suddenly consumed with words and images. I wrote a full page run-on sentence of metaphors where I compared myself to a helicopter caught in a tornado and a monster wondering what to eat and do. This is how I see myself.

People take things personally. Whether they should or shouldn't is a stupid debate. To each his own, one may have developed thick skin whilst another wears his heart on his sleeve.

A good friend and I discussed this idea about "not taking things so personally" and "not being so sensitive". We've concluded that it most likely stems from cultural differences because we realize that people here are more blunt and harsh in their delivery of ideas and perhaps these ways aren't always welcomed by us. Though ironically it is also true that I can be massively blunt and harsh in the delivery of my ideas. Does this make me a hypocrite? I suppose in a sense it can, so I've decided to take a step back to look and listen and to try and make sense of things.

There is a constant debate in my head about how to react and respond to things. But life shouldn't be so calculated. If I was perfectly honest, would things be better? Or worse?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Life is suffering, food is pleasure

I love everyone and I hate everyone. The ones I love most I hate most. Its just one of those conundrums...

**

Winter has hit northern Israel and I feel the chill to my bones. It was most surprising since I ignorantly assumed that there couldn't possibly be a cold winter in the Middle East. But I was wrong, and I've learned that its only going to get colder from here.

Life in the studio continues as usual, albeit at a much more hectic pace. I'm currently in the process of creating a work using 2 dancers from 2 separate programs here. Its turning out to be a much more rewarding experience than past choreographic projects I've initiated and the connection between myself and the dancers is good. I cannot complain.

**

Three previous visits to Israel could not have prepared me for life here. It is something completely different from anything I've ever known and in this sense, I am very lucky to be experiencing something so unique and challenging at the same time. I can feel myself learning more and more each day, whether a new word in Hebrew or just something about myself and my personality. Living on this kibbutz and surrounding myself mainly with Israelis is proving to be quite the struggle. Sometimes I can put my finger on it, but most times its more a vague feeling of disconnect from the people and situations at hand.

I've also learned to be more discerning about whom I associate with. At this particular point in time, I cannot be spreading myself too thin. But I'm constantly reminded that this is not the kibbutznik way. Sometimes I just want to take off my shoes and slap people across the face.

Or perhaps write a letter along these lines:

Dear [insert Israeli person's name],
I hate you. Please go away. Fuck You.

Thank You.

Hatred,
Courtney


But this is considered anti-social for some reason...

**

I've decided to take up cooking to ease my troubled mind.