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Friday, February 11, 2011

If I were a rich man...

So Emily went on our netflix account and added a ton of musicals to our cue. I have nothing against musicals, in fact I enjoy them in between each song.  My exception to this rule is Fiddler on the Roof which we got in the mail a few days ago. It had been some time since I had last seen it. I wonder if I've matured...because it seemed to have a much deeper meaning to me this time around. I suppose thats what makes movies (and books for that matter) stand out from one another. Good movies and books will carry with them a universal and timeless message. The message will usually be one of moral concern and probably one of the great unanswered dilemmas of mankind. I could make a list of what I'm talking about but its late and I'd rather just get to the point. Fiddler on the Roof is one of those movies because it forces the person watching it to deal with moral and personal dilemmas that they would rather not, in a setting that allows them to disguise this self-evaluation as entertainment. No doubt, this sort of self-medication through wholesome art is uplifting and character building; I am not trying to go all "the robots are going to control our minds and make us eat pancakes till we explode!" up in here.

So, wanna know what I got out of my session on the couch with my therapist Tevye? Of course you do! Or why the heck are you reading this blog anyway? For anyone who hasn't seen the movie...turn off the jersey shore and save the remaining neurons you have left by finding a copy of the movie or downloading it (legally of course) and watch it because your not going to understand a lot of what I refer to, and its just something that will help you in life. If I sound uppity to you then forget my advice and go back to watching snookie make a mess of her life. I wont go into a summary of the movie but I want to focus on Tevye the main character and father in the story. Tevye is a Russian Jew during the second world war. His faith, sense of humor, and family are his back bone. 

What interests me so much is Tevyes internal struggle with all the situations that beset him throughout the movie. His increasing poverty, his daughters choices, and other trials of his faith carry him through the movie. He questions what life would be like as a rich man, someone who had it all. Slowly he realizes that his riches are closer than he expected. His tradition, his family, and his faith make him rich. This realization came with the toil of persecution, repentance, and some very traumatic experiences. It forced him to look within himself. It forces the viewer to do the same. I decided that my internal struggles are the same. I am positive they are universal but I do not wish to arrogantly presume the thoughts and experiences of others. Tradition, faith, and family. I suppose they are the areas of most struggle because they are of the utmost importance and can bring the most happiness, and as a result the most pain. 

"Without our traditions our lives would be as shaky, the fiddler on the roof!" I was in a humanities class last summer- one of the many required credits higher education makes you take to ensure you are "well rounded" as well as their pocket books- and one of the first things we learned about what the human phenomenon of cultural traditions. No other animal has these elaborate and sometimes crazy rituals. Some pass on certain skills like hunting or basic functioning in day to day life, but humans actually develop a ritual and then pass that ritual on to others who come after them. We watched a video of an interview of one other top scholars of the humanities. He was considered by our teacher a genius. He had written pretty much every text book on the subject for the last twenty or thirty years. And his name escapes me. The most interesting part of the interview was when he was asked, "Do you think we can get rid of these traditions and let those who go on before us face the world untainted by our own view of it?" Being in such a liberal-minded class I thought he would go on about how horrible it was for churches, tribes, or cultures to raise their children with one ideal or one world view, and was prepared to learn from whatever he said, even if I didn't agree with it. His answer surprised me. In summary he said, Absolutely not. In fact, doing so would send our world into chaos. Traditions and rituals, he said, of churches, tribes, or cultures, are meant to remove us from a comfort bubble we innately have. By removing us from this bubble they force us to look at the world around us and to compare ourselves to that world. They are essential to our self made identity. Then he surprised me more by saying in essence, when people try to change rituals in order to make them more comfortable for the individual, or to make them more entertaining, they are harming that individuals ability to eventually reach his own self awareness. "The key to a good ritual or tradition is its ability to, in process, make the individual as uncomfortable as possible, forcing them inward at first, and then outward to find answers." I do remember that quote. Tradition, is what my parents gave me and it is closely related to my faith. Tradition is what I am taught in the annual holidays I am taught as a citizen. I believe the struggle of tradition for me lies in the faith which I was raised with.

I believe in God, His son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost which they provide as a means of comfort and confirmation. I believe God created this earth and the human race. I believe God has had an active role in his creation since before it even began. I believe we existed spiritually before we were born physically. I believe God, through prophets or righteous men willing to hear His voice, has spoken to us in scripture, continues to speak in revelation, and will forever speak in love. I believe God through Joseph Smith restored the eternal truths of the gospel which had been lost, along with many of the plain and precious things found in scripture. The Book of Mormon has provided me with the beginning evidence of these later truths. Life experience and experiments have led me to further, deeper faith. My struggle with these things is not in questioning them, it is in the societal consequences of having them, let alone expressing them openly. This is where I believe my tradition and faith need some defense:

Society continually changes. As do societies beliefs, religious and secular. Christianity is much younger than the Eastern faiths, when viewed as one of separate origin from that of Judaism. However, the opinion of society is such that these discrepancies do not hold sway, because all belief in a higher power, or God-like being are held as feeble minded hopes which help us to deal with our consciousness of death. Some in the sciences have claimed that science has defied God and won. That evolution has proven to be the facts of all fact and should define our understanding of life forever. And on the other side, closed minded believers have refused to think outside of the box and to seek truth through prescribed methods concerning new ideas supported by scientific evidence. Why do we seem to have a need to divide in society? Why must it always be us against them? Republican vs Democrat, Catholic vs Protestant, Science vs Religion. It is nonsense. Tevyes has the same problem. Not only are his people persecuted but internally he seeks to find a balance between his society and faith which others say is impossible. 

I refuse to defend my intellectuality to others on the basis that George Washington was a Christian. Frankly, if you assume that because I have faith in God I am intellectually inferior to you or must be unstable in some way, good day to you. I need neither your pity, your pride, or your presumptuous ignorance in the way of my happiness. You are a product of your own hypocrisy. I believe with all my heart that science and God are synonymous. God is the greatest scientist. Seven days could be thousands of years according to John who, in the new testament openly declares one day to be a thousand years in heaven, or in other words, eternity is timeless. Evolution could be the form of creation which God used to bring about his plan. Now this is not to say that I do not believe in Adam and Eve. That is a very fundamental doctrine within the creation. I do not believe we came from apes. And unless scientists can account for the two or three percent DNA difference between us and monkeys I don't want to hear another word about it. Two or three percent is huge when your talking about DNA. And whose to say that wont change? For the longest time dinosaurs had tails that dragged on the floor till someone said, hey if thats true why don't we find tail marks when we find foot prints? Boom, decades of scientific postulates decimated.

Darwin wasn't wrong but why we keep adding to his theory and calling it his own is beyond me. He had no presumption as to the origin of self replicating cells which could actively use proteins and enzymes to grow and reproduce. He had no postulate as to the way these cells suddenly exploded into millions of differing types of cells which led to the cambrian age and the emergence of species. How could this happen? No one knows. On the other side, how many times do you think one story has to be translated by sometimes corrupt hands, bathed in the blood of thousands of innocent people before it starts to be a little different from its original form? Am I saying God couldn't protect the Bible or that it is not an inspired book? No. But I dont believe God willed the termination of thousands of Jews either. Funny thing about our agency is that usually God wont interfere to keep us from hurting ourselves. We wouldn't learn anything that way. Still, millions of Christians will curse their neighbor and praise their God in the same breath because they feel the Bible told them to do so. If the Bible is the only book we need is it the only book Catholics need or protestants or the other thousands of denominations all claiming a different translation? No one knows. Thats because with all our frustrated refusal to believe that God can exist and that there are moral consequences to our lives or that sometimes God expects us to find truth instead of be hand fed it, we have put these questions in a double pad locked broom closet with the words, DO NOT OPEN UNTIL WE CAN GIVE GOOD REASON WHY THESE THINGS ARE where we can forget about them. I refuse to be ignorant of who I am because others tell me its not possible. 

Tevye in a particularly dramatic scene comes to the climax of his struggle between tradition, faith, and family, when his youngest daughter comes to him after being married to a non-Jew in secret. He goes into a monologue and confronts the issue with his usually comedic "on the other hand," comparison of a decisions consequence. As he begins to really struggle he finally throws up his hands and in a screaming outrage fights his daughter away from his mind saying, "There is no other hand!" I can relate to him because for sometime I made the same mistake as him. I was foolish enough to believe that my faith and tradition required me, maybe even encouraged me to disown my family. After all Christ did say that he came not to bring peace but to turn brother against brother, and whosoever loved mother or father more than him was not worthy of him right? What Tevye and I misunderstood was the intention behind such a concept. I do not have to endulge in, or sponsor, or encourage what I know to be wrong decisions made by those I love in order to love them. I need only to accept them and to focus on my own imperfections. I accept that my brothers think differently and feel differently than I do about their faith. (I say that knowing that Brandon claims to have no faith, because I believe you have to believe there is nothing there to be agnostic or atheist, and you cant prove that so you have faith in something whether you like it or not) I don't agree with them and I am sometimes sad because I feel my life has been made so much happier because of the things I know. I understand there are different ways to be happy and different interpretations of happiness, but I know some of those ways can be counterfeit. I am sad that my parents struggle with their faith and sometimes wish things were different. But I wouldn't hesitate to give my life for any of them. I love them with all that I am and if I really have faith, I will show that to them throughout my life. 

God doesn't expect Tevye, me, or anyone else to abandon love of family for love of faith and tradition. Love of God is love of others. Christ taught that throughout his life. Charity is seeing others through the eyes of God, no matter how they live or believe. Hate is seeing others the way Satan, wishes us to see them, for it is the way he sees all of us. I do not hate homosexuals, they are people deserving of love and respect. I do not agree with their choices, and I have interpreted the institution of marriage to be a ceremony between husband and wife, but that does not give me the right to hate. And if you would like a more secular version of my stance on marriage here goes: according to Darwin the evolution of a species depends upon natural selection. An organism with favorable traits will be selected for vs an organism with unfavorable traits, eliminating the DNA of the unfavorable trait and evolving the species as a whole. Homosexuality is, in my opinion, an elimination of ones DNA from the pool of evolution. Self selecting against ones own characteristics. This is obviously unfavorable and unnatural, as all other organisms in nature make it a goal to preserve their DNA. I know that sounds really horrible, so I'm going to go with the religious reason if you don't mind. (that was a tangent) 

My point is we need to, like the fiddler on the roof, reconsider and reposition ourselves. We need to constantly take a look at what we believe and why we believe it and then respect those who may not. We need to be more loving and less prideful. Coexistence is not impossible if we all have confidence in what we know to be true and humility to accept what we don't. No I am not ignorant. I don't believe wars can be ended and all that other hippie nonsense. Why? Because people still run this world and people are crazy. But i do think my little corner of the world can be a little more peaceful if I try. And believe me I still have a lot of trying to do. I still struggle and fall and hate and put my nose up to others. I still scoff and whine and moan and forget. I still seek my own will. But thats what makes this life so worth living; I get to learn and grow and realize who I am and whats wrong with me and how I can make me better for me and for those I love. Cue the coom bay ya. wink

"Thats all I have to say about that." ---Forest Gump 

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