I promised myself I would write something cheery and uplifting this time, ‘cause it IS Holiday Week. But golly gee, I never liked the holidays. Any holiday. It’s a complicated story but traditional events don’t feel like they’re mine. When people invite me to their celebrations of joy and merriment, I’m not joyful or merry ‘cause I’m faking that I am.
I suppose that’s sort of warped but I have a mental trick that nudges me into the holiday spirit, which is a good thing, ‘cause my wife LOVES holidays and parties and brings people together. That happens every few months…where I live.
This December we’ve had four parties in nine days and despite my reluctance to get into group chatter, some of it has been serious stuff about religion, tradition, politics, friendship, relationships and philosophy coming from the minds of various races and ethnic backgrounds seated around our candle-lit table. Our parties remind me that given the right circumstances we all can get along and comfortably share ideas, even if we disagree.
That happens because we all agreed to disagree without drama. It’s party time. Nothing is threatening. My wife and I make sure of that by selectively inviting people with the same agenda: Keep it festive!
But outside our doors there’s the real world where it’s not party time and certain groups insist we should all think alike and build homogeneous clubs, tribes, states, nations and religions. Religion’s the big one, influencing the most power for construction and destruction. This is not news to you, and you might argue that not all groups and group members insist that we all think and believe alike. And you might also say that not everyone belongs to a group.
On both counts, I’d say, “Not true.” Every group, even the most liberal, wants uniformity to some degree and everyone belongs to a league, even if it’s not organized. Everyone divides the world into the good guys and the bad guys and everyone considers themselves a member of the Good Guy Club.
People like me, and maybe that’s you too, hope for a live-and-let-live world – one big amenable, flexible, cooperative, tolerant, easygoing super union willing to compromise. The United Nations tried that. How’s it working? Seems coming together as a planet is off the game board. Individual nations can do it, at times. Marriages can do it, at times. Religions can do it, as long as everyone agrees with the rules. But isn’t that defeating the principle of individuality and acceptance of differences?
So we’re back to where we started, asking, can a group be comprised of differences? Can a happy religion take hold that’s all about diversity? Can an assembly exist where those who wish to conform join those who don’t in order to share contrasting ideas and support each other?
How about a group of atheists, agnostics and believers all deciding to give ethical and moral assistance to everyone? Could you call that a religion? Or a government? Could an organization like this diminish the divide between Us and Them?
That’s a long shot. It’s takes highly motivated, super empathetic, well informed, self confident people to make harmony happen on any scale. But just for fun, since it IS a Holiday weekend, let’s think about starting our own Let’s-All-Get-Along club. We’ll need some rules and an agenda. I’ll kick this off with my own version.
Irving H. Podolsky’s
This is a group where everyone has the freedom be who they are and express those differences without fear of intolerance.
Differences should not inflict harm. Harm comes from impeding the mental and physical ability to achieve constructive goals. Constructive goals help a person improve their nature as long as that person causes no harm to herself, himself or anyone else. Harm is created by intentionally inflicting pain and suffering. Within this group, pain and suffering will be avoided. Peace and happiness will be encouraged and supported.
Rules & Guidelines
- Every non-harming person gets to be a member.
- Every member is free to leave at any time, no questions asked.
- Every member is free to return at any time, no questions asked.
- Every member is free to participate in other groups.
- No non-member will be considered inferior to this group, assuming that person avoids harming others.
- There are no conditions about becoming or staying a member, including the belief or non-belief of a Universal Creator.
- Subgroups within the main group are encouraged as long as they don’t discriminate against others outside their sub group.
- Every member must willingly support the group proportionally to their wealth and well-being. Support can be financial or of service.
- Members can participate in group activities as much or as little as wanted, garnering no group judgment, positive or negative.
- A group school accepts all member’s children but no member is required to enroll their child in the school program.
- Reoccurring group rituals, as in prayer gatherings, will be established for those who want them.
- Members should understand they get back the equivalent of what they put into the group. Members willing to support other members will receive more support in return.
- Any member who wishes to become a group leader is encouraged to do so.
- Disagreements within the group can be settled privately or arbitrated by the group’s ruling body.
- The spiritual leader and/or group manager must agree to and follow all of the above.
There you have it – Irv Podolsky’s Let’s-All-Get-Along religion.
Now, I must admit, I modeled this group after an existing fellowship I know about, and I haven’t joined that one either. You may be asking, or not, why hasn’t Irv hooked up with the group he just described? Well, I’ll tell you why.
Becoming part of a Reformed Jewish congregation still maintains the boundary of Us and Them, although that boundary is extremely porous. I never would have met my wife had I followed the encouraged practice of marrying within the religion, yet my religion accepted her as she is. That’s honorable.
But there’s still the ritual thing, like attending Friday night or High Holy Days services. If you don’t do at least some of that, you’re not considered a participating member. Hearing and voicing repeated words that someone else wrote for the masses doesn’t feel personal, spontaneous or genuine. But that’s me. It’s probably not you. I’m not a crowd joiner, not even with rock and roll. I’d rather play it myself than go to a rock concert. And since I’m bringing that up, I’ll mention the congregation who wants my attendance sponsors music events, casual mixers, adult education classes and even tourist trips.
Nope. It’s still not for me. I just don’t feel like I’m part of a historical greater whole even though my Jewish mother says I am. Sorry Mom, but I don’t want my primary identity to be Jewish, or any one thing for that matter. Can’t I just be me?
But here’s the nice thing about Reformed Judaism. Even with all my quirky rebel resistance, they’d still accept me as I am. For that I’m grateful, which is why I haven’t turned in my membership card.
As for my readers, whoever you are, where ever you are, I truly hope you’re happy being YOU and that it’s working. If it’s not, well…we’re all reaching for improvements. You’re not alone. There’s all kinds of support everywhere. I bet there’s a group for you.
Sincere best wishes forever.