I feel this great hole in me. A religious friend called this a “God-sized” hole and urged me to find God as the remedy for my hole-y-ness. What would you advise?
RABBI RAMI: My suggestion is to shift from hole-yness to whole-y-ness. True wholeness is nondual: embracing all opposites in a greater unity. The hole you feel is simply part of this greater wholeness. Trying to fill the hole only creates endless psychological conflict. Better to appreciate the hole as part of the whole and see where this greater understanding leads you.
I do my best to be progressive, but I have a hard time getting my pronouns right. Is replacing she/her or he/him with they/them really necessary?
Referring to someone using their preferred pronouns is like referring to someone using their preferred name: You want to get it right not because you are progressive, but because doing so honors the person with whom you are speaking. That said, the pronouns that matter most to me are I and you. Using the first allows me to own whatever ideas I am sharing; using the second reminds me to speak to you rather than about you.
While your magazine often features elements of Hindu spirituality—yoga, Ayurveda, meditation—your column does not. As a Hindu woman I want to change that. My Indian family and I live in a very conservative white Christian neighborhood. At least once a month someone comes to our door to proselytize. To put a stop to this, I am considering placing the following sign on our front yard: “In this house we believe in Krishna not Christ, Gita not Gospel, Rebirth not Hell, Enlightenment not Salvation. Ask me about my religion; don’t preach to me about yours.” What do you think?
I love the sign. I appreciate the sentiment. And I fear for your safety. I live in a similar neighborhood, and I have been contacted by police and the FBI twice in the past two years concerning potential threats at the hands of people who find Jews and Judaism an affront to their God, even though he was both a Jew and a rabbi. My suggestion is that instead of confronting proselytizers with a lawn sign, you welcome them into your home, serve them prasada (food offered to God), share your beliefs, and invite them to learn more by accompanying you to your temple.
I hate New Year’s hype about becoming someone new. I am the same person on January 2nd that I was on December 31st. Am I right?
There is no fixed or permanent self, and imagining you are the same person on January 2nd that you were on December 31st is simply a story you tell yourself. You are always new and fresh even if you pretend to be old and stale. Rather than fretting over New Year’s or arguing about being a new self, realize the impossibility of maintaining your old self.
A Black friend and I have bonded over suffering. She tells me about the Maafa, the transatlantic slave trade, and I tell her about the Shoah, the Holocaust. She tells me about Black enslavement in America, and I tell her about Jewish enslavement in Egypt. She tells me about racism, I tell her about anti-Semitism. The other day she asked me if I would trade my people’s suffering for hers. I was stunned by the question and had no answer. What would you say?
I would say “no.” Our respective suffering is part of our respective genius, and I have no desire to swap one for the other. What concerns me here is the possibility that one or both of you is avoiding the other’s pain by parrying it with your own. What would happen if you just listened to her story without hashtagging your conversation with #wesufferedtoo? Try just listening and see what happens.
Valentine’s Day triggers my insecurities: What if no one sends me a card asking me to be their Valentine? I know that sounds silly, but it still bothers me. Any idea how I can get over this?
My problem with Valentine’s Day is the ask: Be my Valentine? Rather than asking people to love you, thank those people who already love you. Rather than send scripted Valentine’s Day cards, send handwritten thank-you notes to people who have acted lovingly toward you. Be specific about one or two things they have done for you and why it matters to you. Thank them for already being your Valentine rather than begging them to be so again.
My friend wants me to join her in a retreat that promises to reveal the “One Question” we need to ask if we are to live with integrity. Is there such a question?
If there is one question, it’s this: What time is it? Ecclesiastes writes: “Everything has its time: Its moment of ripening and falling away”(Chapter 3:1) and then goes on to list such times: birthing and dying, planting and reaping, weeping and laughing, tearing and mending, loving and hating, warring and peacemaking, etc. The key to living with integrity is to know what time it is and to act in accordance with it. For example, if it’s time to tear and you insist on mending instead, you will find yourself in a needless and losing battle with reality. Knowing what time it is means living in tune with how things are rather than how you want them to be.
My granddaughter visited during the holidays and told me she doesn’t believe in God. I was caught off guard and said something inane in response. I’d like to respond more seriously. What might I say to her?
If she were my granddaughter, I’d say something like this:
“Really? You don’t believe in God? That’s wonderful! Belief is all about asserting something as true without any evidence that it is true. So put belief aside, and tell me what you know to be true about the world?”
This will make for a far richer and more interesting conversation than one about belief.
I’m convinced there is a secret regarding the nature of reality that our religious leaders don’t want us to know because if we knew it, we wouldn’t need religion. Any idea what this secret is?
The secret is this: Everything is an expression of a dynamic process called by many names—God, Mother, Brahman, Allah, YHVH, Tao, Kali, etc. Knowing this secret reveals the sacredness of all life and the preciousness of each life. Knowing this secret leads to living the Golden Rule and to loving neighbor and stranger as a part of your Self (Leviticus 19:18;34). Knowing this secret leads you beyond tribalism and religious competition. Knowing this secret doesn’t erase the value of religion, but it does provide a means for evaluating religion. Any religion that reveals this secret is of value. Any religion that doesn’t, isn’t.