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HomeSpirituality and FaithSpiritual GrowthJust Can't Relate
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Just Can't Relate    

Just Can't Relate

We are all very lonely people, every single one of us. That's why so many of us are rushing around trying to mask it with non-stop 'fun', work, and entertainment


A little while back, we had an 'exchange' with people I used to think we were close to, who told us they 'just can't relate' to us any more.
I wasn't surprised. The number of people who can relate to us seems to shrink every year. We lost a whole lot of people a few years' back when we made aliya, and moved to Israel.
A lot of people 'couldn't relate' to why a couple of British-born Jews, with good careers, and a nice home, and families, would up sticks and go to a country that was experiencing unprecedented terrorist attacks, exploding buses and a nose-diving economy.
The real reason we moved is because we felt we had to. Now, I understand that the imperative to move to Israel was coming from our souls; but then? It was impossible to explain.
The next wave of people fell away when we stopped being 'successful'. Once we ran out of things to say about our careers; and once we stopped planning shopping trips 'back home'; and once we couldn't afford expensive holidays in Eilat - another bunch of people, this time in Israel, found it very hard to 'relate'.
What could I do? I desperately wanted to have friends and to feel liked, but I simply didn't have the sort of conversation that people wanted to hear or respond to.
Another bunch dropped off when we started to talk about G-d. A biiiiiiig bunch.
I don't blame them, really. When life is going swimmingly, and you are getting everything your own way with no spiritual strings attached, it's very annoying to keep being reminded that there is more to life than work, shopping and socializing.
As the years' progressed, the 'hard core' of people we used to know, who could still 'relate' to us, continued to shrink. Usually, things came to their natural conclusion because we hit a moment of truth in the relationship, and both sides realized that, despite all the pleasantries and niceties, our fundamental realities were now completely different.
It came out in different ways with different people. Some people 'couldn't relate' to the fact that I was doing what my rabbi told me, and not 'helping' G-d to give us more children by going down the IVF route.
I got sick of their unsolicited advice and their unspoken annoyance that I was being so 'primitive' and 'religious'; and they got sick of me arguing that doctors can't cure every illness, and fix every problem - much as they like to pretend they can.
Then there were the conversations about making a living, and how 'switched on' a person needed to be in this fast-paced, increasingly-demanding world. People thought my husband was mad that he didn't get a Blackberry. They thought he was a loser for not aggressively marketing himself, and putting more effort into his Torah studies then in to his work (even though they might not have said it in as many words…).
The underlying problem was clear to both sides: IF a person can get a decent livelihood without killing themselves at work, then WHY are people working so hard?
Income and livelihood comes straight from G-d - remember, we say that every Rosh Hashana. But a lot of people couldn't 'relate' to that idea. If it was true, it meant that they were throwing away their lives - and often their families - on a mistaken idea that their effort was the sole cause of their 'success'.
It was a circle that couldn't be squared without a fundamental shift in perceptions - so a lot of our relationships broke under the strain of trying to connect two opposing philosophies.
Other people couldn't 'relate' to my periodic emails or phone calls suggesting that the whole world might be on the cusp of a massive change - hopefully for the better - as part of the process leading up to redemption and Moshiach.
So many people - including frum Jews - simply couldn't relate to the idea that they were living in the wrong place (ie, not in Israel); or running after the wrong priorities (ie, careers and 'financial security'); or wasting their lives with movies and You Tube and Facebook when time was ticking down on the last chance we all have to fix our souls.
Again, I was caught in a bind: what to do? I knew I was making people uncomfortable. I knew they probably wouldn't choose to talk to me again. But for most of them, we were the only channel they had to hear about all these things, and maybe, just maybe, it would spark something off in someone's soul that would have eternal ramifications.
When the banks started to fail, a few years' back, there was a short period of time when all of a sudden, a lot of people could 'relate' to us again. As the world stood on the brink of financial meltdown, a lot of people were desperate for some reassurance that it would all turn out ok, and many of them were even prepared to hear about G-d, if it would make them feel a bit better.
That lasted about three months.
Then, it apparently went back to normal, and once again, people couldn't 'relate' to us religious weirdos.
Six years' on, I realize that each argument, each discussion, each problem - was actually exactly the same, albeit couched in different terms. I believe that there is a G-d, a Creator, Who made the world and Who is actively involved in every, tiny detail of what happens to us.
I believe that the physical world is just a mask, or a costume, for the spiritual reality; that when things aren't going 'right', it's because there is a spiritual lesson to be learned, and not just another CV to send out, or another pill to try, or another complaint to be made.
When you try to live that reality, G-d makes it more and more obvious. You stop guessing about 'is there a G-d?', and the reality of G-d gets more real to you than anything else.
But when people are desperately clinging to the façade that they are the masters of their own destiny, whether it's with their health, or their careers, or their families, or even, their Torah learning and good deeds - they simply can't relate to a G-d who is that real.
I went through a stage of wondering if I should just keep my mouth shut, just keep the peace, and smile and nod when people tell me some ridiculous nonsense based on their mistaken ideas of how the world works (without G-d…)
But I can't. After a lot of soul-searching, I decided I don't want to be complicit in the comfortable lies so many people tell themselves, that are actually destroying their lives down here and also making it almost impossible for them to come back to G-d and have an amazing after-life.
They think I'm horrible. They think I'm insensitive, and judgemental, and preachy and arrogant.
A lot of the time, I rush back into my personal prayer to try and work out if they're right.
Because they might be.
Someone told me recently that I'm going to end up a very lonely person, with just G-d to talk to. I thought a lot about what they said, and then I realized something amazing: we are all very lonely people. Every single one of us. That's why so many of us are rushing around trying to mask it, and hide it, with non-stop 'fun', work, and 'entertainment'.

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  3 Talkbacks for this article    See all talkbacks  
  Real Friends
Anonymous,5/16/2012 4:01:26 PM
  I can relate
Terry Hayes5/16/2012 3:46:43 PM
  Don't lose heart....
yehudit5/14/2012 2:23:46 PM

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