Yom Kippur: about atonement & forgiveness

Gettysburg_SunsetDbleWowI grew up in a secular Jewish family. In fact, my mom was on a constant soul search which including carting her four kids to Buddhist temples, Quaker meetings, even Hari Krishna dinners (thank God that didn’t take). On Yom Kippur mom would take us hiking.

I guess I went on a soul search of my own, which traversed me in to and out of a cult and left me suspicious of religion. The misuse and abuse of religious/philosophical practices surround us constantly – from cults like “school”, i.e. “thestudy”, to right-wing religious nut cases trying to dictate and control personal choices, to the worst case scenario — ISIS justifying beheading, enslaving and spreading violence – I have decided to slug out this spiritual journey on my own.

Religion’s purpose, I would guess, is probably to create community, connection to others, based on a shared faith — a belief in something beyond our human existence, a greater intelligence, bigger love; or, Agape — a love of God and humankind. The structures and traditions established therein could shape our time on planet earth in a lovely way; if we humans were able to use it for reflection and connection, shared experience, rather than abuse it as a tool for social engineering and control, I’d be on board.

That said, I do believe in God and I continue a tradition passed on from mom – nature as my temple. At sunset last night, I went for a run to be with the dusk, say hello to my father, and reflect on this somber time of atonement and forgiveness.

Forgiveness I find to be an elusive concept – certainly, I don’t feel forgiveness for those who intentionally deceive others for selfish gain. I’d like my $20,000 back. However, in leaving the fold, I have probably gotten my money’s worth, plus.

I now know how to turn inward when seeking answers and am no longer vulnerable to spiritual con-artists.  Through this painful, embarrassing and often ridiculous lesson, I’ve developed an accurate antennae for bullshit. I’ve realized how to trust my perceptions and follow my inner moral compass. I’ve come to understand that perfect imperfection is the nature of our existence and thus, every human should have the chance to develop his/her potential to the best of his/her ability; external “sources” can’t ultimately dictate what choices are best for me, or anyone else.

So, this is what I believe:

I believe there’s an entity, call it God if you will, an intelligence far beyond what we can know and conceive.

I believe that this intelligence, God, wants each and every soul to grow into his/her best self.

I believe that God wants you to care for the gifts bestowed upon you: body — feed, move, rest; emotions — allow, accept, honor, express, care for, act on if needed; intellect — feed, practice, honor fascination, explore, express.

I believe that my life experiences to date have brought me to these conclusions — humanist in nature. I can thank my “school” experience for helping me walk into this philosophy when I walked away from the hallowed halls, never to return.

After all, some bridges should be burned.

So, for those of you who are observing this day, I wish you peace.

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