After writing up my answers to my own 'kofer interview', it got me thinking about the past a lot, and the experiences that I went through all those years ago when I was still frum. Back when I was younger, and struggling with the challenges of making sense of the frum world I wasn't fitting into, I actually wrote down a lot of the thoughts that were going through my head at the time. My purpose in writing them was not because I ever intended to share them, but simply because attempting to transcribe all the confusing ideas onto paper helped me make sense of it all, however slightly. It helped me clarify and untangle the disjointed mess of new ideas, old beliefs, personal biases, and unclear motivations that were constantly battling each other in my mind. So, after thinking about all the things I had shared in the interview, I figured it might be worthwhile to take a look at some of those writings, and see how they appear to the very different person I am now.
It was a surprising, but quite pleasant, discovery. Because, amazingly, so many of the journal entries seemed to express exactly the sentiments that I had described in my interview, and in many of my previous posts. It's been almost a decade since I wrote some of those things down, and the pain of that period has indeed subsided, but my memory of that difficult time has not let me down. The doubt and confusion that wracked my thoughts were indeed very real to me.
I thought that it might be interesting to share some of those emotional/intellectual battles I was trying to work through back then. Below is one brief stream of consciousness that I committed to writing. I'm not absolutely certain, but I believe that it was written when I still had both feet firmly planted in the yeshivish world, but was probably a few years out of high school already. I've decided to reproduce it here without changing it in any way from the original. Please keep in mind that this was never intended to be read by anyone other than myself (in fact, I didn't really intend to read it myself. The act of writing itself was the point!) so it isn't entirely grammatically correct or even totally coherent at some points. It isn't meant to be an eloquent essay, or some articulate statement of skepticism. It is just a very fleeting glimpse into the mind of a pained and confused young man.
Somewhere in the last five to seven years of my life when I was in yeshiva and hearing the message of "learning is the most important thing in life" etc.. I somehow became antagonistic towards that idea because somehow I felt that it was putting me down, disregarding me, and those who encouraged that idea were stepping on me. Consequently I became antagonistic towards those people. Nowadays, it seems that anyone who is a self respecting Torah Jew (and G-d, who most definitely is a Torah Jew!) subscribes to that idea and if I am against that idea then, in effect, I'm against a Torah philosophy, which brands me a heretic. I don't like to be a heretic. (Although I don't particularly mind seeming like a heretic.) Therefore I want to find out and figure out exactly where the tension of this idea and my personal feelings lies.
This is how I feel it is. It's like this: They're yelling at me "you're wrong! you're wrong!"
And I'm saying "No! Stop it! Stop hurting me!
And their saying back: "We're not hurting you, you're hurting yourself by not agreeing to us, by not joining us."
I'm in this world and I'm constantly hearing things which I feel are putting me down. And I want to distance myself from these things because it hurts me. But the problem is that it seems that this is a Torah-true idea and if I want to distance myself from it and not accept it then I'm somehow a traitor and a heretic.
So I want to figure this out once and for all because I can't go on living like this where I have to be part of a society that I feel hurts me and if I break off from that society I'm not able to live with myself (both from myself and from outside myself)
It could be put like this. There seems to be an idea - from what I have been taught and instilled with is the Truth - that I am somehow something which is to be somehow disregarded. And it's not a simple matter for me to ignore it and say "Na, probably not, it's probably only someone's personal idea.", because it seems to be that everyone who is someone seems to be saying it. And I also can't somehow say that all these people who are saying it are a bunch of fanatics, because it's been driven into me - very, very deeply - that these are the people who are speaking the truth.
Is it true that I have to associate and be a part of that which I feel hurts me?
To answer that I don't have to associate with it - isn't an alternative. Because it's something which has been driven into me is part of the fabric of my existence.
The only other answer is to redefine it into something which doesn't hurt me (and remain consistent with what everyone seems to be saying it is).
And that's somehow what I've been doing this past while. I've been saying that learning isn't the most important thing and that it's only an aspect of a larger picture. But it doesn't seem to be working because I'm still hearing these messages, quite often too, that it's really learning, learning, learning.