FALSE DICHOTOMIES The Dream of the Circle I dream a dream in which I find myself sitting on the floor in a circle with a group of friends. There are people there from every religion. Though no one asks me to, I take the yarmulke I am wearing from my head and place it behind me, outside the circle of which I am now a part. Others do the same with whatever religious paraphernalia they happen to have with them. The leader of the circle encourages us to take “someone’s hand,” by which I assume he means the hand of the person on either side of you. I notice however that the people next to me are putting their hands in front of them as if in prayer, so I do the same. He then teaches us a blessing he wants us to recite before we begin our communal feast: “In the name of (insert preference) ... we gather together to make a connection.” There are a lot of false dichotomies sneaking around in the world today and it seems to me that in every case it's not so much a question of either/or but of when and which. Wherein a mature approach in my opinion, to the perennial debate concerning “absolute vs. relative morality,” would be that a few things are completely relative in a moral sense, a few things are absolute and universal, and the majority of things are subject to discussion, many people nevertheless take an all or nothing approach in which everything is one or the other, absolute or relative. This is what happens when people consider a world religion. They tend to perceive a false dichotomy in the relationship between unity and diversity when the truth is they can co-exist as they do in many other realms. While I believe it's true that, as the voice of the dream instructs “someday all colors, races, peoples and religions will merge together..." (to be followed eventually, by a day “of breaking apart”), that “day” may not arrive for a very long time. Until then we can build a "House of We" where people live as much or as little as they prefer. They can stay there all the time or none of the time. They can go back and forth between the house of we and some other house in which, because of ethnic, philosophical or religious attributes, because of ancestral ties they also feel at home. The house of we as I conceive of it, will be different things to different people. No one should feel that in order to be a part of the house, a part of the “we,” they have to give up a tradition that is dear to them, a deeply rooted feature of their personhood, an indispensable community. For those of us who are blessed with that kind of experience and connection, the house of we may become another, more inclusive, more encompassing plane of social and personal spirituality: An enrichment as opposed to a replacement. I for one don't intend to stop being Jewish when someday, God willing I walk through the doors of the House of We. For those of us who find themselves "in between houses," who draw upon and connect with more than one religious or spiritual source, who feel comfortable with and require a more complex, eclectic experience of faith, for those who are religiously adrift, who find themselves homeless and in need of refuge the House of We may come to play the role of a primary spiritual home. At least that is my hope for the future. Each individual must decide for themselves how to balance the value of unity and the value of diversity in their life. I just want people to have the option of temporarily parking their other "houses" the way that I parked my yarmulke in “the dream of the circle,” behind them so that they may participate in a larger whole. Word of the Dream "You don't have to leave your house to join the house of we" … but if your house no longer fits who you are, perhaps the House of We will offer the shelter you are seeking.
Three of Eight