The truth-seeking/truth-evading continuum is not a new one in popular psychology. On the extreme ends there are those who drop everything and everyone to seek the truth and those that do everything possible to avoid it. Most people look for more meaning, more satisfaction and more happiness in their lives, yet would not consider themselves truth-seekers. Is this a way of avoiding that there is a truth, and therefore a responsibility to live the truth? Is it then fear of responsibility?
What one faces when they approach religion and its exploration is the fear and the search for truth. The more one is open to the search for truth the more willing they are to look for the answer in every possible location – even in religion. Yet, such a search, to be open to the unknown and to the possibility of change, naturally brings with it fear. This fear is not to be downplayed, nor is it unreasonable. It is completely natural to fear the unknown. Yet, if we are not open to change and not open to finding the realities and truths of this world then why are we here? What is the point of aimless drifting where everyone follows their own prejudices, rather than be certain and at peace with a truth. This of course is not to say that everyone, once the truth is found, will be at peace with it. But for now, to start and to proceed with the journey also takes courage. We have to be open to the possibility of finding the truth, even if to some extent we hope we don’t find it and are then free to fall back into the reality and normality which we had once been part of.
Illumination is a beautiful thing. As we read in Everything is Illuminated, life is illuminated in the knowledge of the past. Our history is a part of what we are. For me, my journey began in a search to illuminate my past. I wondered how it is possible that my family going back hundreds of generations where all orthodox Jews, until very recently – only 2-3 generations. From a sociological point of view I wanted to know what the ideological and circumstantial differences where that forced such a change. From a purely practical and truth-seeking view point I did not want to follow traditions just because they are traditions. I went to look for meaning behind the limited amount of religious (they would call them traditional) customs our family still practiced. I was not content with doing for the sake of doing – I wanted to know why.
The questions I sought answers to were very diverse – from “is there a G-d” and “how come I have to be spiritual in this method, not another”, all the way to practical matters of “how come we do ridiculous seeming things such as not taring toilet paper”. While everyone told me that these questions would eventually all be straightened out over a period of years and decades, I was eager to start the search quickly, from the most knowledgeable people possible. I would go to Israel and seek out the truth. I was not one to wait for the answers to come to me – I believe in going out there and searching. Although it is true that good things come to those who wait, many opportunities can only be gained by going out there and finding them for yourself. And so I began my rigorous search.
To say that it was an easy decision to quit my highly enjoyable, respectable, well-paying and future-leading job was easy would be a completely backward statement. Although I have been called as a truth seeker, I am none the less full of fear. Not to be would be crazy. I am sane enough and practical enough to know that this 6 month break to go search for some unbeknown and unquantifiable truth is a risk. At this point it is important to note that I am not and never have been a risk taker. In fact, I fear risk and I fear uncertainty. Control of my situation and having a safety net have always been my favourite pass-times. I have never owned a credit card and I have always kept away from anything that in my mind was even close to risky. With that in mind, it is amazing that I have any courage to do any exploration outside of my comfortable and safe environment. It is a surprise, to myself mainly, that I have been able to step outside of my comfort zone and into the unknown. Yes, although I have become close to many wonderful religious families and have seen that they too can be ‘normal’, it is still an unknown. It is unknown whether I will be happier, just as happy or less happy than I would have been having not made this choice. Yet, there is something deep inside me that knows that not exploring is far more scary. Living life not knowing the other side and not knowing ‘what if’ would be almost impossible. It would nag at me at every turn in life and it would eventually drive me to realise the gravity of an unfulfilled urge.
Although it would appear that ignorance is bliss, it cannot be possible to live with yourself having tasted a drop and not drinking the glass. Such a physical analogy is probably baseless here, but I have never been good with analogies. Even if it is a small deep down inkling that something is greater out there, that that is more to life, I believe it is our obligation to investigate it. If we do not than we cannot be truly happy with ourselves and cannot be truly at peace that what we do and what we believe in is the ultimate truth – the ideal way to live this limited life we have been granted. And if we are not living the best way possible then it is such a waste and such a shame to both ourselves and those around us. If as people we are not the best of ourselves or becoming the best of ourselves then life is stagnant and this world is a lesser place than it could be.