A short creative non-fiction piece about growing up in a religious extended family.
|Once, during my brother’s wedding, I was asked by one of my younger cousins, in his impressionable youth, why there wasn’t a Rabbi present. I gave him the honest answer: mixed weddings are often religiously neutral to satisfy both parties. The shock on his face was not world breaking to me, but as my aunt pulled him aside and falsely assured him that the bride was Jewish, I couldn’t pretend that I wasn’t at all unnerved.
I never understood how religious background could be so crucial that she would frown upon a family member for marrying a Christian. I never understood how she could love my brother with all her heart, and within the same beat, reject that part of him.
Sometimes I would take long walks at night, and reflect on the triviality of such divisions. Judaism, Christianity…two sides of the same book, worth less to me, even, than the weight of its words. But as I would turn my gaze to the star filled sky, I could almost, for a span of time too short to rationalize, see the appeal.
When the fire of our being is snuffed out, how high can the smoke possibly rise? Will it ever reach the heavens we project into that starry sky? Or will it fall back down to earth, and decorate dust of body with dust of mind?
If you can think of the mind as a myriad of stars, a full fledged galaxy of mental matter, I can start to imagine its ceaselessness. As when a single spark of life ignites in the boundless blackness, and expands outward with infinite potential, so you can just imagine that sentient storm is everlasting. And even when all of the neurons die, when the energy of that last lonely star starts to wane, and while the vast array of light is fading to entropy, you can almost believe that single spark of life, as it stifles, must start anew.
I got it all wrong. I wound up believing in cold logic the same way my aunt upheld her unyielding traditions. But behind them both there lies that common fire.
One that, perchance, can unite heaven and earth.