So I’ll update this again when my memoir is done, but here is my map. There may be some slight revisions to be made after I look at what needs to be done, again, but this is essentially final form. Yes, that is a flip-up picture! (I just need to find the tape.)
UPDATE: THE MEMOIR!
A Life in Texts: Freedom, Growth, and Change (However Painful)
“And he said to Abram: Know well that your offspring shall be strangers in a land not their own.” — (Genesis 15:13)¹
I am a ger. Not a convert, but in the classical sense of the term ger, meaning “alien” or “stranger.” The faith community I am a part of has taken me in as their own, yet I cannot participate in certain religious rites that take place before the community (these days usually on the bimah of a synagogue). In the conversion process, it started because I felt cornered and coerced into it, that it was the only way to keep my relationship. I initially felt drawn to Judaism because I wanted to explore Christianity’s roots to it’s father-faith years ago when I fell in with a crowd of very culturally (and some religiously) Jewish folk who were very strongly grounded in their beliefs, or heritage.
The churches I grew up in would be considered right-wing by most, and the school I spent the most time at as a young child was orthodox Lutheran (Wisconsin and Missouri synod affiliations, primarily Wisconsin). My mom is a Seventh-Day Adventist, though she and the church don’t get along well due to their differences of opinion theologically and when it comes to the founding tenets of Seventh Day Adventism (most include the fight over keeping vegetarian/pescetarian, as well as generally keeping knowledge closed off from the general membership).
After a number of abuses both witnessed and experienced (emotional to sexual), as a young child I identified this with “organized religion”, and I went on a quest to find something better that would keep me grounded and safe, away from what I had experienced. As many young people of our generation and culture do, I wandered through wicca and neopaganism of all sorts. I found myself caught in the Nightside of Eden² ³, holding intense memories of the landscape around me burning as though it were the Apocalypse, and my friend and I were sitting on the roof just laughing hysterically. I was greatly disturbed by this, and I went looking for better things. I found the Bhagavad Gita; I found Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha”; I found Paul Bowles and Brion Gysin; I found “Naked Lunch.”
I was led on a quest to discover the deepest (and sometimes darkest) parts of myself, and of humanity. During all of this, after a bad breakup with my first boyfriend (the only person who will ever be called that), I was assaulted on a quest to find knowledge about the intersection of magic and modern life for a research paper for my first program at Evergreen taught by a Vodoun, of all people that could have come into my life.
The assault ended much of my questing for alternative forms of knowledge of the Divine, as it spoke to me. I considered myself an agnostic for years, wondering how a G-d who so lovingly created us could allow such things to happen to good people. Saying I considered myself an agnostic was at times generous. I began finding the sacred in other places: at Vimy, in the beautiful graffiti across the sloping hillsides of France, in the music I listened to, in my dancing and stretching practices. After years of being surrounded by my loving fiancé and our community, it has become time to face the abuses of the past head-on, to address them, and to heal… Judaism is my sukkah, though it seems a lifetime of permanence ahead, in which to heal and begin to grow and fly again.
¹ Hebrew-English Tanakh. Jewish Publication Society: Philadelphia, 2003.
² “As in the case of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the title of which signifies its precise opposite, so also the Jewish Tree of Death is the noumenal source of phenomenal existence. It is the latter that is false for the phenomenal world is the world of appearances, as its name implies. The noumenal source alone IS, because it is NOT. Once this truth is grasped it becomes evident that the ancient myths of evil, with their demonic and terrifying paraphernalia of death, hell, and the Devil, are distorted shadows of the Great Void (the Ain) which persistently haunt the human mind.” (Grant, Kenneth. Nightside of Eden. Skoob Books Publishing, London: 1994. 31)
³ “Identity with this phantom of ego-consciousness, as the mummy, as projected as a mirage in the Desert of Set. It has to be destroyed (i.e. forgotten), in consciousness, before true death is undergone at the Pylons of Daath. In the way only is the Universe ‘destroyed’ and consciousness liberated from the thraldom of imagined existence. Then only may ‘he (the Adept) enter into a real communion with those that are beyond’.” (ibid., 37)