Tuesday, September 28, 2004

stone tablets

the other day, josh and i attended a 'break-fast', the traditional post-24-hours-of-fasting feast that you are supposed to have on the night after the jewish holiday of yom kippur.

we didn't fast, though. actually, i only remembered it was yom kippur because i knew i had that 'break-fast thing' to attend that night. i'm jewish by . . . genetic strain, i suppose, but i don't consider myself a follower of any organized religion. i am thrilled that religion brings good things to other people's lives, and i'm not saying, 'down with all of it!'. i simply choose not to be involved.

this is not to say i don't like exchanging christmas cards and things - to me, the holiday season is just another secular event like thanksgiving, halloween, and valentine's day. and even though v-day and halloween are rather silly rituals probably fueled by the card/chocolate/costume industries, i like their unusual traditions. they make me think of class parties in elementary school where everyone gave everyone valentines, and trick or treating is the best idea EVER. i used to ration my loot so that it lasted until april. anyway.

so lately i've been thinking about religion and (for some reason) what kind of religious experience i want my children to have. not that i have children. not that i am going to have children any time soon. but i was thinking about it anyway, and i am sort of at a loss with this. i don't really want to send them to a synogogue or church where abstract ideas, opinions, and stories are peddled as fact, yet i want them to learn about some of the religious traditions that i think can be very interesting and enriching when taught in the right manner. i have a feeling this is going to require that i do much of the teaching myself, but right now, i don't know enough. maybe i'll learn; maybe i'll make stuff up.

so i was moved by all of this to look up the 10 commandments. i did it the old, true, and reliable way: google.com, baby. and i have to say, i'm pretty pleased with them. they are good rules, if you think of them broadly enough to find an interpretation that works for you.

1. thou shalt have no gods before me. so right - but what if one doesn't believe in god? josh pointed out that this could be interpreted to mean, 'these commandments are the only ones with any real value, sugar, so don't you be looking for alternatives.'

2. thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.. hmmm. so apparently ‘graven’ in this sentence is referring to idol-worship. i fear that the clay aiken maniacs are not paying very close attention to this commandment. i take it to mean sort of the same as the first commandment -- stick to the code, kid, and don't be swayed by any of those flashy idols, dreamy as they may be. good. fine.

3. thou shalt not take the name of the lord thy god in vain; for the lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. i don't really get this one. my interpretation is perhaps don't go throwing around holy threats like you're in charge. for example, don't judge other people and say that you know that they're going to hell, because that has nothing to do with you.

4. remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the lord thy god: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.. i'm not going to even get into people who interpret this rule as creationism. overall, this is a great rule, i think. rest, people! we should rest more. i should have become a bible thumper during my medicine rotation; maybe i could have wrangled a few more days off. you might say, 'but it's not like doctors and emergency workers can just take every sunday off, right?' there's nothing in this commandment that says 'sunday'! just every 7 days, or so.

5. honour thy father and thy mother. excellent.

6. thou shalt not kill. another gem.

7. thou shalt not commit adultery. again, beautiful. to the point and all. i am assuming this only refers to married couples (or life-partners) cheating on each other without the other partner's permission. voluntary menage-a-trois - fine, as long as all are consenting. this rule may have helped to increase the genetic diversity of earlier populations, too. just think - partnering up prevents 2 really hot hypersexualized men from impregnating a whole town, and is a much healthier psychological situation.

8. thou shalt not steal. damn straight. although i'm a little torn over whether this can be extended to stealing mp3s off the internet. on the one hand, that could be considered 'sharing.' but on another, it's stealing. plus, it takes all the fun out of building a music collection comprised of albums you chose because they were worth it. well, whatever.

9. thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. well, yeah. obviously. don't make someone else suffer for some shit you did (certain residents, this one's for you!). this might even extend to people who blame their gas-attacks on the dog.

10. thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.. another good one, but difficult. for example, i am working on trying not to covet my sister's ipod, but it's hard. my only question is why do i not have a maidservant?

so yeah - that's the big ten. i have to say i am pleasantly surprised by the relevance of these rules to today's society. i take particular pleasure in the fact that there is nothing in these rules about going to church, going to hell, or premarital sex.

my only critique is the language - 'thou shalt' is not really how we talk any more, right? a simple 'don't' would be more direct and less stuffy. anyway, it's all something to think about. and i thought i wasn't a spiritual person! i suppose it goes along with my new yoga fetish.

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i might join a book club. i'm serious. but i'm still never, ever going to knit.