Wednesday, April 04, 2007

In Haggadah Da Vida, Baby

We all went to a lovely Passover Seder last night at our good friends' house in Bethesda. In addition to their daughter and 3B, there were two other kids, who also brought enough adults to make for a full and festive house. From Kadesh to Nirtzah, we had a great time, although we didn't really make it all the way to Nirtzah, since 3B had to sleep. So, around the time that the door was opened for Elijah, we stepped out and drove back home.

3B and Mama got to Bethesda in the afternoon and had a great day visiting and playing, even if 3B missed his afternoon nap. At dinner, 3B did get to eat his first Charoset and matzo ball soup--one of the grandmothers had made a vegetarian version just for us. Perhaps next year he'll be aware enough to join the hunt for the Afikomen.

This Sunday we should give him a chance to hunt for some eggs or candy, but instead we're taking him to a grown up Easter Linner--yes, "linner." Usually we go to a brunch in DC, but a new baby arrived in that house, so they're not hosting, which left us wondering if this year we'd have to actually cook our own holiday meal. A friend--and babysitter--saved us this week when she invited us to her Easter "not lunch, not dinner--linner." Although there won't be an egg hunt, it promises to be fun, and it fits right in with our ideal of keeping 3B well-rounded in his knowledge of his background and options for faith, should he choose to pursue one.

And, if he's not going to follow in our footsteps as a vegetarian, he'll be well-rounded when it comes to food, learning the difference between brisket and ham.

But, back to the faith question, it's one that I've read about many parents struggling with these days. Many of us seem unbound from the faith of our upbringing or heritage, but we want to provide an opportunity for our kids to experience the benefits that we got: a sense of meaning, a sense of community, an understanding of the world in moral terms, and so on.

Mama and I have been to our fair share of Jewish holiday observances, and every time I've been touched by the feeling of connection to a community that stretches back over thousands of years. Reading the ancient texts and retelling the lives of historic ancestors--even though they're Mama's, not mine--touches me in a humbling and uplifting way. I also appreciate the Jewish tradition of questioning, including asking about their own faith. That path of always seeking appeals to me both because I'm a skeptic and because I like the idea of having faith married to skepticism. However, even with all of that, I don't feel a strong enough connection to consider converting to Judaism.

Then there's Christianity, which I can't really get behind either. Even though I was raised by a devout Christian father and went to Sunday School until I flunked out, and even though it's based on Judaism, there's something about Christianity that just doesn't sit right with me. Part of it is that I don't have faith in many of the beliefs that are required to be a Christian. There's also the manner in which Christianity is often practiced, as I see it, relying more on dogma than inquiry and inflexible interpretation and regulation more than consistent application of principles. Perhaps that's an inaccurate view because I'm outside the community, but I don't know if I could ever get over my trepidation enough to ever fully relax. And if I'm not relaxed, I doubt that it would be a good experience for 3B.

The middle way for both Mama and I seems to be Buddhism. We both loved it when we first learned about it before we met, and we both have continued to deepen our affection for it as we learn more about it--within certain bounds. I'm not sure, for example, that we could get into all of the rituals of Tibetan Buddhism, much as we love what Tibetan lamas espouse. Our biggest hurdle to becoming practicing Buddhists has been our own laziness, which has kept us from looking for a Buddhist community to join, or at least scope out. However, I think that Mama and I will soon actively engage in our quest, both for 3B's continuing upbringing and for our own current needs. There's been a fair amount of stress in our lives of late, resulting from large transitions, like Mom dying, and I think we're both looking for some comfort, some understanding, and some like-minded souls to gather with.

Of course, we'll let you know how the journey goes, as it slowly unfolds. In the meantime, you can check in with some other parents who are writing about spirituality and religion. If you feel like sharing, hook a father up--how do you meet your needs for meaning, community, morality, and so on? How do you meet your kids' needs for those?

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  1. You crack me up: "Buddhism, the middle way." "We'd find a sangha, but we're too lazy."

    I also find most religious practice to be that of dogmatic faith instead of open inquiry and honest work. True in anthroposophy (not considered a religion from within the movement, accused of being so from without), true in other religions I've encountered.

    The sad part for me is that my view of most religions is that the dogma isn't necessarily built in, it's just how people choose to practice.

    For example, Steiner was all about freedom and using one's own powers of will and discrimination actively. I've heard a (probably apocryphal, but pretty funny) story: once Steiner was out to eat with some of his "followers," and after he heard them all going on about how he had told them that vegetarianism would help lead to a higher spiritual state, he promptly ordered and consumed a steak. Moderation in all things, I guess.

    To answer some of your questions: I try to meet my kids' needs for meaning and morality in simple ways. I work primarily with nature, showing them seasonal changes, teaching them to observe plants and animals, etc. I find that that helps them grok their world on a level they can work with.

    Community is a bit trickier. We live in a well-established anthroposophical community, but there is a vibe of introspection here that does not encourage us. We were in a similar community in California that was much more socially oriented. But still there is a sense of shared morals, shared spirituality, and shared choices in style of living that help me feel part of a community here.

    You ask big questions, you get long answers! Besides, the kids are napping right now.

  2. Anonymous8:46 PM

    Have you heard about Islam? The Quran is the miracle that stays with us for all mankind.

    Some good starting places

  3. Anonymous10:32 PM

    Sorry if I'm not much help in regard to your quest for spirituality but I just wanted to say that this may be the greatest title for a post in the history of blogging. I cracked up the second I saw it in my bloglines! Awesome!

  4. Really awesome post. It's a tough issue, because while I think many of us feel like we can make decisions for ourselves, suddenly we're making decisions for someone else who might want or need more than what we do.

    I'm not making much sense, but I really enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing, especially on such a complicated issue.