I was on a Facebook thread discussing the blog post “Hyphenated Orthodoxy” with an assortment of people from atheist to devout theist and some people in between. One commentator said something that I’ve heard before, yet never responded to, but it’s been on my mind and I’d like to address is as best I can. He found it arrogant and condescending that some of the believers in G-d felt bad for those who do not connect with G-d. I don’t think it is and let me explain why by way of a parable.
Lets us imagine a man named Tom, who never left his home. He has all his needs provided for, his food is brought in, he has an online job, he maintains a social network of internet friends, etc. He is content and feels he lacks nothing. He makes a friend online named Paul, who has indeed left his home, as most people do, and he feels bad for Tom. Paul says, “I understand you are content, but you don’t know what you are missing!” He starts to explain how beautiful nature is, the flowers, trees, ocean, skies, the mountains….
Tom replies, “I’ve seen it all on the internet.”
Paul describes how invigorating it is to take a walk in the fresh air.
Tom says “I walk on my treadmill, it’s no big deal! ”
Paul asks, “What about friends and family?”
Tom replies, “I have Skype!”
Paul says, “Tom, I feel bad that you are missing out!”
Tom retorts, “and I feel bad for you! Why leave your house when you can stay at home and have all your needs met?”
How can Paul possibly describe to Tom what it feels like be at the beach with ones feet buried in the sand while experiencing the sea breeze and sound of the ocean waves, or what it is to star gaze at night at the magical sky in the night air, or to ride a bike with the wind blowing in your hair? What it’s like to dance joyously at a wedding or to mourn with others at a funeral? These are things one has to experience themselves to know the positive ways in which they can impact a person. Tom is mad because he is under the impression that Paul thinks he is better than him for experiencing these things. Paul responds, “not at all! I am no better than you. I simply think this would enhance your life in a beneficial way as it has mine. I care about you I’d like for you to partake in these gifts as well.”
When one experiences a connection to G-d he cannot put into words how that relationship enhances his life to one who has not had this experience. Those of us who feel G-d’s presence are touched in a way that is wonderfully indescribable. We want to share this with everyone. Experiencing G-d is expansive. It takes us out of ourselves to something bigger. Everyone can have that, but they must be first willing to leave own personal “homes” and be willing to open themselves up to something much larger. That is not condescension. That is love.