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Monday, May 19, 2014

The Place I Became A Man

Hi All -- hope you had a good weekend!

Mine was pretty good -- I ran in the increasingly popular Brooklyn Half Marathon for the first time.  This race is so hot it sells out faster than Billy Joel!  Started out in beautiful Prospect Park, then took Ocean Parkway down through the next three neighborhoods, all the way to the Coney Island Boardwalk!  Stuck with my usual tactic of drinking fruit punch flavored Powerade, courtesy of my fuel belt, every two miles like clockwork.  Felt like I was pulling 8's, turned out to be a little bit faster than that, so I was pretty jazzed.  Several of us runners went over to a bar called Peggy O'Neill's, on the Surf Avenue side of MCU Ballpark (home of the minor league Brooklyn Cyclones), and had to be patient with our bartenders, who were clearly not used to a Saturday morning rush.  :)  Still got my Sammy.

Next week, I'm hoping for a similar experience -- going up to the farthest reaches of our state to run in the Buffalo Half Marathon.  It's become my annual Memorial Day trek, looking forward to running this new course that includes Delaware Park, and seeing some good friends of mine.

Yes, we always look forward to our old traditions, and sometimes start new ones.  But what about the ones that disappear?

My childhood synagogue is closing its doors.  The congregation is merging with another temple on the other side of town, but the building is for sale.  It seemed like the temple would be there forever, but all good things must end.

It brings back memories.  Learning the traditions of my ethnic group.  Preparing to lead services on my Bar Mitzvah day and beyond.  Feeling the comfortable, safe, and home-base feeling that I got within its walls.  

The Bar Mitzvah day stands out, of course.  The satisfaction of learning to recite sacred and ancient words in a language difficult to pronounce.  The rewards of preparing for a performance that your entire family and all of your friends appreciate.  The knowledge that, in some circles, you're recognized as a man, and no longer as a boy.

And, oh yeah . . . I got to give a speech, too.  :)  Now that I think about it, that was David's first blog post, before there were blogs!  Preparing for it helped me develop confidence, and performing it taught me to love having an audience.  :).  Oh yes, I did become a man in that sense -- I was no longer shy, looking for excuses not to speak.  Once I got over that hump, my years on stage in drama club and college theater were a breeze.

It was also the place I got close to G-D, appropriately enough.  I learned that there was something bigger than me, that handled all things in life beyond my control.  A source of justice truer than anything that could be handed down by any mortal authority figure.  And sometimes, when I didn't really expect it, it "saved" me from possible and unpleasant consequences.  Lesson really learned when that happened!

Ironically, my high school was just down the street.  The values one learned in that building were like night and day, in comparison from the values learned at temple.  Yet some people think that's the place a boy becomes a man.

I respectfully disagree.

Rather, for a true example of manhood, I look at the elders who organized our old temple, and their actions.  Giving of one's time.  Kindness towards children and the elderly.  Respect for tradition.  Greetings and friendliness towards all who entered.  Pride and values.  They had lives of their own, they could have chosen to let someone else "run things," but the leadership roles they took in synagogue life were rewarding in and of themselves.  

Yes, that temple is gone forever, but I still owe it a great deal.  It connected me with a tradition dating back millennia.  It gave me a chance to learn and express some good talents.  Most importantly, it taught me examples inspired by G-D, and those values made a man of me.
  
And so let it be with the rest of this beta tribe.  Gentlemen, don't recite or adopt the falsehoods of the alphaganda.  Don't be led astray by groupthink.  Don't bow down to false gods, and don't give them the power deserved only by Him.  You're better served to emulate the kind of righteousness those gentlemen showed.

So MUST a beta male believe in G-D?  Entirely up to you, friends.  I have no authority to save or damn any soul in my audience.  I can only vouch for my own, and nobody else's.  But I gotta admit, faith in a higher power and trust in all things beyond your control (provided you've handled everything within your control) is a far better way to go through life than to dread and malign one's own existence.

That's my sermon.  I've already discussed how my religion is disappearing.  Here's to finding a replacement once it does.

DISCLAIMER:  The above is not meant to besmirch, smear, undercut, or look down upon, those who belong to other faiths, or to no religion at all.  And trust me, I'm not saying that I'm perfect.  It's nothing more than memories of a treasured and uncorrupted part of my youth.  Please indulge me.  :)