Work was fine. I finished the data checking and did a load of filing. My Dad said I looked happy when I came home, which partly may be the result of a truncated working day (six hours plus a forty-five minute lunch) and J giving me a lift home instead of commuting on the Tube, but is probably also from feeling that I achieved something practical and from being in a non-hostile, reasonably autism-friendly environment. I did come home feeling OK and not exhausted, which hasn’t really happened in a work environment for many years.

I got home reasonably early and for a while was hoping to work on my novel for a bit, but I started answering emails and responding to blog comments and suddenly it was an hour later. I did finish and send my devar Torah; did a little bit of Torah study, as I had done some on the Tube in to work, but not much; and did some ironing, so it wasn’t a wasted evening, but I felt that I didn’t get 100% out of it. This is possibly me being too self-critical.

***

I mentioned that last night I went to a virtual shiur (religious class). The rabbi said that given how hair-splittingly legalistic Judaism is (not his words, but not that far off), we would expect great Jewish leaders to be “bland and boring” (those were his words), yet they have vivid personalities. I thought about this. I can think of great Jewish religious leaders who did have vivid personalities. However, I also sometimes feel that contemporary Orthodox society can feel monolithic. That anyone who doesn’t fit the mould leaves, or gets thrown out. (I also don’t know if contemporary Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) leaders fit the “vivid personalities” model, but I’m prepared to admit there that I don’t know them well enough to pass judgement.)

I’ve been thinking about this today. I don’t have any great answers. Orthodox society probably is monolithic. This is partly from overt religious conformism, but more because it’s mostly middle class. Orthodox families are talking about the same things non-religious middle class families talk about. Maybe not TV and popular culture (at least not at the Haredi end of the spectrum), but politics and house prices and which are the best schools to send their kids to and where they’re going on holiday and so on. Middle class people in general are not always noted for being daringly original and avant-garde. It’s why “bourgeois” is a term of abuse, particularly in artistic circles (for all that many artists are also middle class, much of their work is about épater les bourgeois). After a while it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: people start to feel that they have to leave if they think differently almost without pausing to see what is actually available. The creatives assume religion is conformist and meaningless; the religious establishment assumes that art and individuality are dangerous (which is true) and unnecessary (which is not true).

For me, part of the attraction of figures like Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (late eighteenth/early nineteenth century) and the Kotzker Rebbe (nineteenth century) is their willingness to shock the conventional religious and social pieties of their day while remaining fully Torah observant. As for today… I don’t know. I’ve met some unconventional Orthodox figures. I would like to meet more, although it’s hard to know how. For a while, Hevria.com was a place to “meet” creative frum (religious Jewish) people, but the conversations moved from the website to Facebook, and I won’t use Facebook, and I think they started focusing on in-person events instead of online content which is fine if you live in New York or Israel, but I don’t. Someone there really upset me too, on a very personal level, and that tainted it for me.

Of course, it has also occurred to me lately that maybe the reason I never fit in wherever I go is not because the sub-cultures I try to identify with are flawed, but because I have some kind of self-sabotaging fear of fitting in and conforming and start looking for reasons to feel like an outsider as well as an anxious fear of rejection that pre-empts future rejection by not getting connected in the first place.

***

According to my friend, who knows these things, this special Doctor Who magazine has sold out twice from the publisher’s website and once from a general magazine site. Science fiction shop Forbidden Planet seems to have sold out too. All this in the space of a week. Actually, as I’ve been looking since before it was published, I suspect it sold out largely from pre-orders. Certainly the publisher’s website seemed to sell out more or less immediately. I’m probably going to have to resign myself to not getting hold of it.

***

I’ve got four episodes of Twin Peaks: The Return left. It picked up around the halfway point, with the various plot strands coming together, which in turn helped me to figure out who on Earth all the new characters were, how they related to each other and what they were doing. I will probably have to watch it at least once more to really understand it. I have discovered that I’m not as squeamish for screen gore as I thought, coping with some on-screen nastiness, although I prefer the original series were the gore (and sex and swearing) was mostly implicit. I feel vaguely bourgeois for saying that (see above). I do believe gore (and sex and swearing) can be dramatically justified, but not everything here seemed to pass that test, although some did. It’s hard, something I have struggled with in my writing, not gore per se, but violence, sex and swearing. It’s hard to tell when less is more sometimes. Just this week I cut something from my novel (sexual rather than violent) because I felt it was a distraction, but the novel features sexual violence that I think is necessary to be true to the subject (domestic abuse).

6 thoughts on “Épater Le Bourgeois

  1. I often toy with that idea “maybe I’m just self sabotaging” and that’s why I can’t fit in. I think I’ll blog about it in my private blog cause the personal experiences related to that are heavy. I know I said “maybe we weren’t meant to fit in” but I don’t say that lightly. Even if it’s true I want so badly to find a group. I just always feel like I have to cut off an arm to fit in the door and end up bleeding out when I get inside. It makes me think of the U2 song One “You say love is a temple. Love the higher law. You ask me to enter but then you make me crawl.” I know it all sounds melodramatic but it crazily ends up being that intense most of the time. I’m glad work is going okay for you so far. That’s a real gift even if everything isn’t ideal.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Growing up Conservative, I thought Orthodoxy was a monolith. There’s so much variation in observance within the self-identified Conservative label. Like anything from being indistinguishable from Reform halacha is not binding and more tikkun olam focused model to a Conservative movement shul that was so traditional that it had a separate non-egalitarian minyan in addition to the egalitarian one. But Orthodox, everyone must be following all of halacha and doing everything the same, I thought. It wasn’t until much later that I learned about open Orthodox vs. modern vs. yeshivish vs. chassidish and all the different shades in between. But this could also be a US thing. The US is so heterogenous and Americans are particularly into individuality and labels, I think. Also funny how the creative frum mold-breaking type becomes a label in itself in a way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right that the US is more varied. I guess I was thinking more in terms of personality and social attitudes than halakhic observance, but there is still variation… I don’t know, this is something I’ve struggled with for years, feeling that I have to sacrifice my individuality to be fully observant, but also wondering if that’s just my own fear of rejection rather than something objective.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s great that work went well and that you came home happy. The job sounds like it has many positive aspects! I do think you’re being too self-critical but I’m not familiar enough with Judaism to have an opinion on fitting in. I think we all struggle about how much we need to or should bend in order to keep the peace or belong. Being truly ourselves sounds good in theory, but isn’t very comfortable in practice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! The job does have many positives, yes.

      I think if someone was 100% themselves, they would probably be a monster to everyone else! I guess we all need to compromise, the question is how.

      Like

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