Our Jewish community is so good at celebrating life cycles and milestones–but recently I've begun to see that as somewhat problematic.
What if you don't reach those milestones? What if you don't reach them by the age you want to reach them?
What if you would very much like to get married some day, but you're still single?
What if you don't want to get married at all? What if you have moral objections to marriage as an institution? What if you get divorced–did you go backward?
Social media makes this problem worse–its algorithms encourage us to trumpet our adherence to societal norms as achievements, and then they broadcast certain kinds of milestones to our friends and acquaintances. It seems like every other weekend someone is getting engaged or married or landing a job or having another baby or graduating something.
What if the economy has been hard on you? What if you don't have a job in your career? Are you less of an adult? Are you less worthy of celebration?
What if you can't afford to get an expensive education? What if you can't afford to buy a home?
And, of course, this post is somewhat selfish: what if you'd very much like to get pregnant and have babies, but you're having problems with that?
I came across a blog post a while ago regarding children with severe developmental disabilities, children who might never learn to speak or to walk, and the author of the post found comfort in a philosophy of "moments not milestones." For the author, the joy and meaning of life was to be found in small everyday moments, rather than in achievements that are considered worthy of trumpeting. Watching a loved one smile and relishing that smile is such a simple act, but taken in the context of a "moments not milestones" philosophy, that act of appreciation can be revolutionary.
Appreciating a moment, a smile, is NOT:
- Capitalist and classist like an assumption that a certain amount of money/possessions/income is worthy of celebration.
- Sexist and/or adhering to patriarchal norms like an assumption that monogamist heteronormative partnerships sanctioned by the government are more worthy of celebration than other relationships.
- Subtly ablist like much celebration regarding childbearing and childrearing tends to be.
Great! Wonderful! Viva la smile!
But what about Jewish community?
What about the fact that our community still valorizes these life cycle milestones without providing space for the everyday moment?
This question rolled around my head for a while until just recently when I had a realization. The Jewish community DOES provide space for the everyday moment. There are prayers and psalms for every single day! There are moments built in to our week to encourage a practice of quiet appreciation, to help us cultivate that radical gratitude of "moments not milestones."
So I suppose this is my intention for the new year: I would like to let Judaism help me celebrate the moments along with the milestones. I want to notice those smiles and cultivate a radical gratitude, and I want to start now.
Shana tova everyone, and a good afternoon too.
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