Yesterday I learned about the phenomenon, Bronies: men who like My Little Pony. Discovering this community blew my mind and, on top of three experiences I've had in the past week, makes me think the universe is trying to tell me something, or at least, prodding me that I need to be asking some questions.
Last Friday night my family and I attended a Shabbat service as part of the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival. I generally hate services. Nary a one do I find meaningful with the monotone responsive readings and the Rabbi talking at us. As a rule, I don't go. Friday night was an exception made for AJMF. It was a chanting service -- a kirtan-type services -- with the musicians chanting single lines of Hebrew prayer, set to yearningly beautiful melodies, that we'd then chant back. Soon the entire sanctuary was melodically shal-OM-ing together, creating a psychological connectedness, that is a true researched and confirmed social phenomenon. It moved me. I cried.
As I was experiencing this connectedness with the room, with people, with "the Universe," and with my dear husband, an atheist, with his arm wrapped around me, chanting along beside me, my child, my 9 year old daughter, squirmed and sighed and rolled her eyes and periodically begged us to let her out of there.
On the drive home my husband told my daughter that he'd wished she'd been more open to the experience, had given it a try. For my daughter, it was a G-d thing... (isn't that what we've taught her, that there is no Man in the Sky?) And yes, we had. But, for us, in those moments we try to look past that word and enjoy the experience, and hear the connectedness, and, we find, in that kind of situation -- with the chanting of Hebrew -- where we are all in song together, we are able to transcend that word, G-d, with all its baggage, and therefore truly, perhaps ironically, have a spiritual experience.
I run a Jewish business... this website, here. Part of the mission of this company is to create a positive Jewish experience, one that is open and warm and feels good -- to those who are not necessarily Orthodox, maybe don't know a lot or don't remember, for those that are re-experiencing Judaism, and for those that expect? crave? desire? warmth, quality products and a positive shopping experience -- good customer service -- to be treated well -- you know, what we expect from nearly every other aspect of our lives.
However, Monday I'd slipped into my task-master persona: very bluntly barking direction at my manager. I think the exact words that broke the camel's back were: "this is unacceptable," referring to an 8-10 inch pile of papers. My manager cut me off and brought me into the warehouse, shut the door and proceeded to pour out her feelings: she's never been spoken to like this, she is unhappy, if things don't change, she will leave...
I heard her and was ashamed. Truly, I see ModernTribe as my way of tikkun olam, and to be so, it should be good for all the people we touch, including, if not especially, my employees.
Last night we watched a documentary called Jesus Camp about Evangelical kids and their passionate envelopment in their brand of Christianity. The big group of children talking in tongues, gesticulating, crying, singing about Jesus is foreign and strange to me. But it is also familiar, as I understand, it is a different way to experience the connectedness that my family just experienced at the Shabbat chanting service.
SO THAT BRINGS US TO BRONY
Bronies are the teenage to grown men who have become attached to My Little Pony and take considerable personal risks to publicly proclaim their affinity. My Little Pony, the fourth generation Friendship is Magic TV series, seems to allow these men to show a side of themselves that has no other means of peeking through: happy, friendly, feminine, earnest. The series, of which I watched the show for the first time last night, is centered around friendship lessons and "Elements of Harmony": Honesty, Loyalty, Laughter, Generosity, and Kindness. At the Bronycons, the conventions for Bronies, everyone comes to a gathering in which the code of conduct has not only been explicitly stated but indoctrinated over the 91 episodes! Here, these men -- many of them awkward, some with Asbergers, all of them burdened with expectations of male normative behavior -- are able to, safely, express all these "elements of harmony" together. Wow. This sounds amazing to me! A group of people, men especially, who come together and are allowed to be loving, and real, and accepted.
I yearn for that. I yearn for a community in which I can be seen, accepted, expressive, open, and safe.
Why do I feel that my community does not, typically, offer up a chance for this? It is me and it is also them. And I do not know the answer but I do, now, know I have a question.