Freethinkers, the series, is an initiative on the back of a lecture I gave at the Amsterdams Museum. It was a terrific gathering with lots of wonderful people. At the end of my talk, the audience stayed in the room much longer, asked intriguing questions and shared personal stories safely with each other.
Put humanity and integrity first
Aligned with the ‘Freethinkers exhibition’ in the Amsterdams Museum, which includes my life’s work and will be live until March 2022, I talked about how we can be more tolerant towards freethinkers within conservative, religious networks. I discussed how we can put humanity and integrity first at all times within those parallel worlds, thus closed-up communities. I discussed how we should handle matters with flexibility instead of perpetuating centuries-old taboos, with all its consequences for individuals and the collective.
For a moment, I questioned whether fundamentalism can be prevented and if so, how? I discussed how to ensure that human rights are not violated when individuals – especially children – choose a different path and want to get out of ‘a web’ as I call it. I talked about a sense of belonging. Furthermore, I used my personal case as a manifesto for change and came up with a number of universal solutions to deal with interpersonal differences with humanity and integrity.
Keep asking questions
I opened my lecture with: if you’ll forget everything about tonight, at least remember two messages, namely keep asking questions, because that is the only way for humanity to keep moving forward. Also, no goal, no religion, no culture, no group, no country and so on – enter what you want here – is worth losing our humanity. That’s the only tangible matter that we have. The rest in terms of philosophies and so on is secondary. Both of these messages sound oh-so-simple, but they aren’t. An open mind is not appreciated within ultra-orthodox core groups of all shapes and sizes. Humanity is so terribly fragile. We must protect it and continue to fight for it, especially in the ultra-orthodox networks of our society.
Now, let me say something about intentions. I’m not a self-hating Jew or anything like that. The reason why I won’t be silenced – for instance in case of abuse – is because it is my birthright to be able to be critical and to implement change. Different matters of the past and present make me furious, for example when the umpteenth case of unnecessary suffering, lack of freedom and self-determination occurs with an individual in a web.
Sense of belonging, everywhere and nowhere
This brings me to a common incident in the Jewish world, yet without any form of coercion (for instance violence) as I have experienced. After World War II, centuries of persecution and bad PR, how can Jewish people push off their very own child – or anyone else for that matter – because he or she chooses a path that differs from what they consider to be the truth? How can people counteract that person compulsively, or pull a person to come back? As far as I’m concerned, something must be seriously wrong with the wiring in someone’s head when these sorts of things happen. The spiritual programming of people, in the name of God or a truth superior to all other life experiences, is the greatest threat to the continuation of our identity. Because yes, long before Judaism was dictated by ’the beards’, it used to be an identity of a group of people within a certain region. Guess which one. I love my people. It’s nice to be able to still say ‘my people’ after everything.
Let me talk a bit about sense of belonging as well. I have said goodbye to the traditions and social aspects of the community. I like my life exactly the way it is now. I am an ultra-ultra-ultra individualist and a loner. Furthermore, I have found a sense of belonging within myself, with my inner compass from which I live, partly of course after betrayal and inhumanity. Holding on to my blueprint and listening to my voice is what I call an expression of integrity and a greater, universal purpose. That’s how I receive peace, joy, curiosity and zeal – in other words, vitality in life. I’m not a communal person, especially not nowadays. Anyone who wants to join me in my sense of belonging is welcome, but no ‘noise’ please. I have never quite found a true sense of belonging in matters outside myself or in other people.
A woman in the audience commented that if someone belongs everywhere and nowhere, he or she knows how to connect well with everyone. Indeed, this is truly wonderful. However, let’s be honest for a moment. Holding on to freedom and integrity, in other words following the own compass, also comes with a lot of loss. People lose everything that doesn’t really belong to them. Although that always happens from a place of strength and growth and a lot is replaced by matters that do align and create a new sense of belonging, the painful intervals are inevitable. Because people automatically mourn what is not intended for them in the first place. People crave their own ways, especially a non-existent, organic life mix that never existed before. Sometimes there is fear, because people know that they will recognize their own grandeur and life force in this process, with all the consequences that entails for the sense of belonging of others around them.