Originally Posted in Our Community of Humanity at Inner Child Magazine
The cold, solitary and hibernation energies of winter can be warmed by community, acceptance and change as once more we move toward spring and new life. What NEW life will you drink into your core? What energies will you convert in the joy within the balance of your life?
Are you a convert? Do you seek converts to your cause? Conversion is defined in many ways. One way is the act or process of changing from one form to another or from one state to another or from one religion to another.
Make Something Useful
Food is converted into energy and the building blocks for a healthy body. The state of the food is changed in the conversion process. The food is broken down into molecules that can then be used in different ways. We call this conversion process—digestion. The food is digested or broken down into its essence. Your body builds these component parts into something new.
Religions and political parties talk about conversion and converts. They often actively look for converts. We look for people who agree with our view of the world. Sometimes we try to convince them that our view is the only correct or true way to feel about life.
But there are very few absolute truths and there are many ways of seeing reality. Then again perhaps you don't agree with me on this issue. Perhaps this statement is not true in your world. I can live with that.
Dion Fortune, a witch, defined magic as the art of changing consciousness at will. Perhaps a convert, who changes their way of seeing the world with consciousness, is magic. Or maybe the magic is in celebrating and respecting each person as they see the world in their own unique way.
Is there room in this world for the intellectual and heart-based exploration that leads to finding what is it that truly resonates with one's mind, body, and spirit? What are your views? Is your community made up of like-minded people? Do you embrace diversity and respect what others believe about the world? Do you have a clear sense of what you believe is true while still holding truth loosely enough that others can believe differently?
Mormonism Flowing Into Judaism
I grew up Mormon. I spent summers in Utah on my cousin's farm, while I lived with my international businessman father and artist mother in various countries. In every new place, I had a built-in community of like minded people, until I changed. I came out and created a life incompatible with Mormonism. I set off to find a new community full of accepting people. I was not looking to convert but after 14 years of living a Jewish life, I made it official this summer. Over the years after leaving the Mormon church and becoming Jewish, my view of the world and life has changed significantly. A lot of the changes came because of community and how I felt in one community compared to another. For me it is also about who I am. I stopped liking who I was as a Mormon and felt better about who I am as a Jew. It is ultimately a very personal choice and I have no stake in what other people chose as long as I get a choice in my life.
Conversion can also be defined as the adaptation of a building for a new purpose—for example, the conversion of a house into apartments. It is the act of changing something that may not be useful any more into something that is useful or more function or more of what is needed today. What is the purpose of your life? Has it changed over the years?
Composting is also a kind of conversion. Sticky waste products, moldy foods, freshly cut green grass, and dead brown leaves are piled up together and bacteria, bugs and worms convert it into dirt from which new plants and food can grow. Something that was not useful or functional is repurposed. Picnic tables can be made from juice boxes. Something that we might throw away can be converted into a place in the shade where we can eat or play cards or laugh with old friends.
The Order of Life
From the field of logic comes this definition of conversion: the transposition of the subject and predicate of a proposition according to certain rules to form a new proposition by inference. It is about changing the order of words or the relationship of the words that brings something new.
Even American football gets into conversion defining with "the act of scoring an extra point or points after having scored a touchdown." Conversion is a chance to win or to score extra points, a bonus if you will. What are you converting into a positive attitude in your life?
There is a famous math problem. There are three doors. You are asked to choose one door. Once your choice is made you are shown what is behind one of the two doors you didn't choose. It is counterintuitive if you can you should change your choice. You should change because that increases your chance of winning. With A, B and C as choices you have a one in three chance of getting the car or whatever prize is behind one of the doors. Say you chose A and then are shown that there is nothing behind B and offered a chance to choose again? You should choose C because now you have a one in two chance of winning whereas before when you choose A you only had a one in three chance of winning. Changing your choices or converting to a new or different way of thinking can sometimes be a good thing. New information and experience can inform new choices or new ways of living. New ideas can change how you feel and the kind of world view you resonate with.
Another synonym for conversion is metamorphosis. Imagine that your current beliefs about the world are a black and orange caterpillar. What kind of change would you see with the wings of a monarch? What new information or experiences would it take for you to morph into the king of your castle or the master of your life? What would it take to be okay with everyone in this community of humanity having the same opportunity to live life believing what we want to believe about the world around us?
Getting Ready. Two Weeks to the starting line in Seattle, Washington.
This summer I am going to spend nine weeks bicycling and writing my way across the United States. This is the story of my journey home.
I am not Jewish, but if you were to look at my life, it would seem like I am. My partner is a Sephardic Jew. All four of her grandparents were from Turkey and 500 years before that, Spain. We are members of P'nai Or, a Jewish Renewal congregation in West Hartford, CT. Sometimes when we can we go to Shir Hamakom, a Glastonbury musical service.
Occasionally working in Israel, over the years, I have learned a little Hebrew through personal study. I have spent several weeks in the last 15 years working in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa at physical therapy clinics. I was there in Tel Aviv, working on September 11, 2001 but that is a story for another time.
The people I have helped using complementary and alternative medicine, probably have not cared about my religious background. The Israeli rabbi tired of fight terror with terror as the chemotherapy chased down the cancer cells, the orthodox man from New York who had to get a special dispensation from his rabbi for me to touch his face, helping to heal his eyes or the child with cerebral palsy in the Tel Aviv clinic.
I doubt if they care that I grew up Mormon, a global nomad, living in Bogota, Colombia and Brussels, Belgium because my father is an international businessman. Later I lived in Japan and Canada. Nearly half my life, I have been a foreigner, an alien, a gaijin, a third culture kid.
In an unfamiliar group, I know how to adapt, to watch and learn the customs and often I desperately want to belong, to be included, so when I signed up to bicycle on the 2013 Cross USA ride with Hazon and set a goal of raising $10,000 for sustainable agriculture through this non-profit Jewish organization, I started to think about converting to Judaism.
There was an article about the 2012 ride that described the main cyclists as 10 Jews riding across the country. I don't want it to be awkward. When asked how many cyclists are riding and are they all Jewish, I don't organizers to have to say, "there are eleven Jews and one....."
Yes, what am I? It would be understandable if you were confused, I am confused about religion most of the time. Never about spirituality, though. I am good with my relationship with God, but the religion stuff, that is confusing for me.
My ancestors are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) five generations back. I was born in Provo, Utah, a hour south of Salt lake City. I graduated from Mormon-owned Brigham Young University in 1982. I took a year and a half off to serve as a Mormon missionary in Tokyo, Japan.
Then I fell in love with a woman, and the trajectory of my idyllic life within the Mormon church veered off its rails. But my faith in the God of my childhood is still strong, perhaps stronger because it is no longer regulated by the rules of old, white, men.
Today, I celebrate Passover, Rosh Shana and Yom Kippur, more than Christmas and Easter. I meditate using chants and words from Tibetan Buddhism and study the words of Rumi and the Sufis. sometimes I attend services at the Universalist Church, with its powerful music and inclusive nature. My Facebook page lists me as religiously eclectic.
It is hard to describe why I probably won't convert to Judaism, even though if you watched what I did, where I went and how I pray, you might already think I was Jewish.
Perhaps, for me, it is like alcohol. What I mean is, I grew up Mormon, so when my friends in high school would say come out drinking with us. I would say, "I don't drink." Sometimes I would add that it is because I am Mormon and observant Mormons don't drink alcohol. Sometimes I would just go out with them and drink cranberry and soda or apple juice and most people never knew I wasn't drinking alcohol.
Then later on when I left the Mormon church, I could have started drinking but, I was in the habit of not drinking. I had seen enough of the damage that alcohol can wreck in people's lives that I just thought, what is the point of starting now.
Of course, when you are in your 40's or 50's and you say you don't drink ever, people often assume that you are a recovering alcoholic and don't push the issue. They don't ask. Sometimes I tell and sometimes I don't.
I think that is how it will be on the Hazon ride, those riders in my group, who I will become friends with, they will know I am not Jewish and that will be fine. And if other people who we meet along the way, assume that I am Jewish, I am good with that because there is a part of me that is.
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