by Simon Jacobson
The polls are mixed on that count. Recent surveys show that as much
as 80-90% of Americans will say that they believe in G-d, but 40-50%
will say they do not practice a religion.
Indeed, if God is all-powerful and infinite, and religion is a set
of laws and rituals and a list of things that one must or must not do,
it would seem that God could hardly be described as "religious."
Nor would it seem that being religions will bring a person closer to
God. If God transcends all limitation and definition, why would the
way to relate to Gdd be to impose further restriction and definition
on our already finite and constricted lives?
Yet this paradox is not confined to the religious-spiritual
aspect of the human experience. Throughout the ages, whenever
man has endeavored to escape the bounds of the mundane and
the everyday, he did so by submitting to a structured, even
rigid, code of behavior.
My favorite example for this is the discipline of music. There are
just so many musical notes on the scale, and no one--not even the greatest
musician--can create additional notes or subtract any. Anyone who wishes
to play or compose music must conform to this absolute, immutable system.
And yet, by submitting to this framework, the musician will create
a piece of music that touches the deepest place in a persons heart---a
place that cannot be described, much less be defined. By using this
very precise, mathematical formula, the musician will create something
that transports the listener to a place high above the confines and
fetters of everyday life, high above the strictures of physics and mathematics.
Imagine, then, a musical discipline whose laws are dictated by the
inventor and creator of life---by the one who has intimate knowledge
of life's every strength and every vulnerability, of its every potential
and its every sensitivity.
The only question remaining is: but why so many laws? Why must
this discipline dictate how we are to wake and how we are to sleep,
and virtually everything in between?
Because life itself, in all its infinite complexity, is our instrument
of connection with God. Every "scale" on its "range"
must be exploited to achieve the optimum connection.
Music being our metaphor, we cannot but quote the famous anecdote in
which Archduke Ferdinand of Austria says to Mozart, "Beautiful
music, but far too many notes." To which the composer replied,
"Yes, your majesty, but not one more than necessary."