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 person’s 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.”