March 25, 2017

"YOU SHOULD BE":

Groundhog Deus : STEPHEN TOBOLOWSKY HAS APPEARED IN HUNDREDS OF FILMS, INCLUDING ONE OF THE GREATEST MOVIES EVER MADE. BUT THESE DAYS, HE'S THINKING--AND WRITING--A LOT ABOUT GOD. (DOMINGO MARTINEZ, April 2017, Texas Monthly)

ST: After The Dangerous Animals Club came out, Simon & Schuster called and said, "Could you write another book?" They had noticed this theme of spirituality in Dangerous Animals, so the specific request was "Could you write a book on faith?" Of course I said yes before I had any idea what I would write. And then after thinking about it, I realized that my life and the life of just about everybody I've met follows the template of the Old Testament.

DM: Interesting.

ST: For example, all of us have a Genesis story about where we came from--our families, where we originated. The first questions on a first date over a first glass of chardonnay are usually our Genesis. Who was your first teacher? How did you grow up? Then we all go into slavery, like in Exodus, except instead of building pyramids, we go into slavery with first love and first heartbreaks, with menial jobs that don't fit our dreams. And then, like in the book of Exodus, we eventually become free, only to find that we're still wandering in the wilderness. Then we all have this Leviticus moment in the middle of our life where we say, "Wait a minute. This is what I am." For me, that's when I met Ann. That's when I had children. That's when I said, "This is what my life is going to be." And that's when I found my way back to the synagogue. Then, like in the book of Numbers, we're shaped by mortality. People we love pass away, and the visions of our own mortality begin to shape us. Finally, as in the book of Deuteronomy, we tell our stories like Moses told the children of Israel their stories, because they forgot what they were doing because they were wandering for decades in the wilderness. And we tell our stories to our children to try to make sense of our own journey.

DM: From listening to your podcast, it doesn't seem like faith was very present early on in your life. What changed? 

ST: In the middle of my life, when I came back to the synagogue, I found there was a comfort in the validation of tradition. I had one moment in the synagogue that completely turned me around. When I first started coming back, I went to a service one Saturday morning. I was the only person in the synagogue. No one had shown up but the old rabbi. And the rabbi said, "What, do you think it's something I said?" And then he said, "Come on, come on up here with me. Are you afraid to pray with an old man?" I said, "Oh, I'm very afraid." "You should be," he said. "Listen, we're going to take this opportunity to feel these prayers, to understand these prayers; the psalms are beautiful, you should understand the beauty of the psalms and enjoy them. Let's just start this together, you and me." And that is when I realized that the religious moment is a solitary moment, it's not a group moment. If you look back through the Bible, every real experience someone has with God, they're alone. You have Moses and the burning bush, you have Jesus at Gethsemane, you have Abraham looking out at the stars of the sky with "the stranger," who might be the personage of God. And that's when I realized, wait a minute, what we're talking about when we talk about faith is an element of our life that changes through our life, just like my waistline. I found this comfort in tradition, and I felt like I was able to be a student again and study the Torah and the Talmud and the Mishnah.

But then later in my life I started having catastrophes--I broke my neck, I had open-heart surgery. And in those moments my faith became something other than scholastic, and I began to feel the real power of the invisible and of faith, and the possibility of a miracle. A lot of times people like to think of miracles as something akin to a magic trick, but the way I see a miracle is when your mind suddenly changes and you see something that you never saw before.

Posted by at March 25, 2017 7:34 AM

  

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