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Sexuality, Denial And Religion: Heartbreaking and Home-Hitting Themes In "Disobedience"

Culture

I am a lesbian and the daughter of a Rabbi. I feel compelled to write the sentence, “I am lucky because my parents are loving and supportive of who I am." But writing that sentence, thinking about writing that sentence, makes me angry. It makes me incredibly angry actually. Being loved and supported by your parents regardless of who you are and how you love shouldn't be a matter of luck. It should just be.


I saw the new film “Disobedience." Having seen the trailer and thus knowing the plot, even the title made me cringe. Disobedience. A word that should be used to refer to children or pets. Not grown women. And not behind the guise of religious zealotry. Disobedience is defined as a refusal to comply or as a transgression. Its connotation is negative. To obey is to be “good." To not obey is to be “bad." But what about what about the rules? We judge those who do not follow them as bad. But it is high time that we instead began to judge the rules, as some of them are simply unacceptable.

The film is about the daughter of an Orthodox Rabbi, Ronit (played by a Rachel Weisz), who is disowned by her father and shunned by her community for being a lesbian. She returns home for her father's funeral, which she only finds out about because - spoiler alert - the woman who she was with when she was young, calls to tell her. This woman, Esti (who is played by Rachel McAdams), is now married to the man with whom both women were once friends. Ronit stays with the couple and, as you might imagine, great difficulties ensue.

"This is a film about when fundamentalism in religion outweighs common sense and what should be the unbreakable bonds of parental love." Photo Courtesy of thegeekiary.com

I spent the film both desperately sad and incredibly angry. This is a story that is all too familiar and absolutely unforgivable.

This is a film about when fundamentalism in religion outweighs common sense and what should be the unbreakable bonds of parental love. The film itself is beautifully written, shot and acted. There is a dread that hangs over the film from start to finish, a weight that the characters bear and therefore so too must the audience.

My father is a reform Rabbi. We don't keep Kosher. The women don't wear wigs and long skirts and they are not treated as second-class citizens. We don't hate or look down on people who are not Jewish. We don't think there is one way to live. We interpret the Torah as was intended. We don't fear God. We live in the real world. We change with the times. We honor one another's differences. We don't shun people for who they are or for the choices they make.

In the film, Ronit's father felt it better to have no daughter than to have a daughter who is a lesbian. In the film, Esti felt it better – at first – to live in misery and denial rather than to honor her truth. In the film, blind obedience reigns over intelligent thinking and common sense. I find this unforgivable in the film. I find this unacceptable in real life. At the end of the film, Ronit frees herself and is able to because her husband “allows" her a divorce, another despicable “rule."

"In the film, Esti felt it better – at first – to live in misery and denial rather than to honor her truth." Photo Courtesy of Variety

Ronit's father died and he missed out on being her father. He missed out on her being his daughter. He missed out on life. There is no greater sorrow than to lose a child. And yet, this foolish man purposely threw her away. No God wants that. You'll just have to trust me when I say that. No God of any religion or denomination wants that. God is good and he is love and he is forgiveness and he demands that we are kind to one another and to ourselves, that we live gently and treat others as we wish to be treated. The rest is window dressing. Hate is nowhere in the Torah. And, if you don't believe in God, then this is what the universe wants from us, graciousness and gentility, not violence and hate. Never violence and hate.

So many people live in such great fear that they all but forget to live. God did not command people to disown their children. God did not command that people are heterosexual. God did not command that men rule over women. These are scriptural interpretations by man, by men, and they have no place in the world. None.

"So many people live in such great fear that they all but forget to live."

This film is painful. Ronit's father and the members of the congregation who shunned Ronit are pitiful. A bit of me feels sorry for them. I feel sorry that they do not have the strength of character to stand up for what they must know is wrong. Or I feel sorry for them that they do not have the ability to even know that it is wrong. Denial and brainwashing are powerful tools.

We only get one life. We get one chance to live and love and be who we were designed to be. “Disobedience" shines a light on just one of many religious groups who allow ancient manmade rules to dictate people's lives in a way that runs counter to any sense of true humanity. If you belong to a group that demands hate, there is something inherently wrong with the group.

When I came out to my parents, the only thing my dad asked was whether they needed to set another place at the Thanksgiving table for my girlfriend. My father teaches love and acceptance. My father teaches that in the end, it won't matter who was right or wrong. It won't matter who blindly followed the rules. The only thing that will matter is that we lived and loved with kindness and joy.

Some say art imitates life. In the case of “Disobedience," I know this to be true. I see the hate disguised as religion all around me, especially these days. Others say life imitates art. When it comes to this film, I challenge you to avoid the latter. There is no prize at the end for “being good." There is only the prize that is itself a reward, doing good.

I challenge you to be disobedient when the result is love over hate, good over evil, acceptance over rejection, peace over violence. I challenge you to be disobedient when there is no logical explanation, only an ancient rule. I challenge you to be disobedient. I challenge you to love. For today, love is an act of defiance.

4 min read
Health

Tropism, Mindfulness, and Responding to Your Environment

One of the few things I remember from grade school biology is the concept of tropism. In plain language, tropism is the reaction of a living thing, like a plant, towards a stimulus like sunlight or heat. You've likely seen this before but just didn't recognize it for what it was. If you've ever seen the leaves of a potted plant bending towards a windowpane, that's tropism in action. The plant is bending towards the sunlight.

If you've ever seen the leaves of a potted plant bending towards a windowpane, that's tropism in action.

In our everyday lives, we are all inundated with stimuli throughout the day. The driver in front of us that stalls at the yellow light and zooms through the red light, leaving us behind to wait. Or the customer service rep that leaves us on hold for an ungodly amount of time, only for the call to prematurely drop. There are so many examples both common and unique to our individual lives. The trouble begins when we form the habit of responding to everything — particularly negative stimuli. By doing this, our mental peace is disrupted and diverted making us slaves to whatever happens to happen. Much like the plant bending towards sunlight, we oftentimes react and lean into whatever is happening around us. Now take that concept and multiply it by the number of things that can happen in a day, week, or month. What happens to you mentally with so many emotional pivots?

For me, the result is: Restlessness. Anxiety. Sleepness. Mindless Eating. Everything besides peace of mind.

Much like the plant bending towards sunlight, we oftentimes react and lean into whatever is happening around us.

Earlier this year, something pretty trivial happened to me. I'm sure this has happened to you at some point in your life also. I was walking through a door and, as I always do, glanced back and held the door longer and wider than normal for the person coming behind me. My gracious gesture was met with silence — no thank you, no smile, not even a nod. I remember being so annoyed at this travesty of justice. How dare they not acknowledge me and thank me for holding the door? After all, I didn't have to do it. I know I spent the next few hours thinking about it and probably even texted a few friends so that they could join in on my rant and tell me how right I was to be upset. In hindsight, I should not have allowed this pretty petty thing to occupy my mind and heart, but I did. I let it shake my peace.

I've since taken some classes on mindfulness and what I've learned (and I'm still learning) is the art of being aware — being aware of the present and my feelings. Recognizing when I'm triggered towards annoyance or anger gives me the opportunity to take a step back to understand why and assess whether it deserves my attention and energy. We're all human and having emotions is part of the deal but as mindful adults, it's critically important to choose what you're going to care about and let everything else pass along. There are several tools on the market to help with this but the Headspace app has really helped me in my mindfulness journey. The lessons are guided and coupled with some pretty cute animations.

Recognizing when I'm triggered towards annoyance or anger gives me the opportunity to take a step back to understand why and assess whether it deserves my attention and energy.

Over the course of the next week, I'd like to challenge you to pay more attention to your reactions. How aware are you of how you allow your environment to affect you? Are you highly reactive? Do you ruminate for hours or even days on events that are insignificant in your life? If so, practicing a bit of mindfulness may be the way to go.