Back in the days, when I was still a free radical, easily flying amongst other free radicals, I met a guy who was quite hot, playful, intelligent, and… well, hot. I met him in shul, we were talking over seudat shlishit, and there were sparks flying between us.
But, he was a good religious boy, so he was not going to date anyone just for play or fun. So, he started screening me: I understand that you are halachically Jewish, no problem there. You are culturally more Japanese. No problem there either—Jews come in all kinds of stripes and colors, including the Japanese kind. But how pure is your belief? Do you really believe in Judaism? Or, do you just “happen to be” Jewish?
Hmmmm… said my rather rebellious brain. “I don’t like this.”
The red-headed hot boy wanted to know, whether my beliefs in fact were more Buddhist-influenced than Jewish-influenced. What a tricky question.
First of all, the starting assumption needs some more tweaking—Japan is not a “Buddhist country,” the way American is a “Protestant” or to be more specific, “Puritan country.” This is problem number one.
Problem number two: I don’t really buy any pre-packaged religious ideas or concepts about things. But I also don’t believe whole-heartedly in a purely ‘scientific’ worldview of things. Articulating my theology at any given point is a rather involved process (as I expect it to be for many many people) and cannot be easily categorized into “Jewish” or “Buddhist.”
Problem number three: I didn’t like being measured about “how Jewish” I was. I was also feeling this subtle pressure to be “completely Jewish” to ‘pass’ as a possible girlfriend (=possible future wife) candidate.
So, I shot back with a test for him. I emphasized my secularity over my religiousity a bit, and inflated the “Buddhist-influence” on my beliefs more than probably was accurate even for then.
The result? Well, Misha’s got red-hued hair, but does not have flaming red-hair. That blazing red-hair looked really exotic and delicious. Alas.