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Jewish Journal

On Selling Out

by Beit T'shuvah

November 14, 2012 | 2:53 pm

By Ben Spielberg

When I was younger, I would pride myself in my rebellion. In high school, I would habitually leave class and venture off campus. On the weekends, I would stay in bed for as long as humanly possible. I would hook up distortion pedals to my bass, play only songs in minor keys, and whisper and yelp gibberish into microphones.

My mantra was “question everything, no matter what.” My jeans were torn and lazily sewn back together with unflavored dental floss and most of my t-shirts were sleeveless. I read just enough Sartre and Camus to hate the world, but not enough to find the beauty in meaninglessness—or, as Harriet likes to call it, “spiritual housekeeping.”

I stole individual pieces of string cheese from small bodegas just because I didn't want to support those damn cheese lobbyists (Kraft is, after all, owned by Philip Morris).

I arrived at Beit T'Shuvah when I was 20 years old. My rebellious nature was immediately compromised; I was forced to make my bed and not allowed to live in it. I, along with dozens of tattooed reoffending criminals, had to sit still during Shabbat and clean up when it ended. What stung the most was the first step of Alcoholics Anonymous: admitting powerlessness. I wrestled with it in my head, but it always seemed like I was the one who had the power; I was the one who had control. In the end, all it took was a little bit of blind faith—I temporarily let go of my questions and just believed. There were no peer-reviewed studies to dig through or five-star Amazon.com reviews to glance at.

Today, I am 22 years old and I make my bed on most days. I don't wear t-shirts to work and I ask serious questions in class. But I am still a rebel; my mantra remains the same, even after rehab. But I finish my books this time, I buy string cheese at full-price, and I keep my basslines distortion-free. But I still have trouble admitting things like powerlessness; I always question simple terminology. Maybe I didn't sell out. But I definitely bought in.

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