"C’est une vie de chien!"
“It's a dog's life!” The French use this expression to shrug their frustration at the overwhelming struggles of life. To me, it is a statement of how random our most important beliefs are.
Growing up in Iran, many Muslims believed dogs to be ritually impure and killed them. The streets were filled with rabid canines chasing and biting pedestrians who would beat them in return. At the same time, the very wealthy kept dogs in their homes, trained them, and treated them as bonafide family members.
What fascinated me was that the side of the street where the dog was born dictated its fate.
Much of life is pure luck. We are not that different from dogs. A woman born in Saudi Arabia has a vastly different outlook and outcome than a man born in Sweden. Born in the Great Depression, also, would have given rise to a totally different path than entering today’s saturated social media world.
We don't choose our parents, or our country of birth, or our native tongue, or our religion, or the color of our skin, or our set of diseases, or our gender. So much of the most important aspects of our lives are random, out of our control.
Judaism is my beloved religion, the family in which I thrive, the language with which I form community and pray to God. Yet, I am painfully aware that what has given my life significance is quite arbitrary. I was born in a Muslim country to a Jewish family. Why should I not believe in Islam or give up both and believe in Christianity? Why religion at all? In school, I struggled, and tried to understand different religions. But I studied science, microbiology and molecular biology. I found poetry in the motion of cells and in the order of physics. I saw God in the double helix and its twists and turns. I wanted a truth that I was not prepared to handle.
At some deeper level there is absurdity in our individual beliefs.
My truth is a product of the randomness of where I was born, as is yours. The only way to know The Truth is to love our neighbors, celebrate diversity, and find God's Face in the rainbow of truths. Each of us in only part of the answer, together completing the puzzle. In the end, no religion has meaning; it is our interaction with its teachings and our expression of those teachings in kindness that assign it significance.
C'est une vie de chien. We are really not that different, you and I- just stray dogs looking for shelter, love and our way back home.