I told him that I've been reading the book he lent me, and that it's really helping me to understand not only the meaning behind the words of the liturgy, but also how to let them inspire me. The words themselves are something of a blank slate in terms of emotion, and the worshipper is free to use them to express his gratitude, fear, sadness, or even anger. He can also use them to bring himself to a calm state.
Since I'm also working on reading another book, I told him about that one, too. This was one of the ecology books that I'd found. I told him who wrote it, and the group she is affiliated with. He knew exactly who I was talking about, and was glad that I'd found it. It was definitely a relief compared to the last conversation we had. I talked about one of the essays I had read, about wandering and how it brings out something primal in people. Since I've been watching a lot of The Dog Whisperer, I remembered that Cesar Millan had made a comment about what happens to dogs when they walk behind a pack leader, and how some of the points in the essay were somewhat similar to the ideas that Millan had talked about.
Naturally, this sparked some debate. He asked me if I really believed that the Jews were following G-d around like a pack of dogs, and if that implied that we didn't really have a choice. Of course not. That's what makes us different from dogs. The point was more that, in the wandering, we were forced to share a tight space, to learn how to work together for a common goal, and to accept our place in the group. He kept poking holes in my analogy, which was fine. It was never meant to be a perfect picture, just a way to understand a part of the story in a practical way.
We got in to talking about disagreements, and how religion can actually be a stumbling block to society. This was at least partly because the Rabbi had been at a discussion group last night where they talked about a book that said, at least in part, that atheism might be an important key to world peace. Which I do agree with. I told him so, too. I talked about how that's mentioned in the song "Imagine" more than once (Imagine there's no heaven...no hell below us...nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too). Which, of course, leaves us....where? What role (do I think) religion should have in society?
We talked about that for a while, actually. I think he wanted to hear me talk about religion in a general sense, so as to figure out how much of my understanding is based on Christianity, and how much on Judaism. I talked about how religion, when done correctly, should encourage people to live ethically, and the spirituality should be a pleasant side effect, and I did talk about how I found that in Judaism. He talked about how this might not necessarily be true of Orthodox Judaism. I had an answer for that one: I wasn't sitting in an Orthodox shul. I had chosen Reform for a reason.
It was a good conversation.