Lithium & Laughter Go Great Together
I grew up in a secular Jewish family and attended “religious education” at the Northern Virginia Ethical Society when I was a kid. The reason “religious education” is in quotations is because being raised in the Ethical Culture Movement is a drastically different experience compared to growing up belonging to a conventional faith. Some examples: during Sunday school I learned about such topics as the importance of recycling, the proper moves to master self-defense, we also explored other religions, and were encouraged to ask serious questions and find our own answers. But we didn’t just learn about these topics, we put them into action. We cleaned up litter, we took a self-defense class and did yoga, once a Wiccan came in to talk about Pagan Witchcraft (her athame, also known as a ceremonial blade, was super cool), and despite my asking no one ever confirmed or denied if God exists — that was something I had to dig deep and answer for myself. I eventually concluded that I am an atheist but that didn’t mean I lacked a moral compass. Growing up in Ethical Culture was all about the practice of ethics — the name literally says it all. I was taught to value deed before creed, that compassion and rational thinking result in progress, and that all people have inherent worth and dignity. I also learned that community is key and that people have power and social responsibility. I went to the Northern Virginia Ethical Society every Sunday where I listened, learned, and asked questions, feeling safe and supported under the banner that decorated the entry way: “The Place Where People Meet to Seek the Highest is Holy Ground.”
My experiences in the Ethical Culture Movement were incredibly formative during my childhood, adolescent, and teenage years. Not only was belonging to my local Society impactful, but attending our national youth conferences were truly some of the best experiences of my life. Mostly because I found friends who cared about advocacy and activism as much as I did and that’s also where I met my husband when we were both teenagers. I developed relationships with passionate youth leaders who lived all over the country and I also connected with different Ethical Societies. One of them being the Washington Ethical Society where I was recently invited to speak on June 25, 2017. I realize that was a good chunk of context, but the playlist below is a recording of the first reading of my work that I’ve ever done. Previously only my Ethical Culture husband had heard these words spoken out loud so it was a powerful opportunity to finally share my narrative — aloud and very publicly — to a community that has always been a humanist home base for me.
For the month of June the platforms at the Washington Ethical Society all addressed the topic of “zest.” My presentation, “Lithium and Laughter Go Great Together” narrates how humor, love, and hope have empowered me to live a life rich with purpose and positivity. Uttering these words out loud — again for the very first time — in a community that taught me how to use my privilege and power to make the world a better place was indescribably stirring. I’ve been asking myself a lot of hard questions lately and I realized that I am exactly where I need to be.