Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By David Bornstein
The Good Word 

The decade of denial


For the past 10 years I have been living in a state of constant denial. “I’m still cool,” I’d tell myself. “I can go to rock concerts and fit right in.” “I haven’t lost a step on the tennis court.” “I’m still as good looking as I ever was.” All of these thoughts, as they raced through my mind, were meant to be affirming, but they were much closer to delusional. And while it can, at times, be healthy to delude oneself, to see someone else staring back at you in the mirror, to imagine yourself as you used to be, it is, ultimately, a game. A blindfold you wear onto a stage that pretends to be life, but isn’t. A dream I’m stepping out of just now.

You see, having recently turned 60 I can no longer deny the truth. Whatever stage of life I’m in, it’s closer to the end than the beginning. If 60 is the new 40, then the new 40 comes with a lot of wear and tear.

And yet, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There can be a new cool to 60, a new reality, a new confidence that comes with having been there, being where you want, and being able to tell yourself, “It doesn’t matter who notices me, who thinks I’m cool, as long as the right people do. As long as the ones I love do. As long as I know who I am and what I’m capable of.”

For me, the decade of denial began with the death of my brother—my best friend—in 2006, and moved quickly into the Great Recession, a different, harsher economy, a new way of life. As I look back on my 50s, the decade stretching from 2006-2016, I realize quickly it wasn’t a great time. It was difficult, full of loss and retooling and reinvention. So what was I holding onto? Why was I fooling myself into believing I was something I was not, that I wanted to remain somewhere I wasn’t welcome?

Because, perhaps, the delusion is a band-aid, a step removed from the pain of transition and the hard work of change.

The same can be said of our institutions, our community, our country. How long has it been since our core agencies have looked at themselves and asked some basic questions? Are we viable? Are we the same organization we were a decade ago, or have we, or conditions, changed? Are we getting old and in need of re-evaluation and deep reflection? 

Much the same could be asked of our Jewish community. It is long past time for us to ask ourselves if we are moving ahead or falling behind, if we are connected or disconnected, if we have a high percentage of unaffiliated or not, if anti-Semitism exists or doesn’t. The answers are obvious if we take a dispassionate look. The real issue here is to no longer deny that there are issues, and that passionate, committed individuals must at some point be unafraid to force the necessary changes and adaptations to occur so that as a people we can move forward into a new era.

And finally, our country has long been in a state of denial, but we can no longer afford to do so. We cannot deny that our political system, while fundamentally sound, has allowed itself to be corrupted by immoral, infantile, self-absorbed, self-serving egomaniacs who care nothing for the public welfare, and are thus causing rot from within. We cannot deny that idiocy has replaced insight, that well-intentioned compromise has been replaced by corrosive conflict, that extreme positions, whether right or left of center, are nothing more than sound bites meant to sway the shallow pool of the uneducated electorate, when what we need are sound, thoughtful, pragmatic solutions to the enormous problems of the day: the growing gap between rich and poor, global warming and the health of our world ecosystem, the evil of rampant terrorism, widespread acts of genocide and the loss of any basic respect for and love of life, in all its forms. The list is long and horrific.

I may not have been asleep for a decade, but I’ve been sleep-walking in too many ways, seeing things the way I needed to imagine them to be, instead of the way they really are. It’s time to move on. Time to put the loss of my brother, and so many other people and events in my life to rest. It’s time for us all to do the same. Wake up! Sound the shofar!  It’s time to acknowledge who we are and what we are not, and transition from the decade of denial to a new age, an honest age that creates hope and possibility out of the ashes of hypocrisy and illusion—the age of acceptance.

And that’s the good word. 

Comments? Write the Heritage or email dsb328@gmail.com.


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