I am currently facing somewhat of a culture clash at work, and in Australia in general (despite being born and raised here), between what I see as a very ‘Jewish’ conception of happiness and what I see as an Australian one. But I am having trouble reconciling some things and would like to hear your thoughts.
The Australian performance of happiness is what I would call aggressive. It is about the act of ‘mateship’ and positivity to the point of repression. The archetype is the Carefree Larrakin which, if I am honest, I find alienating and scary. Physical play seems to be very central as well.
‘Jewish Happiness’ to me comes down to the relationship we have with God, even for those like me who don’t really practise. Our relationship is not one of pure Grace or Submission and Providence, but of beckoning, engaging, struggling with and struggling to understand as an act of piety rather than conflict. From the scholars of the Talmud to the hymnal eroticism of Leonard Cohen, and the Absurdist Bafflement of Larry David we find Joy, meaning and truth in a kind of devout antagonism.
On the other hand, I see these kinds of optimistic spiritualist jews. Who are endlessly thankful to be part of this ancient line, constantly reflecting on the Joy of the life, freedom and community with which we are provided. This can be the ‘hippie jew’, the gregarious family man or the University Jewish Club Executive. They are comparatively extroverted, ritual oriented and carefree.
One thing in common with these is a deep appreciation for Food, for Art and the general revelatory experience that can be had in dialogue with (but not beholden to) the sensual.
I guess what I am asking is where does this dichotomy come from? Does it really exist? Is it two sides of the same coin?