One of the problems with a ‘counterculture’ is that it has no life of its own. Its definition depends on their being a ‘culture’ (to counter), without which, it would lose its raison d’etre.
It seems that much frum periodical writing today is either that of the ‘culture’, the party line, a vanilla-wash picture of reality, or the ‘counterculture’, which seem to draw perverse pleasure in snidely and gleefully puncturing said culture’s pristine pose.
Both are equally formulaic, and equally boring.
So what does all this have to do with us, Sasson’s readers and writers?
Nothing and everything.
Many Baalei Teshuva – which I think most of us Sasson-ers are – have fought inertia, spiritual gravity, and all that was near and dear, to drag ourselves by our elbows across vast existential tundras, jungles, and ice floes, all in a dogged and desperate pursuit to discover who were really were. (Okay, I do tend to hyperbolize, but if anything, on a soul level I’m understating.)
We got here to ‘Frum-Land’ (as in Candy-Land) thinking we’d reached our goal, when all we had actually reached was the starting gate. (Which is not a small accomplishment, BTW.)
We were greeted with compassion and suspicion, pity and puzzlement, fawning and yawning. And then there were the few who understood. Who unconditionally accepted us without wavering one iota from who they were. They didn’t judge and they didn’t budge.
Because they were real. They weren’t ‘culture’, they weren’t ‘counterculture’ – they were real.
I think any longtime BT who ‘made the cut’ and saw it through for two or three generations had to have basked in the glow of at least one of these ‘reality-stars’ along the way.
And I think it is from these living (or perhaps no longer living) exemplars that we as writers – and Jews – should draw our inspiration and take our cues to reach our own post-culture, post-counterculture personas.
This isn’t as hard as it sounds – because we’ve done it before.
Many BT’s transcended the secular culture/counterculture duality to get here (often having to pass in and out of both). For neither modern secular culture, nor its counterculture has the slightest understanding of, or feels the slightest affinity toward, we men in fedoras (never mind fur doughnuts) and ladies in snoods. (Any folk on either side of the aisle who adorn their heads otherwise, please don’t take offense – I was only making a point.)
So perhaps, we BT’s and our earnest fellow travellers, can replicate that feat in this world, too.
We needn’t be swept up in the sword dance of ‘conformity and the conformity of non-conformity’, but rather simply be (and write)…real.
The Torah is the Torah, and there are some things that we just can’t say. But there’s so much more that we don’t say – that we could.
It may not fit in the box of either side of the (above-mentioned) boxing ring.
It may not make us culture (or counterculture) stars.
But will it will be real.
As it will come from the heart, it will touch other hearts and may just set off a chain reaction of ‘realness’ that will let everyone breathe easier.
We’ll be able to convey the beauty of the ‘culture’s’ message without being stifled by its FPC (Frum Politically Correct) restrictions. We’ll be able to impart the corrective lessons of the ‘counterculture’ without adopting its bite or cynicism.
It may all sound frightening, but there’s nothing to fear. Because by letting ourselves be real – I mean really real – we will only become people more dedicated to Hashem and His Torah.
Because that is who we really are.