“Do you know anything for certain?” he asked me.
“Excuse me?” I prodded.
“Is there anything in your life that isn’t ambiguous or vague?” he clarified.
I looked around the room and I pondered for a few measly moments. I’ve been working on thinking more before I speak. So instead of speaking, I thought. I am a person of many questions. Too many questions.
“Yes,” I answered after not enough thinking. There are many things I’m sure of. I thought for a moment longer, but nothing came to mind.
A few lengthy seconds went by before I blurted out my response.
“Grilled cheese with apple slices,” I replied. He looked up, only somewhat fazed.
I myself, was equally fazed, but it was too late to go back now.
“Grilled cheese with apple slices?” he repeated back to me.
“Grilled cheese with apple slices has been my favorite meal since I was a little small kid,” I added, backing up my argument contentiously.
I like the apples cut up on the side of the plate. I make the grilled cheese in the toaster oven with whatever cheese I have. I’m not a picky person. The apple slices can even go inside of the grilled cheese if they want to.
“That sounds disgusting,” he responded, politely enough.
I let the comment go over my head. I once read online that eating apples with cheese as a snack is almost the same thing as brushing your teeth. That makes sense. The cheese sticks in your teeth while the juicy-apple-goodness washes away the residue. Apples and cheese are friends. They work well together, just in case you had any doubts.
In that moment, I decided to cut myself some slack. Why was my answer not something more… meaningful? I could’ve said a lot of things. G-d, my sister, Torah.. But instead, my response was grilled cheese. Good old grilled cheese with apple slices.
That’s when I decided not to force myself to create an entire list of all the things I believe to be true. I don’t have to prove that I am a Human of Belief — and strong belief at that. We all wander from our truths (Truth(s)), we all ask questions. I’m not afraid to live believing that life is famously about the questions and not the answers.
I believe in grilled cheese with apple slices. I believe in this world and the good in it. I believe in the bad in it as well. And that’s okay.
What do you believe in? Beyond any reasonable doubt? Beyond any tinge of ambiguity? What are the things in your life that are absolutely certain?
For me, the most natural response was something I can touch. Something I can create and meddle with. Something I can not only assemble, but smell, melt, and paste together. Something I can physically put into my body. Something I can consume.
What do you believe in?
Maimonides pins down Thirteen Principles one must actively believe in order to warrant a place in the World to Come. Thirteen beliefs to be absorbed, actualized, and practiced. While I love the Rambam as much as the next girl, I can’t help but feel bombarded by the idea of being told exactly what to believe in order to move on after this lowly world ceases to exist.
Here is what you must believe — these things are certain, real, and true. But how can we really know?
What do you believe beyond any reasonable doubt?
While I talk a big talk, I don’t struggle with belief in G-d. I also don’t struggle with belief in man. What I struggle with are the details, the emotions, the thought behind it all.
What I struggle with is the ambiguity. The moments where I don’t know what will come next. The moments of distance, of worry, of doubt. How I perceived a certain moment, a discussion, an emotion.
Am I correct in my interpretation?
One straight answer please.
One grilled cheese sandwich please.
Why does everything in life have to be so gray? What does G-d get out of making it this way?
Human beings are full of vague advice. These days vagueness is quantifiable.
Thirteen Principles of Faith.
Seven habits of highly successful people.
Six word memoirs.
Six word prayers.
Five steps to a happy life.
Four steps to a positive attitude.
How vague, ambiguous, easily misinterpreted. Are beliefs meant to be subjected to trial and error? Should I adopt the beliefs of others? The ones that have already been willed into existence by someone who thinks more than I do. Someone who cares more than I do. Someone with permission to believe.
I am not a cynic. I trust easily. I love easily. But do I believe easily? I’m not quite sure. Yet I find comfort in my doubts. Are the people in my life genuine? Is the work I’m doing meaningful? Is there value in every Mitzvah I perform? Does G-d care? Do I care?
What do you believe? What’s the truest thing in your entire life?
I will not make a list. Instead I will accept ambiguity for what it is. Life is about asking and seeking, otherwise human beings wouldn’t need to live so long. We have a lot to do, a lot to see, and even more to doubt. And plenty of grilled cheese sandwiches with apple slices to eat.