Sunday, October 04, 2015
Sunday, September 27, 2015
Sukkot And The Great Unification
Rabbi Neil Fleischmann
Special To The Jewish Week
“And you shall take on the first day the fruit of a splendid tree, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook” [Leviticus 23:40].
Normally we’re told to celebrate a holiday on a specific date of the month. Here Sukkot is called for the first day, but it is not the first day of the month. The Rabbis say that what’s being referred to here is the fact that Sukkot is the first day of sins. The Medrash says that some people start returning to God at the start of the month of Elul, others wait till Rosh Hashanah. By the time Yom Kippur has come and gone everyone has come forward and achieved a clean slate. People are still on a high during the brief segue between Yom Kippur and Sukkot and barely even have time or energy to sin. So the first day of Sukkot, when everyone gathers together with their lulav and etrog in synagogue, is opening day for sins.
Why are the four species, rather than the sukkah, mentioned in connection with our having achieved atonement? The answer to this question (as explained by the great scholar Rabbi Shlomo Efrayim Luntschitz) relates to another popular Medrash: The etrog (citron), having a taste and an odor, represents those people who have both Torah wisdom and Torah deeds under their belts. The lulav has taste (it comes from a date-palm tree) but no smell, representing those who study Torah but do not perform other mitzvot. The myrtle branches (hadassim) smell pleasant but produce no fruit, representing those who do good deeds but lack Torah knowledge. The willows (aravot) have neither smell nor taste, symbolizing those who lack both knowledge and action.
The species that we raise up on Sukkot, and the order in which they are listed in the Torah, represent our community and parallel the teaching of the Rabbis about the order in which people seek repentance. First the most righteous people (represented by the etrog) return, then come the regular people (represented by the aravot and the lulav) and finally the people who are lacking in both their behaviors and actions come around. This is all completed shortly before Sukkot and then on Sukkot we gather together and start real life all over again. We acknowledge that we all unite to form a community. Together we err and together we correct our mistakes. A cross section of the three categories of people is needed to have a true community. This is alluded to by the fact that the very word for community in Hebrew is an acronym for the people who constitute a congregation: tzadikim, beinonim and resha’im (the pious, the intermediates and the wicked).
There is a little known yet striking statement of the rabbis regarding repentance. They say that the ability to repent as an individual is unique to the High Holy Days. Perhaps this can be taken literally or perhaps it is saying anecdotally that this is the time that it is most likely for an individual to focus on his or her own spirituality and religiosity. On the other hand, it is said that during the year teshuvah (repentance) can only be achieved as part of the community. This is why we come together on Sukkot, the functional start of the communal new year, and commit to fixing our sins as a community.
We all know that the Jewish holidays never come on time, but early or late. This year they seem to have come earlier than ever. Summer has faded away and the school year has started. The days are getting shorter and darker. Now is the time to unite as a community and grow together in thought and deed.
May we be so blessed.
Thursday, September 24, 2015
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Thought of a new Jewish trivia question: When is the only time that Mincha does not start with Ashrei (officially, as set in the siddur- as opposed to when you for whatever reason don't say Ashrei, but it's on the program)?
Answer: Mincha of Yom Kippur.
(If I get one comment I may share more about this.)
Monday, September 21, 2015
Various Pre YK Thoughts
It's the night before Kol Nidrei night. Here's a post from nine years back (I shuddered as I wrote that number of years) about YK.
Yom Kippur is an unusual day, one could say that it's an extreme attempt to attain purity and forgiveness through isolation and separation that we are neither able nor expected to keep up on a regular basis. On the other hand, the day before Yom Kippur is the last typical day of life before Yom Kippur. How we live on this day is telling. Perhaps the reason why eating on Erev Yom Kippur is a mittzvah is that it's a litmus test: Do we consider our regular life activities, things like eating, to be a mitzvah, something holy that we do for G-d's sake, or is it an impulse that we don't even consider?
The words we pray are not meant to be incantations. Rather, they are calls to inner and outer change. We're guaranteed for results if we do the 13 attributes of G-d. That's what we're told, to do them, not simply to say them.
Yom Kippur By Philip Schultz
consider the harm you've caused,
the respect you've withheld,
the anger misspent, the fear spread,
the earnestness displayed
in the service of prestige and sensibility,
all the callous, cruel, stubborn, joyless sins
in your alphabet of woe
so that you might be forgiven.
You are asked to believe in the spark
of your divinity, in the purity
of the words of your mouth
and the memories of your heart.
You are asked for this one day and one night
to starve your body so your soul can feast
on faith and adoration.
You are asked to forgive the past
and remember the dead, to gaze
across the desert in your heart
toward Jerusalem. To separate
the sacred from the profane
and be as numerous as the sands
and the stars of heaven.
To believe that no matter what
you have done to yourself and others
morning will come and the mountain
of night will fade. To believe,
for these few precious moments,
in the utter sweetness of your life.
You are asked to bow your head
and remain standing,
and say Amen.
Thursday, September 17, 2015
Zelda and Emily Have Tea
I imagine they
would sit silently and stare
at one another
Zelda would speak first
comment on Emily's clothes-
that she looked Jewish
They'd talk about death
that universal language
that both of them spoke
It would go quite well
they'd now see how close they were
always far away
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Post Tzom Gedaliah Post
What to write and where to write it? I think I'm a writer, because I write. And yet I don't have me and writing all figured out.
Another thing that I don't have figured out is the kosher grocery near my house. And another thing is my stomach. And the two things are connected. After having a couple of bad incidents with smelly chicken I bought there many years ago I stopped buying "fresh" meat and poultry there for a long time. Under new ownership I was still reticent about buying their chicken. And yet I convinced myself that it would be okay. I have bought it twice. Even the little I'm going to say is not quite as discrete as how I most prefer to write. It was not okay.
No more trusting of the poultry in this store. And in a sentiment very much connected to something I'm working on in my life I'm tempted to say, "No More Mr. Nice Guy." That's the name of a book (by Robert Glover) that's recently been strongly recommended to me. (Of course it's also the name of an iconic Alice Cooper song.) I'm not ready to say "no more" in the absolute because I don't see a reason to say that I'm not going to be "nice" (or anything else) in a completely black and white way. On the other hand, like Ben Carson (to make a timely reference), I think I need to balance my gentleness with my boldness. And speaking up to the owner of this store and following through seems right now like a good place to start.
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Friday, September 11, 2015
Nachal Dovid, Where I Was Rooted
I wish I was in Israel. I wish that the brief time I was in Israel wasn't becoming further away. I want to feel the air, the dust, the water of israel on my body. I want to feel the holiness of Israel in my soul.
On week ago I posted a poem that I wrote recently at a waterfall called Nachal David.
I'd like to try to translate it now.
Wishing us all closeness to G-d and rebirth via His holy waters.
Nachal Dovid, Where I Was Rooted
I want life like water
In my heart I'll build a brook
My boldness is brought out by water
My beloved knock from in the water
Today I begin drinking these waters
Confession: I haven't drunken the water of life
Pure like living water, my soul
My desire is to drink from your water
My purity will come from your water
I have hope in the water
My strength grows with the water of life
My sustenance is pure water
My situation turns around in the water
I have fallen and risen up
Your support flows from your water
My eyes are open like on the day I was born
My face is happy
The burdens of the world have flown from me
Closeness to G-d, the good, is found here
My will is becoming stronger
Your name is inside this bubbling brook
May it be your will, and my will, that my feelings here continue forever
Friday, September 04, 2015
נַָטַעתִי בְּנָחַל דָוִד
Monday, August 24, 2015
Thursday, August 20, 2015
More haiku (about 800 of them)
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Everyday Holiness, page 3 - Alan Morinis
"Every one of us is assigned to master something in our lives. You have already been given your assignment and you have already encountered it, though you may not be aware that what faces you is a curriculum, nor that this is the central task of your life... What I am calling your curriculum shows up most clearly in issues that repeatedly challenge you. I'm talking about behaviors that dunk you in the same soup, time and time again."
Thursday, August 13, 2015
What Is Love?
“Love isn't a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” ― Fred Rogers
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Haiku of the Day
Monday, August 10, 2015
Words On Words Part I
Words. Sigh. I believe in honesty. I also believe in kindness. They say that you can say anything if you say it kindly. But sometimes we don't say what we need to and want to to someone else in order to protect... ourselves (and sometimes because our silence is actually kindest for the other person).
There are two types of people, those who say it all straight and don't care or maybe even like if they ruffle feathers. These types value true over all; some might call them Gevurah types. Then there are those that bend what they think into soft soft words before saying them. They try to be kind but are sometimes mistaken in how they place kindness over all, even truth. These are the Chesed types.
Saying the right thing the right way is very challenging. One of the most meaningful compliments that I remember receiving in my life came from the neighbor of a friend. His wife had tragically passed away and I was spending time with him and his neighbor said she had watched me and saw that I always knew the right thing to say. That was a wow becomes sometimes I really struggle with saying things. Sometimes I retreat from the struggle and hide.
We don't want to be hiding in life. When we hide what we seek hides too. We want to be showing who we are. And yet we want to be kind.
Also pertinent is what we think, and feel. Much of what we say and don't say and even of what we hear being said takes place inside our imagination...
Sunday, August 09, 2015
"So long, stuff — the liberated commute: Over the years, I've gone from briefcase to backpack to burden-free."
Found this article by Alex Marshall very interesting, particularly this aside:
A Poem That Moves Me
By Sarah Shapiro
I took you to the zoo today,
although you were not there.
We marvelled at the parrots,
slowed down going by the bears.
I watched you as you watched the seals,
linked arms with you at snakes.
You gazed at the gorillas
for as long as wonder takes.
It's not so hard being by yourself
It's not so hard to walk
along the paths of Central Park
if you've got with whom to talk.
But to look a thing of beauty
very closely in its eyes,
that's going too far for a heart that knows
uuuuuuuuuuuuHence these lies.
Saturday, August 08, 2015
Motzai Shabbos Musings
Was with dad for Shabbos and am staying over tonight. Told him about Phoenix (trailer / Wikipedia) and he was very interested. He said, "Leave it to Germany to think of making that movie." Not sure what he meant. He was very taken by the story of it. Dad left Germany in 1937 at 7 years old.
Surreal reading Donal Hall's Essays After Eighty while staying over for some forty plus hours with my over eighty dad at his assisted living place. He is smart and funny. He wrote about getting a National Medal of Arts from President Obama. A blogger named Alexandra Petri poked fun of him (he is old and has a wild beard and long hair) (link is to one of the many conservatives who ironically defended Hall). He observes that, "With our increasing longevity, Ms. Petri should live to be a hundred. May she grow a beard." In one essay about the pros and cons of growing older he spends a lot of time describing beautifully the birds, squirrels, and snow and then adds in a bit about how people can be condescending to older people. He describes how a guard at the National Gallery of Art in Washington saw him being pushed in a wheelchair and felt compelled to tell him who the sculptor was of the art he was looking at. (It was Henry Moore, who Hall wrote a book about and knew personally.) Later the guard sees him with his companion and asked him, "Did we have a nice din-din?" In the next piece in the book he says that, "Contradiction is the cellular structure of life. Sometimes north dominates, sometimes south- but if the essay doesn't include contraries, however small they be, the essay fails." And he goes on to say that the previous essay resonated with people and brought him a lot of feedback only because he added in the part about " a goon's baby talk."
Friday, August 07, 2015
Pre Shabbos Post
Writing is important to me and maybe reading what I write matters to some people. It's hard to write without wanting at least a little to be read (while also not). I am grateful to be writing here, blogging old school/.
It's a hot day, schvitzy hot (the opposite of freezing cold). I went out to Jersey for some errands and got some things done. Coming home I felt really thirsty and tired. It felt like the way i feel at the end of the work day. Which led me to many thoughts and feelings. It was, at least in part, the association with coming home the same route, the same way that I came home from work.
It's 4:30 now. Going to dad for Shabbos as i did two weeks ago and for four weeks straight before that and two weeks before that and so on. I sleep on a thin mattress on the floor- got to do something about that. And I stay in the assisted living place all of Shabbos... So many Shabboses with dad. In his home. Away from his home. So much was the same for so long. So much has changed in the last two years. Dad is a miracle man, having survived a whole bunch of things that many people would not have made it through. I thank G-d dad is alive and well- poo poo poo.
I need to get going. If I take a train it will take about two hours. Driving would be about 45 minutes. In case your new to the program let me mention that I don't feel safe driving. Number one reason: strabismus. I don't have the time or energy to take buses and trains all the time. I've taken buses twice today. And I've walked quite a bit. And I sweated. And I drank water. I bought two big (really big bottles of water, one in Kohls and one in Shoprite and drank them both before reaching home). When some people are hot or thirsty they need a cup of water and they're fine - I need about 15 cups worth.
It's now 4:51. I need to shower, pack, and go (and pray for not much traffic... sigh...)
Wishing everyone a great Shabbos. Here are some of my thoughts from Eikevs past.
Some More Words
Is there anything we want more than to be seen and heard? Can we be listened to too much? I don't think so? Don't we all need to connect? I know I do.
There are so many cartoons about the Facebook, phone, photo phenomenon. Here's one from this week's New Yorker:
I'm thinking a lot about personalities and needs and relationships and family and connection and love and marriage and dating and growth and self awareness and self care. I'm thinking a lot...
the email subject reads and
I get excited
Years ago, in 1993, John Stewart had a late night talk show called the Jon Stewart Show. I wish I could find the newspaper article I read after it was cancelled. They asked Stewart what he was going to do next. I wish I could remember the exact words and I hope what I'm about to write comes out right.
He said that he had tried and had reached high and it ended. He said that he had no idea what he would do now other than drink a lot and maybe become homeless. Something about the way he spoke seemed so honest and vulnerable, like he cut through the normal baloney he was expected to say and just told his truth.
I once crossed paths with Stewart. I went with a friend to see Richard Lewis read from his book The Other Great Depression, when it came out. As we were walking into the Barnes and Noble downtown Stewart and his crew were filming a brief interview with Lewis. As they finished it he turned to the camera guy and they agreed that it was good. There was something unpretentious and very down to earth in the that moment.
When I come across the saying that the way of Torah is to sleep on the floor and eat just bread and salt I think of artists. When you are truly dedicated to something you are willing to give it all up to attain that thing. The greatest people in all fields worked and sacrificed to get there. I think Stewart put in a lot of time as a starving artist and that honest attitude of his helped him get where he got. And I wonder, and I don't wonder, what he'd say he's going to do next.
Wednesday, August 05, 2015
"If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher." -Pema Chodron
Monday, August 03, 2015
From "Sing, My Soul" (Pg. 15)
I've cited Rabbi Samuel Adelman over the years.
Here's another poem of his; it was transcribed by Rabbi Uri Cohen:
By Rabbi Samuel Adelman
(Written on the occasion of his third daughter going off to college.)
There are tears that flow
For many varied cause,
Tears of joy and pride,
Tears in life's occasional pause.
If you wonder why
You see the glistening tear,
It is because time stands still
As we see you now, my dear.
These are not tears of sadness
Though in joy there is a tear,
As you embark on life's adventure,
Our hearts shall ere be near.
Thus we ask that you forgive
These foolish hearts that cry,
For mingled with the salt of tears
Is a prayer to God on High.
And as we pray we also ask
That one day you may cry
For the exact same reason
That makes us on this day sigh.
Saturday, August 01, 2015
10:25 PM - I have a hard time sharing here without writing that I don't know what to write or where to write it. Spoke to dad a little while ago. he is always happy to hear. It gets lonely is assisted living. On the other hand it can get lonely anywhere. An ambulence came there over Shabbos, "some excitement." Someone passed away. I "get credit,"he said, was the winner of the prize for first person to call him after Shabbos...
Recently finished The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy. I really enjoyed it. I liked it more than The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. But I do think you have to read that one first to get this one.
I started reading All Who Go Do Not Return. It is well written. It is heartbreaking in many ways. Reading from it leaves me feeling awkwardly torn.
I read pieces of John Cleese's memoir, So. Anyway. He speaks of his mother being unpredictable and going into rages and how he and his father were always trying to avoid that. His best memories of her are when he made he laugh. He never made her laugh as hard as when she was complaining about life and he said if it was that bad he knew a guy that could knock her off. he says that he never loved her as much as he did at that moment.
Read pieces of Donald Hall's Essay's after Eighty. He is surprisingly funny and insightful. I never read a poem of his that grabbed me. He always interested me because he was married to Jane Kenyon who I did connect with, particularly her poem "Otherwise."
11:03 PM - Been sitting here and writing the above. Had one exchange online with a friend. Wrote another two friends. Posted on Facebook.
My soul longs and yearns...
Beyond 11:59 PM - What I like most in a TV show is relationships and humanity. I can get through shows of various genres if there's enough of what I connect to. The first 6 episodes of the new summer show Proof were okay. The seventh one called St. Lukes really hit it out of the part for me, bringing in family, religion, loyalty, a big time emphasis on relationships and humanity. Bravo!
Thursday, July 30, 2015
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
I don't think it's "everybody" and "nobody," but I think we do have a serious problem with this balance. This was touched upon in a talk by R Elie Mansour that was shown all over on Tisha Be'Av. He spoke of how important it is to be a vatran - to let things slide. But he said we live in a world when rights are emphasized and in that kind of an atmosphere it's hard to sell the idea of letting things go. His selling point, I think was that it leads to true holiness.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Queenie Hennesssy is dying again. It broke my heart 3 years ago when her impending death was featured in a book. And now it's being presented again as told from her point of view. I didn't think Rachel Joyce would have something strong in this second take on the same story. I think, though, now that I have about 40 out of 366 pages left, that this is an amazing work. The voice and phrasing are powerful and poignant. I very highly recommend "The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennesy." I think it was more pleasing to me than the book it follows up. But I do think to fully get it you need to read "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" first. Two different angles of one story.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Mei'Ein Olam Habbah
Two Hours of walking in cool night air while talking on the phone with an old friend.
You Cannot Reason People Out of Something They Were Not Reasoned Into
Wow. This is profound. This applies very often in life. We like to act like we make our choices rationally, but generally it's all about context and emotion, sociology over ideology.
Here is background, from the great quote investigator, on who may be the source of these wise words.
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
"Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed"
Within the past week the visits here have reached 104 page views and 84 unique visits, both on last Thursday- though I don't know what that means. I checked because someone just asked me if people read the blog and I said around fifty a day on average, not counting Shabbos, which is a slow day here- as it should be).
Carla Kimball entered my mind and I'm thinking about her work, particularly the pictures I've cited here. She is now selling cards of her photos and questions and I'm thinking seriously about buying them.
Another tragic death took place last night in New York City. And this song came to mind:
By John Gorka
Don't judge a life by the way it ends
Losing the light as night descends
For we are here and then we're gone
Remnants to reel and carry on
Endings are rare when all is well
Yes and the tale easy to tell
Stories of lives drawn simplified
As if the facts were cut and dried
Don't judge a life as if you knew
Like you were there and saw it through
Measure a life by what was best
When they were better than the rest
Don't judge a life by the way it ends
Losing the light as night descends
A chance to love is what we've got
For we are here and then...
And earlier today, before this song serendipitously came to me, I wrote this:
We know the ending
but that doesn't mean that life
has to be tragic
Sunday, July 19, 2015
A Blog Post
I like breathing, something about it makes me feel alive. And I feel that way about writing as well. Sometimes I write just for me, therapeutically. But more often than not writing implies reading. Like everyone who doesn't merely write- but is a writer in their bones, I write to be read.
My maternal grandfather would speak of years that he spent being raised by his grandparents, being that he was the oldest and that his father had preceded the family to America. His grandfather was a disciple of the Kosover Rebbe and he recalled going to him regularly. He would also say that whatever Torah he knew he knew from that time. People think I must mean Sosov, but Kosov was a real and important historical, Chassidic place.
It's the summertime and it's heatwave days. Feeling like a hundred, the weathermen say. And I've been home, mostly, today, writing. Thinking.
Friends, family, connections, values, honesty, sharing, trust, physical/emotional/mental health, G-d, religion, Torah, thought, Torah Thought, games, psychology, listening, helping, running away, reaching out: These are some of the things I'm thinking about.
We don't have to teach ourselves to cry, we just have to give ourselves permission. - Erica Brown, In the Narrow Places, page 80
What does the quote above bring to mind for you?
In The Narrow Places - Daily Inspiration For The Three Weeks: My Thoughts On Its Intro
Friday, July 17, 2015
Thursday, July 16, 2015
I Like The Clever Ones
about my ambivalence;
Not sure this will change
More at MyHaikuToo.Blogspot.com
Knowledge Speaks, Wisdom Listens
Not sure who said this , but I think it's true. I've seen this applied to teaching. Reminds me of the journalist who met with Dale Carnegie at a party to investigate if he was truly a great a conversationalist as people said he was. She spoke the whole time, while he actively ("just") listened. The next day in her column she wrote that he was every bit as exceptional a conversationalist as his reputation indicated! It also brings to mind the story about when Ed Koch met the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He was told beforehand, by a man in the waiting room, how wise The Rebbe was. Koch went in and the Rebbe was quiet. So Koch started talking. And he kept talking and talking. For an hour Koch talked and The Rebbe didn't utter a word. And then time was up. When Koch came out the guy in the other room asked him what he thought. He replied, "What that man knows about politics!" This also fits with the idea that "silence is a fence for wisdom." Rabbi Abraham Twerski says that silence precedes and surrounds the profound wisdom of being and staying there with and for a person.
Monday, July 13, 2015
Stan: A Film About Laurel and Hardy
I recently watched a movie that was really touching and meaningful for me. It's called Stan and it's about Saurel and Hardy. I was particularly fond of them as a kid. I watched their movies, bought a book that summarized and rated each film, had a poster and a lithograph of them on my wall, and owned an album of their bits and songs from the movies. I also wrote skits in which I played each of them, and I looked like Stanley and had that as my nickname for a time.
Back in the day I studied up on them and much of what I learned reappreared in this film. But they did it with a different slant. I had always thought that Stan was more invested and Babe was off playing golf between takes, but they put a different spin on that same data. I knew Stan was a creative genius. i knew he was married several times. But I didn't know he had a strong ego and was so driven his myopia sometimes left other people out of his vision, even people in his inner most circles. I didn't know that Ollie was a sweetheart. I had heard one story about the tie twiddle, which is featured prominently in this film but with a different origin story. I knew that I found them elegant and life affirming but I didn't imagine them discussing that undercurrent of their work. And I never thought about what their practicing together looked like. I knew Laurel lived longer than Hardy by many years and that he wrote skits for them after there was no more them. But I didn't have the full picture.
This short film connects a lot of dots in the Laurel and Hardy story. I find British works are generally classier than American ones and this is a very high level piece of art. I'm so glad I got to revisit two of my best friends from childhood through this remarkable piece. And I'm glad that I've got Trail of the Lonesome pine playing on a loop in my head. It's quite a fine tune.
Sunday, July 12, 2015
Saturday, July 11, 2015
Put An X On My Forehead
This story (interview here) has gotten my attention. I have many thoughts about it that are not yet congealed. And yet. I want to write this now...
We live in selfish times. That's the fact, though it's not often stated that way, and I wish that at the moment I felt like saying it more kindly. We are less respectful, less considerate, less loyal, less of most everything that makes us more human and less animal than we once were.
While I feel that I have shared this poem many times here, it's been only four. And the last time I posted it here, though it seems like a second ago, was eight years ago, almost to the day:
Thursday, July 09, 2015
Spring Fall 2015 - Part I
On the last night of Pesach I twisted my foot. It happened in an unexpected and mundane way. It was about 9 P.M. Dinner was ending and I was about to host a trivia competition that I call "It's Not Fair." I taking a short walk on a country road between the Shul and my room.
I was on the newly paved, slightly elevated road. There was very little light and it was drizzling. I was walking along the edge of the road and to my left, lower down, was the old gravel. Without realizing it I slipped ever so slightly and my foot rolled inward for a fraction of a second and I didn't fall but I screamed, because it hurt a lot. I stood for a while, leaning against a farm like wooden railing, trying to regain my composure, hoping the pain would pass. A worker drove by, asked I was alright. I said no. He asked if I wanted him to drive me home. I said no. And he was gone.
A Statement About Transportation
At this age and stage and situational point in my life, given my givens, I have little patience or time or energy for public transportation. it seems to take either 1 or 2 hours no matter where I go. It is never door to door. There's always a good amount of walking. There's usually a transfer. There's issues with sitting comfortably or at all. Right now it's priceless for me to take a cab instead - not having the ability to safely drive myself. Priceless. And the cab companies know that. And for right now I'm okay with that.
Tuesday, July 07, 2015
A July 7th Thought
It's early in summer break and there's lots to do. I hope to get to Israel and spiritually recharge, though it will be expensive it's one of those things that's priceless for me. I've done some preparing for next year and am happy to be ahead of the game with that (though teaching is always endlessly alive and in the present tense). Social things are on the agenda/efforts toward moving forward with my life. Healing things on the agenda/efforts toward moving forward with my life. As always I'm reading, writing, learning, and thinking, nut it's different during this time of year. People ask what I'm doing for the summer and these answers don't always satisfy the what they're looking for. I think this is a broader issue than me and me and you and my summer too. It's an issue of people redefining others for themselves. We need to let others be, not assume that they are who we expect. Everyone is mysterious, though some people don't even know it themselves.
Monday, July 06, 2015
11:59 And Beyond
What to write? Where to write it?
I just got home after being out and about all day. And I had an email from a parent asking for assistance regarding a student I'm guidance counselor for. It's an honor to be a go to person to be able to help, to have a job that is a calling...
I took the train home from Brooklyn, 2 hours. A cab would have been 45 minutes. Time is worth more than money. I don't feel safe driving... I discussed this here over years and more importantly I've lived it. So much time on trains and buses?
Just found this poem I wrote a few years back"
Sunday, July 05, 2015
Some Books I've Read from Start To End - Part I
Summer is here. The school year is (kinda sorta) over. It's a time for reading. I love to read but it doesn't come easily for me. It's mostly an eye issue. I have strabismus and do not focus with both eyes at the same time. This affects my reading. I have to really be pulled in by a book to make it from cover to cover. And if I do make it all the way through a book it means I've read and reread pieces, thought and rethought phrases, shared and re-shared parts, again and again.
Here, in no particular order are some books that I've read in their entirety and digested and carried with me after turning the last page (books mentioned within the discussion of another book are also books that I read start to finish.):
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Haold Fry: This was not an easy read, but it had a strong payoff at the end and stayed with me. Part of it was that this book took me to and from a particular summer to Israel. Part of it was the subtle, sensitive, human writing that was strong enough to get me to recently start reading the new companion piece to it.The sequel (though the author doesn't call it that), The Lovesong of Miss Queenie Hennesy is pretty good and is pulling me along, though it feels more of this world than its more magical predecessor. For some reason I like British books and when I think of this one I recall How It All Began, a good book about an old woman who is mugged and how that event affects other lives and other stories. Also, on a related note is The Long Way Down, about four people who meet when they come to the same spot to commit suicide. That book, by Nick Hornby, is narrated by each of the four characters.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime: Because I love reading and because it is hard for me I look at reviews to see what calls out to me. I remember when this book came out and received rave reviews. I ran to buy it in the hardcover copy, which I still own. No play or movie will ever be able to do what this author did in this book, working with just words. It has such a strong, real, and honest voice. It's amazing. What really works for me in most books I like big time is a strong first person voice. (Someone I know told me that their favorite book was the next one that this author wrote, A Spot of Bother. I bought it, tried it, couldn't get through it.)
All of Dara Horn's books: My favorite is The World to Come, followed closely by In The Image. I've read books (whole ones even) by a bunch of other Jewish writers writing about Jewish life. I find Horn to be the most inteligent, accurate, all around best of the lot. I can't praise her books enough. The World to Come is about Chagal and Der Nister and much more. In The Image captures single life on the upper west side, the experiences of a Vietnam vet and much more. She does magical realism, historical fiction, and weaves it all together articulately and movingly.
I'm Proud of You is a book by Tim Madigan about his connection with Mister Rogers. It is amazing. It reminded me a bit of Tuesdays With Morrie but is more religious, and - to me - stronger. It also reminded me a bit of Rather Joe, which also riveted me and took me from cover to cover, but as much as that book touched me, this one is a book that accompanies me through life. It's interesting to me that both this and Tuesdays With Morrie have a major part of the story that relates to the author's relationship with their brother. I loved learning about mister rogers and how good and real he was. I went on to read The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers, which was good, but not as powerful as this. This book is a confessional, a baring of the soul, and part of that story is the support and friendship he shared with Mister Rogers. It means a great deal to me that part of my letter of appreciation appears at the start of the paperback edition of the book and that Mr. Madigan sent and inscribed to me "with great gratitude and affection."
I Was A Child by Bruce Eric Kaplan is a short, precise, funny, nostalgic book that is one in a million. It captures the authors childhood in a quirky and cutting way and at the same time captures my childhood that took place at a parallel time. There are drawings by the author, who draws cartoons for The New Yorker (as BEK), on almost every page. This a deceptively brief and simple work, which is abbreviated and truly profound. This book is a keeper.
My Friend Leonard - I don't remember much from this book except that it pulled me quickly from start to finish with it's powerful, first person, narrative. One friend of mine asked me at the time that it was poplar if I thought it was true. I said that it didn't matter to me, it contained human truths whether it happened or not. Another friend took me and some other friends out for his birthday and went all out, paying homage to Leonard who was generous like that. (I had lent that friend the book and he loved it.)