Saturday, September 13, 2008

I Miss Quigley*

I heard a story over Shabbos about a young student - bochur asking someone for directions to the beach during Ellul and getting the response, "In Ellul!?" That stayed with the person for many years. In the next breath, the speaker said that one need not be "maudlin" during Ellul, which reminded me of a story about Rav Yisrael Salanter.

The outstanding Rabbi Salanter saw a student that looked down during the month of Ellul. He asked him what was behind the frown and the young man explained, "I'm doing teshuva." Rav Yisrael asked,"Because you're doing Teshuva - I have to suffer?" This reminded me the great Rav Yisrael's opinion that one's face and facial are reshut harabim - in the public domain, and thus, difficult as it can sometimes be, one must try to show a pleasant countenance.

This all came to mind because I recently heard a song and it became one of those songs that I kept hearing in my head. I found one place on line where you can hear the studio version. It's accompanied by slides of a town in Ohio. The song struck me. It's called Gray Ghost by Mike Doughty.

Ellul is a time to focus on teshuva and I felt a little guilty posting a song. Music helps me while I work. I heard this song on one of my Pandora stations. Perhaps it will help you relax, focus, do what you are doing and/or need to do.

On Friday one colleague gave me and another colleague a ride to the bus. I mentioned that Daily News piece from the previous post and it resonated for them. It reminded the department chair of the Billy Collins poem The Names. I'd never heard of that one. It's not in any of his books. I guess he wanted it to be consecrated.

This three year old post, Role Em, has always stood out in my mind. The idea of having a persona is fascinating to me. It came to mind, in part today because I ate lunch with the friends whose apartment I typed that piece in when my computer was down. It's the only post that I recall writing in another color. The idea of being true self has been on my mind lately. A friend asked me recently what are three things that I'd like to do before I die. I said one, and cried. And then it was my friend's turn.

My friend's answer was - "To know who I am." Raise your hand if you relate. I discussed this idea with a few dear and smart people in recent weeks. It seems to me that in our work on our selves there's a field, kind of like a football field. Those who work hard on themselves get close to the end, and this includes my friend whose number one answer to things to do before I die was "know myself." There's a lot more to say or not to say here.

It seems like a minute ago that I was sitting with my mother (SSLABW), during my college years, as we watched this hour long movie together. The film shook me to my core because I so related to the idea of being painfully shy on the life stage and fearless and bold - and yes, talented - on the the performance stage:

The following film, directed by Jonathan Demme, comes to mind:

From a short story by Kurt Vonnegut. Christopher Walken is a shy hardware store employee. But whenever he takes a part in a local amateur theater production, he becomes the part completely--while on screen. Susan Sarandon is new in town, a lonely itinerant telephone company employee. On a whim, she auditions for and gets the part of Stella to Walken's Stanley when the theater group does A Streetcar Named Desire. Before anyone realizes the problem, she falls deeply in love with the sexy brute, not knowing what the real man is like. (Written by Reid Gagle)

I wrote this haiku in my intro to this past parsha post:

Balance the balance
The balance of our life's work
Balanced by G-d's hand
For the three weeks before this one I wrote personal posts on parshaost. There are people who enjoy this blog but used to tell me that they skip the parsha posts (several of these people are friends of mine, and Torah teachers). I f you enjoy the posts here I ask you to give parshapost a shot - at least the ones from the recent past that are broad and reflect on parsha memories and Shabbos experiences more than just the vorts. Also, I added a long comment on the most recent parshapost that I think may be of interest to people or anyone who knows people.

The other night I bought Ballistics, Billy Collins' new book. There's one in there about a container he spots in a pharmacy labelled Bathtub Families. He falls in love with the phrase to the extent that he considers buying the product; bathtub animal toys. He goes the prudent route and concludes -
I think what I am really saying is that language
is better than reality, so it doesn't have
to be bath time for you to enjoy p
all the Bathtub Families as they float in the air around your head.
You can read this whole poem as well as others at Flight 531, which is written by a high school teacher who heard Collins at a recent reading and wrote up a bunch of his poems.
At times like this I remember that going to sleep is an act of faith, letting go and letting G-d. I want to keep writing but know that I need to stop. Or do I? Do I know I need to stop? Do I need to stop?
"Good night and G-d Bless"
He backed away from the screen
Prepared to publish
Breathing in and out again
Four years of Blessings of G-d
* Quigley is one of the names mentioned in The Names. Quigley ws also the name (as two readers of this blog, TSLABW, recall) of one of my imaginary childhood friends as a young child. The other friend was Qigley's father - Mr. Stone. They'd visit me often and Quigley often appeared to play with me at bath time.
Now that I've written the title and footnote I have to follow through in Columbo mode with "just one more thing."
Make (Me) Believe
By Neil Fleischmann
A thousand
years ago
in a land
far away
before time
you’d fill my
days and nights
Mr. Stone
and Quigley
I miss you
in my baths
and pictures
on the wall
where are you
Imagined friends
can’t disappear
till someone
says goodbye
so I wonder
where are mine
so hard to find


Blogger Unknown said...

"A friend asked me recently what are three things that I'd like to do before I die. I said one, and cried."

This almost broke my heart. I hope you do that one thing sooner rather than later.

September 15, 2008 at 9:57 AM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Better late than never... Thank you Anne.

May 10, 2009 at 12:45 AM  

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