The Name is Attinson. NEAL Attinson.

MY NAME IS NOT “NEIL ATTISON.” Neither is it “Neale” or “Niall,” “Addison,” “Atkinson,” “Atchison,” or “Adlington.” (I’m still trying to figure that one out.)

Despite these cognomenly difficulties, I have no desire to change my name to something more convenient. True, I did call myself “Neal Ross” when I was a reporter (and why I publicly go by “Neal Ross Attinson” now), but that was on the advice of my first radio mentor. “Just use your first and middle name,” he said. “Everybody in radio does that. Cuts down on the crazies who will want to call you at home.”

Even then, some people referred to me as “Neil Roth.” You can’t win.

The story is told of two prisoners condemned to death being held for 6 months in the dungeon of a castle. On the day of execution, the lieutenant leads them down the corridor and up the stairs level by level until they come to the courtyard exit. They are taken to the wall, blindfolded, given their last cigarette and their hands are tied behind their backs. The lieutenant walks back to his firing squad and says, “Ready, aim …” and one prisoner turns to the other prisoner and says, “Now here’s my plan!”

–Rabbi Kalman Packouz

Happy 5779!

MAY YOU HAVE A SWEET, joyous, happy and rewarding New Year! And may your resolutions not prove too daunting; on reflection, may you not bog down in a swamp of self-recrimination. As the Talmud says, “All beginnings are difficult.” And Rebbe Nachman teaches: “Sometimes it is necessary to start over hundreds of times a day.” Hang in there, and may the changes you see be the ones you want. Shana tovah!

5 Thoughts: A Wrinkle is Time

1. “WHERE DOES THE TIME GO?” I asked. And the answer came: “Away.”

2. There’s really not much one can say about the passing of time, just as there is not much that can be said about falling in love or the taste of anything. They can only be experienced, not described. But oh! what an experience! we wouldn’t be fully human without it.

3. Two types of time there are: linear (future-to-present-to-past) and cyclical/anniversarial (round-and-round-and-round). Cyclical time is really spiral time; we commemorate the same events but reach a year older as we do so.

365 Names of God: Design Group

DESIGN GROUP A friend of Ann’s brought us this term, which was then current among her friend’s med-school colleagues. While I believe that scientists shouldn’t budge an inch from their pursuit of Truth, this Name can be a great way for biology teachers to ride the line between Darwin and religious fundamentalism in places where the latter holds the dominant paradigm. (Even works if folks take Genesis 1:26 literally.) A strictly secular Design Group would count as its elements such diverse “personalities” as DNA, liquid water, gametes, natural selection, deep time, et al.

Words to Bring Back: “Rejoice”

– Definition: v.i. To feel joyful; be glad.

– Used in a sentence: Richard rejoiced when the Red Sox won the World Series.

– Why: It’s little used outside translations of the Bible, but addresses a HUGE part of life that we often take for granted. And the more we use it, the more it applies (one rejoicing leads to another).

Why I Love: Geronimo Cat

IT’S HIS INDEPENDENCE. IT’S watching him sleep. It’s his purring. It’s the feel and smell of his fur. (It’s also the smell of his paws.) It’s the way he closes his eyes when I pet him. It’s his occasional intense, extraneous-sound-ignoring focus. It’s the little gifts he brings. It’s his bonding-with-humans over a long period of time. It’s his gracefulness. It’s the way he demands attention and affection. It’s his wherever-the-humans-are sleeping preference. It’s his goofy self-amusement.

The Loudest Silence

THE TRICK IS: HOW TO scream at the top of your lungs without making a sound.

That’s one of the lessons taught by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, a Chasidic teacher who lived in Ukraine at the turn of the 19th century CE. R’ Nachman, who suffered deeply from depression throughout his life (and who once said, “It is a great mitzvah [religious obligation] always to be happy”), taught that one can release one’s emotions by focusing them into a “silent scream:”

Eats: Mock Moroccan Chicken

THIS DISH IS PREFACED “MOCK” because it was invented by me to take advantage of a pile of raisins and dried apricots that were taking up kitchen space — as well as to satisfy my keen appetite for slow-cooked Middle Eastern/North African-style meat-with-fruit. If you’re using chicken thighs, you could leave them intact rather than dicing them; the latter makes the dish more like a stew. Your call.