Posts Tagged ‘ …wow. ’

One Day In 2010, With Feeling

2010.04.05
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STAN CLARK IS ON FACEBOOK. That means different things to different people, and nothing at all to those who don’t know that he’s Ann‘s dad, a World War II veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor who, along with his young sweetheart (and like millions of other members of that Greatest Generation) raised his children in hardwon but modest comfort.

To some, Stan’s presence on Facebook is a great way for him to find old friends and keep up with what the kids are doing; I like to think of him calling into the sewing room so his young sweetheart can keep up too.

To others, Stan’s Facebook account is a McLuhanesque rite-of-passage into the global electronic village — an ubiquitous collision of social Gestalts previously defined by linear spacetime ego-vectors. (I have something like five or six of those myself, which may or may not be the case for a significant number of Facebookers.)

And to still others, it’s just another day on planet Earth: a day of opportunity, of circumstance and of random miracles; not only of communication over vast distances of time and space, but the greater miracle of raising three kids with a young sweetheart on a banker’s salary — and seeing the great-grandchildren laugh.

Welcome to Facebook, Stan. And welcome to the 21st century.

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Stone Groove Friday

2010.04.02
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AFTER MUCH CONSIDERATION, I HAVE come to the conclusion that of all God‘s creations or man’s adjustments thereof I should most like to be a rock; not so small as to be skipped by errant boys nor so large as to make the blind stumble, smooth enough to sit on but too rough for graffitti, blended with the landscape yet not so much as to be entirely unknown, not so corporeal as to be uninteresting but solid enough to watch the world slide by for a few thousand millennia. Slow rock thoughts — bird chirps and rainsfall and mountain chains rising like silent supplicants — and under all of it, the constant whirling thrum of Earth’s viscous spin.

Let others become astronauts and firefighters, nurses and movie stars: I shall be a rock, simple and content, my inside like my outside, one with the passing stars and the clinging lichen. (After all, one needs someone to talk to.)

(Inspired by Rabbi Rami Shapiro‘s 4/2/10 Facebook post.)

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Why Is This Night…

2010.03.29
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… DIFFERENT FROM ALL OTHER NIGHTS? Well …

Aside from each evening — each moment — being unique and therefore different from any other before or since: On all other nights, the world rotates from sunlight into darkness. Tonight the world will rotate from the sunlight into candlelight, as millions (B”H) of Jews light the Pesach festival lamps in a wave of 24 one-hour slices. (Some say this low-frequency, high-amplitude wave is the secret of Jewish survival. Considering Pesach’s generational emphasis, that’s a difficult point to refute.)

However you celebrate — full-blown seder or full-moonlight revel — and however mired you may be in your own personal Egypt of depression, worry and stress, may this season of freedom bring you opportunities and opening doorways.

“Next Year In Idealization!”

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Another Roadside Definition

2010.03.13
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FUNNY THING ABOUT DEFINING GOD: Despite the impossibility of the task, it does draw one’s imagination and eloquence (or directness, if you’re lucky). I made a stab at it in http://metaphorager.net/working-definition/, tried to understand my understanding in /four-points-of-contact/ and reflected on how I got there in /judaism-as-art/. But waking from a nice Shabbat nap this afternoon, the thought occurred:

“God is the face of the Universe looking back at us.”

Mentioned this to Ann, who opined that it sounded mystical. I suppose it is — I’ve learned to hide the silverware when self-proclaimed mystics come a-calling — but all I’m trying to express is a basic sentio-a-sentio relationship while keeping in mind that the model always rests with the modeler — and that any separation is both experientially illusory and semantically significant.

(Which reminds me of my current favorite Jewish Zen joke:

Q: Can God make a rock that’s too heavy to lift?
A: Sure. But God can lift it anyway.)

(Okay, it’s my favorite because I invented it, but still. Have a good week.)

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Letter To A Dead Friend

2010.01.26
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Dear Sputnik,

James_Sputnik_Gjerde_1962-2002

James Sputnik Gjerde: 1/24/1962 - 12//27/2002

The attached photo of you arrived from a mutual friend two days ago, on what should have been your 48th birthday. I say “should” because it’s a primate conceit that the world be arranged according to our convenience. Were that the case, I’d likely be talking to you now, and about something differently substantial, instead of typing into some corner of the void you’re now a “part” of.

This is your famous, default and well-known “ohc’MON” expression which, although the photo is dated 1990, remained unchanged (though perhaps just a wee bit more crinkled around the eyes and soul) when you died in december of 2002, some seven years and a few lifetimes ago. The email which carried this photo also carried a few words typical of those for whom your death was — is — very difficult. I’ve written about it, and so has Ann — this groundbreaking (in the sense of earth-shattering, in the sense of a whole lot of people suddenly feeling the ground drop out from under us when we heard we’d no longer all sing, hike, complain, dream, contradict, listen, drum, dance, argue, plot, scheme, critique, criticize, comfort and sharpen together ever ever ever again) death of someone who was everyone’s best friend. They say things like “never before or since have I experienced such a profound personal loss,” “a sane freak, and you must understand that the term “freak” is a compliment” and “God, I miss that little sh*t!”

Anyway, you missed a few things — chief among which was that the lightsaber battle we wanted to see since we were 16 was far, FAR cooler than we EVER imagined, although it paled a bit given what’s become the cultural context of SFX in general. But on the other hand, that cultural context has become a lot more coarse than we thought it would back in the summer apartments of 1981 and 2 when we thought wulgarity for wulgarity’s sake was funny doody. Meanwhile: full frontal nudity isn’t yet on the MAJOR networks; the jetpack problem alas remains unsolved; our futuristic disaster scenario seems to be ecological rather than an alien menace (although don’t forget Apophis!); and you won’t believe what you can do with a cellphone nowadays.

In return, we missed you. Still do — me, mostly when I want to bounce an idea, or check a perspective, or gloat. And we will continue to miss you, despite this sudden, beyond-the-grave exhortation for all of us to get over it. You don’t know how tempting it is to lament that you left the party before it was over, raise a glass to absent friends, and collapse in a puddle of elegies — but you’d just flash that grin again, knowing that at some point in the future, we’ll either all meet again or something else as makes no difference.

I remain, Sir, your humble and obdurate Colleague,

BT Elder

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Talmidei Torah Considered As The Great Motorcycle Dialectic

2010.01.11
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(sans apology to and/or connection with Messrs. Jarry et Ballard.)

THERE ARE THE HARLEY RIDERS. They would not dream of owning any transportation they couldn’t twiddle with or hack. Every knob, every switch, every gear is known and its connection to the whole machine is understood, monitored, adjusted. Their dreams are the smooth metal touch and smell of clean oil, with a beckoning horizon.

There are the import riders. They want a machine that’s smooth and dependable and safely takes them where they want to go. Their relationship with the mechanic is like those with the butcher, the baker, the lawyer — professional and cordial. Their road-trips end where they begin, often with laughter.

The shiny amateurese of the import rider occasionally embarasses the Harley riders, who then lament for the old days when everyone was authentic.

There are the Torah nerds. They won’t read two words of Torah without comparing and contrasting the associated Onkelos, Rashi, Ramban, Rambam, Ibn Ezra and Torah.Org. They scrutinize and scrub every letter, reflecting the text in all its simple, allusive, homiletic, mystic and pop-cultural glory. Their bookshelves are never dusty, their dishes are never done and they stay up all night arguing whether the first letter of the book of Genesis implies a descriptive or a prescriptive limit to humanity’s free will.

There are weekend shulgoers. They don’t feel comfortable studying Torah without Plaut, Etz Hayim or (nostalgically) Hertz. They often puzzle over whether or not the text is “real,” or by what natural agency the metaphor is worked, or whether it really means something else in Ugaritic. Their sessions often end with a song from the rabbi and a piece of danish.

The shiny questions of the weekend shulgoers occasionally stump Torah nerds, who then long lament that they themselves didn’t think of that.

Harley riders are scary, what with the long hair and beards and black clothing. They drink in their own bars. Import riders stumbling in is apt to feel lost and uncomfortable and unsafe. But if they truly love their connection to the machine, they’ll also usually wind up having a good time.

Torah nerds are scary, what with the beards and the black clothing and eidetic intensity. They study in loud groups. Weekend shulgoers stumbling by sometimes feel nervous. But if they truly love a good heimishe discussion, they’ll be welcomed and, probably, fed.

Torah. Put something exciting between your ears.

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Awe and Inquiry

2009.11.04
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He looked up. “What are you sketching?”

She held out a pad, on which was written:

AWE AND INQUIRY

God is good.

God is.

God.

.

He frowned. “What’s the point?”

She grinned. “Exactly.”

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Minute Mitzvah: Praise Wow

2009.07.20
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And now, another Monday Mitzvah with a side of motivation.

Today: Hold God in awe.

THIS ONE’S TRICKY FOR ATHEISTS, so in the interests of universality, let’s assume we’re not talking about the Cranky Old Man raining smites and frights whom we learned to scoff at in Hebrew school but rather Something a good deal less childish and not at all definable. Whatever It is, one can only ever relate to the what-some-people-call-”God” on one’s own terms. (Mine are at http://metaphorager.net/2007/12/working-definition/ but also includes That Which Inspires Awe Through Beholding.) My rabbi, Jack Gabriel, likes to call It “God As Context.” A good friend and I have been discussing It since high school; he sees It in the elegance of mathematics and the physical world. Ann once said It’s what compels firefighters and other rescue workers toward situations of unforeseeable survival. Although I’ve never heard a final, explains-everything, non-paradoxical description of It, one thing seems certain — everyone’s an expert.

Exercise: Ponder who it is who is pondering Who “It” is.

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Five Sites for Earthsore Eyes

2009.06.09
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» Home.
» Local weather and traffic.
» The neighborhood.
» Exotic postcards.

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Leaving room for silence

2009.04.16
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Of all the apparent opposites which Judaism wrestles to reconcile — free will v. predestination, universalism v. particularism, applesauce v. sour cream — one of the most paradoxically fertile is words v. the Wordless.

Maimonides, the great 12th century rabbi and commentator, wisely stayed out of this fray — he was more comfortable describing God in terms of what God wasn’t than in telling people what God was. Maimonides wasn’t the only one who felt this way; in fact, much of our liturgy describes the indescribability of God at great and poetic length.

Take, for example, the following words of the Chatzi Kaddish, which our ancestors loved so much they used it to mark the transition between different parts of every prayer service (translation from the new Reform siddur, Mishkan T’filah): “Blessed, praised, honored, exalted, extolled, glorified, adored, and lauded be the name of the Holy Blessed One, beyond all earthly words and songs of blessing, praise and comfort.”

Even more to the point is Nishmat: “Even if our mouths were full of song as the sea, and our tongues full of joy in countless waves, and our lips full of praise as wide as the sky’s expanse, and were our eyes to shine like sun and moon; if our hands were spread out like heaven’s eagles and our feet swift like young deer, we could never thank You adequately, Adonai, our God and God of our ancestors, to bless Your name for a ten-thousandth of the many myriads of times You granted favors to our ancestors and to us.”

If that’s the case, then why bother? If God can’t be talked about, why do we keep talking?

One answer, from Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, is, “A little is also good.” Since nobody can really appreciate God on a Godly scale, that means a level praying field for everybody. But just as each thing helps us understand its apparent opposite, perhaps our seemingly ceaseless God-talk is also one half of a whole picture: and why our most central prayer, repeated twice daily, begins: “Shema … Listen.”

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Thump, Flutter, Gak

2008.03.11
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I looked up from the computer, wondering about the “thump.” Then I saw the robin on the patio — fluttering wings outspread, struggling to get up.

Outside, through the gate, into the side-yard. “Are you okay?” I asked reflexively.

She wasn’t, at least at first. Her beak and eyes were wide open, and she was panting — or do robins always breathe that way? She seemed dazed but unhurt (no broken legs or anything), so I sat down next to her and babbled softly: “You poor thing. We’ll get you fixed up, give you some nice worm broth and pyracantha cobbler,” etc.

After about ten minutes (during which I wondered what I could wrap her in for transport to the local bird-rescue center), she closed her beak and blinked at me. Then she stood up, wobbled, and hopped away.

“Good! You’re okay!” I said, relief warming me more than the chill morning air. “But can you fly?”

She flapped her wings a couple of times, then rose from the patio and soared across the creek. I don’t think she saw the hawk. It took her in midflight and a cloud of feathers, with no sound but a faint rustle.

Gak.

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‘Across The Universe’ Goes … well …

2008.02.05
By

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