Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ekev Reflections

This week's Torah portion is Ekev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25). Most of this last Book of the Torah involves Moses ripping into the Children of Israel in one last ditch effort to make sure they cross the Jordan an intact nation. So it is that Moses reminds them of their accomplishments as well as their failures. He reviews and cautions with the full knowledge that their crossing cannot be his. In Chapter 9 Verse 10 Moses reminds the Children that after spending forty days and forty nights on the Mountain he brought down '...the two tablets of stone written with the finger of God ..' Of course by the time Moses was ready to descend the mountain and deliver the tablets we (the Children of Israel) were already head long into our own descent which so angered Moses that he threw those written by the hand of God tablets so hard they shattered. Sure we eventually got another set of tablets but written by the hand of Moses with the assumption that we never got anything in God's own handwriting again.
While it may be true that God hasn't written to us in stone much since then His hand writing is all over the place. Our tasks are to take the time to look beyond ourselves and notice.
May we begin this very moment to notice that we are surrounded by Holy handwriting and may we then in those moments of noticing stop our descents into life's frequent distractions to become instead transformative ascents to Holiness.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sometimes The Only Thing To Have Is A Melt Down

So if you happen to be the spouse of a very ill person hours away from undergoing the single most difficult (deliberate) surgical procedure on the books (the Whipple Procedure) and at the most inappropriate time and place find yourself yelling at said spouse over absolutely nothing, knock it off as soon as you can, apologize profusely to said spouse and anyone else witnessing said meltdown and move on.  This is a rough time.  Cut yourself some slack.  Melt Downs Happen.  Feeling like a fool shouldn't be a new experience at this point anyway.
That's it for tonight.  Melt Downs can be pretty exhausting even if they are an expected part of the picture.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I'm Not Quite A Liar

But on the other hand I'm not exactly telling the truth when I assure my life partner she is not alone as she undergoes the Whipple Procedure to remove the neuro endocrine tumor from her pancreas.  We both, at this point, get it that she will, indeed, be alone excluding the surgical team during the surgery and, yes, during her recovery no matter how long I wait with family to hear that the surgery was successful and no matter how many hours I sit by her bedside. Still, though, I will say anything of assurance I can summon to help her.
We are all, ultimately, alone.  It's the company we keep along the way that often gives the opposite impression.
My hope is that I can be a worthy traveling companion.

From The Not Quite A Street Band Guide To Amelia Living

The photograph was taken by Susan F. Singer at the Last Book Store event and the writing is from But This Is Different:

The drummers resumed their fastest and loudest beat until their hands and sticks blurred.  Other islanders danced around Mere and Oroiti and the blazing fire.  Masks reflected the fire’s flames and light.  The ground shook under drumming hands and dancing feet.  Babies in their baskets continued their uninterrupted sleep.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

I Made Up The Story

 FROM THE NOT QUITE A STREET BAND GUIDE TO AMELIA LIVING performed at The Last Book Store in Los Angeles -
But This Is Different came from my imagination.  I made up the story and I made up the characters in the story.  That the two central characters bear the names of very famous women makes a powerful statement that even cultural icons often went to great lengths to claim and live the love that just now begins to have a name and that all too often those carefully planned great lengths just couldn’t become real.  Life was then and continues to be extraordinarily difficult if its truth must be hidden.  And in the hiding we live on separate islands yearning for something beyond a lonely paradise.
Photograph by Susan F. Singer
Photograph by Susan F. Singer

Perhaps It Wasn't Exactly Like This On Nani

But at the recent 'Not Quite A Street Band Guide To Amelia Living' event at the Last Book Store in downtown Los Angeles we had a great time pretending.

Photograph by Susan F. Singer

Photographs by Susan F. Singer

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Hear O Israel: Thoughts on Parshah Va'etchanan

This week’s Torah portion, Vaetchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11) contains the Sh’ma, (Deut. 6:4-9) which begins, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God; the Lord is one.”  You may find the rest of the prayer easily, because these words may be those most often spoken in Jewish prayer.  They appear in every Jewish service at least once, they are the words that we say as our bedtime prayer, they form the end to the all-day Yom Kippur service and they are supposed to be the last words a Jew utters on the deathbed.    

The modern Torah commentary Etz Chaim points out that the Sh’ma is not really a prayer at all; it is addressed not to God but to the people Israel.  In just a few short sentences, it covers the basic theological beliefs of Judaism: there is one God, singular and unique, and we are commanded to love God wholeheartedly, study God’s word and teach it to our children.

Theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel remarked, on the first word of the prayer, “Jewish prayer is an act of listening.  We do not bring forth our own words.  The self is silent; the spirit of the people Israel speaks.  In prayer, we listen to what the words convey.”

Not Quite Berlitz

Our crash course in the language of illness began during the afternoon and evening of June 26.  It continued through June 27, the first full day of my partner's hospitalization.  On that day we learned several new words or phrases in our ever increasing vocabulary:  intervention radiologist, endoscopy, ultrasound endoscopy and our favorite endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography also known as ERCP.  We also learned that speculation is part of the early process of diagnosis.  Three speculations proposed by the surgical team were in order of liklihood sarcoma, pancreatic cancer and lymphoma.  Since speculation seemed to be the order ot the day, we speculated another possible diagnosis:  My partner had either intentionally or accidentally swallowed a pinata. With that speculation firmly rooted in our list of possibilities we decided to pay no further attention to the speculations of the surgeons until they could offer proof that we were wrong.  The pinata theory, when presented to the growing email list, grew over the next few days in popularity and possibility. And thus we added to our growing vocabulary the word and the reality of nonsense.  At least we knew what that word meant.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A More Liberated Freestyle

I don't think the Olympic judges have the same creative interpretation of the term "freestyle" as I do. I would throw a whole pile of gold medals at any 300m Freestyle swimmer who started with a cannonball, performed a few minutes of water ballet followed by a quick round of Marco Polo, then finished with a pretend drowning and a fake dead-man's float.