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A few notes on ritual, consciousness and subconsciousness. The poetic subconscious

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Has it been a whole year since I wrote last?  There is a lot of catching up to do related to issues mentioned in the last entry.  Perhaps I shall deal with them in a separate post soon but right now I want to register some thoughts while they are still fresh in my mind as I feel they are important.

Most of us have little idea how much is in our unconsciousness.  It’s not just an archive of memories and percolating urgings, there is so much more than that.  Down there is actually the greater part of our personality, all that makes us who we are, which is why it is so utterly vital that know ourselves, truly KNOW ourselves and can properly communicate with ourselves.

Our unconscious is a poet, a dreamer and in some senses a child.  Not a child now, greater than a child but it, or rather he or she, shares much in common with a child.  It feels more deeply, colourfully and vividly than our conscious mind can.   No offence intended.. if you conscious mind feels deeply just know that your unconscious feels far more deeply.  In many matters your unconscious mind can think faster and more effectively than our conscious mind. All this is known. Have you noticed when you are going quickly through multiple choice questions you find yourself many times already focussed on the correct answer? Your unconscious mind has already figured it out.  That is just recall and is no great surprise but your unconscious mind can do much more sophisticated calculations than that.

It’s up to our conscious awareness to exercise control, to vet those conclusions, and THAT is why we need to know ourselves. We need to know if and when any of those ideas are valid or if they are coloured by wishful thinking or any urges or impulses which really should be ignored.  Our conscious mind is our last arbiter, our reality check but it’s still only the very tip of the iceberg, the part that feels the wind in its face.

But that’s not really my interest here. I could go on about how people are not fully aware of their subconscious, deny its significance, deny they even have one in some cases. Woefully disconnected people, I worry about them. Another greater issue is communication in the other direction.  The thoughts and feelings of the subconscious constantly percolate up into our awareness all the time and often put us in moods we might not understand. We should try, but again I am getting sidetracked.  Perhaps by my subconscious!  Perhaps there is some resistance there to what I want to say so it has me typing typing typing.

Oh no, I’m putting down my foot here. It’s time to reverse the flow.  The unconscious is a great and powerful child monster poet which pulls in information from its senses and magically transforms it all into inner dream. Our responsible day to day mind acts on the world in all kinds of responsible ways, doing work, helping people,  performing all kinds of responsible acts.. this is all coming from the top.  Two kinds of acts are NOT happening.

We are not usually directly communicating with the unconscious and we are not acting with our ENTIRE selves on the world. We act on the world with our upper mind and our physical bodies but we are not acting on the world with our whole mind, which is considerably more powerful.

We might think that this is not even possible but it is. THIS is the function of ritual.  THIS is what religious ritual is for and all about.  Religious ritual is a way to communicate our final thoughts, our conscious awareness to our deeper selves.

We know this is true simply by the results of the usual rituals we know, namely marriage, rites of passage.  This is also true for ritual conversion and similar customs.

They’re far more than mere conforming to the custom of society.  They CHANGE us. They change us on a very deep level, assuming we do them mindfully. That is essential. Mindfulness, kavana, is everything.  If we don’t mean it, it’s literally empty ritual and means absolutely nothing.  Some people these days think all ritual is empty but they throw the baby out with the bathwater so to speak. Sad sad misunderstanding!

The more we carefully prepare the ritual, the more effort we put into it, the more it will mean to us but we still have to be mindful about what we are doing.  Marriage is one of the best examples but the reality is that it is equally important for divorce and for any relationship’s end to also be ritualized.

The subconscious needs to know what is going on in our lives in terms of acts of greater meaning and there must not be a dissonance between what we know and what we feel on deeper levels or we shall have no peace.  Ritual is our way of telling it because it is poetic, symbolic and because our subconscious is poetic and symbolic, as are our dreams,  it will accept this language of communication.  Therefore it will accept the reality of what we tell it.. whether it is a relationship commitment, a change to a new phase of life, or a forgiving, yes a forgiving, that’s a big one, or an oathtaking, an oath releasing or ANYTHING that implies a longer term commitment.

I cannot emphasize too much f how important it is to communicate to our deeper minds any long term commitments, so that there will not be dissonance and that there will be peace.  Many feel at loose ends, hoping that something OUT there, the other party perhaps, will help us tie up loose ends, bring us to resolution, to reach closure.  We cannot rely on that.  People go out of our lives without closure, endings can be messy, old abuse goes unforgiven and festers within us.  We feel restless and discontent on a deep level but we CANNOT expect any thing out there to bring us closure, not death, not chance meetings or any ending of our dreams. And so we sit in miserable limbo, and many often try to drink away the ache or indulge in various entertainments to escape the pain we have not dealt with.

Stop the escape and MAKE a ritual, whether it’s a divorce, a forgiving, a letting go or whatever the need.  It’s time to get creative and find SOME way of bringing about a change to our inner being.  The forms of marriage have been made for us by society but what about other changes?  It has to be real for us.  If you don’t feel creative enough to come up with your own ritual, there is help. These days, thanks to net information, it’s extraordinarily easy to access details of ancient rituals to help us, rituals that appeal to us. We are probably best starting our research in our society of origin but if not satisfied we can look further.  You just do a google search, it’s all out there.  It doesn’t matter if you think amethysts, for example,  have power or not, that’s not relevant at all.  You use these items simply as symbols, as a means to talk to that poetic, symbolic unconscious mind, to bring peace and release on all levels.

Why delay such peace?

Remember, the forms are just forms, to channel your mindfulness, to make it concrete, to create the commitment poem.  You still have to say it like you mean it, do it like you mean it. Mindfulness is everything.

What of the other communication I hinted upon ? The acting of the *entire self* on the world?  Well, when a ritual has been successful you can feel the effect on your entire being, you feel the change deep within yourself and the peace.  What if we could harness the tremendous power of our entire subconscious will and draw blessing in the world?

THAT is true prayer, and that is much of the rest of religious practice,  and with that we must be very careful because it also has its negative directions as you can already guess.  This is the subject of another, future post, but suffice to say, NO outward prayer will be very effective if we are in conflict within ourselves.  THAT we must sort out first.  We can pray for wisdom about how to do this but that’s just the first step.

We must have an integrated inner self before we can begin to draw blessing.

Summer update

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

The good news: the board of education has granted us permission to educate our two youngest!  Vindication!  Definitely cause for celebration.   Akiva’s personal presentation and my written submission convinced them we are fit and serious. We have the go ahead and we are enthusiastic, at least I am.

Ironically,  we can’t quite say the same for our sons.  Whereas Avremi remains open to the idea, Moshe recently craves the companionship of other boys of his age.  This is partly a very healthy development of course and we must find ways for him to meet suitable chevra through chugim, groups of common interest or whatever other means.  He also feels frustrated with my style of home schooling over the summer term and I must find ways to adjust this to his satisfaction for the upcoming term.  He wants to go to Shira’s school, Sudbury, but for various reasons we don’t think this is suitable for him at this time.

Fortunately summer vacation activities lie between now and that time.  As we draw closer to Tisha BeAv our minds already look beyond to upcoming camping trip and the possibility of tandem hang gliding and other sweet promises.   I’m hoping these delights will settle his mind, ease his frustration.

My decision to erase my college memoirs from my web pages was not an easy one.  On the one hand they were an important part of my life, my development but on the other hand my various involvements constituted something of a personal embarassment and no little regret.  There are a number of things I would have done differently with hindsight.  I have some issue with making a written record of some things I wish I had not done.  In a sense regret erases them while at the same time they are part of history,  part of wisdom gained later.  The memories themselves are enough, for me, but how can anyone else learn from that, learn from my mistakes?  Is it right to remove that slight possibility of benefit?

Some things I don’t regret.   I still hold much affection and respect for my first year boyfriend, Martin.  He read the memoirs and appreciated their honesty.  I cannot help but wonder how Tom W would react to them and feel sad that I have been unable to find him since.  I would be friends with him now, even though I hurt him so much then and wish I had not.  I do wish I could make further and better amends.

Of course there are other things I regret that I would not record but one should not wallow in regret,  that is not its purpose or benefit.  Regret, like pain, fear or any kind of negative emotion exists to warn us that something is wrong and it is enough to find that wrong and find a way to make it right somehow.  A person should not live in regret but should find a way to learn from it,  to move on in life better equipped to deal with the challenges of the future,  and sometimes that involves making a clean break and leaving certain things well behind.

Home Schooling

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

I RESENT having to ask permission to home school our own children.   Shouldn’t the schools be asking permission from the parents to use their methods, to meet our approval?  Perhaps school reports should go both ways- when a child receives a report on his performance and behaviour he also submits a report of his teacher (preferably typed and PC corrected and without anything to give away his I.D. ) . The headmaster will then be able to review a nice sample of what the kids REALLY think of that teacher.. is he effective, fun, overly harsh?  Teachers also need feedback because frankly it seems these days many schools are failing, to inspire, to keep the kids’ attention and most importantly obviously, to educate the kids relevantly.

Moshe and Avremi dropped out of the school system this year, both for very different reasons.

Moshe finished Brandt quite well, so well in fact that he was one of a select group chosen to visit Switzerland last summer,  a trip he still hasn’t stopped talking about.  However, Bnei Akiva did not work out so well.  Teenage years for boys are anyway difficult years for many reasons, many changes, emotional, social, attitudinal as well as physical. He encountered a group of boys that clashed with him repeatedly over various personality and other issues and teachers who did not adequately deal with the problems.  It was not working, Moshe was desperately unhappy there and we had no other appropriate school within reasonable reach.  After half a year of painful struggle it got to the point where we could no longer humanely force him to go back.

Avremi was unhappy in Brandt for other reasons, and as we predicted as soon as Moshe could not longer be persuaded to stick with Bnei Akiva, Avremi quietly dropped out of Brandt.  Avremi was captain of his games tournament team last year but this year was only selected as back up. Though he’s a great games player he’d lost so much motivation by that time  and there was simply nothing left for him there. He understood the lessons and excelled in some subjects such as math and, of course, English but for reasons of his own was unwilling to participate, even to pick up a pen, a choice that caused endless power struggles with the staff.

In short order Akiva and I figured out a mode of learning at home with the help of documentaries and other media.  The boys write reports on the documentaries and report verbally afterwards what they learned and we discuss the information.  I have a stack of full notebooks of Moshe’s right here and Avremi is writing a couple of pages or more every day, far more than anyone could ever get him to do in school.  Akiva supervises them in maths work and practical projects such as building rockets, taking apart drills and other activities. They also learn about nature and environment from me in the forest, the local flora and fauna and are both very profficient in nature photography with our D40 Nikon.

I wrote a long report of our methods for the ministry of education as well as a blurb about our reasons for doing this and Akiva recently attended a hearing with the Jerusalem board.  Now we wait for word. Do we have permission to homeschool our children next year?  Akiva said the hearing went well, the board seemed sympathetic and impressed.  The counsellors of both boys from their past schools were there to testify.  It looks positive, GOD WILLING, please God we most sincerely hope the powers that be will agree with us and let us educate our own youngest children.


Sunday, January 4th, 2009

It’s ironic after being spammed here by pharmaceuticals I’m actually going to mention one.  Remember the eyestrain/irritation or whatever it was I mentioned in my last post?  (Assumes she has readers, a bold assumption perhaps but never mind) I am MUCH relieved to say this was greatly helped by Dr. Fischer’s Lyteers.  This has also warned me not to overdo it on the P.C., to take time out, blink a lot etc.  I’ve also stopped using the air spray, just in case that was a factor.  I’d been using it quite a lot lately when diesel fumes or cigarette smoke drifted in from the street. Another factor but one I can’t do much about. I keep the fan running.

Here I am concerned about eye strain and litter down the hillside and the wildlife of my local Mir Forest when Gaza is being bombarded by our military.  Am I callous? No, I have shed tears over the situation but why haven’t I said anything?

I haven’t been totally silent.  On minekey and facebook my approach has been consistent and persistent..  reach out and try to establish good relations with whichever Moslems I can while asserting over and over my desire and dream for mutual coexistence,  but without any compromise on the Jewish rights in this region.

What can that mean?

Well, what are the options?

Here is my dream and it’s not that complex.  Its difficulty will actually be greater in acceptance rather than actual application.

A bi-national state with no walls, fences or borders.   Tear them down! A state run by two major ethnic groups in a completely democratic fashion. We will call the land Israel, ALL the land.  No more ‘West Bank’.  They will call the land Palestine, ALL the land.

We are all here anyway, on this patchwork quilt, their villages on our side of the green line, our settlements on theirs.  Enough of the green lines! Why should anyone be happy with less than all the land they believe to be theirs? There will never be agreement on these borders and they have caused more trouble than they are worth.

Local councils will continue to run local affairs.  On national matters we will, must work together. We will give them the right to call all the land Palestine and they must accept we call it Israel. We speak different languages anyway, the name comes from our histories.  Once it was called Canaan. We know the history, we know there was never a Palestinian state. Irrelevant, they are are here, they are an ethnic presence and their rights cannot be ignored.  There must be mutual acceptance.

The walls divide us, guaranteeing that each will demonize the other, that we will only have our own voices to tell us who they are, and they will experience the same.   This will polarize us, keep the ‘them and us’ mentality going, and therefore the hostility.   Instead I envision dialogue,  mutual respect for our ethnic diversity while at the same time realizing how much we have in common in our heritage, in our language, in our values.

I know many here on this side believe, are convinced, that Jewish values are far above theirs.. and on the other side Jewish values are scorned and they honestly believe theirs are better.  They believe our behaviour in Gaza is proving that.  We believe the actions of ‘Hamas in Gaza is proving our point.   There is both truth and distortion in both views as clearly both cannot be simultaneously totally correct.   Some on both sides will be horrified at moral equivalence with the other, what irony!  The horror is the same on each side!

In truth we are really not so different as we tend to imagine ourselves to be, on each side of the fence, on each side of the wall.   We have the possibility of winning all, of having all but simply agreeing to accept the presence of the other and sharing control, sharing stewardship over all. It isn’t a PIE that we consume on a one off basis, it’s a LAND, there is room!  We need to solve issues together, water issues, population issues, resource issues. This is the same crisis the whole globe faces.

Am I naive?  Not at all, I’ve seen the darkness of human nature, see it now.  I have this dream only because the alternatives are worse, and this is all we have..

We must all walk there together, no losers, or perish.

Out of Comfort Zone

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

Sometimes one just has to leave the comfort zone and do something else.  My comfort zone is definitely home, my room, my computer activities.  I’ve been working to get it down to a fine art, balancing productive chesed, family and writing activities with the entertainment I enjoy, making it all into a point game with a chart so I can see exactly what I’m accomplishing by the day.  Some might find it a bit obsessive/compulsive in nature but for me it works well in making sure I don’t neglect any particular detail important to me.  So my life became comfortable and somewhat regimented but I like it, it works for me.

Moshe found his aliyah a most challenging task for him personally due to a slight speech impediment and a natural sensitivity to any kind of public speaking, which both his parents share!  One of our rabbis had advised not pushing him and was trying to find the smallest, least threatening minyan.  At first the plan had been to take the aliyah in the school but some boys are unnecessarily cruel and Moshe was expecting the worst.  I was torn. On the one hand I totally understood his reticence and heard that rabbi’s advice not to push him. On the other hand I felt strongly that for his own personal development and self esteem he must be encouraged to face his fears and just go ahead and do it anyway.  I have had this struggle with public speaking myself and know how good I’ve felt when I managed to present anything.  So I pushed for this course of action and finally we found ourselves outside Lev Aryeh on Shabbos with growing crowds including boys filing in,  a son who was almost freaking out and an encouraging father.  We gave every possible pep talk but I think what helped a lot, apart from Akiva’s words, was a bargain.  I agreed I’d go with him go karting, even though the outing was something that was really not up my alley at all.. but just to make him happy because it meant so much to him for me to go along.  In other words, we’d step outside our comfort zone for each other.

Well, Moshe stepped out of the shul not long after, exultant, having shaken many hands, and clearly very happy for having received his aliyah in honour of his Bar mitzvah.  It really did make him feel so much more confident and accomplished, to have faced his terror and overcome it and I, of course, was very proud and happy for him.  He was now saying it really wasn’t anywhere near as bad as he’d expected, noone had made fun of him, on the contrary, everyone treated him with far more respect than he’d anticipated.

Well, today I had to fulfil my part of the bargain, sharing his pleasure with him.  This did not really require a great deal from me, just seven hours away from the P.C. in the freezing cold rain and for me, rather boring surroundings.  Malls, bowling alleys and noisy amusement arcades in Talpiot are generally just not my ‘scene’.  At all. Even so,  I managed to make the most of it,  noticing which plants were in flower along the way, including a stand of castor oil plants of which I just had to stop and get a photo, and finding urban birds. I also mentally dropped gears into my most easy going low intensity mode which simply kicks back and experiences life.   We enjoyed nachos with salsa,  I watched the boys play some exciting bike race video games, took a walk around the block with Akiva and watched the bowling while we waited for our turn on the go karts. I’ve been watching a series about Charlie Boorman on the Dakar rally as well as his travel adventures with Ewan McGreggor on motorbikes around the world so watching motorcycle video games was not entirely without appreciation.

All the time I was sincerely with the boys in their pleasure since I wanted them to have a memorable and enjoyable day, and  used my relaxed mood to help this along.  We were quite impressed with the efficiency of the go karting place.. they started not much later than their anticipated time for their turn and both had two good sessions round the tracks on gas powered go karts that look like mini race cars.  Helmets of course, as well as a brief orientation session on the meaning of the flags and the “dos and don’ts”.  Moshe crashed and scratched his neck up a bit due to some moronic driver who thought it was bumper cars but not seriously, and his enjoyment made that insignificant. He wore it like a medal of honour!  My eyes have been acting up lately, I suspect a bit of dry eye, eye strain and possibly a bit of aggravation from the air spray I’d been using. That plus my diplopia made me reluctant to drive myself but that had not been part of the bargain, fortunately, and I’d made it clear  I wasn’t committing myself to that.  Still, Akiva drove a session and Moshe was just happy I came. He likes my presence on family outings a lot, which also warms my heart that he wants me there.

Moshe of course, was not my only concern on the trip. It was Avremi’s ‘Hanukah outing too and important for me that he enjoyed it just as much. He is much more introverted than Moshe in his nature, less expressive, though he IS expressive in his own way.   I wanted him to feel fully included and cared about in all these respects and I really hope I succeeded in this.   He did seem to enjoy it all.

The other good point was my health.  On wednesday I was feeling slightly under the weather when I got up and it really looked like I was finally starting to come down with the flu that had hit most of the family.  My immune system is, thank God, excellent and I seldom get ill but I had resolved that I’d go today anyway even if I did have the flu, just to keep my promise.  Well, apart from a minor bit of phlegm I felt no significant malaise, seemed a false alarm and I wasn’t going to suffer that way. Thank God! Now I’m just keeping warm and taking care of myself.. back in my comfort zone!

Moshe’s Bar Mitzvah

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

I haven’t written anything here for ages !  Most write-ups go in my nature blog, other aspects of life are pretty much too low key to be worth a write- up here or too private for the net.  Came in today and found 79 unmoderated messages!  Most of them if not all of them were people spamming themselves.. ugh! most went straight to the bin.  At least no trees were turned into paper for all that junk mail.

We decided to do Moshe’s bar mitzvah in the house which proved to be a great idea and a good example to others who feel socially pressured to get a hall. I think it was great to demonstrate that a hall is totally not necessary for a good, lively well catered party and seemed to me a lot appreciated it.  Very cozy.

Moshe invited a few close friends and they all watched a very innocent and well made animation, projected onto the entire wall over the sofa, while eating pizza.  The Chinese crane tapestry had to be put aside for the duration and I cleaned that wall extra at Moshe’s request so that the showing would be unblemished. His bar mitzva and he wanted to order pizza- and of course, show off his beautiful new pet, a very pretty iguana named Randall (after the lizard monster in Monsters Inc. of course )

They started about five p.m. At shortly after 8 p.m. the adult guests arrived:  some slightly complaining at the very short notice (Erev Shabbat!) but all very happy and all commenting on how cute Moshe is, which I have to agree.  The Labovich’s came first,  our resident G.P. , and his wife Meira.  I wanted to give her decent time since at our last bar mitvah, in a hall (Lamett), I inadvertantly neglected her.  Soon we were joined by the Goldwassers, Papermasters, Penny Krinsky and some of the girls,  the Ceders, the ladies from the office, (including my old Shalhevet friend Ita, and Gittel Kaplan who came bearing the most awesome squishy chocolatey caramely crunchy guilt inducing cake,  Dina nee Dombey,  Sarah Chava Mizrahi, the Kaganoff’s daughter and later the Kaganoffs themselves.  That led to a pleasant chat with Rabbi Kaganoff about birds in halacha, the definition of a dores and why and whether parrots should or should not be kosher.  Before that I had been drifting between Amy Ceder,  Yael Goldwasser and Simone Alexander for the most part while trying to give adequate attention to everyone else.  This of course meant I hardly got a bite. Fortunately there was enough good stuff left later. The Alexanders gave Moshe a kidush cup, very nice!  This had been our gift from the Rapoports for the other boys but I didn’t see them tonight, sadly.  Simone and I talked about the local owls..  anyone who will discuss the local nature with me is always guaranteed a fair chunk of my time and attention!

The catering was a totally joint effort. Elisheva put out plates with pepper and carrot sticks as well as humus, I made tomato and cucumber salad, we bought crackers and Akiva baked a couple of cakes. I felt the salads should go with some kind of protein and suggested salmon so Akiva baked salmon loaf which was very much appreciated by the guests.  We had various soft drinks, the first of which I ‘fortified’ with a bit of vodka but pretty soon my social mood was just fine, no wish for more alcohol than that.  After reading about Sesame seeds on wikipedia I very much liked the sound of home made halva and shared my enthusiasm with Akiva.  He prepared a nice batch.. great energy food for walks.  I tried some, totally delicious, wonderful!  Simply sesame paste and honey with flower to thicken. It was still a little soft, had to really be rolled into squishy balls to eat but I spread some on sesame crackers.  They disappeared pretty quickly on the men’s table but the women were probably at the limits of their diet allowances by the time they came out..  apart from Chava Dumas, who, health food loving person she is, immediately recognized it for what it was and took some home, which pleased me greatly.

I hadn’t seen Amy properly in a long time and one thing led to another in conversation, from Moshe’s trip to Switzerland to photos taken from the air  till we were pulling out photo albums of my brother’s wedding simply because I wanted to show her the pics I’d taken from the air of the Austrian Alps, Venice and the white cliffs of Dover.  I particularly love my Venice shot, very special.  That of course led to other pics of Cardiff castle, squirrels, cousins and other details of that trip.

Sarah came along later looking beautiful and announcing her upcoming trip to Norway in two weeks.  In winter, brrr! This is just like her, she likes to pop around. I usually find out from her facebook status that suddenly she’s sunbathing by the Gulf of Aqaba,  or hiking in north or something else that sounds a lot of fun.  I love that about facebook, being able to see what people are up to like that.

What else?  Dovid’s still home though shooting for his ‘chayal boded’ status  (on the grounds of his radically different (i.e. absence of ) religious beliefs but really because he wants his own place)  Meanwhile he gets along with us all pretty well and I, or rather, our machines, wash his stuff. Not fatigues any more, he’s done with the heavy cloth and border guard duty- he’s now working with computers at a base here in Jerusalem, which means he comes home every night and can spend as much non sack time as his body will stand on his computer.

Shira seems to be getting something out of Sudbury,  putting her head into biology and her hands into ceramics lately.  She has always been an excellent, solid student but understandably rebelled at the rather arbitrary clothing gezeras of the religious school system.  Elisheva is at home,  restlessly figuring out the direction of her own artistic expression.  The passion and sensitivity are clearly there and she reaches for her path in art and in life in general.  She has been wonderful today, totally on the ball in terms of preparing the house for the bar mitzva though we all played a part I think she was ring leader.   So different a physical type from Shira..  Eli is a tall birch tree to Shira’s pistaccio..  elf and milkmaid, that is the briefest possible description and of course does not do justice to the entire worlds they are.  What kind of tree would Sarah be? Really hard to say, perhaps an orange tree.

Lost Harvest

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

I’m getting so much spam lately here! I know it’s probably done by robots. Some of them want to advertise their own stuff and I don’t mind that if they leave a compliment, haha, I’m easy going, but those who just leave URLs (undoubtedly mindless bots) will just get marked as spam. Bye bye! They never make it. People using other people’s blogs to advertise is so lame, there are so many other ways to advertise. Ah well enough of that, to my most pressing gripe of the day.

Today I enjoyed delicious figs and the torment of a strange kind of guilt. Over the hill to the north of our neighbourhood, between our neighbourhood and Adam is a vale planted with Jerusalem Sage, at least 100 olive trees, perhaps 20 fig trees as well as sweet almonds, I didn’t even start to count those. They’re on our side of the fence/wall, which means if they belong to someone in Hizmeh (most likely), or A Ram they may be unable to harvest their trees. The almonds and olives aren’t ready yet but the figs are coming into season and they may go to waste.. some are already splitting, exposing themselves to bugs and birds and are useless. If the owners were going to get them they’d have managed by now. I really hope they’re appealing to every authority they can and in a diplomatic way and won’t give up because these are their trees and they should be able to have access to harvest them. We can see what is probably the continuation of their land on the other side of the Ramallah bypass road – there are more olives over there.

We did not wish to be greedy and took fruits that will be useless within a day or two but are ready, and wonderful right now. I made a ‘pri haetz’ and ‘shehechianu’ and enjoyed but part of me really wanted to be able to toss them a few hundred metres to the rightful owners. Alas I have as much access to them as they have to their fruit. This is just not right, I want to find some way to deal with this.

Ironically this is the shmitta year (fallow year) and as far as Jewish law is concerned fruits and vegetables are ‘hefker’, they belong to anyone. There’s no need to tithe this year (which exempted us from any concern about the intricacies of those laws re these fruits esp. those we took home. Of course shmitta does not apply to Arab owned crops and the ownership now is highly debatable. Is this conquest, reconquest, theft? The land is one thing, the trees another. It can get complex. I want to ask Rav Kaganoff a shaila in terms of truma and maaser with these fruits in the future but my immediate concern is the oncoming harvest. All those olive trees are going to be worth a lot, and a significant financial loss if gone to waste.

What’s it going to hurt us if they come through the crossing and pick, even though they’d have to shlep all the way to the checkpoint near ‘Windsurfer hill’ on each side of the fence?  No-one else will claim those olives, I doubt anyone in our neighbourhood knows the first thing about olive farming and most don’t even know they’re there, they’re out of sight unless you go over the hill.

I’m going to see what can be done, I can’t in good conscience leave the situation as it is.

Reflections on inner peace, joy, love

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

I’ve not been writing here as much as in my nature blog for a number of reasons. My nature blog is a regular documentation of the wildlife in the area. I feel it as my personal obligation to keep track of the wildlife in Eyn Porat/Yaar Mir simply as my contribution to observations of biodiversity. Part of my grand ‘love affair’ with the biosphere itself, so to speak. Feeling at one with nature has been an important part of my consciousness pretty much all my life. This gives me a very imminent sense of Divinity, something akin to some branches of Buddhism, a form of paganism and not much different from ‘Hassidic Judaism with all its controversial gnostic influences.

From our standpoint here on earth we really cannot tell if the truth is pantheism or panentheism since we cannot in any way know the transcendent but by a leap of faith. We can be confident about the imminent however. We can sense the spirit that pervades all things when we allow ourselves to get into the right frame of mind- call it expanded consciousness or “gadlus ha’mo’ah’ ” as it’s called in ‘Hassidus. In that sense we feel wonder, our perceptions are broad, encompassing, forgiving, understanding and free of negative emotion. We can also tap into that sense of universal consciousness.

We can get just so much from nature, we sense wonder, fascination, beauty, the interweaving of life but to get beyond that we need to purify ourselves and I think that’s the greatest challenge in today’s cluttered, encumbered urban society with all it’s potential blockages that can numb our sensitivities. Sometimes it comes from just too much input that makes us just want to shut down to protect ourselves from overload, so that we can no longer feel the import of new information. So many young people seem to shut down like this to some extent. It’s understandable, it’s a survival mechanism. Some turn it into cynical game playing atheism, others into the existential anguish of Emo, others escape into irrational warm fluffy notions, but however people sense it, each is in danger of moving from the deeper truth of the universe and losing themselves in the mess that modern life has become. Ironically a good part of that truth now is exactly the fragmentation which exists all around.

The Breslov ideal of self purification has appealed to me for years. Reb Nachman himself engaged in severe ascetism in his youth but caused harm to himself on this road and later realized its foolishness and damage. He arrived at ‘hitbodedut’ which is a form of intense prayer, very intimate, very personal. A ‘wrestling’ with God as much as Yaakov wrestled with the angel. We have to demand like a child because we have to really want to purify ourselves, to exorcise the blockages that clog the pure flows within us. Yes, this can be done by force of will with the help of heaven. We beg for ‘da’at’, for insight, cry for it, reach for it, and we implore that the impediments be removed. This will work if we want that enough.

Sometimes, often, it is necessary to do ‘tikun’, repair. We may need to repair a relationship, apologize, make amends, pay debts owed, fix damage. All these are necessary to remove the damage within our psyche. Truth within reflects truth without, we cannot neglect obligations we have generated by past acts. If we cause hurt we must heal before we can be truly healed within.

Then, finally, it is possible to attain ‘ahava raba’ (great love), a state of grace, ‘dveikut’, cleaving, in which we are totally fulfilled. We feel utterly in a state of joy, peace and love which reaches to the very limit of our consciousness. Even if we become impure again later we will know where we were and keep a memory of that pure light so we will know the place of our return and be motivated to get back. This state surpasses all other worldly pleasures, joys and loves because it has no flaw or limit at all, and it is possible for everyone. If an ordinary ‘sinner’ such as myself can manage it, it is certainly within the reach of anyone. One does not need to be absolutely perfect to attain it, one needs to simply want it and want to make our lives right.

Back on Schedule, Reflections

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

Back on Schedule.

It’s great to be back on schedule!  For much of the school year I had got into the occasionally inconvenient habit of staying up most of the night and sleeping through the morning. This works while all the kids are at school but not during summer vacation!  It helps that during the week I accumulate something of a sleep debt which often guarantees that Shabbos night I’ll fall asleep early, especially without the temptation of computer activity. I’ll read some Robert Jordan ‘Wheel of Time’  until my eyes feel tired and general fatigue hits, then crash, and this is exactly what happened that Shabbos about ten days ago when we hosted our wonderful young archaeologist guest, Moshe’s new friend. 

Then it was ‘simply’ a matter of staying on that schedule.  The next two days I felt somewhat jet-lagged but thankfully that passed and now I’m back on track. Hurray!  

Apart from being up for the kids, (as well as the kids not having to worry about disturbing a sleeping mommy) there is the issue of renovations.  These are often done over the summer months when rain won’t interfere with construction and living along a terraced row the chances are high there will be thudding and power drilling some time in the summer, what I would call ‘the dentist from hell’. Not yet, thankfully, but better that my sleep is not disturbed by it if and when it happens, which it probably will.

My nature blog is still one of my great loves these days. Breeding season is pretty much over though many birds are vocal and apparently still amorous in some cases. Still, it’s a lot quieter than it was. Plenty gazelle sightings and a couple of scorpions lately, all dutifully written up in my log. I love heading out every day with the hope of finding something special to share. I just love to see the late afternoon sun strong on green foliage, there’s a tremendous vitality in that.

I’m spending much of the morning on the P.C. dealing with various facebook activities while listening to recordings of vocal performance talent competition, writing, taking part in iThink discussions and more writing. iThink can be very acrimonious but it is a great place for sharing points of view and gets broad exposure. This is probably the one place I’ve seen where dialogue between western and eastern youth can really flourish. There are plenty bigots and harsh words are written on both sides but there’s also increasing understanding and intercourse.  I’ve also been getting my memoirs up to date and deciding what else to post on my home pages on my main web site.  

Sarah, my 21 year old daughter, is home for the summer.  She had been staying in an apartment with roomies but needed a break from that for various reasons. She’s using David’s room now he’s off in the army. David is delighted that he finally got onto the computer course he’s been nudging them for, for months now. He’s really worked hard there, being a model soldier right from the start, taking on an extra combat course in basic training and excelling, according to his officers. Last few months have been more laid back but still demanding as he’s been rotated around the country from Kiryat Shmoneh to Kiryat Arba, and he has developed that slight cheery disdain of us mere sloppy civilians which military discipline tends to impart.

Sarah’s still working every day and has to get up early but Elisheva and Shira have no such pressures now high school is out. The boys are camping in the front garden again, they love sleeping out in the tent but have to be careful to come in when the sun comes up or they start to bake! Our garden faces east.  Moshe has been learning how to cook eggs and he’s approaching it like a chef. This evening we were goofing around till midnight talking in fake Italian accents as he whipped up another batch of egg with onion and tomato. I ate some with a little bread and lettuce for my ‘midnight supper’ – well I can afford to, for the past week or so I’m sitting in my target weight zone.  It varies.. especially right after Shabbat! 

We’ve been watching Morgan Spurlock’s 30 days series lately. Awesome show, much thought provoking material. We often pause it to discuss and make points  as we go along. This evening we watched the episode about his stay at a Navajo reserve. By the end I was blinking back tears, as was Spurlock. This episode strongly reminded me of Johnny Depp’s ‘The Brave’ over which I shed a fair number of tears.

We knew their poverty was bad but didn’t realize how bad. The lack of running water horrified us, living for decades shlepping water from a public well. Desperate need for employment opportunities and a dismal future for their beautiful cultural heritage that many there clearly still valued. Returning to the reservation gave them meaning in life, meaning they did not find beyond, in white America.  

However,  the poverty, the lack of jobs, being treated as second class citizens, – this has driven many to alcoholism and related behavioural problems. In some other places in the world similar conditions in some respects have led to a culture of terrorism.  Many differences to be sure, there’s a LOT more to it of course, but the parallel is striking. The only difference in outcome is that instead of trying to destroy white America these renegade  native Americans  try to destroy *themselves* out of sheer despair.  Tragedies, all such ‘solutions’, escapes and tragedies.

Graduation Party

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

I was never a great fan of school parties, have generally considered them a chore I do just out of love for the child because I know it means so much to them, though I try to get as much as possible out of the experience if only to ease the boredom and tedium the events often tend to be. And so I approached Moshe’s party rather jaded and physically tired and just glad of Akiva’s company to help the hours go by a little faster.

Moshe’s 6th grade graduation party from Brandt’s school was pleasantly different from the usual run of the mill parties we’d attended in past years. For a start it wasn’t even in the neighbourhood, it was 9 miles out of town on a yishuv, Beit Meir. HaMasrek Nature Reserve is near by and the graduation event was held in part of the S.P.N.I. field school connected with that. The ride out there, provided by the school for all the parents, was really quite gorgeous.

I noticed very many new saplings had been planted all around the city in the past few years and feel proud to live in Jerusalem where so much effort is made to keep the place beautiful, centre strips on most of the roads planted with red rose bushes, geraniums, oleander and other vegetation, provided with drip irrigation and the statute that all buildings must be faced with ‘Jerusalem Stone’, light sandstone/limestone masonry which gives the buildings a much more natural look, as if growing organically out of the hillsides between cypress, pine, ailanthus and other trees.

As we left the city farther behind I noticed more  carob, olive and others though mature Aleppo pine forest prevailed in most hillsides from valley to hill top. Unlike many European landscapes Middle Eastern towns and villages tend to be perched on hilltops rather than nestled in valleys, and Beit Meir was no exception. There was a winery there and I could smell chickens. The yishuv was well planted, charming, and I could happily move out there tomorrow.

Moshe had already befriended a group of young archaeologists from all over the world, in particular Adam, a boy from Canada he wanted us to meet and whom he’d already invited to stay with us! Naturally I was a little taken aback, the idea of a 20 year old complete stranger living with us in our tiny place was unthinkable at first thought. I began to change my mind very quickly as soon as I met him. I couldn’t imagine a pleasanter seeming person, quiet and with an easy going refinement I really appreciated. Soon both Moshe and I had convinced husband the idea was workable and in a short while he was booked for the weekend.

The party itself was the usual boring speeches attended by hardly anyone, a couple of sweet songs that almost seemed to get stuck on a never ending loop that would keep us captive for ever, then an arts and crafts workshop. I have endured countless such workshops over the years especially with the girls’ schools and I’d hoped I was done with them even though I often got quite into them once I’d got started. We were issued a wooden door panel and letters, as well as a wooden mezuza case which we were supposed to decorate with layers of patterned tissue and glue. Moshe felt the two ladies were treating all of us like first graders and my creative mind had already taken off on other possibilities. Raw materials like this and I’m confined to the issued napkins? No way, I appreciated the effect the ladies were working towards but I already had ideas of pressed plants and varnish so we stashed away the panels and letters in our bag and surreptitiously slipped out with the excuse of a bathroom visit. I needed air!

Outside I admired the gorgeous view and an ancient olive tree, tried an olive but it was still bitter and spat it out, watched a pair of big geckoes way up on the building wall and chatted with husband. Moshe went off to shmoose about Indiana Jones and other movies with his new archaeologist buddies. He told me that earlier in the day he’d been helping clean three thousand year old pottery with Adam and telling him about our local wildlife. When we left he high- fived the lot of them, he seemed quite a hit there apparently.

We did enjoy a very pleasant meal with the typical Israeli entrees, rolls with coleslaw, fried eggplant, houmous and Turkish salad and such, all spicey and peppery, followed by drumsticks, sesame breaded chicken breast, rice and baked potatoes and a couple more ignored speeches. I passed on the latter carbs, I’d already had enough calories from the rolls, houmous and sundry, though I did sneak one bite of husband’s chocolate covered ice cream. Actually I did pay more attention than that, listening always helps my Hebrew and the sentiments expressed are often very cute. I also heard a fair bit of Russian and Amharic this evening as Moshe’s schoolmates include a number of Ethiopians as well as Boris and Stanislav (or was it Vladistav, I forget) who made sure I was awake on the bus all the way home. My Amharic is pretty much non existent despite Moshe’s attempts to teach me the numbers, but I know a few more Russian words and can pretty much count on hearing ‘itdi suda!’ (come here!) any place where there is a Russian parent and kid.

Well, all in all it was a pleasant evening, we all enjoyed it though I was bone tired at the end of it. It’s always so much worth taking, seizing, embracing the opportunity to visit new places, enjoy the scenery, meet new people and generally experiencing life a little out of the regular comfort zone once in a while.