Sunday, February 18, 2007

Random Poem

The style is totally stolen from this poem of Miri's, except that hers is rather better.

well, Faith and Reason are getting divorced
and the custody battle is going to court
and Truth’s afraid he'll have to pick who he loves more

well, Reason says they just chose different routes
and Faith says it’s about his brother Doubt
and the filthy places that the two hang out
and he says she doesn’t know what she’s talking about
and would you listen to the junk he has to hear her spout?

and he’s getting bitter and starting to mope
and she comes home blind drunk on hope
and Truth watches it snowball down the slippery slope

and they fight at night, both high on pride
and Truth sits and stares, his bright eyes wide,
looking lost and lonely like someone died
hands clenched in fists at his skinny sides.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


There's a story about some Gadol (I'm afraid I don't recall the name) who used to be a bit of wild kid. One day, when he came home from school, he heard his parents talking in the kitchen, reaching a decision that it wasn't worthwhile to send his to school anymore, considering his behavior, so they would apprentice him to a blacksmith. The boy rushed into the room and begged for one more chance, and of course, behaved himself from then on and became a Gadol. His first sefer, he throws a huge seudah and tells this story, finishing by saying "Now imagine I would have become a blacksmith. I would have been a good person, said tehillim, been conscientious, and so on and so forth. Eventually, I would have died and gone up to Heaven, and they would have said, 'So, where's that sefer?' 'Sefer?Um....I'm a blacksmith...' 'Yes, sefer. You know, that you wrote while running your yeshiva?' 'Yeshiva? Um...remember the bit about blacksmith? How on earth do you expect me to have written a sefer or had a yeshiva?'"

Lovely story, no? And told so very Tales from the Maggid-esquely as well. I find it absolutely terrifying. Because I'm never going to be particularly great, by any standards of greatness. Mediocre, sure. Not bad, certainly. Quite decent, I can aspire to. But great? And that's generally okay. 99.9% of people are neither capable of achieving true greatness nor expected to have done so. But what if one wakes up dead one morning and suddenly discovers that they were supposed to have been that .1%?

And the vision is especially scary because it's close to my personal picture of the whole hell thing- realizing what you are as compared to what you should be and feeling really, really stupid. Eternally.

I just finished reading a book a biography of John and Abigail Adams (Those Who Love) and it's pretty darn intimidating stuff. Because the people who made the country, despite by and large all being related or neighbors, were not really born into anything. It was a strict sort of meritocracy- if you were smart enough or stubborn enough or cunning enough and had just a bit of luck, you could make history. And there were no garauntees. One of John Adams' sons became president; another drank himself into an early and bankrupt grave, while a third became a solid, if dull, contract lawyer. You can say that that's about talents and so forth, but it's also about their decisions and will. What if greatness is just a decision that we make? What if it's one I'm not making? I know that it's all angsty and twenty and junk, but that doesn't make it any less worrisome.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


So I haven't posted in ages and ages, what with finals and apathy and all (and I really have to stop apologizing at the beginning of each post), and even now I don't really have a firm topic to supply a post, so it's just going to be dribs and drabs.

  • The word miscellaneous doesn't look like it's spelled correctly no matter what letter you put instead of the first 'e'. The current spelling was verified by, but I still don't like the looks of it
  • Humor doesn't make sense. I think that I've decided that humor really just boils down to incongruity- a juxtaposition of sense and nonsense. But why does that make us happy? Is it just an activity like getting a foot massage that one finds pleasurable and therefore makes us happy? Or is humor inherently happifying? Freud has some theory that it all has to do with sneaking past inhibitions, but his theory didn't make sense and is based on patently false notions, like children not finding things funny. Even babies find a silly face hilarious, as soon as they have the notion of face down pat. So I don't buy Freud. The more convincing theory is that identifying incongruity helps re-establish our grasp of how reality should be- "Ha! I know that that is silliness, thus proving that I know how things ought to be. Ha ha!"- but that one feels a little bit off as well. So I'm still pondering.
  • And speaking of funny, we put up the most beautiful art display on the wall above my bed. It consists of alternating black and white sheets of construction paper with the captions, respectively: "Three Generals at Antietam at Midnight", "The Light at the End of the Tunnel", "View from Inside a Black Hole", "Haydn Mountain Pass in a Blizzard", "Close-up of a Black Panther", "Your Mind on Drugs", and "Non-starry Light", and every time I look at it, it makes me happy.
  • Dribs and drabs is a funny phrase too.
  • And on to more philosophical thoughts (inspired by the way by the new House episode, never say that tv is an entire waste of time.) So two of the characters had this whole discussion about how if you believe in afterlife, this world is meaningless, and if you don't everything is meaningless. Baloney. (and yes, that's the spelling of bologna that I prefer.) Absolute baloney. Whether you believe in an afterlife or not, this world is everything we have to work with. What we do in this world is... a fact, a concrete creation that is and thus- especially if time is an illusion- always is. It exists as a solid chunk of isness sitting about in the universe. And it is only what we make it. Our actions are important because they exist, not because of their consequences or rewards. The reward for a mitzva, in a very real sense, is the mitzva itself. And doing something changes you, not in kabbablistic or psychological or spiritual ways, although I'm sure that's going on too, but because after you do something, you become a person who has done it. And that's all there is to that. And afterlife, in my mind, is nothing more than sitting around and being that person that you have made yourself, sitting around forever and actually seeing what you are. And this is all the heaven that we can hope for and all the hell that we could possibly dread.
  • And furthermore, the episode got into the whole good things happening to bad people thing, which is a gigantic sugya of its own, but all I have to say at the moment is who gives a darn why? Sitting about pondering why changes nothing, doesn't make the world a better place. I read a really nice shiur on a couple years ago about how Job and Ruth have similar stories- people faced with awful tragedy- but the difference is that one sat about having philosophical ponderings and one went off and tried to help other people and to get through the day and to deal with the situation at hand. And one of them was eventually told by G-d "Give it up, this really isn't going anywhere" and one of them got to be the ancestor of David and Mashiach and all that good stuff. Of course, thank G-d, I have never dealt with real personal tragedy, making this bullet point not only presumptious, but also callous, but then again, many of the people who question the whole evil thing do it purely philosophically as well.
  • And lastly, I am apparently not only funny, but also somewhat terrifying when tired.
Peace unto you all and maybe eventually there will be a real post.