Only 200+ Episodes Left

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Saturday gratefuls: the inventor(s) of pho. SeoAh and I had pho in Evergreen last night. Trees lit with Christmas lights down Black Mountain/Brook Forest Drive. (though. Mule deer bucks sometimes get their racks tangled in these lights.) The snow that graces our yard, Black Mountain, the road to Evergreen. The cold, too.

3:30 pm. The sun has disappeared behind Black Mountain yet still lights up a cold blue sky.

It’s the Holiday Walk in Evergreen tonight. The touristy part of town will close their chunk of Hwy 74 for wandering carolers, Christmas tree lighters, stores with holiday cider and hot chocolate. SeoAh and I will travel past it to the Pho place near King Sooper’s in Evergreen. SeoAh loves pho. So do I.

Exercised. Read more about tzedekah, the Jewish equivalent of zakat, one of the five pillars of Islam.

4:30 am. Orion’s shoulders and head and bow have a misty cover this morning, but his boots and his loyal dog showed above Black Mountain. Headed west again, he’s a bit like Sisyphus, always chasing the hare that stays in sight, but can never be caught. The gratitude moon has reached the waxed gibbous stage, well more than half lit but not quite full. Its light surprised me by creating a shadow to follow my path as I got the mail.

Continuing my journey toward the creation of the Ottoman Empire with Resurrection: Ertugrul. This one and a few others like it have a huge Muslim following, as you might imagine. The deeper I get into it, I’m now in season 3, probably 200 episodes or so, the more it worries me.

Though the story has me hooked, obviously, the depiction of jihad, of Islam as the only way, of the daring lengths to which its warriors will go has me thinking of current day mujaheddin. They may (almost certainly do) see themselves in the depictions of Ertugrul and the Turkmen fighting Mongols and Christians. The unrelenting chants of allahu akbar (God is Great.) and death to infidels feel like propaganda. And, are probably received in that way.

The golden age of television has introduced us to writers, actors, locations, and narratives from many different cultures. I watch Korean and other East Asian dramas as well as Bollywood movies. This is a chance to peek behind the national/cultural psyche of these locales. I relish it.

In Resurrection’s case it has helped me understand some of the media that informs and influences Muslims. This show has powerful resonance, drawing us in not only to the lives and travails of its characters, but also showcasing a certain violent devotion not new to Islam. As I’ve written before, television now allows us some of the best parts of travel, not through travel shows, but through the unfiltered presentation of material deemed congenial to a particular culture.

Only 200 some episodes to go.

I & We

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Monday gratefuls: Joe’s visit. Annie’s visit. Seoah’s staying on. Murdoch’s staying on. The engineers who designed our Rav4’s. The laborers who assembled them. Deb and Dave at On the Move Fitness who prepare my workouts every six to eight weeks. The oxygen concentrators that make it possible for Kate and me to live up here.

I’ve mentioned the Turkish TV series Resurrection (see the post for Oct. 21). It’s a long one, well over 400 episodes. A huge work of historical fiction, a novel on the small screen. It holds my attention, though I imagine many would stop watching over its persistent Muslim bias against non-Muslims, its more than occasional violence, and its often laughable translations. Immersion in it and our several years at Congregation Beth Evergreen have combined to make me reconsider individualism.

As an American, as a confirmed existentialist, as an ex-Christian, as a phenomonologist, as a thinker, as an introvert, the individual has always loomed bigger to me than the collective. The notion of a hermetic life. Yes. The life of a scholar hidden in the library. Yes. The life of a novelist obscured by working alone. Yes. Even a move to a mountain home far away from 40 years of friendship and memories. Yes.

The tribal life of frequent, intimate contact with many others has not been mine. Growing up among the 5,000 or so souls in Alexandria, Indiana had its similarities, but we were not bonded by shared purposes, traditions, and genetics. We were a loose collection of families and individuals who shared a common marketplace and a school system. Beyond that we divided into different Christian denominations, extended families, and had no intrinsic loyalty to a lifetime with the folks in town.

The Christian ministry experience is more complicated and I don’t want to go into much depth about it here, but the rise of Protestantism enhanced individualist tendencies as it clambered out of Catholicism in tune with the Enlightenment. Being, say, a Presbyterian is not the same (tribally) as being even a Catholic, and it’s very far from being a Jew or a Muslim.

Beyond those two, a small town childhood and the odd life of an ordained clergy, I’ve followed the path of developing my potential, getting analysis for my psyche’s troubles, and eschewing joining. Love of family and of my Woolly friends, though both dear to me, is not a tribal experience. And, they’ve been enough. More than enough, satisfying.

But. My first taste of tribalism’s benefits came in the year after 9/11, when my ignorance of Islam came into sharp relief. I read the Koran, the whole thing, over Ramadan, fasting during the day and reading it in the segments suggested. I read a lot of other things, too. Volumes of history. Poetry. Works by famous Muslim scholars. Lots of reading. What was the caliphate? What were the five pillars? How did Islam grow and spread so rapidly?

After attending a three day conference on Islam at the University of Minnesota, I went to a break the Ramadan fast event at Dar Al-Farooq mosque near the U. The congregants welcomed me warmly. I sat against the back wall as the men prayed. The women were downstairs. A small boy came over to me, smiled, sat in my lap, and asked, “Are you a kafir?” An unbeliever? Yes, I said. I was. His eyes got big.

The meal was good, eaten on the same floor where the prayers had been offered, covered in clear plastic sheeting. Afterward a group of men talked to me, took me to a library, offered me books to take home, answered questions. It was a warm and inviting experience.

Resurrection shows the same warmth in the Kayi and Dodurga tribes. Their lives are for each other, with each other. They also fight, intrigue, and betray. But the benefits of a tribal identity and life are obvious.

At Beth Evergreen the sense of tribal identity probably doesn’t occur to most congregants. It’s just there. They know the holidays, some of the rituals, know what a b’nei mitzvah is, maybe have some knowledge of Hebrew. Islam permeates the tribal life in Resurrection, but observance is a good deal more casual in this Reconstructionist synagogue.

Think of this. When they read the Torah, it’s a book by and about their ancestors. Yes, maybe its more myth than fiat, but it’s still about the development of the Jewish world and the Jewish worldview. While eating in the Sukkah, they recapitulate a harvest festival celebrated centuries before the common era, by their ancestors, in the promised land. See that? I slipped in promised land. Well, it was promised to them, their ancestors.

On a more immediate basis the caring among members of the congregation, as expressed by the Mitzvah committee, the e-mails and phone calls we’ve gotten over Kate’s illness and mine, the connections outside of the synagogue among members, like my breakfasts with Alan for example and Kate’s time with her friend Jamie, evidence a degree of intimacy and community I never found in a Christian church. I’m sure there are some that have it, I’ve not experienced it.

In rereading this I noticed the theys and theirs in the paragraphs above. I’m not a Jew, nor do I want to become one. But, I love these people and they are my people. I’m not of them in the formal sense, however.

Instead of leaning toward individualism, I may be standing up straight, inclined toward Self and community in somewhat equal parts. That’s still not the tribal modality. In that case the collective overwhelms the individual and their needs. Not gonna be me.

And yet.

Always Something to Celebrate

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Thursday (Thanksgiving) gratefuls: Annie, who came yesterday. The snow on Tuesday. The capon that gave its life for our meal. The winds that howl through the forests this morning. Orion, faithful friend and his good dog, Canis Major. The folks who designed and built our Rav4’s, especially Ruby, whose AWD makes her surefooted. Those who care for them at Stevinson Toyota. And, on this day in particular, for all those who sustain traditions and holidays, moments out of ordinary time.

I asked brother Mark and sister Mary what Thanksgiving, a very American holiday, looks like in lands Asian and Arab. Mark said Thanksgiving probably got celebrated in Aramco compounds. Here’s Mary’s reply from Singapore:

The big hotels serve Thanksgiving dinner & it needs to be reserved way in advance; Brits have Christmas dinner which is also involves Turkey so food is authentic- with all the trimmings- here Halloween and St Patrick’s Day☘️are also widely celebrated- in addition to Asian festivals- so pretty much there is always something to celebrate

Mary has made this comment, always something to celebrate, before. When I visited Singapore for the first time in 2004, I was there the first week of November. Christmas decorations lined Orchard Road, the big commercial street. It was also U.S. election week, so the American Club had a big breakfast spread so we could watch the returns live. You know how that turned out. We weren’t celebrating. (though right now GW Bush looks like a political genius)

These paled in comparison to the Arab quarters celebration of post-fast Ramadan. We found shisha smokers lounging on the sidewalks and had a good Arab meal, probably lamb and rice, but I don’t recall.

Little India had a huge arc of lights over its main road marking the holiday of Diwali, the festival of lights, also underway. There were stalls selling sweets, Diwali lights, and Hindu related religious artifacts. I bought a Kali medallion, a Vishnu and Shiva medallion. We had a vegetarian meal in a Tamil restaurant where we ate with our hands. Our right ones.

Not sure whether it was Diwali related or not, but much later that night, in the early a.m., Mary and I went to the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, Sri Mariamman Temple, built in 1827. According to the Temple’s website the firewalking was on October 20th this year.

Due to changes in population over time it happens to sit now in the midst of Chinatown. There were lines blocks long of men in various sorts of clothing, all holding branches of some kind and, if I recall correctly, lemons or limes. At the very end of these line were a few women.

I stopped to talk with some of the women. “Oh, yes. Now we can go to the firewalking, too. But they didn’t want us. We insisted.” This was about 3 am or so. Mary and I walked along the lines of devotees waiting for their turn.

We got to the temple and watched folks walk across the bed of coals, then into a milk bath, and finally into the arms of priests and fellow firewalkers. The moist night air, the early morning quiet, and this strange (to my eyes) sight is a special memory for me. Afterward, Mary and I had Chinese food at a big hotel.

Ramadan, Diwali, Christmas, firewalking, and the American election. It was my introduction to Asia and underlines Mary’s there’s always something to celebrate.

A Bagel Table

Samain and the beautiful waning crescent Fallow Moon

Thanksgiving will have an almost equivalent waxing crescent moon. The Gratitude Moon. A month of saying my gratefuls out loud right here. At least one a day.

Grateful for Jon, Ruth, Gabe. Grateful for Kate. Grateful for Joe, Seoah. Grateful for Mary, Mark, Diane. Grateful for Rigel, Gertie, Kep, and Murdoch. Grateful for photons and lupron.

Did the bagel table with Alan. A somewhat strange experience. Folks came up and shook my hand afterward so I believe it went well overall. Rabbi Jamie and I had some dissonance, not sure why. I was on his turf, no doubt. And, I used his favorite commentator as a resource.

He is a master teacher, wonderful at drawing out insights and curiosity. I’m not. His knowledge of Hebrew, of the Midrashim (rabbinic commentary on the Torah), and of the details of each parsha are far superior to mine. He can start out with nothing in hand and get a discussion started.

His approach, especially to Torah study, has an open ended nature that he can sustain. I have a more data driven approach. In this case I wanted to focus the class on the question of Sarah’s death, and how the parsha resolves the problems of her life. To do that I dubbed every one a rabbi and asked them to sit around the table and develop a midrash aggadah (see below) on this matter.

Folks kept turning to him for answers to questions, usual since he’s the rabbi. But. It was hard to keep the conversation going on the question of why Sarah died as a result. I guess it was like trying to teach a class on quantum physics with Niels Bohr in the room. I was happy to have him there. And yet…

Made me a little less enthusiastic to do another one although I enjoyed the prep work. A lot.

Midrash Aggadah

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Made it into Evergreen going slow. Some timid Coloradans ahead. Black Mountain Drive/Brook Forest was icy, but Jeffco public works had put down a lot of sand, enough to make it safe to drive normal speeds.

To the Dandelion. A nice little breakfast place, quiet. Not as tasty as the Wildflower, which is in the touristy part of Evergreen, but the Wildflower is small and the dining area noisy. The Dandelion makes the usual suspects when it comes to breakfast and does them well, but with little imagination.

We discussed Chayei Sarah and how to approach it. I gave Alan a commentary by Zornberg’s mentor (whose name I can’t recall and Alan has her book). Forgot that commentaries are really behind the scenes props for clergy. They’re not secret, but few lay folk ever look at them. They usually require some background knowledge and they get technical pretty fast. Alan, who is a bright guy, admitted that he swam upstream while reading it.

We agreed to go with Zornberg’s approach first (see the post The Abyss Stares Back) and if we run out of conversation, Alan will hop in with what he’s learned. Gonna do a bit on exegesis and hermeneutics from the Christian perspective to introduce the Talmudic approach, midrash aggadah*. Midrash aggadah have a playful quality, making leaps, filling in gaps in the Torah narrative, and displaying a rigorous internal logic while suggesting many different ways of looking at a text.

Here’s a summary of a famous example, Abraham Smashing the Idols:

Abram tried to convince his father, Terach, of the folly of idol worship. One day, when Abram was left alone to mind the store, he took a hammer and smashed all of the idols except the largest one. He placed the hammer in the hand of the largest idol. When his father returned and asked what happened, Abram said, “The idols got into a fight, and the big one smashed all the other ones.” His father said, “Don’t be ridiculous. These idols have no life or power. They can’t do anything.” Abram replied, “Then why do you worship them?” Judaism 101

* Midrash falls into two categories.When the subject is law and religious practice ( ), it is called midrash halacha. Midrash aggadah, on the other hand, interprets biblical narrative, exploring questions of ethics or theology, or creating homilies and parables based on the text. (Aggadah means”telling”; any midrash which is not halakhic falls into this category.)

Our First Shiva Minyan

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Seven p.m. last night. Already well dark. We drove to the Staples parking lot, about 10 minutes away, and picked up Marilyn Saltzman. She got in, put Jamie and Steve’s address in her phone so she could navigate, and we drove toward Bailey on 285, turning on Richmond Hill Road, up toward Lion’s Head.

Driving in the mountains at night has a claustrophic feel, the dark closes around you, the headlights illuminate some of the road, but the curves and the dropoffs make the light useful only right in front of you. A sense of isolation creeps up, too. Without those headlights? A bit like driving in a whiteout. A blackout.

Coming home on familiar roads at night. That’s ok. We do it a lot from Evergreen and Denver and we know the roads. Jamie and Steve’s house though is hard to find in the daylight.

Marilyn navigated well. We arrived to what we thought would be a packed house, but nope. Their long driveway, asphalt, had only a few cars, all parked close to the house.

Jamie and Steve met us at the door. Steve’s brother, Arthur, died a month or so ago. Steve was unshaven, as is Orthodox custom, and he wore a Bronx sweatshirt in honor of Arthur. The shiva minyan* marks the end of mourning when mourners begin to reenter the world. A minyan, as you may know, is at least ten Jews, men only in former days, who together can say communal prayers.

Neither Kate nor I had ever been to a shiva. I expected it to be somber, but when Steve and Jamie showed us into their spacious kitchen, people were chatting in small groups, laughing, talking with friends. A fruitbowl, platters of brownies, nuts, small cupcakes, a raw vegetable plate with dip sat on the island. Marilyn had said usually folks bring food, but there had been no request in the announcement. Yet here was the food anyhow.

This is a big, big house. It has a formal dining room between the kitchen and the living room. We’ve been there for fourth of July parties and their deck, which extends from beyond the kitchen to the end of the living room outside, stretches easily fifty feet and overlooks Pikes Peak in the distance, behind a range of mountains. The living room has a two-story rock fireplace with exposed beam rafters. Big.

When we came in, Jamie asked me what Kate was doing out so late. She was partly serious. Jamie is Kate’s close friend, a quilter in the Bailey Patchworkers and a member of the Needleworkers, too. She’s taken Kate to some of her appointments, brought food, been a mensch.

Judy saw me and grabbed Leslie. We did a group hug. Judy has ovarian cancer, stage 4, and Leslie recently had a second return of her breast cancer. We knew what it meant.

“We’re waiting on the Rabbi,” somebody said. Rabbi Jamie showed up not long after. We went into the living room. Prayer books for a house of mourning, maroon paperbacks, got passed around. The minyan allows the Rabbi to lead the kaddish, or prayers for mourners. They come at the end of the evening service and he lead an abbreviated version of that service.

A lot of singing, mostly in Hebrew. Moments of private prayers. Some standing, some bowing. During the service Rabbi Jamie, in his way, spoke a bit about the tradition behind various parts of the service. His relaxed manner, his shirttail was out, and he sat on the raised stones in front of the fireplace, made the atmosphere serious, but not somber, respectful, but not formal. A difficult feat. He did it easily.

Steve and Jamie told stories about Arthur, about the kind of man he was. Steve’s niece read parts of the service. She read a poem, I don’t recall by whom. Poems in English showed up often in the service, including a favorite of mine, The Peace of Wild Things, by Wendell Berry.

We finished and went back into the kitchen, grabbed our paperplates, and, the Yiddish for it, noshed. I’ve included this short quote because it says what I felt. How I wish Methodism had had this sort of sensitivity to mourners. Our family might have turned out very differently.

The shiva minyan–because it occurs in the home, because it is composed of friends and fellow congregants–does more than remind the mourner of membership in a larger community. It creates that community–precisely where it is most needed. By physically entering the isolation of the mourner, the shiva minyan dispels it.” Rabbi Bradley Artson, My Jewish Learning

Why did Sarah die?

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Met with Alan to discuss our bagel table a week from Saturday. Dandelion. A quiet breakfast place off 74 in the northern part of Evergreen. We’re both going to come up with a plan by next Tuesday then we’ll mix and match or choose one.

I’m focused on an interesting midrashic tradition raised by Avivah Zornberg in her commentary on Genesis and the Chayei parsha. Midrash aggadah are torah interpretations by generations of rabbis.They are imaginative, clever, often surprising. The tradition is similar to the notion of hermeneutics with which I am familiar, that is the art of bringing Biblical messages into a contemporary context. I mentioned this in my post on Sunday.

Midrash aggadah are dissimilar in the tools and techniques used. And, in the results.

The midrashic tradition Zornberg mentions in the beginning of her commentary on Chayei Sarah (Gen. 23:1-25:18) began with rabbis wondering about two things: 1. The akedah, or the binding of Isaac. Jewish tradition focuses on the act of binding Isaac for his sacrifice. 2. The death of Sarah which immediately follows the akedah.

Why did Sarah die, they wondered. An interpretation rose up that the akedah was the reason for Sarah’s death, though there is no mention of a connection in the text. In one midrash Isaac returns after the akedah, tells his mother what happened, and she makes shofar like noises, then dies. In another Satan appears to her in the guise of Isaac and tells her what Abraham did. And in yet another Satan comes to Sarah and says Abraham has actually sacrificed Isaac.

From these, then, Zornberg suggests that the problem of Sarah’s life began with her period of infertility, till age 99, ended by Isaac’s birth. The relationship between her and Isaac, then, becomes the central issue for Sarah. It does not resolve, Zornberg suggests, until:

Gen. 25:67 “And Isaac brought her to the tent of Sarah his mother, and he took Rebecca, and she became his wife, and he loved her. And was comforted for (the loss) of his mother.”

This is a direction that would never occur in a Christian exegetical/hermeneutical exploration of these texts. Why? Because the Christian exegete focuses on the words as they exist and critical methodologies helping to clarify their meaning. Speculation about what happened offline so to speak is not encouraged.

This is so much fun for me. I like learning another way of coming at the Bible and I find the midrash aggadah appealing as provocateurs about life and its convolutions. A lot of wisdom in them.

Jewish and Christian Modes of Biblical Interpretation

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Went to the bagel table yesterday morning. Torah study with Rabbi Jamie. Always fun and deep. Added bonus. I got to see how he does it. It’s been awhile and I wanted to learn from his approach before Alan and I do our bagel table on November 23rd.

I told Jamie afterward, this is so different from how I was taught. And, it is. My training came from the higher criticism movement which began in 19th century Germany. It came into being over against lower criticism which used the Bible as its source of scholarship for interpretation.

If you’re familiar with the idea of proof texting, that is, using a verse or two out of context to buttress a theological argument, then you know how lower criticism proceeds. It was, in many ways, similar to the scholarship style of the medieval scholastics. The scholastics used other written texts to “prove” their arguments, rather than looking for evidence outside others thoughts.

When Francis Bacon introduced the ideas that lead to the scientific method, he changed the world of scholarship forever. Historians had to look at documents and artifacts from the time periods they were studying rather than taking Herodotus, or Tacitus, or the Bible literally at their words. Scientists looked to nature and experimentation rather than Ptolemy or alchemy. Of course the old texts were useful still, just not in the way they had been.

Higher criticism followed in that vein. No longer was the Bible seen as the inspired word of God to be revered and understood as written. That attitude is not too different from the so-called “originalist” camp in interpretation of the Constitution.

The same methods, critical methods, used by literary scholars and scientists were brought to bear on scripture. The howls of blasphemy and apostasy started then and in some conservative theological circles have never softened.

Here are the questions of higher criticism. What did the text likely mean to the author? Here’s a heretical idea. Multiple authors for not only books of the bible but even multiple authors within books. Example: the documentary hypothesis for Genesis. JEDP. The Yahwist. The Elohist. (two names for God) The Deutronomic historian. The Priestly writers. The two stories of the creation of humans, which differ significantly, are the products of two different authors.

Redaction criticism took seriously this literary criticism, but noted that somebody had to put all of those fragments together in their current form. The redactors or editors. What does it mean that the redactors of Genesis chose to put both stories in with no commentary about why?

Tradition criticism looks for evidence of rituals, cultural understandings that show how texts evolved from oral tradition into written text. Other schools of criticism look at the manuscripts of biblical books, which one is the most ancient, the closest to the source texts, and the reception that various texts have received, both within the Bible and outside it.

All of this work comes under the heading of exegesis: “a systematic process by which a person arrives at a reasonable and coherent sense of the meaning and message of a biblical passage.” Theopedia (I like this definition, but not the site.) In my training the exegetical work preceded and informed the hermeneutical task, taking that meaning and message into the contemporary context, most commonly in a sermon.

I didn’t understand until yesterday the reason Rabbi Jamie’s Torah study is so different from my training. The Christian exegete looks for the meaning, the message of a biblical passage, then propounds it. The way Rabbi Jamie does Torah study is at one and the same time more conservative and more radical than higher criticism.

It is more conservative in that it relies on the Talmud, the Midrash, the history of rabbinic interpretation of both the texts themselves and what lies within the gaps. What was Abraham like before he appears in Genesis, already seventy-five years old? Why did Sarah die after Abraham took Isaac off for sacrifice? In that sense it’s reliance on the text as written is more like lower criticism. There’s a lot of proof-texting in the Talmud.

It’s more radical in that insists on multiple interpretations of the same text, allowing, to misuse Mao, a hundred meanings to bloom. This is the crux of the difference between my training and Rabbi Jamie’s method. As the definition of exegesis implies, biblical interpreters used higher critical methods to discover the text’s meaning and therefore its message for today. The meaning. Of course there were different conclusions using the same data, just as in the Midrash, but there lurked in the background always that there was one true meaning if only it could be found.

In the Jewish tradition Rabbi Jamie follows there is no one meaning. In fact several meanings can be uncovered through the imaginative application of many unusual tools. Like gematria. The numerology of Hebrew letters. Like imagining God asking Moses to inform Aaron of his imminent death. When you add in kabbalistic interpretations, the Torah becomes a polyvalent text. Not one you can do anything you want with, but not one you can say anything definitive about either.

Right now I’m appreciating the Jewish tradition of biblical interpretation. It’s more open-ended, more down to earth often, more immediately applicable to daily life. I also appreciate higher criticism, an approach that has now gone well beyond biblical texts into texts of any kind. Can be used, for example, in challenging the “originalists” on the Supreme Court.

On November 23rd, when Alan and I do Chayei Sarah: Genesis 23:1-Genesis 25:18, I’m going to try to stay in the Jewish traditional lane. Will not be easy for me because I don’t have the encyclopedic knowledge of Hebrew and the Midrash that Jamie does. Zornberg’s commentary on the parsha in her book on Genesis, The Beginning of Desire, is giving me a lot of help. There are other resources. We’ll see how much time I have to use them.

Hózhó

Samain and the Fallow Moon

A fellow MIA docent posted a Navajo rug and it had this explanation of hózhó:

Hózhǫ́ is a foundational concept in the Navajo world, encompassing ideas of beauty, harmony, balance, order, grace, health, and happiness. It is a state of being, thinking, and acting. Navajo artists embody hózhǫ́ as they weave, and textiles are imbued with and become works of hózhǫ́.

Not a human being. No. A human becoming. Becoming with hózhó, with knowing ichi-go ichi-ge as the rich moment, with an ikigai of life as it is, not as we might want or wish it, but as it is, hózhó always. No matter what.

With wabi-sabi as a preferred way of seeing the world. Tarnished often, broken, yes. But even so a Velveteen Rabbit place. Repaired with gold where the cracks are. Walking this ancientrail of becoming which never ends. Walk along with me, friend.

Reading Zornberg on Genesis (see below), The Beginning of Desire. She found this title in a poem fragment from Wallace Stevens, his Notes Toward A Supreme Fiction:

“And not to have is the beginning of desire.
To have what is not is its ancient cycle.
It is desire at the end of winter…

It knows that what it has is what is not
And throws it away like a thing of another time…”

Sat down this morning to read Zornberg, but I printed out this poem, 23 pages long, yesterday. Thought I’d check where her fragment fit in the whole. Wallace Stevens is a giant to me though I know only a few of his poems. He hits me in a place I do not recall exists until I read him.

Anyhow an hour later I looked up. Read the whole thing. Yowzer. Let me repeat that. Yowzer.

A few lines:

The death of one god is the death of all.

Phoebus was a name for something that never could be named.

…the future casts and throws his stars around the floor

There was a myth before the myth began, Venerable and articulate and complete

The bear, the ponderous cinnamon, snarls in his mountain At summer thunder…

Stevens kept throwing in beautiful lines filled with the horror of nothingness and whether the Supreme Fiction can counter it. I’ve got to read it several more times. But, wow. This poem is something. It’s apparently considered his master work and I can see why.

Reading it reminded me that reading poetry, ancient texts, philosophy has a sustenance all its own. A castle of temporary meanings lodged in stony rooms, waiting for a visitor. Part of life now. Not what’s next. But, now.

Hózhó in this once in a lifetime moment and the next one, a wabi-sabi vision sufficient for ikigai.

Zornberg and Denes

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Brother Mark made a good observation. When remembering “my dead” yesterday, I did not include any dogs. He recalls, for example, “Vega’s woof.” I wrote him back and said, yes: Celt, Sorsha, Scott, Morgana, Tully, Tira, Orion, Tor. The Wolfhounds. Buck, Iris, Emma, Bridgit, Kona, Hilo. The Whippets. Vega. The coyote hound/IW mix.

My favorite version of the afterlife is that moment when all the dogs you’ve ever loved come up to greet you. If that could be so, I’d find eternity bearable.

Continuing to meditate, up to eleven minutes now toward a goal of twenty. And, read. First things.

This morning I read from The Human Argument, a collection of the writings of Agnes Denes. If you say, who? I understand. I’d never heard of her either until an article about her art in the Washington Post this week. This woman’s work is a stunner, combining science, mathematics, ecology, and art. I’m still not able to post pictures here (working on it), but you can see some of her work at the two links here. An important artist, IMO, but one I’d missed completely. Even the Walker has only one work by her and it’s a book. The MIA? Nothing.

Followed that with some more reading from Zornberg. Damn, this woman is so smart. And clever. The Beginning of Desire is a commentary on Genesis and its organized by parsha, the long readings required each week to get through the whole Torah in a year. The first parsha is named Bereshit since parshas take their name from the first word or phrase in the text. Bereshit is also the Hebrew name for the first book of the Bible, what I have known up till now as Genesis. Easily the best commentary I’ve ever read.

Here’s a quote from the introduction in which she talks about her method: “The aim of interpretation is, I suggest, not merely to domesticate, to familiarize an ancient book: it is also, and perhaps more importantly, to “make strangeness in certain respects stranger.”” She allows no definitive interpretation, rather she seeks a polyvalent conversation between reader and text, a dynamic reading that learns from the text and the life of the reader in dialectical tension.

Wondering now if staying immersed in Zornberg, in the world of ancient literature, the Greeks and Romans, too, might be the way forward for me. I certainly love it. Get excited.