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  • Mussar and Kabbalah and Talmud

    Beltane and the Shadow Mountain Moon

    Thursday gratefuls: Tara. Covid. Chill pills. Great Sol. Bringing the morning. Good workout. Studying Perkei Avot, Chapters of the Fathers to present in mussar today. Practicing torah portion. Reading Judaism without Tribalism by Rabbi Rami Shapiro. Wow. Finishing the third book of the Three Worlds Problem trilogy. Cooked last night.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Summerweight Comforter

    One brief shining: With a twinge of guilt I separated the one pound of lean beef into patties, hit the induction button and turned it to 8 under my Lodge cast iron skillet, waited a bit and tossed the seasoned patties on its hot metal, yes, a steer killed by proxy for me, yes, red meat with cholesterol, but oh every once in a while a burger sure tastes good.

     

    My workouts go well. I’ve figured out how to navigate cardio and resistance with my back. Can do as much as I need without having to quit. Mostly. If I do feel my hip beginning to ouch very much, I will stop, having learned that if I don’t things get worse quick. Now using oxygen in the evenings as well as at night. Waiting on a call for a new P.E.T. scan.

     

    Prepping right now for mussar class this afternoon. Perkei Avot. The Chapters of the Fathers. For example:

    Pirkei Avot 1:14

    (14) He [Rabbi Hillel] used to say: If I am not for me, who will be for me? And when I am for myself alone, what am I? And if not now, then when?

    (16) He [Rabbi Tarfon] used to say: It is not your responsibility to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.

    (1) Ben Zoma says: Who is the wise one? He who learns from all men…

    Who is the mighty one? He who conquers his impulse…

    Who is the rich one? He who is happy with his lot…

    Who is honored? He who honors the created beings…

     

    Not sure what tact I’m going to take with all this. Traditionally studied in the six weeks between Pesach and Shavuot. Passover and the giving of the torah at the foot of Mt. Sinai.

     

    Also this period includes counting the omer. I mentioned this a while back. The omer, the grains, counted between Pesach and Shavuot, are a kabbalistic ritual involving blessing the omer each night and correlating those nights with sefirot from the tree of life.

    For example, today is the gevurah of hod. Gevurah is the recognition of limits and boundaries. It is strength to enforce godly values. With its immediate counterpart, Hesed, loving kindness, Gevurah recognizes the power to enforce justice.

    But today is the gevurah of hod. Hod is humility. Taking up the right amount of space. The strength of humility, the gevurah of hod, lies in our ability to be in the world as we are, not as other people or our culture believe we should be.

    Somewhere in all this there’s some kind of lesson. Right?

     


  • Choice

    Spring and the Purim Moon

    Monday gratefuls: 9 degrees. Yet more Snow. The Dark. The Quiet. Ruth and Gabe coming up for Spring Break. Chamber Music. Inertia. Ginny and Janice. Bechira points. Kehillah. Mark still in Hafar. Exercise. The rain in K.L. Torrential. Travel. Pleasure. Guilty pleasure. Nuts. Pistachios. Salted peanuts. Alan and BBQ. Reney. Shiva.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: What’s App

    One brief shining: Said to my friends I’m done with winter but winter is not done with me and sure enough around three pm yesterday the Snow came again, hard, like rain in straight lines, the cold came too as the temperature fell into single digits making the night perfect for more Snow; in bed I felt Snow melt on my head, my window still slightly open.

     

    Open Snow and Weather5280 keep me informed. Open Snow has a handy feature that gives a Snow to date number for very specific areas. Intended for skiers tracking powder and the best Mountain conditions, it also works well for Mountain microclimates like Shadow Mountain. As of last night’s storm, we had 11 inches of new Snow bringing our running total to 136 inches for the year so far.

    Down in Denver they had blizzard warnings. Ruth and Gabe had planned to come up today and stay through Thursday. They’re on spring break. Probably not gonna happen today. Maybe tomorrow. April is their mutual birthday month with Ruth turning 18! on April 4th and Gabe 16 on April 22th. This is Ruth’s last semester of public school. College next fall.

    Beautiful, yes. I can see that. Yes, I’ve stayed too long without a break. Not the winter’s fault.

     

    Which brings me to bechira, a Hebrew word for choice, especially as choice signifies free will. Mussar tradition talks about bechira points, choice points where we can exercise free will. According to Jewish tradition they’re not as common as you might think, though they’re not rare either. A bechira point occurs when the yetzer hara, the selfish inclination, and the yetzer hatov, the good inclination conflict. That is, when we choose between a selfish course of action, one we know is not the direction we need to go, and a good choice, one that enhances our life and the lives of others. In that moment we know, are conscious of, a choice. It is that knowing, that awareness that makes it a bechira point.

    Let me give you two examples. Yesterday I had a ticket for a chamber music concert at St. Laurence Episcopal. Which is about as close to me as possible. Less than ten minutes. And I love chamber music. At 2:30, the concert was at 3:00, I looked at the Snow. I thought about parking in a small lot, being crowded into a small sanctuary. Sank back into my chair and continued watching a not very good movie.

    The night before. The Purim speil at CBE. 7 pm. I wanted to go, intended to go. But as the time approached the same concerns cropped up, parking and a crowd. Added to that night time driving. I stayed home. Again.

    In and of themselves neither choice was a big deal. It’s the pattern, the bechira point pattern, that matters. These choices reinforce my inertia, my Covid hangover fear of crowds, my I like it here where everything is comfortable tendency.

    Here’s another way to consider this. I’m making choices that make sense for this time of my life, for my vulnerability as a cancer patient, for my safety. I need to consider the valence to give these choices, don’t I? They are still bechira points. The question becomes whether they are moving me forward in my life or hindering me. Right now I’m not sure I can tell.

    Making clear and healthy decisions drives our lives forward, advancing our capacity to love ourselves and to bear the burden of the other. It is the awareness of choice points that allow us to exercise free will. Otherwise we have become habitual, conditioned, acculturated.

     

     

     

     

     


  • Not Taco Tuesday but Peopled Thursdays

    Imbolc and the Ancient Moon

    Friday gratefuls: Quiet in my body. Beauty out my window. Calmness in my soul. Great Sol brightening a Shadow Mountain Morning. A day filled with friends and family. First, Diane and all the news from San Francisco. Then Tara and her happiness in Costa Rica. Mussar. Then, Luke and Leo. Finally, Joanne. Home as Great Sol disappeared behind this spinning World.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Conversation and its power to heal, inspire, deepen

    One brief shining: Drove past the Alpine Rescue Team and its museum, over I-70 and past the County garage until the hand made sign warning of a hidden driveway, turned right onto a one lane dirt road with shoulders eroded from its steep incline, went on to a left turn, drove a bit more but not all the way up the driveway to avoid having to back down any further than I had to, got out, walked up to Joanne’s door and knocked.

     

    Thursdays have morphed into my busiest day of the week. I start the day with one of my longest relationships, Diane, my first cousin, who lives on Lucky Street. Always a good way to start the day. She’s well informed about the world and our family. A good source of practical information, too. I learned a couple of weeks ago that she makes a mean lasagna.

    For lunch I met my Hebrew teacher and friend, Tara, at the Marshdale Burger joint. We had lunch and discovered that my audiologist, Amy, has been her friend since she and Arjean moved up here over 25 years ago. Tara and Arjean came back a week or so ago from Costa Rica. She had pictures. Riding horses on the beach. Sunsets. A gated ex-pat community.

    From Marshdale I drove to CBE for mussar. We’re beginning to wrassle with the strange, yet obvious to me idea that nothing is static, everything always becomes something new. The book we’re reading challenged us with Alfred North Whitehead’s idea of God as the creative advance into novelty. Not omnipotent. Not omnipresent. Not even necessarily sentient. Rather God as the impulse toward novelty in all things, always making all things new, always and everywhere. A God who must by definition change as the creation changes, becoming new, different in each moment with each “drop of experience.” His phrase.

    Yet. Still a God in whom we can place our faith. We can hold in our lev confidence that this, too, will change and that if we work with it, we can help guide that change, maybe call it the moral arc of the universe, leading us toward justice, love, and, yes, Downtown Council of Minneapolis, compassion.

    Think of the Hebrew slaves in Egypt. Before they could leave Egypt, they had to have faith that their situation could change. If they did not have that faith, Pharaoh did not need to use power to keep them to stay. They were unable to imagine, to dream, to feel a possible future free of Egypt’s oppression.

    When this conversation finished up, Luke and Leo and I sat for an hour and caught up. Luke had planned to come up last Sunday but I had to say no after my lousy Saturday night. Luke was on his way up to Granby for a weekend at Rabbi Jamie’s place there. He had all of his art materials with him. Gonna be creative.

    At 4 I went to Joanne’s and we had the usual far-ranging, deep conversation about the world and Judaism and liberalism and the slave trade and molluscs that spit out purple in the Aegean Sea, blue in Israel, and green in South America. She’s making me a tallit, a prayer shawl, and its fringes, called tzitzit, will be of blue yarn dyed with the recently rediscovered haustellum, a species of snail (actually a different species than the Indo-Pacific murex. New data.) that created the Tyrian purple of Roman and Greek fame and tehkelet in the waters off Israel, a sky blue. The murex of South America produces a green dye. It takes 120 pounds of snails to produce one gram of dye. So, precious.

    As the sun disappeared and the always present night returned to visibility, I drove home, back up Brook Forest to Shadow Mountain.

     

     


  • The Very Deep End of the Pool

    Imbolc and the 77 Moon

    Friday gratefuls: Valentine’s Day. Alan. Joanne making me a tallit. Marilyn and all the fire. And, candles. Irv. That Cow Elk on the side of the road between two firetrucks. The smashed SUV. Mussar yesterday. Closing in on a new way of understanding the sacred. Torah study. Amber. Tom. Ellory. Wild Neighbors. Rabbi Jamie. Luke. Leo. My dreams last night. The world of dreams. Sleep last night.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: The injured Cow Elk

    One brief shining: I came up the slope from Evergreen Lake, past the Conoco Station on my left, saw flashing lights, and with the usual curiosity wondered what had happened, oh, two firetrucks angled out into the right hand lane, cars alongside none damaged, then in a flash of sorrow between the two firetrucks, a Cow Elk lying on her side, still alive, but down, and beyond the second firetruck an SUV with its hood angled up toward the windshield. Oh.

     

    At mussar Ginny started crying as she recounted seeing the injured elk. I was upset and sad, too. Rabbi Jamie offered a prayer for the Elk, for all those others involved. Wild Neighbors lives matter.

    Seeing this healthy animal struck down gutted me. Senseless death. Elk cross the road all the way from Evergreen Lake to about the turn for the Hiwan Golf Course, a distance of maybe three miles or so. Evergreen puts up road signs to watch for Elk. And often has an LED caution sign about where this accident occurred.

    We tend to speed along this stretch of highway, too. Yes, I do it. Gonna stop. The slower speeds are for the Elk. If I think about it that way…

    When I’m on my better behavior, I remind myself that it’s a privilege to need to take care for our Wild Neighbors. I recently slowed down my speed on the Mountain roads for the same reason. Complacency and familiarity breed carelessness. Can breed carelessness and has for me. We moved in on those Animals. Not the other way around. We’re responsible.

    When you consider the interconnectedness and oneness of all things, the sacred nature of all things, life becomes more and more precious. For desert Pigeons, for Camels, for Monitor Lizards and Pythons, for Elk and Mule Deer and Mountain Lions. For us, too.

     

    Here’s the new way of thinking about the sacred that’s beginning to surface for me. Whitehead’s advance into novelty puts creativity at the very core of reality and could suggest that God emerges from the becoming with each instance of creativity. I’ve always felt that a process metaphysics makes the most sense, that is a metaphysics that honors as primary the necessity of ongoing change and creation, nothing just “is”, everything is always becoming something new.

    What’s new for me about the notion of the sacred adds a filigree, well, maybe more than a filigree to the notion of creativity as the primary descriptor for the motor behind a process metaphysics. I’m thinking of adding a Jungian notion to the engine of creativity, an impulse toward individuation, a creativity that drives each instantation of its impulse toward its highest and best possibility. In this way of understanding creativity is the motor for process, yes, but the sacred adds a direction to the change, one toward the rock being as good and sound a rock as a rock can be. For a daisy to be the most functional flower for the continuation of daisies that it can be. For a Cow Elk to be the best Mother and Elk she can for the furtherance of Elks as a species. For all of the diverse realities created and decaying to work together to create the best possible Mother Earth. The best Solar System.

    No, this is not Voltaire’s Candid. This does not mean that best of all possible worlds will emerge. It does mean that even war and climate devastation could work to further the creation of the best of all possible worlds. But might not either.

     

     

     


  • The Fortress of Solitude

    Imbolc and the Cold Moon

    Thursday gratefuls: Ackerman Furniture. My couch now back home with its William Morris designed fabric. The two guys who moved it out, then back in. A finished downstairs. Mostly. Rabbi Jamie. Leo. Luke. Moses and the burning bush. Fire. A mystery. Water.  Air. Earth. Elementals. Fountain Barbecue. Ribs. Mac and cheese. Baked beans with jalapenos. Bolognese Sauce. The Cold Moon.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Revelation

    One brief shining: Went into the synagogue, kippah in place, and there was Leo, wagging his tail and greeting me, I said hi to the other humans of course but Leo had my attention being my occasional buddy.

     

    Busy morning. Up a bit late, on with Diane, then a workout. After I waited on the Ackerman folks to return my couch. When it got here, I felt relief. It did go ok with the painting. If it hadn’t, well, I would have sucked it up and waited until it did. Not gonna repeat that journey. Too expensive.

    Left for mussar in Evergreen when they left. An hour and a half discussing fire, what it is, how it can be a metaphor, how it can be a metaphor for God. Or, as I prefer, a metaphor for the godliness in each of us. That is, how we each burn with the flame of sacred desire, of passion for truth and justice, of purity and cleansing. Of knowledge and insight. Of life itself.

    My solitude beckoned right after though. I needed to get home, back to Shadow Mountain. It was 55 in Evergreen, 46 here when I got home. Snow has melted back off the roads, off my driveway, cleared from my solar panels. In true Colorado fashion we may get 8 inches of new Snow tomorrow night and Saturday.

    Human interaction, deep and meaningful, grabs me, holds me while I’m in it. Afterward though. Whew. My every pore turns toward not only solitude, but solitude at home. That balance is a delicate one, one I can overshoot more on the interaction side than the solitude side. Oh, yes. Friends, classes. Oh, even more yes. This place. This Mountain. My home.

     

    Swifties. MAGA crazies. The NFL. The Kelce brothers. Travis and Taylor. Her Era tour. His Superbowl. Gosh.

    Not to mention. How about them Houthi’s? Screwing up shipping, playing the short, short game for their fans in Iran. What if the U.S. decided to land on you with both boots? Uh-oh.

    Course it wouldn’t be an election season in 2024 without the many trials of the Yellow-Haired Hercules. Can he clean out the Aegean stables of fraud uncovered in New York? Can he tame the Nemean Lion of a Supreme Court that could bounce him from the presidency? Will he destroy the many headed Hydra of prosecutors after him for meddling in elections? When will he pay his struck by Aphrodite in the dressing room price, $83 million dollars worth?

    The election, the most important election in our history, with two candidates nobody wants. Oh, it’s so good to be an American.


  • Expectations

    Winter and the Cold Moon

    Sunday gratefuls: Alan and Cheri. Joanne. Denver. Downtown living. Down the hill living. Shadow Mountain home. Domo. Buckhorn. Sushi Den. Jerusalem. Ali Baba. The Bistro. The Fort. Bread Lounge. Angry Chicken. Katsu Ramen. Fountain Barbecue. Restaurants. Meals out with family and friends. Chamber music. Charlie Parker. Thelonius Monk. Herbie Mann. Dave Clark Five. Dazzle.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Shabbat

    One brief shining: Bought a weighted blanket last summer and in these now cold winter nights it’s part of the layered system that keeps me warm; some mornings of late I’ve taken to enjoying not sleeping in but lying in, wrapped in those layers and happy with my head in the cold, just right, wondering why it all felt so good and I realized the other day it was the embrace of that weighted blanket.

     

    One of the reasons I’ve taken to these occasional surrender moments, to being awake but staying in bed, is the time it gives me to think. To ponder without distraction. I can follow a thought down an ancientrail and back again. This morning the notion of expectations had me going.

    Over the last couple of weeks in mussar we’ve been discussing an example given by Rabbi Toba Spitzer in her book, God is Here. Which I highly recommend, btw. Her example comes from a silent retreat, an annual event for her. She sits down to lunch, imagining the taste of the food, enjoying the view, settling in for a pleasant lunch. A man sits down near her and begins to eat an Apple. Each bite explodes in her ear. She’s completely thrown off the wonderful lunch she’d imagined. She ends up with a ruined lunch. The obvious culprit here is her expectation of how her lunch would go. As long as she held onto the quiet, contemplative meal, she experienced torment from the Apple eater.

    Taking the learning here. Expectations can sabotage our experience. Bad expectations. Bad. Down expectations.

    Then I began to wonder. What are expectations? The shorthand we use so we can navigate our day. Cars will stop at stop signs. Eating two eggs, bacon, and home fries will not only taste good, but satisfy my hunger. Leo will make me happy when he comes to stay. The stove will turn on. Expectations help us by routinizing parts of our lives. So we’re not always thinking through what’s going to happen next.

    Then it hit me. Expectations are the mental habit behind curiosity. Not obvious, right? Why? Because when something happens that defies or upsets our expectations, we have two choices. Choice one. Do our best to return our experience to its anticipated path. Which makes sense if the stove won’t turn on or we decide to wait out the guy who just ran the stop sign.

    But even in those mundane instances we have to stop and consider the second choice. Why? Why won’t the stove turn on? Why did that guy run the stop sign? In these cases the answers will probably not rock our world.

    However. Imagine that you assumed the earth was the center of the universe and you expected the data from your telescope would confirm that. Or on a less exalted plain. Traffic had caused me to stop beside three large Willow Trees. I looked at them, all gnarly and twisted, thick, old. Then I thought. Wait a minute. These are Willows. There’s no creek here. What’s going on? I’ve never seen Willows up here except by a stream. I don’t know the answer. But I’d like to.

    Here’s the aha. Curiosity arises when something breaches our expectations. Why did she say that? What’s going on with my dog? Why is she limping? Why has the climate begun to change? What would happen if I put this and this together rather than that and that? Does the Apple eater have to ruin my lunch?

    What this suggests to me. Greet breaches of your expectations with wonder. With awe. Because the world and your experience has given you a chance to learn something new.


  • Choose

    Winter and the Cold Moon

    Friday gratefuls: TGIF. Ha. No hump day, no Friday as the last day of work. Just life. Sleeping in. Perfect sleeping weather. A good and difficult day yesterday. Luke. Leo. Anne. Gracie. My Roger. Mindy. Rabbi Jamie. The classical texts of Judaism. Including the rabbinic codes. Those two Does in the road. Driving Mountain roads. Alan and Joan. Dandelion. My son and Seoah. Sick. Murdoch’s ok.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Korea

    One brief shining: There is an exquisite pain knowing your child has run a fever over a hundred for three days in a row yet lives 9000 miles from your front door, a squeezing of the lev that makes the body want to find cold wash clothes, advil, blankets, maybe even stuffed toys though you know he is long now a man, it is the pain of belonging and longing, one for which there is no pill, just that moment when you send your body, by astral projection, to his sickbed.

     

    Now Seoah, too. We miss and love you they write, explaining symptoms. My son’s fever has broken and he took Murdoch out for some fresh air. I asked Seoah to give him a hug for me. He wrote that he got it. Now I’ll have to send the same request to him for her. Family, close close family. Joy. Concern. Love.

     

    Meanwhile I’m over reading signals. Coloring my soul a pastel purple. Do those crossed arms mean he’s annoyed with me? Why does he want to wait until he sees how his next two month’s money does? I didn’t want to leave the house yesterday. Felt like ducking mussar and the Rabbi Jamie time.

    Two reasons. Monday was so cold that I chose not to go upstairs and workout before a one p.m. doctor’s appointment. That meant I had to workout on Wednesday and Thursday and Saturday to get my 150 minutes in. I felt bad about that choice. So I already had a one down feeling about myself. Not terrible, knew I could have chosen differently and I didn’t.

    Then on Thursday morning I pushed myself to get my workout in. Can’t miss because of Monday. I wanted to do thirty minutes. As I wrote yesterday though, my back nixed that plan. That meant I was not only behind on my minutes for the week, but that I had a possible barrier to my next workout in my back pain. It also meant that my back was not going to go gentle into that good night but would rage, rage, rage against the moving of the feet. Which in turn meant that my vain hope for a less restrictive travel barrier was that, a vain hope.

    The two together made me want to stay home and favor my psychic and physical upset. I chose not to. However, when I first got to the synagogue I carried that bruised, purple sense of self with me. I sought out and found further evidence that I was somehow doing it wrong. I spoke over someone. My comment landed flat. I felt distanced from the group like the Jews distanced themselves from the pillar of smoke. That was the day’s topic.

    Then I realized I was no longer concerned about my back. It was quiet. And, I had chosen to exercise. And, to come to mussar. The tint in my sense of self faded from purple to a dull yellow not far from the vibrant yellow of joy. Choices. Eh?


  • Faith

    Winter and the Winter Solstice Moon

    Wednesday gratefuls: Marilyn and Irv. Tara. The dark. Gradualism. Getting things done, slowly. Surrender. Emunah. Faith. The Jewish Way. Mussar. Torah. Shabbat. Holidays. Zen. Taoism. Easy Entrees. Kavanah for 2025. Choosing a way forward. Including surrender. On signs and portents. Trash day delay. Mark, mail carrier. Ana and Lita, housecleaners. Vince, handyman and Snow plower. Helping me live independently.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Surrender

    One brief shining: Opening my arms and leaning back, letting 2025 come at me with all its got while I smile and wait knowing this next year is the one I’ve been waiting for, the one when magical and miraculous things will happen, when love will be the only thing left, when I will once again live as I’m meant to with human and wild, life and death, intellect and ignorance.

     

    I could explain it with cognitive bias. Or whatever it’s called when you have something front of mind and you keep seeing references to it in newspapers, books, hear it come into conversation, happen upon a magazine article that features it. But I won’t.  Let me give an example. Long ago I bought an Anne Rice book featuring angels. This maven of the vampire world decided to write a book about goodness instead of evil, I guess. I liked Lestat and the Mayfair witches so I’d give it a go. It was on my Kindle and I never got around to it.

    This week I picked it up. It has, in the beginning, a heavily Roman Catholic emphasis and if you know Anne Rice that won’t surprise you. What surprised me was the main story line about Jews in thirteenth century England. It would have been a curiosity to me when I bought the book, now it has existential meaning. This is not a great book by any means, though an offhand comment by Fluria, a bright and capable Jewish woman, struck me. She spoke about Jews in Oxford being harassed, their homes burned, “It spreads like a plague,” she said, worrying about her community in Norwich. Oh, just like Israel v. Hamas affects Jewish life in the U.S.

    My inner life has taken a new direction and my mind reinforces it whenever it can. Yes. But why did I pick up the book now? Why did my decision to convert coincide with the Israel Hamas tragedy? I chose emunah, faith, as my mussar evening long before I chose to convert. Now it challenges me, as I wanted it to, in a way much different to what I intended. How did it happen that I would have a bar mitzvah?

    I’m choosing to surrender to the notion that cognitive bias works in mysterious ways its wonders to perform. That my new, dare I call it faith, in a Jewish life comforts and supports me, gives me confidence that my life will grow in purpose and love. That’s what my conversion meant. For me, Judaism evokes faith in a grounded experience, one rooted in the soil of Mother Earth and in the souls of my sacred community, nourished by compost from a rich and varied tradition.

     

     

     

     

     


  • Call Me When You Get It

    Samain and the Choice Moon

    Friday gratefuls: Good sleep. Laying around. Hanukah. Lighting my first candles as a Jew. Toba Spitzer. Mordecai Kaplan. Metaphor. God is Here. Mussar. Holimonth. Advent. Posada. The darkness. My inner Shadow Mountain. Tara’s cute new puppy. Kippur. Leo. Kepler of blessed memory. Rigel of blessed memory. Kate of blessed memory. A pinch of dysthymia. Oversleeping. Winds knocking over my trash can. Weather on the way. Cold and Snow. Rich. Diane. Tom. My son and Seoah and Murdoch.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Leo

    One brief shining: The cloud as metaphor sitting in Evergreen, Colorado, talking to Rabbi Toba Spitzer in Newton, Massachusetts, while others dotted the screen from Lakewood, Georgetown, Conifer who was the live audience, us around the table in Beth Evergreen or the individuals in the cloud, or were we all simply in the Cloud alive to ourselves but bits and bytes elsewhere? The multiparity?

     

    Not sure what’s going on with me right now, but I’ve slept in a lot this week. Over two hours this morning. Post-conversion dysthymia? That old melancholy coming up the chimney from its shack on my inner Shadow Mountain? Have felt slightly off for a few days. Negative thoughts showing up, not staying, not affecting my mood for long. Thanks to the how do I feel exercise Tal taught us. Yet they keep returning and oversleeping usually means a disturbance in the inner world.

     

    When I drove back from p.t. yesterday though. Mary discharged me. Good work on the back and I now have the exercise tools to manage it, know when to ask for help if it flares again. Prior to seeing Mary we had the Zoom which included Rabbi Toba Spitzer answering questions about her book, God is Here. Loved her. A great mind working at the frontiers of religious thought.

    Coming back up Brook Forest Drive I felt good. Reminded myself that people, people are good. I need people on line and in person regularly. Patted myself on the back for attending mussar, seeing Mary. Having meaningful connections in both places. Told Mary when she said something about her boyfriend that he was lucky, somebody out there needed her in their life, glad to know she’d found someone.

     

    Janet and I had an interesting post-mussar conversation. She said the only way to find God is through meditation. She’s a Jewbu. A Jewish Buddhist. And a very bright lady.

    Well, god is a universal idea so how can you be sure if the one you find in meditation is the One? Don’t we need each other for that sort of connection? She agreed we need the sangha, the synagogue.

     

    I don’t think the only way to connect with the sacred is to go in. As most of you know. Though it’s a sound way. I find the sacred right out there on the surface of things. The Lodgepole. Janet. Black Mountain. Mary. Leo. Electricity. Computers. Darkness. Daytime.

    Rich and I had a disagreement about this on Wednesday night. He wanted to preserve the particularity of Judaism, that its holy places in Israel, for example, were special. I asked him what Judaism points to.

    I agree with his appreciation and love for the particularities of Judaism, its holy places, rituals, people. Otherwise I would not have converted. Yet. I also want to preserve the idea that we do not need the rock on which Abraham would have sacrificed Isaac, or the Western Wall, or Mt. Sinai, or even the Torah to find our way to the sacred, to recognize our inescapable linkage to and with it.

    Here’s a poem that Tom offered this morning that says what I’m saying. By David Budbill

     

    The Three Goals
    The first goal is to see the thing in itself
    in and for itself, to see it simply and clearly
    for what it is.
    No symbolism, please.

    The second goal is to see each individual thing
    as unified, as one, with all the other
    ten thousand things.
    In this regard, a little wine helps a lot.

    The third goal is to grasp the first and the second goals,
    to see the universal in the particular,
    simultaneously.
    Regarding this one, call me when you get it.

     

     


  • Post Conversion Let Down

    Samain and the Choice Moon

    Wednesday gratefuls: Leo. Doggy presence. Luke in Florida. Tom in Atlanta. Paul’s birthday. 77. Whoa. He old. Great Sol brightening a Shadow Mountain morning. Last warm day for a while. Snow coming. Over spending on Snow tires. For safety. Giving myself the best odds. Living high. Colorado. The Rockies. The Himalayas. The Appalachians. The Smokies. The Atlas. The Alps. The Dolomites.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Mountains

    One brief shining: Leo lies on my rug, legs sprawled out, head down, sleeping or resting, while I sit here typing, hitting key after key with the automatic movements learned first in typing at Alexandria-Monroe High School, perhaps the class I’ve used the most in terms of daily activity, odd to contemplate though paws on the keyboard, a million dogs would not produce the Britannica.

     

    I slept in this morning. On purpose. Because I liked the feel. An oddity for me, yes, but fun in a I don’t have to so I won’t sorta way. Bright eyed and bushy tailed. Ever hear that one? Don’t think I’ve felt that way since I hit 70. Awake and alert, ready to go about the day, yes, but bushy tailed? Can’t recall the day. Maybe a feeling reserved for the get up and go ages of the twenties and thirties?

     

    MVP tonight. Rabbi Jamie on trust/compassion with the metaphor of rock. This small group at CBE supercharges my month. We’ve been meeting for years now, lost two members to death: Judy and Kate, and have gotten as close as a group can get. Figuring what I can make since we always bring food.

     

    So. An odd, kind of silly deal with my Snow tires. Jesus told me two of my Blizzaks were at 4 mm tread. I knew it, too. I took them back last year when a tech said they could go a little further. Nope. So Jesus offered me a deal. Salvation for two Blizzaks. I don’t know how they get away with that name even in Latino circles. Too many jokes, I’d think. Anyhow. He would give me a deal on two new ones. But. I’d have to leave the car until 1:30 pm. This was at 9:30 am. Nope. Put’em on.

    Drove home, ordered two new Blizzaks from Tire Rack.com. About $20 more than what Jesus had offered. Shoot. Going to big O in Evergreen on Friday to have them put on. I know. But I brought this on myself. Having good tread and good winter tires for Mountain roads? Perhaps not necessary, but prudent. And damned if I don’t have a real strong prudent streak. Always surprises me, too.

     

    Post conversion let down. Had such a buzz going the last month or so. Getting ready, making schedules, preparing myself for transformation. A peak on Tuesday in the mikvah. Slowly. Like air going out of a balloon. Life deflates. Not depressing, but a daily normal state over against a time of heightened anticipation, excitement. Maybe like the time after opening presents on Christmas morning. Gathering energy for the long haul now, a Jewish life until death.

    Although. I do have an inner calmness now. As if some vibratory mechanism in my inner world got turned off. That is the opposite of an excited state and I’m still getting used to it. Feels like I have enough time now, as if the future has gone quiet, not clamoring for a piece of me right now.

    Changes.