jeudi, mars 31, 2005

growing up

So here I go, encroaching on my life a year older...
it's interesting to realize that I've learned new things about people. The innate desire in me to just be naively trusting and giving to people has been squashed a lot lately and I'm trying to figure out how to settle into some kind of balance.

As I look at what I've done in my five years here creating and being the executive director of kulaNU I'm astonished actually at how much I accomplished. I don't really think that anyone else can appreciate all I've done here and I know that between me the the Powers That Be, that the honest truth is amazing. For the rest of the world, I rarely tout what I've done or how I've managed it. I prefer instead to let things sit quietly and simply be as they are. So asking me how good I am, is a weird question. I'm by nature inclined to say okay. I know though internally that no average person could have done what I did with this community and with this group. I know that my innate understanding of what it takes to build a community and to do fundraising is special. It's all the stuff I know about people and sensitivities to what people think that makes my efforts work where others were unable to succeed.

Anyway, I spend a lot of time these days wondering just how much of oneself one should share with other people and how one decides what one does and how one does it. I used to have an email list that I wrote to, because I trusted thepeople on the email list to love me and I felt that they could hear what I wrote and do their own thing. It was hard to find that people didn't treat what I wrote with the sort of respect that I'd hoped they would. Of course, one cannot blanket condemn them. Only a handful treated my discourse carelessly. I stopped writing to that list of people, though a part of me wants to very much, because I like people to know how I am and to know that I think of them and want them to stay in touch with me. I just am not exactly sure how to do this though in a way that allows me to feel comfortable and that accounts for various people's personalities...

any thoughts?

a story that a friend sent me... I wonder if it's true and if it is.. I kind of like it, but I'm not sure why

Found on

One Night in Jerusalem
Filed under: General— Dave L. @ 3:59 pm
Last night I attended a wedding in Jerusalem. The groom, an Australian
friend of mine who I met here in Israel, married an American, giving
the wedding an American-Australian flavor (actually, the Australian
flavor was more pronounced, especially with the groom donning an
Australian Rules Football guernsey and guests kicking around a
football). This is one of the great things about Israel: because you
have Jews from so many different countries and backgrounds, weddings
have their own unique flavor, as they incorporate different customs
from different countries.

But this post is not really about this particular wedding, or weddings
in Israel in general. It is about what happened to me after the
wedding, and what this says about Israel and Israelis.

I leave the wedding at around 11:30pm, and make my way to my car. Now
I should probably explain how my car's security works. On my keyring,
I have two separate "controls": one contains a button for activating
the alarm/locking the car and disactivating the alarm/unlocking the
car; the other contains buttons for locking and unlocking the doors,
independent of the alarm. In addition, there is a keypad inside the
car, for inputting a code to enable ignition.

As I approach my car, I press the button for disactivating the alarm.



I press again.

Still nothing.

This is weird. This has not happened to me before.

And yet again.

What's going on here?

Now panic starts to creep in. Here I am, in the outskirts of Jerusalem, at 11:30 at night, far from home, and I can't even get into my bloody car. Or can I?

I have an idea. I press the button for unlocking the car, and a familar sound breaks the night's silence. The car is unlocked. Unfortunately, a second later, a much more audible sound is heard. The alarm!!

Other departing guests stare at me, some guy in a car, with the alarm blaring, who, in their mind, may not even own it. Although I suspect my skullcap probably gives away the fact that I am no car thief.

I enter the car and sit down. The alarm stops after about 10 seconds.

Now what? Hey, wait, I have another idea.

I enter my code and start the engine. Phew! The engine starts.

So does the alarm.


So I am faced with a choice. I can, theoretically, drive home, but with the alarm blaring the whole time (I live about 30-45 minutes away). Of course, that would not only be annoying to me and all other drivers, but would probably result in me being stopped by the police. Or I can try to deal with this now.

I decide to drive. I am tired, and it is late. I drive down the road, to a more remote area, but then stop, realizing that this is not a good move. I need to somehow deal with this situation now.

As I am contemplating my next move, a bald-headed, tough looking guy knocks on my window. I open the door. He asks me, in Hebrew, what the problem is.

I cannot disable the alarm.

Is this your car?

Well, it's my company car. The company leases it for me.

Give me your keys and I'll see what I can do.

Now, in most other countries, I would never just hand my car keys to some strange, tough looking guy in the middle of nowhere. I would be too afraid. But in Israel, I feel differently. Crime is certainly lower than in most places, and I am used to Israelis bending over
backwards to help someone in distress. So I hand over my keys without blinking.

The man takes my keys and starts playing with the button to deactivate the alarm. He is no more successful than I was. He then asks me to open the car bonnet. I ask him:

Do you think you can disable the alarm?

Well, I have stolen a few cars before.



So here I am, having given over my car keys to a man with experience in stealing cars. Yet I am not overly concerned that he will pull a knife on me and steal mine.

The man tries to see what he is doing in the pitch black, but has no success. So he asks if I have a number for the car leasing company. I retrieve it from the glove box.

Can you also give me your phone?

I oblige.

Now the man not only has my car keys, but also my phone.

He dials the number and requests that a service van be sent to assist me. He patiently describes the problem, and informs the woman on the other end our exact location. He then hands back my phone and keys, and asks if I have a cigarette.

No, sorry. But if you find one, I wouldn't mind one either.

The man laughs, wishes me luck, and disappears into the darkness.

Approximately 45 minutes later, the service van arrives. I go over to the technician, explain the problem, and he proceeds to replace the battery in the control. The old one was flat (have they heard of providing spare batteries with their rental cars?!)

As you can see, the story had a happy ending. Sure, I am extremely tired today, and somewhat peeved that I was delayed by 1 hour because of a flat battery in the car alarm control. But the point of the story is to give you an insight into a great feature of life in Israel: complete strangers are willing to bend over backwards for you, and, consequently, you are willing to place your trust in complete strangers. And while this is not unique to Israel, I believe it is certainly more prevalent here than in any other place I have ever lived or visited.

mardi, mars 22, 2005

a kipling quote to live by...

"If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools"

... oh, so true. And oh, so true for me. So, I'm devoting a great amount of time to studying anger. My own anger.

I read HaRav Amital shlita's essay on Humanity. People, no matter how righteous or how strong the leader, have a right to feel their feelings. Read the essay yourself if you want to know more. It's on the vbm website.

I went to go see "The Upside of Anger" in the theater on Saturday night. I saw the kind of person anger can make one woman and enjoyed a great theatrical peformance. I remembered that this is not the kindof person I want to be or become.

I read Mitch Albom's book _The Five People You Meet in Heaven_ on Monday. I thought about his points, which were as follows: 1) a human is never alone and that time one soends thinking one is alone is the only time you waste while alive; 2) love, even lost love, is always with you and a part of you in your memories; 3) sacrifice is the root of hope and optimism -that rather than regretting sacrifices one has made, one should aspire to be able to hold those opportunities to inspire others; 4) Life's pain comes from hurt and anger. Be angry, feel the anger, know why you feel angry, then forgive and let go. Know that you never know the whole story and that anger can turn you into someone who you don't want to be; 5) You are always exactly where you are supposed to be, doing what you are supposed to be doing, because this is the way the world works.. a huge tapestry of people interconnected and interwoven in the most inane and subtle ways. These felt like a number of truths to me.

I read an article by Lauren Slater about life's futures. That today may suck, but tomorrow can never be predicted.

I looked at an interesting painting depicting a soldier's body lying dead in the foreground. The majority of the painting focused on a mortar ripping the ground and painting the sky with mud and fire, while the sun rose off to the side. The painting was ironically entitled "Bright Future." I thought about the movie "Adjusting Sights" and remembered how strikingly it touched me with how precious life is and how precious other people are to us.

I've learned in this weekend all sorts of things I always knew, but needed to remember just now at this precise moment... and so relearned.


It seems fitting now to me that I've learned to build instruments in the course of my work. Unlike others who have the same title, I have learned how to cobble pieces of metal and bits of wire with "worn-out tools" --but I've also learned to cobble people, resources, and money together with my own self -a "worn-out tool" too. In finding my own worth as a graduate student, as an executive director, and as a dedicated volunteer, I have found that I know how good I am, but have always been afraid to tell others in cse I might draw jealousy or rage. Recently, I learned that in not confessing my own confidence that I've drawn to me a smothering influence which threatened to destroy me. As I learn the middle road now and learn to guard against the highwaymen, I find that this Kipling quote is a good model for life... and for that bright future. I've got to thank MIchael for introducing me to this quote. It's a good one to live by.

I cannot stop bad things from happening. I cannot deny the hurt and anger those events bring, but I can keep myself from becoming a bitter and twisted person. I *can* get back up and put my masterpieces back together again -even with the simple, old tools I have on hand.

mardi, mars 08, 2005

communicating oneself

There is inherently such a deep and almost terrifying inability to express oneself truly to another human. So often I encounter someone who just wishes that another person could see them in thei entirety... the complete piece of art. Rather like writing and art, the creation of the thing is important as an act in itself and then the absorption by the reader/viewer is a different act quite separate from the creative process. People are rarely able to see and to understand what another person wrote , emant or thinks no matter what you write or how well you write it. I for one often write as if I'm delivering a novel or a story. Others write in a very concise and pointblank nothing but a particular level of facts is presented. Still others present writing as a means of simply conveying information, without any attention to details or notices regarding what the experience is of taking in a certain experience. Sharing the totality of who I am with someone else, but not just not having the words to do so... rather that no words could do so. I look at my life and see how many layers there are... and I wonder if there are so many layers to all the other people I meet and see. The human experience is so vast that it is really unfathomable what another human experiences or goes through in their lives.

Take this for example: If I were to talk about eating lunch, while it is a universal experience, we would also see that each person thinks about food in a different way. Most of my friends accept that eating a meal for me is a primarily social activity. I eat well if I've got company and eat a mousey amount if I'm trying to work or read at the same time. I clean my apartment obsessively, when I've a roommate and barely clean at all when I live alone. Sigh. Amanda, you've got to move back! :) So it's been mentioned to me many a time that I shouldn't care much at all what other peoplethink and be rather the best company for myself.. I find that this is generally true.. I do rather prefer my own company best of all, but then if I keep my own company I need certain things to be available and easy to do.

At first glance this seems rather inane. I'm a silly cat who likes human company to motivate me to do things. perhaps I feel some lack when others aren't around. It might make more sense to clean obessively when others are not around... so as to make there be more order in the world and feel better about being alone. Now, here's a question... do these actions and comments communicate more than one's inclination to clean, move, or whatever?

People often say "you should just know that about me" and assume that communication comes through more than just plain verbalizations. Yet so much can be done with verbalizations. I know that it is possible to soothe another person's heart by teling them that they are loved. In subtle ways, it can make them feel more willing to be kinder to themselves. words are so powerful, but they are still so limited and limiting. It is then, so much more important to realize that walking the songlines for ones life one shares bits and pieces but never can share the whole thing. so one has to begin at an early age filtering what people can hear, read, or know... but many of us never learn that. Myself included, beause other people won't know what we think a word means or how its connotations are... or even our intentions in writing what we write or saying what we say.

Joining another human -be it in a friendship, in a relationship, in a marriage- there is so much inexpressable stuff there. We grasp at this idea of the soulmate in our hopes that we can find someone who will transcend our human limitations and know so much more about us. Perhaps we fool ourselves a little bit... and perhaps we do silly things, because we want to reach that utopian connection with another being. Likely, we end up learning over time our own selves and maybe the key is that over time we learn to be our own connection between the hiddden to the revealed self. Perhaps the best and most effective communication is when a person can communicate and do the right thing for his own internal needs and desires.