jeudi, octobre 27, 2005

wow, so much has happened over the past few weeks...

How do I begin to relate my thoughts of the past week. I suppose there are primarily three topics that I want to touch upon.
1) women and torah reading, my personal quandry
2) reflections on yehuda as the yahrtzeit draws near
3) trekking 'round, lessons and thoughts from my wanderings during sukkot

In true cat-fashion, we will go in reverse order now... beginnning with topic three...

Sukkot is a time of change according to most religious leaders. they all prattle on about how it is timme to dedicate oneself to doing something about change. I think that probably evolved out of some frustrated rabbi's need to get his community moving back onto the derekh. Sometimes people can be so incredibly stubborn and cling to things which are old --refusing to renew themselves and refusing to grow. Sometimes they don't even know about their own stubborn refusal, it is so deeply imbedded within other things -desire to get innto grad school, desire to get out of grad school, desire to move from one city to another, desire for a different job, desire for a wife, desire for a spouse, etc.- that the person cannot even tell where he or she has lost the core things that direct him or herself along the path that matters to him or her.

Sometimes, I suspect the chagim interfere with out lives so much so that we are forced to take an accounting of who we are and where we are.

Over the past two weeks, I have watched friends raising their children and reflected on their efforts as well as the children themselves. The children, for example, there are the ones who push and push their parents to the brink of distraction -and i recall those wise words of one parent to his son... saying a your children will give back to you the worry and anguish you gave to me... (this makes me worry about my children, oy! and boy do I regret how much I made my mother and father worry! Do I have it coming to me someday?! Yipes.) ... There are the ones who get out of bed, when they are supposed to be asleep. The ones over whom parents fret to themselves, thinking, is she eating enough? The ones who pull pranks in a mischevious manner and tease their parents. Children who need boundaries, who need to be pushed lest they think they can act willy-nilly without thinking of anyone else. It's amazing to me to see how each child grows and develops. Shoshanah was telling me how amazing it must be to have a new life growing within one's own body. I cannot help but marvel at what amazing creation humans are. How HaBorei (the Creator) chose to make us all as we are... that a woman can bear a child and feel the sensation of a new life growing within her body... that a man finds himself creating with a woman this new life and if one is so blessed one life after another life... I know a lot of people who obsess over how lonely they are. I know a lot of people who talk about how they want children. I wonder often if those people have short-sightedness beyond description in that they do not really see how having a partner means a tremendous amount of responsibility --to the other person's feelings, thoughts, needs, desires, and a tremendous amount of responsibility to the growth annd development of another human being -to whom they will sacrifice so much of their own needs, wants, hopes, and lives... Are people who are just lonely and wanting to move already into the next phase of life really aware that they are not going to find succor for their loneliness? Another human is no salve for lonliness.

Truly happy is the person who has peace within him or herself.

That said, I find each person hashes out his or her own burdens throughout his or her life.. let me explain in slightly better detail. For example, consider a fictitious character Plonit bat Foofoo v'Bumbum. Foofoo is (besdes another fictitious character) a controlling woman with boundary problems and issues regarding her own self-esteem. Bumbum is (also another fictitious character and) a recalcitrant and selfish, perhaps even abusive, womanizer. Bumbum nnever had much of a habit of talking and his tendencies were to boost his own ego, make himself seem more important and grand --too take offensive more often for his own honor than for Hashem's honor... He was hardly an ideal father, but as with any person, he was hardly all bad. He had good traits, taught and valued hardworking effort and core traits of honesty, intelligence, creativity, --and as a result nurtured in his children those things which can be encouraged through education and teaching from books. His faults were that he was so inwardly displeased with himself that he had to push others down and to keep chinging things around so he was always the top dog. Hitting his children was a means of putting them in his place.. not just a power boost to establish his sense of how people depended on him and his own strength, it was also a means to assert his authority - a illogical means to proove that he deserved more, but wasn't getting what he deserved. He could assure himself that he was doing what was right by showing how others were not as good. Foofoo had been attracted to both Bumbum's show of strength and his show of weakness, like many women who love and admire both the vulnerabilities and the strengths of their mates. She had no idea of course that it would become the horrid life it became when she agreed to marry him. Her own difficulties were with self-esteem, too. She struggled to keep herself afloat as her life revolved around raising her children. Her own sense of self was eroded by her husband's disrespectful stance. Though she had a job, she found it gave her little strength and independence since her husband always belittled what she did. No matter how hardworking she was, nor how much she gave to her work, she earned no recognition from those who mattered most. Her focus then became her children and their successes. Foofoo's major needs then were for her children to be extensions of herself, so their successes were her successes and her needs were their needs. Classic boundary issues. She could never see how when she needed something it could be anything but the desire of her children to fix or help or handle her issues. She could likewise not see how when her children needed soemthing she could standby and allow them to struggle if she could do anything about that. Not only did her efforts perpetuate a sense of disrespect and disregard for an individual's dignity, but it propagated a sense, too, of low self-esteem and a very subtle sense of self-hate in her children. Plonit herself suffered for her father's womanizing. He was on his third wife now. She could think of him only as a selfish man. Little did she notice in herself the traits that he had impressed upon her own mind. Her own disrespect towards others was manifested in other ways, but clearly there. Her own selfishness was reflected in her behavior with those she loved or wished to love. Her lack of boundaries, an inheritance from her mother, showed up in her relationships, her workplace, and her sense of loneliness. All in all, one might say --what a mess ! Poor Plonit! How unfair is it that Plonit be born into such a family and given such a bad upbringing! One might say Plonit has every right in the world to be envious of others in the world! (Chas v'shalom!) Plonit might say she has a right to be depressed, so much is wrong in her life. (But then, depression is such an expression of selfishness we might say that she has only learned the lesson from her father all too well, and in fact, so well, she has blinded herself from the truth of the matter.)

I would say something slightly different. It is the combination of our parents that determines our trials, burdens, and life's work. The combination of their expreiences and personalities can teach us what our life's work is... we are to learn how to see them and overcome our own tests and trials. They pattern us with a set of traits which are good and bad... the bad ones are to be learned from and overcome if possible. The good ones used for the great things for which such talents are needed in the world. Rather than pity Plonit! We might marvel at what a tremendous gift she has received. This set of trials are hers to master and to gain from in order to help to build and fix the world (tikkun olam). There is no perfect rearing of children.
If one pays a lot of attention to a chld, she becomes assured that her needs are important, but omits learning where her needs fall with respect to another human. That lesson must come later in her life. If one pays little attention to a child, she mmust learn later in life that her needs are important and how to prioritize them with respect to the needs of others. One could say. ah, but strike a balance! That balance must be struck though in conjunction with the needs of the parent who is her or himself on his or her own journey towards her or his own growth. Such a balance is impossible. Indeed, such a balance is undesirable. In fact, if one could strike such a balance as to grow oneself, perfectly well, and raise one's child perfectly so, then that life itself would have no part of tikkun olam and no reason to be alive or kept alive. Perhaps it is for our potential for tikkun olam that HaKadosh Baruch Hu keeps us alive...? I doubt that is the only reason, nor do I warrant that this is the primary reason, but I rather suspect that it is part of why we are permitted the miracle of being alive every day --having porous bodies which work so fantastically wonderfully as they do...

Anyway, the point is that every human inherits a series of problems in a combination uniquely his or hers. The manner in which he or she deals with those problems are part of that person's piece of tikkun olam. Every person he or she interacts with then at each stage along the way is touched by the person's growth and struggles and that touching of worlds is integral to the existence of the world as it is the further weaving of the fabric which creates and sustains the world. In truth, each person is incredibly important then for the world to evolve as it does, is, and should. Each person is s incredibly important to tikkun olam. Our actions are in response to the inheritance we gain from our parents, siblings, extended families, spouses, children, and friends. In this way, though we may choose how we behave at each moment, we are also programmed and it is no wonder to me that Hashem may know who we are and how we will be and act throughout time. It is as if one could focus in finely on the interwoven threads at a certain point in a rich tapestry.. like the unicorn at the Cloisters in New York.. and know that one particular part is a life innteracting with countelss others... and step back to see the whole thing and know that perhaps this is a fraction of a miniscule taste of what it means to be all-knowing...

ultimately, too, perhaps this is why a child comes born into our arms with his or her own personality --several children of the same parents will take different lessons from the same event... each one has his or her own path to travel and piece of the tapestry to weave and createas he or she must... so when a child takes your hand, or a fellow asks for a hug, or a lover needs you to listen... in each position you are primely situated to create, both to destroy and to heal, the world.

And so I transition to my thoughts regarding Yehuda.
I still miss Yehuda. I still think of him often, probably still almost every other day or every day... I think of how powerful life is and how vitally important the very breath I breathe is to the world.. to my thoughts, to my actions, and then in ripple effect outwards to others whose lives i might touch without knowing it. I know that Yehuda's life touched so many others' without his ever knowing it. Nothing we do is wasted or useless, no matter how it seems to us. Losing hope is a failure on our part to recognize all that we have and all that we are able to be and to do even still. Those who do lose hope though cannot be blamed or held accountable, for the road they have to travel is arduous and fraught with pain and difficulty. The courage required to have hope and to believe when one has been pushed deeper and deeper into the mud is hard to muster... and many people never do muster up the strength nor the courage.

So then what of my thoughts regarding the death of someone I loved so very very much? I don't judge it at all. I don't even dwell upon it except to learn that all life is precious --precious to someone... maybe not to that person, but to someone. I learn from it that maybe Yeti was right deep down inside that the greatest thing to do is to live so that we honor our friend.. and live so we live passionately and deeply aware of our life. It doesn't matter how or why he died, but that his death created a huge hole and a huge wound for which we all want succor.

The honor we give to him by living fully our own lives.. by being the best people we can be.. growing at our best, by living our lives with integrity, courage, discipline, and love.. is actually the greatest of honors. If we learn more on his account, if we work more, love more, live more,... we have helped him to fulfill his piece of tikkun olam, because his life mattered to us. His life affected ours and changed us. His life is woven into the tapestry. We (perhaps we are the threads around him?) will always have been touched by his existence. This is the honor that life accords to another life.

So it is that I believe that connections from one to another are the greatest thing we people can create and do here.

Finally, I would come to my discussion of womena torah readings but alas it is late and i need very much to take myself offlline to do other tasks. I beg the indulgence of my readers... if I have any. ;) To wait for another day to hear what my tremendous internal debate over women and torah reading is.

May we all have a good year full of blessing, good life, tremendous growth, deep insight, and peace within, without, far and near.