Wednesday, May 31, 2006

shavuot 2006

n A A is for... S - Star Printing E
M A '

chag sameach!

happy shavuot

created with Spell with flickr

Monday, May 29, 2006

the WHY CHEAP ART? manifesto

art grants me freedom from self-imposed confinement!
art rescues me from the undertow of modern madness!
art is an aphrodisiac to cure the mundane!
if fear is the mind killer, then art is the life support!

tell me what art is to you...

once again, thanks gheemaker

Sunday, May 28, 2006

in the moment..

It’s amazing how the memories that pop into my head are rarely the ones that were created at major events. When I lie in bed and daydream, it’s always flashes of emotions that trigger the images in my mind.

I don’t particularly remember my first trip to the kotel, or most of the other times I was there, but I often remember this one time I went there alone, and sat at the back of the plaza and people-watched. I don’t know how long I was there, but I remember the afternoon breeze, I remember the sun setting on the kotel stones and I vividly remember how I felt - this incredible feeling of connection. I don’t remember when it happened, or what I did before or after, but the memory of me sitting there and feeling this moment of complete inner peace never left me.

When I get homesick, I don’t think about all the great things I've done with my family, the big celebrations, the exotic trips or the big family dinners. What comes to mind is the tight hug I got from my dad at the airport before I left to Israel or the phone call to my mom after my big heartbreak and her strong, soothing, non-judgmental voice telling me I made the right decision and I’d be ok.
Sometimes, I think of that Sunday morning in Tsfat, sitting by the window of our hotel room, overlooking Meron, my parents eating fresh figs and me delighting in their newly discovered contentment and serenity.

When I was becoming religious, I attended countless lectures and shabbatons, but one of the moments that stand out in my mind is a Shabbat afternoon I spent with some girls. I don’t remember who the girls were, I don’t remember who’s house we were at, I don’t remember much else of what we did before or after that day, but I remember listening to them sing and talk, and my heart feeling like it had just discovered a secret passageway to a hidden treasure. I remember feeling overwhelmed by how strong those emotions were and wanting desperately to connect to the source of this beauty.
I remember feeling my soul come alive.
And I remember crying so hard thinking that I would never find my way back to this treasure, once it was gone.

I remember that Friday night I spent on the porch of the hostel in tsfat. Traveling on my own, discovering the world, and myself, I took a mattress and sat out facing the mountains. Taking in the mystical beauty of my surroundings, I relished the harmony I felt myself becoming a part of. I remember the cool wind, I remember the graying sky but most of all, I remember the longing I felt deep inside me, that longing to attach myself to my beloved Creator, to the source of me, that mountain, the wind, and that Shabbat. For a moment i disapeared as a distinct entity and became an indivisible part of a connected universe.

I remember that time I prayed alone in an empty classroom, completely surrendering myself to G-d, throwing my head down, and my heart up, and begging for Him to take care of me. I remember opening my eyes at the end of that prayer and feeling surprised that I was still standing there, surprised I was holding a siddur, surprised how nothing around me had changed, and how everything about me had.

I remember random little stolen kisses and glances. I remember that all-night road trip we took, and the deer that crossed the road just as the sun was rising, and feeling like only we existed. I remember that look in his eyes, flowing with so much love. I remember those sad Sunday morning bus rides home and that desperate feeling of not wanting to let go. I remember that last kiss, the smell, the taste, the feel of it. I remember that ripping in my heart and that hopeless feeling that it would never heal.

I remember that feeling of trust and strength and clarity I felt when my friend would sing to me my favorite song before I went to sleep. Late at night, when the world was asleep, she would sing to me, her heart comforting mine through her powerful voice. I dont know if she realized, but sometimes it was the only thing that would quiet the demons inside of me, just long enough for me to fall asleep.

I have so many positive memories. My family and friends have helped me celebrate every milestone and important event in my life; pictures and gifts will attest to that. But what amazes me is that those memories that creep into my mind when I least expect it, are often those that did not seem momentous when they occurred. They are not memories of events but memories of emotions. The strongest emotions, those that left a discernable imprint, are those I experienced fully. Those times when I stopped and let my senses and emotions guide me are the ones that made an impact on my psyche.
It leads me to wonder how many more of these memories I could have if I took the time to really feel and really be and really live in the moment. How much richer would life be if I didnt just survive through each day, but actually took the split second it takes to live with intention, to stop and feel each moment as it comes.

(thanks to my beautiful, talented goldie for that stunning picture of the pink flowers)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Who is wise? He that learns from all men

I’ve been sitting here for the past few hours, few days, few weeks, months and years, surfing the net, reading blogs, watching home made videos, art, wikis...and i feel so overwhelmed.
There is so much brilliance and talent out there.
So many intelligent people with interesting things to say.
So many creative people.

I know this is a terrible thing to say but it kind of depresses me, I feel so inadequate. I feel so lost in a monstrous sea of information.
So much information!
I want to know it all; I want to understand it all, i want to be able to do it all.
I keep jumping from topic to topic, reading and learning and thinking and questioning.
By the time I get off the computer, my head is buzzing with a chaotic whirlwind of information.
The more I read the smaller and more insignificant I feel.
Surfing the net seems to have to same impact on my intellectual and creative self esteem as going through fashion magazines.
At first I’m fascinated by what I find, intrigued by all the stuff I don’t know, impressed by the beauty.. but slowly it starts to overwhelm me. Every link I click on draws me away from my original question and creates a whole new set.

By the time I lay my head on my pillow my head is saturated with uncertainties and questions.
What started out as a quest to enrich my mind and establish some control over my surroundings, ends up causing me insecurity - i realize how little I know and how much there is to know. What starts out as a creative curiosity ends up discouraging me. The wealth of beauty and information that is produced by others overwhelms me. I cant write as well, draw as well, think as well.
I know I shouldn’t compare myself, but I cant help feeling mediocre compared to what’s out there,
I cant help but feel that I am so not prepared for dealing for this madness of a world I live in.
In addition to making me feel insecure about my abilities and how much I know, this overload of information makes my feel insecure about my existence. All the negativity, the wars, the abuse, the pain and suffering, the catastrophes, the near-catastrophes.. not only do I get off the computer feeling like I don’t know an iota of what I should know, but in addition I feel that we are on the brink of every disaster imaginable.

I’m not quite sure i understand the internet ban, I wonder if the rabbis are aware of this problem, but sometimes I wish I had the strength to ban the internet for myself.

I miss those days when I didn’t know how much there was to know.

Sounds ignorant and lazy?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

the gift that keeps on poisoning

I came across this short animation today (thanks gheemaker) and it was a perfect reflection of what I had been feeling in the past few days. Like I said in my first post, I’m so curious about how others think and feel and this whole blog experience has really given me access to so many people's private thoughts and views that I would never have otherwise been exposed to.
That’s been the positive aspect.
On the flipside, however, a lot of what I’ve been reading (too much!) has been overflowing with negativity.
Venting, whining, ranting, denigrating, condemning gadols, belittling institutions, insulting commentators, slandering communities, criticizing lifestyle and life choices seems to be everywhere.
I realize that many people feel stifled, and haven’t found the ability to express themselves in the real world. The Internet, and blogging in particular seems to have a special appeal to people who don’t feel comfortable expressing these ideas in person. But I wonder, who says that ALL of these thoughts and feelings need to be expressed at all, and if they do, why in such a negative way. Aren’t there more constructive ways of dealing with pent up frustration, annoyance, resentment and discontentment?
I realize that if all this negativity affects me this strongly, the solution is to avoid reading it. And I am trying. Just like I work on eliminating people from my life who have a negative influence on me, people who drag me down and pollute my mind with cynicism and pessimism, I should be just as vigilant with what I read, and for this I blame myself and no one else. But aside from the fact that I don’t think its good for me to read this, I wonder how many realize how harmful this is to themselves, as the authors and to their communities, as their audience.
The reason this short movie reminded me of what I was feeling is that I found myself getting so disgusted and disturbed by some of the things I had read that I could feel it weighing down my soul, poisoning me from the inside. Just like with poison, in order to relieve myself of the stinging, I found myself extracting it from myself by passing it on to someone else. Once I told my friend the disturbing gossip/criticism/complaints/information I had come across, I felt better, but she now undoubtedly inherited the poison. I assume she went home tonight and told her husband, in her own attempt of ridding herself of this poison. Tomorrow morning he will repeat this disgusting and disturbing information to his co-worker, who will then go home and repeat it to his wife.
The negativity just keeps spreading.
As it spreads, we carry this weight that drags us down. We get anxious. We get frustrated. We feel alone, abandoned. We lash out. We create anxiety in others. They lash out.. and soon enough we are living in the miserable, hateful, selfish, aggressive society we had been venting and ranting about to begin with.
People always say its cathartic to voice our frustrations, there’s no harm in venting, it’s good to speak your mind. But I question how true that is. I am NOT suggesting sweeping issues under the rug or ignoring them or avoiding dealing with them. I’m not advocating holding things in and letting them contaminate us from the inside, but aren’t there more constructive, more healthy ways of dealing with situations we find unpleasant or even wrong? Why not speak to the appropriate people, why not take active steps in starting changes in our communities, why not look for the source of these problems and find ways to address them in a productive, growth oriented way, why not try and look at the problems from a different perspective. At the very least why not work on our own behaviour and watch how our positive deeds and conduct affect those around us.

This short film, Cri addresses the issues of verbal aggression and violence in and caused by the urban environment we live in. When I saw it, it reminded me of something slightly different. It reminded me of the way we keep criticizing and badmouthing our communities, leaders and lifestyles, the way we end up internalizing other people’s negativity and how we end up spewing it back into our communities, thereby creating the poisoned society we were aiming to escape.

Monday, May 15, 2006

anyone know who this is?

UPDATE: MYSTERY SOLVED! (I've been told it's the Skver Rebbe from New York)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

the way to my mom's heart...

I wanted to tell you much I appreciate you
instead, I made you eggs
I wanted to show you how much I've learned from you
instead, I made you pancakes
I wanted to let you know how much I admire you and everything you do for those around you
instead, I made you coffee and a fruit juice
I wanted to give you a hug and apologize for not being the daughter you deserve
instead, i made you breakfast this morning

the eggs came out runny..
the pancakes turned out funny looking..
by the time you sat down to eat, the coffee was cold and the fruit juice was warm..
and in the end you took care of eveything and everyone
and that smile never left your face

maybe one day I'll finally find the words to express
how much you mean to me,
how much i admire you,
how lost I'd be without you..

In the meantime, I think I'll take you out for brunch next mother's day..
Indigestion is no way to let you know how I feel.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

You can't handle the Truth!

Cynics are lonely.
Cynics think they see it all, they know it all, they understand it all.
They see what others are too blind to see. They realize things others aren’t even aware of. It’s the cynic against the blind, cheerful, brainless world.

Would I sound arrogant to say that I know what the cynic sees, and I think the cynic’s wrong?

I’ve often been called a cynic. I used to think that I saw THE “reality” of things while the rest of the world lived unaware of the horrible, mind-boggling truth. People just couldn’t handle the truth. But I, on the other hand, being the truth-seeker that I am, never wanted to be deceived or fooled by naïve interpretations and wishful thinking.
I was a cyniic, but these days, I prefer to be called a “realist”.

It occurred to me no too long ago, that what the cynic sees is not the reality. The cynic is wrong because he assumes there is one reality, one truth, and everyone else is seeing it wrong through their rose-colored glasses.

To the horror of post-modernists, we, as frum Jews agree that there is ONE truth. There is one G-d and one Torah. That’s the Truth, with a capital T.
The problem is that we assume that one truth implies one reality, and I don’t agree with that.
Reality is subjective, based in the person experiencing it. We’ve all read those “judge others favorably” stories, where one person thinks he sees someone doing something, judges him unfavorably and then discovers he did not know the full story. Judging other’s favorably entails accepting the fact that someone else might be living a different reality than the one we are experiencing or viewing, it means accepting someone else’s reality as being equally valid as our own.
The thing is that, once we are able to accept that in others, we can then start accepting that in ourselves. Our realities are constantly changing too. What might have been our perception at one time, might not apply at a later time. When we accept that our realities are constantly changing, we accept growth into our lives. Learning and growing involves questioning ourselves, second-guessing our perceptions, not accepting blindly and critically analyzing our thoughts and behaviors. Learning and growing brings us closer to Truth, and that in the end is the ultimate goal, to be connected to the Truth.

So now back to the cynic in me. I used to be a cynic, and now I’m a realist.

I’ve always been a truth seeker. People have called me argumentative, cynical, confrontational, negative, but all I ever wanted was to find the Truth. Critically thinking implied pushing my limits, and those of my peers and teachers, until I got to the root of the matter, ntil I get past the subjective realities around me, and reached the Truth.

What I’ve learned is that being aware of my reality does not give me more access to the truth, if anything, it can distance me from it. It can block me from realizing that there are other perspectives and other ways of interpreting events and situations.

I used to think that all those “happy” baruch-hashem’ing clone-like religious folk were going through life wearing rose-colored glasses, oblivious to the sad realities of existence, and too lazy to find out or deal with it. I wanted to be the martyr that would drag my feet through life, fully aware of all the negativity – and survive.

At some point, in the recent past, after many years of pure, unadulterated cynicism, I decided to try a different approach. I decided that just as every action I take can either bring me closer to G-d or further from G-d, that maybe, every thought I have can be just as significant. I decided to reframe the way I question what I see and experience. I decided that the reality I was experiencing wasn’t as real as I had always assumed, and that maybe I could change that reality with my thoughts.
And that’s what happened.

I started to see Torah obligations as tools to bring me closer to G-d, I started seeing my challenges as opportunities to grow and I started being less judgmental of myself and of others. The relativity of reality that I discovered suddenly made it much easier for me to deal with the difficulties I encountered because all I had to do was stick my head out of my box and I reinvent my reality.
I became master of my reality.

Now I know you cynics out there are rolling your eyes, mocking my new found positive outlook, but I think you should know that as a reformed cynic, I feel like I’m getting the last laugh.
Sure it’s a lot harder now, I need to actually put thought into my thoughts. But just as I don’t want to live on instinct, like an animal does, I also don’t want to think on instinct. Its easy to judge, its easy to be negative, its easy to criticize, its much harder to look deeper into things and find reasons and meaning. It’s much harder to twist my brain around a supposed reality I’m facing and to look at it from a different perspective, one that brings me closer to G-d.

I want to give an example of this that I experienced today. For the past few weeks, I’ve been reading a whole bunch of blogs discussing the issues and problems facing the frum world – and for some reason, Lakewood in particular. In the past, my initial reaction would be to completely buy into it… and sigh – after all if someone is criticizing and venting and ranting, it must be “real”. But, with my new reality-altering glasses on, I’ve been trying to use my critical mind to figure out, on my own, if what they are describing is the truth, or just their version of reality.

One issue that was particularly bothering me was the issue about men’s shirt colors. It seems that every blog mentioned the issue about men being judged for their shirt color, and I just didn’t get it. I couldn’t wrap my brain around any kind of logic that could make sense of that kind of superficial rule...but I kept my mind open. And then I read David's blog where he explained why he wears a white shirt - and it hit me. There is a logical reasoning behind "the white shirt", there is meaning behind it. Some people choose to follow it and some don't.
I’m not saying I agree with people being judged for their shirt colors, or that I agree that this is “frummer”, but I see the logic in it, I see a new reality, and that brings me closer to G-d, not further. As a truth-seeker, as a realist, I appreciate that. I appreciate being able to come to my own conclusion on the matter, and creating my own reality based on positive outlook and not an instinctual negativity.

The black and white picture above is an optical illusion - what did you see? was it the word "Liar" or a man's face? who's reality is correct?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

and i thought american beauty standards were tough!

I love this picture.
YES, she's holding a machine gun and an ipod..

can this woman's life be ANY further from my reality?

i just love when things get put into perspective.
we get so caught up in our lives, in our reality tunnels, in our understanding of life, that we forget we're not the center of the universe. There's so much going on outside of our personal experience and yet we live our lives as if our personal reality is the Truth.

the universe is HUGE and G-d is infinte (INFINTY, now thats BIG!).
the Truth, however, is that its all really ONE - and that blows me away.

i'm just a tiny drop in an infinite bucket.
it's good for me to remember that - nothing in my life is so drastic, so big, so overwhelming that it cant be dealt with or contained..

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Everyone has their ipod on - and who's going to listen to me?

I only started this blog a short time ago, but I‘ve been reading blogs for quite a while, and it’s only recently that I’ve started questioning the whole phenomenon. Why do bloggers blog?

I'm not sure why I started one. I’m still acting on a spur of the moment decision to try it out, and being the self-analytical person that I am I’ve been trying to understand what prompted this. Maybe loneliness, maybe attention, maybe finding a creative outlet, maybe finding a place to verbalize my thoughts to help me work them out or maybe just a personal exhibitionist dare... I think on the surface I was just curious to see what it would feel like to have my own little space on the enormous and often intimidating Internet.

Whatever the reason, blogging is proving to be more difficult that I had envisioned. For a long time I had wanted to start one. Those close to me have heard me say it on a number of occasions and all of them have responded in the same, off-handed way – ‘so just get one! What’s the big deal, its anonymous!’

I know myself, and if I’m going to do something, I’m going to be 'real', and truthfully, I’m not sure I’m ready to be real for the World Wide Web to gawk at. In a way the anonymity helps, I almost don’t feel like anyone will notice. But then I think of all the blogs I’ve read, all the private thoughts I’ve barged in on, all the pain and confusion I’ve gawked at, all the attempts at intelligent thinking I’ve mocked and I wonder.. how many are out there who are reading what im writing ..and why does it matter? More importantly, I wonder, why do I keep wanting to do this?

I read in Treppenwitz a few days ago something that’s made me think about this, and if anyone is reading this, I am curious to hear what you think. He wrote:
“It's nice to be noticed, but...
Any blogger/journaler who tells you that he/she doesn't give a whit (no, that isn't a typo... look it up) about mundane things like traffic, 'hits', links, track-backs, comments and other indicators that their writing has been noticed by the world beyond their computer screens is, in my humble opinion, a big fat liar. “
.. and

I wonder if that’s true.

I expected that when I started this little experiment that I wouldn’t want anyone to find it or read it. I thought I would want this for myself, to challenge myself, to find out more about myself. But it didn't take long for me to start wondering who was reading it, if there were any comments... Selling my soul to the devil. Why would it matter if anyone was reading my thoughts? Why would it matter what anyone would comment? Why should I care? But apparently I do… and I don’t like it.

Of the hundreds of blogs I’ve come across, no two seem to be alike - even when they touch on similar issues. Everyone gets a voice. Some deal with politics, others discuss personal struggles with their religion and beliefs. Some are more artistic, using pictures, poetry, music to express their author’s views and emotions. Pictures from travels, desperate attempts at getting attention, teenage angst unleashed and mundane events recounted fill these blogs. Some are written beautifully, others are barely readable. Some are imaginative, others are boring or predictable. Some are real, some are deep, and some are just an expression of the superficial outlook some people convince themselves is their reality. Some bloggers use their blog as an ego-boosting forum to shove their views down the throats of all those who would never give them the time of day in person, and others use theirs to unleash the brilliance they’d never have the courage to express in person. Some bloggers do it to be heard, and... well, I don’t think there is an ‘and’.

That’s the conclusion I’ve been leaning towards.

I think in the past people lived in way that allowed them to develop close relationships to their families and communities, that people had a sense of who they were in relation to those around them, and didn’t desperately crave being different or standing out. People had value. Each person had a role, a personality, qualities that were appreciated and noticed. With the deterioration of values, the breakdown of the family unit and of close-knit communities, people started drifting apart, losing sense of their inter-relational worth and started to measure those around them, and eventually themselves using superficial standards. We lost touch with ourselves, with who we are, with what we have to offer. We started to disappear. The invisible man. In today’s Walmart-Starbucks-Gap blur, we no longer know who we are and why we are.

According to Wikipedia, blogs have been around in some form or another since 1994. That’s 12 years of people anonymously putting down their thoughts and feelings and ideas for the masses to read. An attempt at being heard, at being noticed, at finding what it is that makes them different, that’s makes existing worth it.
I wonder how much longer we can survive unheard, nonexistent.

Honestly, I don’t want my thoughts and ideas and emotions to be scrutinized by the anonymous multitudes, but who else has the time to listen?

To you bloggers out there, I’m curious to know, why do you think you blog? To you closet bloggers lurking around, why do you wish you could blog?

Who links to me?