Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Why We Are Lucky

When I was little, I used to get awed by how lucky I was to be born a Jew. I would always hear people commenting how small a percentage Jews are in the world. It made me think, "Wow, what are the odds of being born Jewish? How did I get so lucky?"

It wasn't always clear to me why I felt this was "lucky." I was used to being Jewish. I was used to believing Judaism was the correct religion and that the Torah was true. I was proud of these things. I felt almost superior, knowing that I was part of this chosen nation. I used to wonder how I would feel if I'd been born to a different religion. Would I also think that I was practicing something correct and true? Was I being a snob to feel lucky that I was Jewish, that I wasn't something else?

As I got older and more mature, more attuned to the sophistications, complications, and subtleties of life and religion, I recognized things that I legitimately did feel grateful and lucky for - things that did not only pertain to Judaism.

The most important thing I came to realize was that I had the privelege of a God to turn to. There are so many people out there who are not religious, not of any religion at all, who deny the existence of God entirely. And I wonder, who do these people turn to when there is no one else? Where do these people find true solace? Perhaps they have trained themselves to not need the consolation that faith, that prayer brings. Maybe that works for them. I'm not judging, I'm only curious.

Regardless, I am infinitely grateful to having been born a religious person, a person acutely aware of the presence of God in this world and the fact that He is always there to turn to when there is no one else. God is constant. There is no such concept as God being too busy to listen, or not wanting to hear what you have to say.

I think belief is one of the most precious gifts a person can have, especially in such a high-pressured, fast-paced world where you really do find yourself alone perhaps more than you should. So many who struggle, who go through difficulties, who feel despondant and perhaps also lonely - so many of them are able to find hope in turning to God.

There was a point in high school where I was going through a bit of a rough time. One night a friend said to me, "Daven Ma'ariv and ask Hashem for peace of mind." The fact that I even had that option - the option to turn to God - is incredible. That, alone, is something to be thankful for. I am thankful to be the kind of person who is completely trusting in God, who is perfectly able to turn to Him in times of need and actually feel comforted afterward.

Lucky is a weird word because it's not luck that gives us the gift of prayer, it is God. But that feeling still remains - that feeling of being so fortunate to having been born the person I am. I am
fortunate to have Hashem to turn to, to confide in, to find solace in. And I am proud to be a Jew.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Wish

In the same day - today - , my brother came back from a year and a half in Israel and my best childhood friend left on Aliyah. Round and round and round it goes, this ferris wheel of people coming and going to Israel. Ascending, descending.

It's strange to think that I'm here in America worrying about finals and papers and almost forgetting that Israel's at war. It's scary how easy it is to forget that. Even for me, who has family living there and many close friends, including some currently in the army.

It's so easy to feel helpless when you know there's not much you can do but pray, but still I pray, even as I feel helpless, and I wish only safety and success for Israel and for the Jewish people all over the world.

Something has begun to happen. It's been beginning for a while now, inside Israel, outside of Israel. I don't know what it is or how it will end or where we'll all be when it's over. I don't know what it means now or what it will mean in hindsight. I don't know what will be with this war on terror.

I just know I want everything to be okay with the world. More than okay. I want it to be good.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Problem With Drama

(Note: this post is not about any one specific thing, but rather was inspired by a number of situations, both where I was involved and where I was just an observer. Don't worry Ima, everything is fine.)

The problem with drama is that it's never worth it.

Some people thrive on drama. I know people like that. Every little thing has to be turned into a dramatic production, and if they can't find something to be dramatic over, they go searching for things.

Some people never seem fazed by much. They are always happy, always in a good mood, and always strong enough to let certain unpleasantries bounce right off them. That doesn't mean things don't bother them. But they seem to be very good at not letting those things get in the way of anyone else.

Other people are usually pretty mild-mannered and chilled out, except on occasion. If they feel particularly insulted or hurt, or if they feel some injustice is being done either against them or against someone they care about, they'll get upset. Noticeably upset. But these are not people who like dramatic situations - not like the first kind of people I described. These people usually shy away from drama except when they feel they can't, or ought not to, or are too upset not to, and then without even realizing it's happening until it's too late to respectfully extricate themselves, they find themselves entangled in a situation they never wanted to be in. Sometimes they are strong enough to take a deep breath, back away, and let things fall back into place, taking whatever criticism of their behavior and moving on. Sometimes, though, pride gets in the way and no matter how much they want to, they can't pull back and, instead, just get more and more and more tripped up in their own mess. And because they are unlike group number one, being so entrenched in drama makes them want to throw up, and all they want is to find some way to be untangled and have everything return to normal. The problem with that is that there was usually some real reason for getting involved in the mess in the first place and if that reason is not solved, the person does not feel too much better.

I put myself in this third group.

In some ways, this third group seems the most balanced. Chilled out except when something deserves getting upset over. Right? But - no. Because getting upset should not be that dramatic.

I think the ideal is really the second category. It's good to always remember to treat people with respect, even if you aren't particularly happy with something they might have done. And most of the time, it isn't worth it to get upset with your close friends. Actually, it's almost never worth it.

I really, really, really admire people who always manage to smile and seem like they're in a good mood, even if they're not underneath. Of course we all need our moments when we're honest with ourselves, or with a friend, and let things bother us. And things should bother us. And sometimes if you react badly, it doesn't mean that you were wrong about being upset. What you were wrong about was the way you handled being upset.

I think one of the hardest challenges is learning to swallow your pride. There are many kinds of apologies, but there are two I'm thinking about. One is easy. It's motivated by your hurt pride. It's an apology because you're scared and insecure. You want to be reassured that everything is okay, so you say you're sorry. And you really are sorry, too. It's just that you're not apologizing because you want it all to be over. You're apologizing because you want the other side to make you feel better. And maybe to apologize also. And maybe they should apologize also. But a real apology shouldn't be asking for an apology in return.

That's the other kind of apology I'm thinking about. The kind that is so genuine and sincere, it just wants to be accepted, nothing more.

The other thing I want to say is that I think a lot of this comes with maturity. I see it as a sign of maturity, how much you let other things get to you and how you handle things when they do get to you.

As I get older and more mature, I aspire to reach that second category.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Where Is Chanuka?

The accident at a Chabad Chanuka party in the Five Towns this past week was scary, especially because it was so close to home. An older man lost control of his car on the corner of Franklin Place and Broadway and crashed into Chanuka Wonderland, where a Chanuka party for young kids was taking place.

I apologize for interrupting the more festive posts but I felt this was worth mentioning. However, I am also impressed by the positive attitude people can have while facing difficult situations. From the Newsday article:
Rabbi Heshy Blumstein of Young Israel of Hewlett and his wife, Mimi, visited some of the injured at Winthrop."It was a horrible tragedy," Blumstein said. Still, the fact that there were many survivors means "there are miracles all over," Mimi Blumstein said.

It's true. People were injured (the mother of one of my brother's friends is in the hospital) but, amazingly, no one was killed. That is a miracle.

And we need even more.

Tonight, right after Shabbos, my brother called from Israel and told us that the IAF had dropped bombs over Gaza. My parents turned on the TV and we watched the news for a bit, listening to Ehud Barak defend Israel's decision to the BBC. It's amazing, though, how much we can say and how little the world hears. Anyway, here is the JPost and Arutz Sheva. And, of course, Jameel.

I guess we really can't forget that the miracle of Chanuka is not just the oil, but also winning the war. We are always going to be the few against the many, especially with so much of the world rooting for the other side. We need another miracle of Chanuka, and what better time to pray for one than on Chanuka itself?

Life is full of miracles, even in hard times. This might be a difficult Chanuka, but that doesn't mean it doesn't hold the spirit of Chanuka all the same. It is not only a time to be festive but also a time to remember how much we rely upon the help of God and how we must look to Him in these times. We have had our victories, but we also have much to pray for.

With Chanuka nearing its close, we can't forget that.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Wonderful Apartmentmate(s)

I have a wonderful apartment mate. Her name is D2. This is the story about why she is so wonderful.
(SJ addendum: [deleted] [deleted] [deleted])
(Erachet addendum: Stop interrupting my post, SJ! You're ruining it!)
M.R., SJ, Chana, D2, and I were out in the kitchen talking. D2 was at the kitchen table on her computer. The conversation went like this:
Erachet: So...what's happening tomorrow?
SJ: Um, it's reading week.
Erachet: I know that. I mean, what are people doing?
D2: You want to see what I'm doing tomorrow, Erachet? [She puts her arm around my waist and gently drags me over to her computer] Here, come, I'll show you what I'm doing.
[On the screen, there is a youtube video of a cat being dissected. D2 presses play]
M.R.: Don't look, Erachet! Hide your eyes!
Erachet: Wha--NO WAY, D2 EW EW EW! I am going to the other side of the table!
SJ: Now our apartment's going to smell like formaldehyde again.
Later on in the evening, I was in the middle of working on this very post when D2 suddenly piped up with:
D2: Erachet? When do you think they last lynched people?
Erachet: Er...I don't know?
D2: No, really. If you had to guess.
Erachet: Ummmm, I...really couldn't guess.
D2: Come on, guess.
Erachet: Uh...after the Nuremberg Trials?
[SJ walks into the room]
D2: SJ, when was the last time they hanged people as punishment?
SJ: Well, Sadam Hussein was hanged.
Erachet: Oh, that's right!
D2: Okay, the last time in America.
SJ: Um, don't they just use lethal injection?
D2: But I think I remember people being hanged! I'm going to look it up.
Erachet: Why... are you interested in this?
SJ: D2's planning out her future life of crime!
Erachet: Yeah, but hanging?
D2: Come on, don't you ever get interested in things?!
A little while later:
D2: [Reading off her computer] "Only the states of Washington and New Hampshire still retain hanging as an option." Isn't that crazy?!
Other D2 quotes of the night:
1. So I was telling my friend how in genetics lab we made menorahs out of bacteria, which we did. And my friend said, you know, I really don't like being around giddy people. And I said, I'm not giddy!

[Erachet: Menorahs out of bacteria?! Sounds pretty giddy to me!]

2. Time to metaphorically roast the proverbial duck.

[You're not supposed to get it. There's nothing to get. D2 doesn't get it either. The only way to get it is to understand that it is not supposed to be gotten. Got it? So now you get it. :P]
As you can see, we've got quite a gem of an apartment mate here in Stern. But, in all seriousness, we love her. And if we were actually playing Gamad v'Anak (secret Chanuka buddy) in our apartment and if D2 was my person, this post would certainly serve as a gift to her!* But in any case, now D2 has a post in dedication to her that is completely lishma, and hey, she deserves it!

To SJ, Chana, M.R., and the Apple -I love you guys, too! Chag sameach to my apartment and chag sameach to the entire JBlogosphere.

Now everyone go eat a jelly doughnut!

*But we are not playing Gamad v'Anak, so of course D2 is not my person, nor is she anyone's person.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Out Of Clay? A Chanuka Dissertation That Gets Very Silly Indeed

You all know the song:

Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel,
I made you out of clay,
And when you're dry and--and--and--
Hey...WAIT A MINUTE.

Made out of clay???

Raise your hand if any of you have ever played with a dreidel made out of clay.

...

Hmm, thought not. In fact, I don't think a dreidel made out of clay would even spin very well. It'd be way too heavy!

According to this site, they did used to use clay to spin cloth. But that is not the sort of spinning we're interested in, is it?

Here, finally, is archeological evidence to support the song we all learned in nursery:
- Clay tops were found in the ancient city of Ur dating from 3500 B.C. (Ur is modern day Muqayyar which lies 187 miles southeast of Baghdad, Iraq)

- Fired clay spun type tops were found from Thebes, Greece dated at 1250 B.C.
Interesting.

However, it appears from that article that the spinning top category the dreidel falls into, the "Twirler," was never made of clay but rather of some sort of fruit or seed with a thorn on the bottom to make it spin. Later versions were made of wood (or plastic). In China, they have tops of this sort made of bamboo. In Japan, the Twirler tops are made of metal.

The clay tops were not Twirlers but Whip Tops. These were not tops one spun with their fingers but rather they were "whipped" into spins using some sort of material (apparently in Europe, they used to use eel skin):
The whip top has mostly kept to the basic cone shape and was made of wood, fired clay and, in some cases, stone. During the 18th century, heavy whip tops of iron were made with the intent of whipping on the ice of ponds and lakes.
Hmmm. Definitely not a dreidel.

This has an interesting history of the dreidel game which is actually based on some old European game and has nothing to do with Chanuka at all. Isn't it always so pleasant to find these things out?

I'm not sure who decided to sing about dreidels made out of clay, but it sounds supiciously to me like a cheap attempt to have something rhyme with "play."

My conclusion: eh, who cares! :D

After that whole boring post, here's something a lot more fun:



...Did I really just write an entire post historically proving the dreidel song wrong? ...Oy.

Sparks

I know someone who is not religious but who has become increasingly more interested in Jewish practices. This woman was aware that Chanuka was approaching but did not know when exactly it was. She wanted to have a Chanuka experience with her two-year-old daughter, so she looked online and accidentally searched for "Chanuka 2009" instead of 2008, so she was told December 11 (I guess Chanuka is December 11 next year, guys!). Horrified and astounded that she had missed it entirely, she quickly gathered her daughter, they lit the menorah together for all eight nights, and her daughter opened every single one of her presents at once. It was sort of like Chanuka on hyper-speed.

Only afterward did she discover that it was not yet, in fact, Chanuka. Not in the year 2008. :)

Relieved, she and her daughter started over on the real date of Chanuka, this time able to do it properly.

This story really, really touched me. The eagerness of this person to involve herself and her daughter in a Jewish practice - and the overall excitement this person has towards Judaism in general - is indicative of a desire to get closer to some sort of heritage and people they are a part of. And that's because, despite all our differences, Jews are a family. We share forefathers and mothers.* I hope, deep down, we all want to be together and share in our religion, even if it doesn't always seem like it. We're all a part of something so much bigger than ourselves, so we should want that.

Anyhow, I am so glad this woman and her daughter did not miss Chanuka after all.

Chag sameach to everyone who reads this blog!

*As an aside, when I was younger, I used to wonder why it wasn't the foremothers and three-fathers. :)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

People Are People

I am discovering that people are the same everywhere. They like to nitpick about each other, but when it comes down to it, they're all the same. This one's not nice, this one's too nice, this one's obnoxious, this one's a pushover, this one's weak-willed, this one's brash...people try to blame these imperfections on some outside influence, but the real truth is, people are people. You can't blame something on the outside for the choices a person makes. Yes, things do influence you, but they don't make you behave in a certain way. That's you. And sometimes people are going to be mean, even if there is no real reason they should be. And sometimes people are going to be nice, when you would never expect them to be. People are surprising that way, but only because you expect them to behave differently. But why should you? You can never assume how a person is going to be. You can never expect. That's just playing up stereotypes.

The more we try to assign reasons for people's behaviors, the more we're forgetting that people are people and they all have the potential to be obnoxious or sweet or giving or selfish, etc. etc. etc. despite any of these expectations. The more we have such expectations, the more we'll be thrown off guard when someone behaves differently from how we expect. That's why it's good to go in with no assumptions. Wait and see. Let the person show you for herself. Let the person make her own name, regardless of anything you might know about her (or him).

People are not so different from one another as they might think.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Happy Birthday, Ima!

This post is for my mom.

It's weird to try and write a post in honor of your mother, because it's suddenly very embarrassing to get all sentimental. And if you're not going to be sentimental, you have to be insightful, but I'm not sure I have anything very insightful to say about mothers. Mothers, as a whole, are a like a girl scout club* with the slogan, "We are always right!" Don't you ever wonder why it is that whenever people talk about mothers, they always ask you things like, "don't you ever wonder why it is that mothers are always right?" Or sometimes they don't even bother asking. They just jump right in to, "I never wanted to admit it at the time, but my mother sure was always right!"

But are mothers always right?

It is possible for someone to be always right?

You were right that one time, weren't you? The one where you were certain, more certain than you've ever been before, more certain than you felt even about the sky being blue and the grass being green, that your mother was...wrong?

Hmmm. Something to ponder.

Well, the least I can do is leave a little anecdote. It'll be better than those corny Hallmark cards, you know? I can't stand those. "A rainbow for you...so all your dreams come true!" "Here's a heart, so we'll never be apart!" "Birthdays are like the Spring...they make me want to sing!"

Gag.

So here we go. Ima, you'll recognize part of this story.

It's approximately midnight in my house and my parents have just gone up to bed. My sister (Trademark, for those just tuning in) tells me we have to go get balloons from the trunk of my dad's car. We decide we don't want to use the front door because it makes too much noise, so we'll use the sliding door from the kitchen instead. That door leads to the backyard and then you have to walk around the side of the house to get to the front where the car is.

My sister opens the door, steps out, and I begin to follow when I hear footsteps in the kitchen. Without looking, I just know it's my mom (I am also incredibly talented at recognizing people's footsteps, just by the way).

"HI IMA!" I exclaim, jumping back into the house. My mother looks startled for a moment and then rather confused.

"Um...where are you going...?"

Oh. Haha. That.

"Well," I say, standing smack in front of the suspiciously open door. "I was...just getting some fresh air. It's really hot in here."

I'm pretty sure my mom didn't buy it. No matter what I said then to cover, it is incredibly unusual for our kitchen door to be wide open in the middle of the night. Still, I attempt to be natural about the whole thing and try to make my story as plausible as possible. I close the door, lock it, and declare I'm going to bed. My mother takes some things out of the freezer to defrost and also says she's going to bed.

"Oh...did you, um, close the door?"

"Yep!"

Too cheerful. Don't be too cheerful! You'll give it away!

"Did you remember to lock it?"

"Yep!"

And we both go upstairs.

About a minute later, I get a phone call from Trademark.

"Open the door, it's FREEZING out here!"

And we, the little elves in the night, then proceed to hang yellow streamers all over the kitchen. It was quite fun!

So, happy birthday, Ima! I hope it all makes sense now.

I know not much of actual substance was said in this post, so I give you:

P.S. Thank you, Ima, for everything and I love you! Also, thanks in advance for not yelling at me for writing this at three in the morning. After all, I want it to be here when you wake up! I know, I'm thoughtful that way. :D

*They even make cookies!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

*Gasp!* A B-O-Y?!

This is not so much a post as it is a question for whoever is reading. What do you all think about the idea of co-ed camps? I grew up going to a co-ed summer camp and never really thought that much about it until recently. I understand about there being a healthy co-ed environment for kids and I also understand all the concerns that go along with something that is co-ed. Of course, every camp is different and there are different levels of co-ed that go on, but in general, I really want to know how people feel about this issue and why (the why is very important). For those that are against co-ed camps entirely, is there such a thing as a Modern Orthodox not co-ed camp? Because the impression kids have is that the single-sex camps tend to be more to the right. There was once an article in the Jewish Star about this (I would link it but I don't think it's online anymore) - about a girl who wanted to go to an all girls' camp but all the camps like that had a very strict dress code requiring her to wear tights in the summer. She wasn't comfortable with that but she had no choice if she didn't want to go somewhere co-ed. So what would one do about a situation like that?

Feel free to either comment or email me. Thanks!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

These Days And More

Sitting cross-legged on the floor of a narrow, square room reading Henry James out loud,
Occasionally shifting to my knees when I get too uncomfortable,
And then switching back to Indian style when I start to lose feeling in my feet.

Again sitting on the floor, this time of the Borders behind Penn Station,
Safe and snug in the set-back corner of the children's section.
Two of us there, each with a hot mint chocolate drink in one hand,
And an iced one in the other: a welcome mistake.

Sitting once more on a park bench,
Firecracker ices in hand--
The red dripping down the white until we get to the Patriotic bottom
Which gives us Smurf lips
And we stick out our blue tongues at each other like a secret handshake,
A family crescent, a clubhouse password.

Lost in the snow, the wheels of the car sliding slowly over transparent ice,
Then we sneak around the hoity-toity lodge
Pretending, for a few moments, we belong there, too.
Then chased by an overeager, over-hungry squirrel,
The iced wind biting at our faces and pinching our cheeks red.

Ice skating, ice skating, ice skating.
Alone, and then with you, and then alone, and then with you,
Around and around and around.
The rink a ring of people--
Pass by the same ones, yet each time you're different, they're different.
Change without change.
Watch out for the jocks who try to cut you off. They'll trip themselves one day, doing that.
They'll never trip me, though.
Here is one place I never fall.

Warm in there, on the couch, on the rocking chair, tired but don't want to sleep.
Awake, awake, stay awake.
Blink my eyes open - when did they close?
Open, yes, they're open.
And I'm wide awake now - but how?
Was I talking?
Whose line is it anyway?

Those glass elevators go up, up, up
I like to look down and see everything get smaller and smaller.
Dizzying -but a thrill because I can make myself look and still want to continue going up.
Let's ride again!
Up and back down, then back up--
Let's stay up, can't we?

Words on the screen tell us to sing.
Sing?
There are people. People!
They might hear us!
Do we even know the songs?
We laugh and sing and sing and laugh.
I am not me, you are not you, we are not we--
We just are.
Having the time of our lives.

These days and more. These days and more.
These days--
And more.

P.S. The Squeaker - the inspiring tale of a boy and his sneaker.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Games

Games That Are Not Fun

Life should be fun, but other people are not characters in a game. People do not feel the same way you do about things, nor do they see the world through your eyes. In fact, they're probably not over analyzing you quite as much as you imagine they are. It might be nice if they saw your point of view, but don't count on it. You'll never have fun playing that game unless you stop playing. The more natural you allow yourself to feel around other people, the more natural your life will become. Often the game is only in your own mind, anyway. You'll usually discover that you're the only one playing, that other people don't even know your game exists, and that it's actually quite silly to continue on in such a manner. In fact, it wasn't even all that fun to play in the first place, was it?

Games That Are Fun
(In no particular order)

Boggle
Cookies With Letters
Hide-And-Go-Seek Tag
Sports
Scrabble
Mille Bornes
Taboo
Scattergories
Bananagrams
Rummikub
Balderdash
Apples To Apples
Set
Squidge
Mao
Mafia
Capture The Flag
Paintball
Laser Tag
Risk
Stragego
Calvinball

...Lots more that I either haven't played yet or am just not thinking of. Feel free to add to the list.

Let's play those games instead. :)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Calling One Fairy Godmother?

This show is kinda about Shidduchim. In a crazy, zany, satirical kind of way.

The Questing Beast

Have you ever tried to write a post in invisible ink? There's something thrilling about it, let me tell you. I hide behind these white words because I am afraid to speak, and so I speak only to myself. Yet, funny, I also speak to those clever enough to see that there are words here. But on a blog post I suppose it isn't all that difficult to figure out, seeing as there'll be a big white space with nothing to read right away. If I saw that, I'd immediately highlight to see if there was something hidden. So I suppose I mean, I speak to those who care enough to find my words.

And yet aren't all words really hidden? We speak, but are we seen?

And isn't there always a secret desire to be heard, even when one writes in invisible ink?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Singin' In The Rain

Weather appropriate lately, huh?







Enjoy! Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ponderings On A Rainy Day

I sit here by the window and watch the rain drip and slip and slide down the pain, so slick it is as it hits the world below. It's like the world is crying...or is it laughing?

There is nothing I can say, so I'm offering this instead. Often there is more good than just what is obvious. You may hate the rain, but the rain makes the world grow.

Don't gripe. It only fuels a fire too hot to gather round and roast s'mores.

You can cry, but then don't forget that tears come from laughter, too. There's so much bad stuff that happens, why not appreciate all that is good? When you cry, the world cries with you. When you laugh, we can take off our hoods and jump in the puddles.

Life is too serious to be taken too seriously.

Seriously.

Won't anyone jump in the puddles with me?

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Book Of Over-Think

Warning: This post is an inherent contradiction.


Calvin's brought the whole "caring too much about things" thing to an opposite extreme. See, it's not good to over-think a situation, but it's not good not to think at all.

The statement above might sound random to you. That's because I spent way too much time thinking about this post (it's been sitting in the drafts for about a week) and, seeing that there was no way to begin at any sort of beginning, I began in the middle. It's an age-old concept dating back to Homer (or is it Horace? Does it matter?) called in medias res, but if you walk around saying that, people might think you're an intellectual. Now, there's nothing wrong with being an intellectual, per se, but it all depends on how you'd like to come across, and I find that if one is too intellectual and goes around talking about people like Homer and Horace and not getting them all muddled up (not like anyone else'd know the difference) and speaking in Latin - asum thusum - what was I saying, again?

Oh yes. Caring too much. Over-thinking. Theorizing. Thesee-izing (that's coming up with a thesis plus a few to make it plural - or thesi - or thesii - or any neologism thou wishest).

I said something in my Literature and Philosophy class (yes, that is the name of one class, not two, despite the many confusions people have had when I've mentioned it before) which was considered "brilliant" or a "breakthrough" or, if you like, "seeing things our way now." It was this: "When the prejudices of the 'I' get in the way, you're not giving something itself proper attention, you're just giving attention to what you project onto the thing."

The reaction when these words slipped accidentally out of my mouth (although I had written them down on the side of an article beforehand) was that of a cult opening its arms wide and embracing me with an emphatic, "come join our side, soul-that-is-no-longer-wayward!"

And yet, despite my reluctance to join the dark side, I see that it is perhaps not as dark as I would have liked it to be. Because if it truly was that dark, then I'd stand with my hands on my hips in triumph, brandishing my brilliant arguments with pride and always coming out one step above (like on a staircase, which is certainly more prestigious an accomplishment than being one step ahead on a path, which takes much less energy and skill, unless 'twas a rocky path, in which case I shall consent to being one step ahead, although preferrably also above, on a rock, because the higher you are, the more you can see, and the more strategic your position, you know). But since it is not dark at all, but actually quite sensical, I find myself painfully admitting that perhaps I was ***** (for those not used to this game yet, I mean "wrong" but since I'd not like to say it, I won't). According to a philosopher we read in class, and according to the person who wrote about her, "'Something in our soul has a far more violent repugnance for true attention than the flesh has for bodily fatigue.' The repugnance Weil [pronounced 'vay,' not 'whale,' just so you won't sound as stupid saying her name out loud for the first time as I did] has in mind here is the ego's reluctance to engage in scrupulous self-criticism, since such criticism has a tendency to humiliate, to shatter the ego's pride and vanity." So, you know, we don't like to self-criticize because it makes us feel like we're being criticized (gee) and this hurts our ego. Blah blah.

Somehow I'd like to segue into this point:

That one should not approach a situation with a thesis. One should evaluate each situation as its own entity and not try to "figure things out" or "discover anything." People should not be treated as a mystery to be solved, nor should their actions be, nor should any situation one stumbles upon. As a wise person I sometimes come across says, "it is what it is 'cause it is," yeah?

Douglas Adams, in his book Mostly Harmless says, "Anything that happens, happens. Anything that, in happening, causes something else to happen, causes something else to happen. Anything that, in happening, causes itself to happen again, happens again. It doesn't necessarily do it in chronological order, though."

Now, that is odd, because how can all that not happen in chronological order? But perhaps this is not worth philosophizing over because that is not the point at all. The point is that anything that happens, happens, and it happens without being thesis-ized over.

And now, to throw on the cloak of an intellectual, I will say that there is something I cannot understand about Wiggenstien's The Blue Book. He says, "What is the meaning of a word?" Then he explains that to give a word definitions is not necessarily saying what the word means. His example is with a pencil. About a pencil one may say, "this is a pencil" or "this is round" or "this is wood" or "this is one" or "this is hard" and so on and so forth. These are all ways one might define or describe a pencil, but to know what a pencil is is to be able to differentiate it from, for instance, a pen. And to know what to do with it. Etc, etc, etc.

Yet aren't these all intuitive? Don't we understand this concept without having to put it into words and analyze it? What is the real point in this essay? To tell us what we already know?

But yes! Wiggenstien admits in his Philosophical Investigations, "the problems are solved, not by giving new information, but by arranging what we have always known."

My teacher, to quote: Philosophy is not in the business of discovering something new about the world.

HA!

But then why? Why learn philosophy? How is philosophy not synonymous with "over-thinking?"

This conversation with a friend, according to that friend, "was such a Calvin&Hobbes strip," and so we come full circle:

"Calvin": sometimes I wonder if people spend a lot of their lives wasting time mulling over things that are obvious
"Hobbes": you mean like that? :)
"Calvin": oh shut up

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Fudge-A-Mania

This Shabbos, Fudge and SJ came to my house. It was really a lot of fun (MOST!), but I would just like to point out two conversations on Friday:

Fudge: Wow, this is just like Monsey!
Erachet: What do you mean?
Fudge: There are trees!

Fudge: Wow, this is just like a real house!
Erachet: Um, that's because it is a real house...
Fudge: It just doesn't seem like you can have real houses in a place like New York!

Case in point! :)

(Don't worry Fudge, you're still awesome :P )

Friday, December 5, 2008

Greater Than Me

There is an important piece of grammar that I think basically everyone I know gets wrong. English majors get it wrong, professors get it wrong, TV shows get it wrong, people on the news get it wrong - like I said, most people I know personally or see in the public eye get it wrong.

I admit - especially for an English major - I have a high tolerance for grammatical errors. I don't cringe every time someone messes up. I notice it, but I let it go. I'm chill.

This error gets to me every time, though. Not because it's an error, either, but because it's a conscious error. It's people deliberately making this mistake because they think it's correct. And that bothers me.

Do you remember, growing up, when you used to say things like, "Emily and me are going out to play?"

I'm sure some adult (parent? teacher?) would gently correct you with, "Emily and I."

So you learn, "Emily and I are going out to play."

Great!

And forever after, you are conscious of not making the same error twice. But that eventually translates into...

"Would you like to come play with Emily and I?"

This should be right, shouldn't it? After all, you remember going over and over, "Emily and I, Emily and I, get this right, it's Emily and I."

Wrong!

You see, when I was taking Latin, I learned about two grammatical cases that most people would probably translate as "subject" and "object." They were called "nominative" and "accusative" and they have different endings that I had to memorize, just like in English, really, but we don't think of it that way in English. Now, the nominative word or subject of the sentence is not what the sentence is about, but who or what is doing the action of the sentence. So in the sentence, "Emily and I are going out to play," Emily and I are doing the action. We are the subjects of the sentence. "I" is the nominative version of first person singular (I, me).

However, in the sentence, "Would you like to come play with Emily and me?" the person doing the action is "you." You are coming to play, even though it's a question. If you turn it into a statement, it would be, "You like to come play with Emily and me." Not "Emily and I," but "Emily and me." "Me" is the accusative version of first person singular. "Emily and me" are the objects because the action is being done to them, or with them, or for them, etc.

You might be thinking, "okay, but in normal speech, no one is thinking that carefully about how they structure their sentences." True - but, first of all, you should! The more you try to be grammatically correct, the more naturally it'll come to you, and then you won't have to think about it anymore. But I know, if you don't care, and if no one else seems to care (except crazy grammar freaks), then what's the big deal?

The big deal here is that people constantly make this mistake because they are trying to be grammatically correct and doing it wrong.

Here's an easy way to remember the correct word to use for "I" and "me." Change it to third person.

Naturally, you'd know to say, "She goes out to play" but "I go out to play with her." You wouldn't say, "I go out to play with she," would you?

She, he, I. Him, her, me. That's how it goes.

"Emily and me" can be correct and is correct when used properly.

Remember that!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Pre-Chanuka: Rechov Sumsum Edition

Chanuka is one of those chagim which just sort of sneaks up on you when you're no longer learning about it in school. It's only a few weeks away! Today I realized - they should start serving us sufganiot in the caf soon!

These clips bring back such childhood memories. This one always made me hungry:



And this one is just classic:

Toast


For everyone I'm friends with - but especially my apartment mates.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Um...

April Fool's?

Sorry if I had anyone completely fooled. There's no way I'd really last in Med School. :)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Switching Gears

I've done it. I've figured out what I want to do for the rest of my life. I can't believe it took me this long!

I've always liked helping people. Those who know me well can vouch for it. I like to listen, I like to be there for people, I go out of my way to help them and I like doing all that. And ever since I was a little kid, I've had a slight hero-complex (I used to have dreams about single-handedly ending wars - especially WWII, bringing peace to Israel, etc).

So what better path in life than...medical school?

Seriously.

Okay, so I pass out at the sight of blood and I hate needles - but these are fears that can be overcome, right?

Come on, why not? All I have to do is take calculus and a whole bunch of science classes, and that will probably require me to stay extra at Stern, but...so? I've already got horrible handwriting...!

Quasimodo