Tuesday, October 28, 2008

We have met the enemy and he is us

How can we make living simply more sexy, more attractive, to currently rich and poor alike? Isn't this the question? How can we sell sanity and planetary probity to ourselves, so that we stop living beyond our personal and public means?


Examples of what I mean by living simply (he said from one of the three functional computers in his house): eating local produce, walking and riding bicycles, consuming less, gathering together and singing or talking rather than going to expensive and wasteful resteraunts and "entertainments" , having holidays where we step out of our routine by volunteering somewhere instead of travelling to some artificial bubble hotel and shutting out the misery (if they are in the developing world) or quiet deperation (in the developed world), having healthy and blissful addictions...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Bar Mitzvah for Gentiles / Reviewing the age of Bar/Bat Mitzvah

Bar and Bat Mitzvah for Gentiles

Those people growing up live in post industrial societies where people have been homogenised, deracinated, detribalised, and have become both the perpetrators and victims of a vacuous consumerism, sometimes feel a lack. They may turn to on of inumerable addictions, some of which are more socially approved of, some less. Graffiti, vandalism, alcoholism, gangs, drugs, authoritarian structures where the other is demonised, workaholism, internet addictions, shopping, overeating...when some of these people go shopping for traditions and ceremonies that will enhance their lives, and give them a sense of their worth and their place in the universe. Judaism might want to be there offering them something.

An expanded Bar Mitzvah (as discussed below) might offer a lot to people who have not grown up with a particlar faith tradition, and are looking for a rite of pasage which will help them to meaningfully transition (now there's an American refitting of a noun as a verb!) from one life stage to the next. Jewish congregations could offer this ceremony as part of their outreach programmes.

they call it a rite of passage

but from where to where

and is it to become more righteous

or more riotous

or both

hard to get it right

the son of commandments

on a mission from G-d

to laugh without reservation

sing without hesitation

serve without calculation

be without justification

Reviewing the age of Bat and Bar Mitzvah

While the current age of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah (12 for girls, 13 for boys) is well timed to coincide with the onset of puberty, in many other ways, in this time and place, 13 is not an age when children enter into adulthood, but rather into the narcissistic and intense highs and lows of adolescence. It might make a lot more sense to have the ceremony at 17 or 18, where it might co-incide with other events and markers of adulthood such as legal majority, driving licences, final year(s) at school, or even the completion of school. Any comments or responses from readers?

I personally would like to see the bar mitzvah in general gaining extra layers of meaning by evolving into a male rite-of passage /initiation ceremony where boys are mentored into meaningful, powerful and compassionate manhood by older males. It would involve a little bit of adrenalin (maybe with some white water rafting, or a long hike....see the Mankind project https://mankindproject.org.au/ and http://www.theritejourney.com.au/

The Bar / Bat Mitzvah process (for it is a process, not a single ceremony) would also involve some sex education (so that boys don't just get their ideas from their peers and from porn sites etc etc) where the sacredness of sex is emphasised, and some community/tzedaka type work where the barmitzvah or batmitzvah contributes a certain number of volunteer hours for a worthwhile organisation or cause of their choice - mine would be CLAW http://www.claw-sa.org/ or the Tibetan Bhuddist project in Groot Marico or several bautiful organisations in Israel...of course everyone will have their own list.

AND a very unostentatious community ceremony in a shul where the child reads from the torah, gives a dvar torah ( a personal interpretation of their portion) and is acknowledged for all they have achieved by their community, AND their parents are acknowledged for having raised a productive and responsible member of the community (takes a village to raise a child, but nevertheless parents have a central role)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The sea and me

I thought my fear of the sea
was just between it and me
but I am the sea
and I am not me
and the fear is the fear
of being free

I had sex with a dying woman
when I was a dying man
we thrust all night with all or might
but the sun did not rise again

I notice that the resources I am setting aside for saving the world exclude the resources necessary for my vaccations, indulgences, daily creature comforts, objects that prop up my shaky self esteem, etc etc

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Priorities, overwhelm and "news"

Afer watching the news I hardly know what to worry about first:

The slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan, where fishermen slash the dolphins' throats with knives or stab them with spears, so that the water turns red with the dolphins blood, and the air fills with their screams.
The child in Afghanistan who painfully learns to walk again after loosing his legs to a landmine
The Iranian president's intention to perpetuate a second Holocaust
The misery in Darfur, where starvation and rape camps are being used to systematically destroy hundreds of thousands of people

Or the work for my job I was avoiding when I turned on the news

Turf wars

The intellectual

The intellectual
made a poo
which was very round
and very profound

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The inescapable Holocaust

I think any teaching of the Holocaust should focus at least as much, and possibly more, on how the Holocaust sits in us today, how it shapes Jews and Jews in community and communities of Jews... how it shapes our identity and agendas, either consciously or unconsciously, how it makes us a community of fear rather than of faith; this aspect as much as the historical material – what happened etc etc.

The graves at Rookwood/ made me feel heavy / too see the inscriptions: "

" Joseph ben Lipe Joel Katz shot in Bendzin 1939
Shprinca bat Shmuel Brandis and family, perished in Aushwitz August 1943

and the thoughts were
how could they do this /
people are unbelievably cruel and vicious
it could happen again
only the thinnest veneer of self interested politeness separates us from this
the murderous monster of resentment can arise in a moment
so that neighbours of twenty years suddenly greet us with insults and spittle rage
and so on

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Post-emigration depression

Somehow, on the way to Australia from South Africa, I must have died without noticing it

Becoming you

As you age
and your body shrinks
there is less to stop
your beauty shining through
til in the end
all I see is you

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


for eating
by the tablespoonful
the sweetened
condensed milk
you had kept for icing
but these
are desperate times


Published in Carapace 70 - Poems Graphics Molluscana. Carapace is a South African poetry magazine published by Gus Ferguson, AKA Slakkie van der Schyf, since 1994. Editorial Address: P O Box 7830, Roggebaai, 8012.

Carapace is currently experiencing financial difficulties - if you are interested in poetry why not consider subscribing to this charming little magazine. There are usually five issues a year. South African subsscriptions R200.00 for six issues. Overseas subscriptions: R260.00 for 6 issues. Payment by post: P O Box 12020, Mill Street 8010.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Medical musings

The X -rays
the dentist
took today
showed a greyish area on my teeth
he mistakenly called a cavity
when in fact
it was just
the late afternoon shadow
of middle age

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Apology number who knows how many times

I'm so sorry
for eating
the food in the fridge
but I didn't know what else to do

Who killed cock robin?

Who killed cock robin
I killed cock robin
with my 4 X 4

Who killed cock robin
I killed cock robin
by writing this blog

Who killed cock robin
I killed cock robin
said the marketeer
with bottled water and liquid soap

Who killed cock robin
I killed cock robin
with my plastic bags
filled with yom tov shopping
I killed cock robin
said the mother and wife

who killed cock robin
I killed cock robin
with my drunken sunset cruises
said the tour operator
I killed cock robin

who killed cock robin
I killed cock robin
with my girlfriends at the Japanese resteraunt
where we watched him sliced before our eyes
said the columnist for a women's magazine

who killed cock robin
I killed cock robin
I sold him in exchange
for the Olympic games
and a plasma TV
said Joe Soap, and reached for a beer

who killed cock robin
I did said the cosmetics manufacturer
with my toxicity tests
I killed cock robin

who killed cock robin
I killed cock robin
said the copy writer
but if I didn't do it
then you would have done
nobody's clean in this world

who killed cock robin
we all killed cock robin
and we need to be saved
from ourselves

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ketzarim Nosafim - more shorts

Scenario No 1:

Very polite besuited business man meets his doctor (who is of similar age and class and conditioning) in the waiting room:

How are you?

Good doctor. And you?

Well thanks. Come through (extends his arm, they enter into the doctor's room both seat thmselves)

Doctor: Family well

Yes thanks, Marge is in the UK at the moment, visiting her brother

Ah yes, Cornwell isn't it

Exactly. Excellent memory. Your family are all well?

Fine, James is deciding whether to change to actuarial science (more small talk until eventually)So what can I do for you.

Well doctor, the thing is....I've been dribbling a bit....also

Doctor: might be an enlarged prostrate ( as the examination becoms increasingly biological, the effort require to maintain the evasive small talk becomes increasingly supreme, so as the doctor has his hand in his clients bum and is feeling around they are both hard pressed to find futher topics of conversation.)

Doctor (eventually, still checking the prostrate) unusual weather we're having

Client: yes, rain at this time of year (he lets out a G-d awful fart)...sorry old chap.

Doctor: Hmmm...the blighter is slighly enlarged. Might have to do a biopsy just to check everything is shipshape. But you're strong as a horse. I'm sure everything is right as rain. But just to make sure. Anything else bothering you?

Patient. Well yes, one small thing..I had an unfortunate incident...won't elaborate...but seem to have picked up something on the old John Thomas, hurts like the devil when I pass water and

The Doctor is now examining his patient's penis and they've moved on to sport

Watch the final?

Yes, I think they deserved it

Especially with O connor playing like a bit of a dick

Yes, I alsways said they didn't have the balls to go through with it

Scenario 2. "Cleans so clear, you won't know its there"

Man watches infomercial for magnetised window cleaners. He's impressed, rushes out and buys a pair. As soon as he gets home he tries them out on his 3rd floor window. Of course the one on the outside of the window falls as soon as he tries to do a neat curve on the glass, and it drops down to where it bangs a large muscular man on the head, who picks it up and,in a rage, hurls it up and neatly towards the window the first man was trying to clean. Slow mo as it flies up into the sun and then descends like a first world war fighter, cut to interior, surprised man (who is unaware how the magnetised window cleaner has returned) watching first in delight and then in terror as it approaches, hits the glass and smashes the pane....

Scenario No. 3:

A very bustaceous young women is waiting in a busy doctor's waiting rooms. Eventually he comes through, holding a file, and calls out "Elena Mankowitz".

That's me says the young woman, and stands up. The doctor is immediately bewitched by her bosom, and can hardly tear his eyes from it (them.) He ushers her into his room, all smiles and pleasantness, and closes the door.

Please, please have a seat...or lie down if you prefer"

She sits opposite him, on the other side of his desk.

Right, what can I do for you today.

Well, doc, I have this fungus between my toes.

Any other funguses....vaginal.....(hopefully) breasts?

No. She shakes her head.

Any rashes under the breasts? Do you sweat quite a lot

Not that I've noticed. About my toe.

How old are you?


Excellent. You actually look younger. Weight?

56 kilos

Good, good. (Eyes her appreciatively.) You seem to be in excellent shape. Anyone in your family have breast cancer? Mom? Gran?

She shakes her head

Good. But I'm sure you do regular breast examinations anyway?

She shakes her head.

You don't....you really should. And you should have a mammogram every year
About my toe....
Yes, yes, I'll have a look now...you can get undressed behind the screen
Doctor, I just want you to look at my foot
Yes, just remove your sock and your blouse.
I'd rather just take of my sock
As you like, but its much more difficult to accurately examine you through a shirt
Its these two (she thrusts the relevant toes under his nose where he gets a whiff of the ripe camembert smell)
Yes, he says, its athletes foot, you'll need quite a strong fungicide. I'll write you a script. I just want to check these two as well ....
He takes out his stethescope and places it on her breast. He listens intently. Breathe in, Breathe out, Breathe in, Breathe Out

Are you for real....?

Of course.


Young man stands before Mac Donalds. Low angle shot of him, clouds skudding behind him, square jawed chin foregrounded, a stubborn hero. He's about to step in. Two angels hover on each shoulder. The one is a continuous stream af advetisong images - sizzling food carefully doctored by food stylists, happy white teethed families wolfing down tubs of freedom fries and battered chicken bits, two for one incentives, a sequence typical of the never never land created by ad agencies, their crass manipulations powerful because of the torrent, the sheer volume of them, so that everything that is unconscious in us is further hypnotised, lulled into an even deeper sleep where even as we eat the tasteless food which turns to sawdust the moment it has been wellchewed, we still lookforwards to the next bite, and indeed, we do temporarily forget our sorrows while the jaws are chomping in bovine fashion on the muscles of bovines...

he shakes his head , as if to cast of the mirages that beguile him, the siren song from the warm and lit up shop, where friendly staff entice him in from the loneliness of the wind swept seats...he shakes his head again, shuts his eyes tightly, turns his head the other way, now we see the repressed bits, the abbatoir, the blood being hosed down, the bored worker kicking the animal along, the machines pumping additives into the sesame buns, the oily greasy gears on the hamburger patty machine, the industrialised greyness, the growth hormones, the bored staff of pimply adolescennts and immigrants, the robot like regulation of the "quality", the loveless nature of food cooked anonymously and served anonymously, food without ritual or tradition, plastic food, the cockroaches hiding in the cracks who venture out at 3:45 am when the night staff are slumped on their stools and the police patrols are dozing in their cars....

He turns and goes away, away from the temptation towards reality...opens a can of lentils at home, goes onto his minute urban balcony where herbs are growing in old tin cans, harvests coriander and dill and some tomatoes, chops up onion in the kitchen, and soo has them frying in some ghee...

to be continued

Scenario No 5.

Busy staff room at school. teachers are marking papers, preparing lessons etc etc. One of them is having a VERY inapropriate conversation in a very LOUD voice so that the others find it increasingly hard to remain poker faced. Could be:

"Doctor Lee please...yes I'm phoning to get my biopsy results....so its my entire rectum...OR

so the results are positive. Oh my G-d. And you're certain its the Ebola virus?

"So if its not ghonorhea then what are those pussy ulcers on the glans?

"I did not say your breasts are sagging, I said your stomach hasn't been the same since the ceasar, but that's not the reason for the affair..."

"If its not thrush or candida then why is my vagina so itchy"

"I did not rape you

Ketzarim - shorts

Patrons at a theatre. The gong sounds, they take their seats, the house lights dim, the stage lights come up, an actor enters from stage right, we focus one one mousy patron and his wife who have paid their money and want to get their money's worth. They are looking at the stage when a stream of late arrivals come into the theatre, come up the steps to their row, and then file past them one after the other, so that they block the view. Some apologise, some just push past. Eventually the man, who has ben craning this way and that, can se again, but the newcomers are still making a racket as they settle, adjust coats, cough, creak and distract. The players on stage are gathering steam, when a new bunch of latecomers enter, and file into the row two down from our patrons. One of the newcomrs is very tall, and settles down in a seat which blocks the line of vision of the woman. She cranes, shifts, cannot see properly. Eventually she swops with her husband - while the newcomers sshhh her for maing a noise. Now she and he can see and irritated but hopeful, turn their attention to the play. But another bunch of latecomers arrive, and enter the row in front of them, where another tall man seats himself in front of her!

The mousy patron sums up his courage and taps on the shoulder of the large man. Could he please swop seats so that his wife can see? (Ssshhhhhes from various folk seated near them). The tall man says sure, whispers to the person next to him, and then a complicated manouvre begins as he and the person sitting next to him exchange seats, again obscuring the stage. Once this has finally been sorted out the mousy patrons settle back and try and understand what's going on on stage. The nod attentivey, as if attending a lecture. But therearrangement in the next row has not worked out, because the person who swopped with the tall man cannot see. She whispers to the prson n her other side to swop, and thus begins another complicated manouvre. This seems to open the floodgates - various patrons try to improve their seats, swop places, change rows, go to the toilet, knock over drinks, turn off phones, so that the stage is obscured by a maelstrom of activity. The mousy man looks at his mousy law-abiding wife despairingly. Then a glint of mutual determination appears in their eyes, they rise, go to the very front row and....
To be continued

PSA for Animals Australia - TITLES: Imagine if children had become as desensitized as us...?

We are with a group of very cute and small primary school children and their teacher, who are following her around like ducklings. We start off at some gates, where the teacher tells them to be on their best behaviour because today they are visiting "Old MacDonalds farm, where life is much simpler than in the city, and folks have time to say hello to one another."
Cut to them outside the chicken shed. teacher. here is where the chickens are debeaked, and dusted with antibiotic...here is where the mail chickens are suffocated in big black plastic bags....any questions??
They stare blankly. Dull eyes. No questions (Is this the response I want, or are they upset??)
Here is where the piglets are taken from their mommies, tortured / have their genitals removed without anaesthetic /

And here children, is where....

This Christmas, don't disconnect from compassion - eat ethically.


Valentine Day

Girl at school. She's different. Original. Other kids don't know what to make of her. She has her buddies. Maybe she's pretty in an easily recognisable way. maybe she's not. She's quite intense. Rebellious. The class has a teacher. An eduator. Complex. Sincere. She's an outsider. He's an outsider. her in the playground. he in the staffroom. On Valentine's day the kids all send each other notes and gifts. Anonymous. From lovers. She's not going to get one. She's sufficiently different ( A Dvora Wolfson, a proto feminist, grows hair on her legs....? perhaps stutters, stammers, brilliant...) The teacher writes her a note. Truly affirming. She's trying to figure which boy sent it to her. Move from boy's fac to boy's face from her POV. The Teacher observes. He has to keep the note secret. All kinds of child care checks and shit. But its completely platonic. completely nurturing. Does she confide in him. ? In the school counselor. Maybe make the teacher female? What's the punch line. Todah laEyl.

Imagine a Christian graveyard desecrated with graffiti - sprayed on Stars of David, crosses broken, tombstones smashed and toppled over..hard to imagine, isn't it, cos it hasn't happened much in the last 1000 years...

imagine tens of thousands of websites dedicated to villefying Christians, or Moslems, and which selectively quote from Christian texts, or Moslem texts


Flight safety bvideo. camera dwells on the attractive models groin, til the VO chides the camera to move onto the next section. The oxygen masks…which starts of well, but when it gets to the inhale deeply, the camera dwells lovingly on the rise and fall of her breasts, and we hear a sighed “oy vey” of the cameraman off screen…

Premises – a collection of “what ifs”

What if academic papers were written like infomercials and infomercials were written like academic papers.

Year 7s go off to an intergenerational debate at Montefiore. The topic is : life gets better as you age. This in itself is full of delicious ironies but wait… there’s more. One of the kids (perhaps bored, perhaps ADHD, perhaps there are two of them, slips off….and finds themselves playing chess with an old toothless man (his dentures are next to his bed) and having a strange exchange of notes…or they witness a death…or they witness something that changes their perspective on ageing (Theme: ageing and the eternal…..comparing real childhood and second childhood….or they witness something but completely misinterpret it – could intercut with the ongoing debate to form a dramatic commentary on each other…..March 19th….think about this…what if its a troubled “aged” child and a free “young” octogenarian – role reversal and a meditation upon

Skit – very dignified older gentleman in suit enters public toilets, glances at the urinals which are stained and messy, and being used by drunken yobbos, decides instead to use the only availsable cubicle, goes in, its not to bad…but door keeps on swinging open and won’t lock, he tries afew times, it swings, so he holds it in place, then raises the toilet seat – oh no – it’s one of tose that doesn’t stay up, but falls down, so he gingerly holds it up so that he can pee…he’s now holding the door with one hand and the oilet seat with the other and attempting to guide his urine where its supposed to go – walk like an Egyptian etc etc


Crossing bridges is a pain in the bum


A fictional story – perhaps set in a small platteland dorpie – where a Jewish general store owner encounters – very unexpectedly – a suddent outpouring of philo semitism

Dogs in my house – being a 4 legged social history of South Africa. (Cora Bailey)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Notes towards 4 short films

A man wakes up in the morning, pads sleepily to his computer, tries to go online, the internet is down. He is pissed off, tries a few different things, none of them help, he dials the number of a call centre and gets piped music and is told he is number 347 in the queue. He keeps the phone on soft speakerphone and goes about his morning ablutions - makes coffee, drinks it, does some tai chi like stretches (or meditates), all the while keeping the phone near him...at a certain point he goes into the toilet, when he flushes he picks up the phone in a panic, imagining someone might have answered but once the cistern noises recede we hear the piped music again, indicating he's still on hold. He does his teeth, electric tooth bush in hand, phone in the other. Throught this whole sequence the main visual gags are some wild balancing acts as he keeps the phone near him. Once he's dressed, packed his bag. made his sandwiches whatever he steps out the door, gets into the car, carefully places the phone near him...he doesn't have a hand free and the car is sufficiently old to convince us this is appropriate..so he's driving along, gets to quite a crowded intersection...."helo....hello? says the phone" he grabs it, "yes, I 'm here, just hang on a moment "what's the problem sir?" CRASH...slow pan across him slumped against the windshield to phone on front seat "hello, hello, how might I be of excellent service today..."


Footage (really shoul be called megabytes these days) of busy shopping mall- Bondi Junction would be ideal
Megs of terminal shopper in same
Toilet: same shopper vomiting over bowl
Megs of diners chewing the gristle
Megs of abatoir footage
What interactions will be revealing....


Innocent cherubic young one looking up at tall old 'un
"We're going to have to improve your batting skills this season "
Cut to child in cricket nets holding outsize bat, in huge pads and helmet so that he can hardly move, while a variety of balls and instructions are thrown at him...starts slow, then cuts more and more rapidly.
If you're not going to make an effort I'm going to have to get tough with you
rugby balls, soccer balls, tennis balls, baseballs , cricket balls, while the child hugs the side of the net, then the objects become more absurd (visual gags) food, missiles, rockets, watermelons, bras and panties, flowers, confetti, bread crumbs (tashlich) etc...in some of these the child has a shield , in others they're now dressed in a rusting suit of armour, in some they hold a hockey stick, or are in inflatable fat suit,

...OS comments from manic ol un-parent-coach
hit the ball
mace it
bash it
bang it
gong it
crank it
what's wrong with you, never seen an RPG before???
When I was six I could hit a cannonball further than that
etc etc

cut to child hyperventilating at side of net, breathing into a paper bag, concerned parent leaning over them, concerned:
"it's just a game, no need to take it so seriously"
sshhh, there there
eventually the child calms down , their uncontrollable trembling stops, the tears in their eyes dry
"are you OK"
the child nods, blinking
"you absolutey sure"
the child nods more assuredly
"that's it my tiger"

cut to, the child is back in the nets, piling sandbags around the wicket, rolls of barbed wire leaning against the side ready for use

cut to the old un wheeling a roman ballistra into place, connecting high pressure water hoses, artillery pieces, tennis ball firing machines, staues that pee in a might arc, an enormous syringe, a small lava spewing volcano, explosive seed pods, etc etc anything and everything that can hurl a projectile
to be continued


A day in the life of a teacher when that teacher is hungry for

a) sex
b) affirmation
c) food
d) intellectual stimulation

all ripe with comic possibility. For example teacher is marking a pile of exams, the exams are scawled in large poorly formed handwriting so that the teacher struggles to decode the unintelligible answers, or else can decode them and they are clearly hogwash both to us and the viewers; all kinds of mangled facts and half-baked opinions ( we know this cos teacher reads aloud inbetween sips from cup of coffee), then they cross to computer and go onto an escort agency and stare longingly at different prostitutes; shake their head, close the site, go back to their deadly dull marking, and then back to the computer, we cut faster and faster, so he's moving like a ping pong ball - which one will triumph ???- will he run screaming from the flat and head towards the brothel??? will he run screaming from the flat with his exams and tear them into little shreds and hurl them into the sea? will he slash huge red lines through them...will he meekly submit?

use of VO as teacher is going to work...his thoughts about all the women he sees...each one evaluated as their potential as a sexual object... should be a VO that at least men can recognise

This self same teacher phones a parent (rather hesitatingly) to talk about a child's poor behaviour, but (much to the teacher's dismay) the child in question answers, and refuses to put the mother on. The teacher cannot get past this obnoxious child. They phone again later, the next day, even when the teacher has manged to ascertain the child is at school, and phones, somehow the child is at home to intercept the call! The teacher sets their alarm clock to wake them at 3am, phones, the child answers! So the teacher gives up. "OK what do you want" says the teacher wearily. the child reads out a list of demands....

Alternatively, the child brazenly lies and always says their parent is not there, even though we can hear the parent saying loudly in the background "who is it Sarah?" or "who is it Gary?"


Eventually the teacher manages to meet the parent of the child.
Your child is sometimes very aggressive in class
No she's not (parent thrusts their face aggressively into teacher's face) maybe its because she's bored - all the children say they never do anything interesting in geography
Yes...well...I've had no complaints and really we're here to
Parent (interrupting) I'm not going to have my child victimised and abused. I'll take it up with the board if necessary. There are always two sides to any conflict and just because shes a child doesn't mean you can silence her
Mr Bent, I'm not trying to silence her...I mean..I am in class, if she's talking all the time while I'm talking, and if she throws pencils at the other children and doesn't pay attention .....
(The parent is yawning and reading an sms message on their cell phone and not paying attention)
I mean she sits with her back to me talking to another child outside the classroom
(the parent is waving at another parent outside the hall) Hey dave you going to the golf?


Sunday, October 5, 2008

First do no harm

It sounds nice, doesn't it? As an organising principle, as a guiding moral beacon in this murky world. But of course its a fiction for from the first. "We" - that is, all of us who are bodies or take ourselves to be bodies - do nothing but destroy so that those bodies may live. Even being born we cause pain to our mothers, and from the moment we are out of the womb we begin to voraciously consume resources. Even if, from the moment we begin eating solids, we live our whole lives as vegetarians or vegans, the land that was cleared to grow those vegetables meant the destruction of whatever indigenous flaura or fauna lived on it, and all the cloth we wear, the chemicals and medicines we use and consume, the technology with which "I" write and disseminate what I write, all of these condemm us to be agents of destruction with every act of creation.

These are not original ideas, I'm sure they have been often articulated, and as usual, the voice which I hear most clearly is that of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, who says in "I am That" ( see post earlier today - Sunday - the US centric blogging software says Saturday, but I don't usually turn on the computer on shabat/saturday )

Q: If you do not mind my asking a personal question...?

M: Yes, go ahead.

Q: I see you sitting on an antelope skin. How does it tally with non-violence?

M: All my working life I was a cigarette maker, helping people to spoil their health. And in front of my door the municipality has put up a public lavatory, spoiling my health. In this violent world how can one keep away from violence of some kind or another?

Q: Surely all avoidable violence should be avoided. And yet in India every holy man has his tiger, lion, leopard or antelope skin to sit on.

M: Maybe because no plastics were available in ancient times and a skin was best to keep the damp away. Rheumatism has no charm, even for a saint! Thus the tradition arose that for lengthy meditations a skin is needed. Just like the drum-hide in a temple, so is the antelope skin of a Yogi. We hardly notice it.

Q: But the animal had to be killed.

M: I have never heard of a Yogi killing a tiger for his hide. The killers are not Yogis and the Yogis are not killers.

Q: Should you not express your disaproval by refusing to sit on a skin?

M: What an idea? I disapprove of the entire universe, why only a skin?

Q: What is wrong with the universe?

M: Forgetting yourself is the greatest injury; all the calamities flow from it. Take care of the most important, the lesser will take care of itself. You do not tidy up a dark room. You open the windows first. Letting in the light makes everything easy. So, let us wait wait with improving others until we have seen ourselves as we are - and have changed. There is no need to turn round and round in endless questioning; find yourself and everything will fall into its proper place.

Q: The urge to return to the source is very rare. Is it at all natural?

M: Outgoing is natural in the beginning, ingoing - in the end. But in reality the two are one, just like breathing in and out are one.

Q: In the same way are not the body and the dweller in the body one?

M: Events in time and space - birth and death, cause and effect - these may be taken as one; but the body and the embodied are not of the same order of reality. The body exists in time and space, transient and limited, while the dweller is timelessand spaceless, eternal and all-pervading. To identify the two is a grievous mistake and the cause of endless suffering. You can speak of the mind and body as one, but the body-mind is not the underlying reality.

Q: Whoever he may be, the dweller is in control of the body and therefore, responsible for it.

M: There is a universal power which is in control and is responsible.

Q: And so, I can do as I like and put the blame on some universal power? How easy!

M: Yes, very easy. Just realise the One Mover behind all that moves and leave all to Him. If you do not hesitate, or cheat, this is the shortest way to reality. Stand without desire or fear, relinquishing all control and responsibility.

Q: What madness!

M: Yes, divine madness. What is wrong in letting go the illusion of personal control and personal responsibility? Both are in the mind only. Of course, as long as you imagine yourself to be in control, you should also imagine yourself to be responsible. One implies the other.
(pg 150 I Am That)

Later on, in another interaction entitled "Killing hurts the killer, not the killed" this 'thread' as it were, continues:

Q:The other day there was a talk about the use by the gnani of animal skins for mediation etc. I was not convinced. It is easy to justify everything by referring to custom and tradition. Customs may be cruel and tradition corrupt. They explain, but do not justify.

M: I never meant to say that lawlessness follows self-realization. A liberated man is extremely law abiding. But his laws' are the laws of his real self, not of his society. These he observes, or breaks according to circumstances and necessity. But he will never be fancifiul and disorderly.

Q: What I cannot accept is justification by custom and habit.

M: The difficulty lies in our differing points of view. You speak from the body-mind's. Mine is of the witness. The difference is basic.

Q: Still, cruelty is cruelty

M: None compels you to be cruel.

Q: Taking advantage of other people's cruelty is cruelty by proxy.

M: If you look into living process closely, you will find cruelty everywhere, for life feeds on life. This is a fact, but it does not make you feel guilty of (for?) being alive. You begin a life of cruelty by giving your mother endless trouble. To the last day of your life you will compete for food, clothing, shelter, holding on to your body, fighting for its needs, wanting it to be secure, in a world of insecurity and death. From the animal's point of view being killed is not the worst form of dying; surely preferable to sickness and senile decay. The cruelty lies in the motive, not in the fact. Killing hurts the killer, not the killed.

Q: Agreed; then one must not accept the services of hunters and butchers

M: Who wants you to accept?

Q: You accept.

M: That is how you see me! How quickly you accuse, condemn, sentence and execute! Why begin with me and not with yourself?

Q: A man like you should set an example

M: Are you ready to follow my example? I am dead to the world, I want nothing, not even to live. Be as I am, do as I do. You are judging me by my clothes and food; while I only look at your motives; if you believe [yourself? my - Immanuel's - insertion] to be the body and mind and act on it, you are guilty of the greatest cruelty - cruelty to your own real being. Compared to it all other cruelties do not count.

Q: You are taking refuge in the claim that you are not the body. But you are in control of the body and responsible for all it does. To allow the body full autonomy would be imbecility, madness!

M: Cool down. I am also against all killing of animals for flesh or fur, but I refuse to give it first place. Vegetarianism is a worthy cause, but not the most urgent; all causes are served best by the man who has returned to his source.

Q: When I was at Sri Ramanaashram, I felt Bhagwan all over the place, all pervading, all-perceiving.

M: You had the necessary faith. Those who have true faith in him will see him everywhere and at all times (Eyn od milvado - Hebrew: 'There is nothing other than He (i.e. G-d) - my note.) All happens according to your faith and your faith is the shape of your desire.

Q: The faith you have in yourself, is not that too a shape of a desire?

M: When I say 'I am', I do not mean a separate entity with a body as its nucleus. I mean the totality of being, the ocean of consciousness, the entire universe of all that is and knows. I have nothing to desire for I am complete forever (echoes of Walt Whitman here - Immanuel's note).

Q: Can you touch the inner life of other people?

M: I am the people."

P157 -159 of I Am That, translated by Maurice Frydman

Saturday, October 4, 2008

One source (the best sauce?)

I have long enjoyed the way similar, or identical stories about saints trickle down in different faith traditions. For example, I read a book called Tzaddik in Our Times, by Simcha Raz, about "The Rabbi of The Prisoners" - Reb Aryeh Levine, a saintly man who helped Jewish guerillas who were resisting the British Occupation of Israel. Many of the sayings attributed to him I found repeated in a book "by" Papaji (Sri Harilal Punjaji) and there attributed to Saint Kabir. What is comforting about this is not the lack of veracity in the attribution of authorship in these different faith traditions, or that the nuggets of wisdom contained in these stories and sayings generally seem to have to be attributed to a figure who has been clearly "identified" with that faith tradition (and not someone from without it), but the fact that these traditions make the message hearable to their audience by attributing it to someone who is "within" and not "without" the tradition, and therefore is both unthreatening and speaks with a certain authority. In this way the receptivity of the target audience is 'guaranteed'...more soon

Phansi (down with) toilet cleaners

On the insanity of sanitation....and bottled water

We all know that our homes are over sterile, and that, in a triumph over common sense to rival that of bottled water, a market has been created for deadly chemicals which we voluntarily bring into our homes and which are used to indiscriminately kill both beneficial and "harmful" bacteria, resulting in an ever increasing array of allergies amongst children that were unheard of even a generation ago...

In London Punjabi Indians who have taken on an urban diet are suddenly showing a much higher incidence of Chrones disease;

Words of the Wise

As a public service here are words of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, from the book, I Am That, first published in 1973, translated by Maurice Frydman (I have the Chetana Press edition, which has been reprinted in 1976, 1978, 1981, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995 and perhaps since then...)

The following is an extract from pag 106, in a session which is entitled "The beginingless begins forever"

Questioner: I have another question to ask: some Yogis attain their goal, but it is of no use to others. They do not know, or are unable to share. Those who can share out what they have, initiate others. Where lies the difference?

Maharaj: There is no difference. Your approach is wrong. There are no others to help. A rich man, when he hands over his entire fortune to his family, has not a coin left to give a beggar. So is the wise man (gnani, tzadik in Jewish terms - Immanuel's insertion) stripped of all his powers and possessions. Nothing, literally nothing, can be said about him. He cannot help anybody, for he is everybody. He is the poor and also his poverty, the thief and also his thievery. How can he be said to help, when he is not apart? Who thinks of himself as separate from the world, let him help the world.

See more interviews with Nisarghadatta

A Yom Kippur Prayer

Avinu shebashamayim!

Our father in heaven
help us to feel parented
so that we can parent ourselves
help us forgive our earthly parents
so that we stop blaming them for what we have decided not to be
avinu malkeynu
if my father is a king
then I am nobly born
a prince
for whom all things are possible

Miscellaneous Manorisms, Danielisms and Guyarisms

see also paradoxes

all change involves betrayal
what will you betray
the past or the future?


If you look for evidence for a proposition you are invested in, you will find it - the emotional investment precedes the sourcing of "proof"

Footnote to my WIP: "My life as a footnote" *
* he bestrode the world stage like a crack between the floorboards


The main task of parents is to get their children through adolesence and themselves through middle age...I'm not sure which is more important, and which is more difficult
Comparisons are of the mind
I seem to enjoy parenting - being a father - particularly to my male patients
have the courage of your peversions
If nothing matters then it does not matter that nothing matters


It seems I can either be
the longing for eternity
eternity itself
but not both;
which do I choose?

The more things are, the more I am

I'm so busy I don't even have time to die (and this does not rest easily with me)
Isn't it obvious? Human sexuality is polymorphous
If I am impatient with myself I will certainly be impatient with my children
People are innocent until proven guilty but in our household it can be safely assumed everything is filthy until proven clean
Beauty must be simultaneously acknowledged and let go of
These are a few of my principles:
try to keep safe
hide in the respectability of conformity and anonymity
don't make waves
don't stand for anything - if you do you'll always end up representing a lie or at least an extremely limited truth

Play small
rather safe AND sorry
no connection is better that inauthentic "connection"

In Hebrew the word for building - "binyan" is related to the word for understanding "bina": Wise students build understanding, and understanding builds the wisdom of peace.

There's nothing anyone can do to stop what is happening from happening. But what IS happening? Even while you're describing it to yourself, its already moved on...this is what they remind us of in Satsang over and over again.

Proposition no.769. the quickest way to change someone's heart-felt opinion about something is to fully embrace it.

The fastest growing religion in the world: resentment

Political freedom without freedom from compulsive repetitive and unexamined thoughts is like exchanging a public prison for a private one

my turn will come. Or it won't. Can anyone think of a third possibility?
A: Its already been?
She has heavy breasts and for that she is to be applauded
he has a large penis and for that too he is too be applauded


I am an example of the uncommon lesser donged shy poet
I have to be ferreted out from the cracks in which I take comfort

PS:What's wrong with this sentence:
"The Jews are responsible for racism"
When desire goes out the window true love comes in the door
As a therapist I can help you by making visible to you that, at least, in one sense you need no help


Its so beautiful that none of my strategies work.

I'd rather have whole news than breaking news
Questions people used to try and answer by enrolling in a philosophy class are now explored on facebook. Do I exist. Does my existence matter? Does it matter to you?

I don't want to die
in the middle of things
I'd much rather die 

when everything has been folded up 
and put away

My hunger for breasts is bottom-less
Don't call me "mate" I will never reproduce with you
My resistance to life as it is, beyond mentation, can be found in the back of my knees
Rabeynu shel olam, are you G-d or what?


In the realm of art an entertaining fiction is generally more digestible than a prosaic truth

All is extremely well, although its parts often do not know this

When you're small they tell you don't be a dobber (= tattle tale) and when you're big they tell you if you see something wrong to blow the whistle
the only way to have your cake is to eat it
Be sceptical about everything, including your own scepticism - miracles happen every day

"All that it takes for evil to flourish is for men to think they are good"

How can I contribute? What piece of the puzzle do I have?


The mountain of autonomy is reached therough the valley of dependence; the fertile fields of depend dance are reached via the mountain pass of autonomy

Feeling overwhelmed? Just because you can't do everything doesn't mean you can't do something. And often some-thing, just a single thing, is more than enough. Rest now in that.

Never underestimate the (self-inflicted) anguish that (the idea that we have agency and make) decisions can cause. Better to believe that everything happens by itself


I said “yes” and I keep on saying “yes” – ken bakodesh chaziticha...


How much I must be, given how strong my conviction that everything "external' to me is.

Yes, am I Ok? is one of our deepest questions, but perhaps am I? is even more fundamental

I am to baffled by my own contradictions to ever be an activist for anything other than clarity

male superiority is a phallusy
Only the wealthy can afford opinions

Let go in order to grow


My indifferent I charge a lot for
but my best I give away for free

Are skateparks an expression of freedom or human hamster wheels? Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so.


masturbation may make you blind
but not masturbating may make you unkind

I live to serve
and sometimes being of service looks like
allowing others to serve me

I have a strong desire to do my duty
although I have no idea what it is

What Descartes really was trying to say: I think, therefore I am unhappy

(I know you may think you know what it is, but can you know you are right, just because a lot of other people agree with you)

Addictions, like weeds, grow in the cracks to which no attention is paid
One of the hardest things to overcome is the belief that life should be easy

The PT teacher was not one of those people blessed with self doubt

Some problems are relative, and some relatives are problems

I decided that my contribution to easing the suffering of others would be to not add to it with my own

Some problems require no response - either they go away or you go away, tarti mashma

I'm like a capacitior - thoughts build up in my head and I have to discharge them by writing them down (typing them down to be more exact)

Welcome to the blobosphere (you know who we are)

No more laughing....let's get down to some serious suffering

A person must keep his word - unless it was not his

No thought is better than a prayer


To much humanities is making me inhuman


The more people don't want something to exist the more it manifests, were they to accept it with love, fully and unreservedly, it would vanish

Perhaps there is no need to embrace or capture the experience of the other, because when I speak from my truest "I" I also speak to, for and even from your truest "I"

Not only can I not pull the rabbit out of the hat, I've mislaid the rabbit

Things take time and time takes things

The only way to have your cake is to eat it

Its never too late to admit it's too late...

It takes courage to admit you're a coward

She's pretty and vacuous -
pretty vacuous

The protocols of the elders of celery - the Jewish plot to take over vegetable gardens and make chicken soup

I have been possessed
by The Naughty Dybbuk (use as title for my next book)
of poetry

On some days my mind has me pinned down
by the short and curlies

Could it be that those who grow skilled in acknowledging engineer more profound and lasting change than those who would shrilly seek to influence?

Is the desire to inluence, which chatracterises so much facebook usage, and so many Facebook users (including myself) , actually a desire for power?

It must be said again and again - the most fundamental, perhaps the only freedom - is freedom from unexamined thoughts, from the belief that what we think is true, or is the only truth. Indeed, we shape our universe thought by thought, and are free to discard, disbelieve and reshape our thoughts at any time.
My (is it mine, or is it just coming through "me"??) truth telling happens in time, and at its own time, over time, and I will not let my monkey mind dictate to me when that truth telling is "supposed" to happen.

The desire to fit in has often led to one form or another of murder

When I seek to change others or myself, I inhibit the change that is already happening effortlessly, by itself

I have some students who are too stupid to know that they are stupid
What I've always wanted is immunity from pain, suffering and vulnerability - - not much to ask for, is it?

Daniel Suttner (aged 6)

"can you take a picture of my sunburn so that I can see it"

To his brother aged 8: "You're not the boss of me" Indeed.

(aged 7)

"I think I have an attergy to milk"

Dads are never sad. They are always happy. They do wonderful things for their selfs and to other people. They wear nice close [sic.] every day and they never get late for school each day. Dads are wonderful but [and here comes the punchline] they are not as good as you! We love you so so so much - happy father's day abba

Guy Suttner (aged 8)

"I love my dad because he is generous, artistic and enthusiastic. He is respectful and honourable to others. My dad is funny, willing and caring. He is healthy, happy and excitable. I love my dad."
Guy (9) to Daniel: "Put my sock back or face the coincidences"


If I were to do a cartoon of Guy aged 8, one panel would be labelled: Guy with a private adult conversation happening within a 50 meter radius, and would show him at normal size but with ears the size of dinner plats or bigger, ready to pick up every whispered word.
The second panel would be: Guy being asked to clean his room or do his homework or have a bath etc etc, and would show him at normal size but sans ears or only with two tiny lizard ear holes through which sound can hardly penetrate.

Guy's Friend Nick: because you're a guest you choose what we do
Guy: OK, I choose that you must choose what we do
etc. etc.

To a departed

now that you’re gone
who will I hang
my resentment on?

Blessing on finding my shoes:
Baruch ata Ad-nai elokeynu chai haolamim, asher ayn milim befi letaayr oto
if I can ask for anything
let it be
to sit in my armchair
once or twice a week
listening to the cricket's chirp

A secure building is an insecure building
and a man with a gun is expecting attack

in a society where everything is permissible and there are no taboos, then nothing is valuable

taboos are a way of creating drama, tension, excitation

Things take time...and time takes things

Hayom ani mashkiv et beni
veyom echad hu yashkiv oti

It sounds better in the Hebrew but the rough English translation is

"Today I lay my son down [to sleep]
and one day he will lay me down too

Must a killer be true to his killer nature in order to live in integrity???I found a sick pigeon
and gave it some water
when I returned
it had gone (tho its body was still there)

I am, most likely, too focused on people’s resistance to becoming conscious rather than giving some space and attention to the irrestible (ultimately) forces that want to wake them up.

Picture the scene: a germophobic and prissy grandma has to baby sit her two fluey grandchildren – and she does so by keeping an elaborate distance from them, and histrionically shielding her nose and mouth whenever they get anywhere near her….punch line could be her donning a gas mask after they’ve sneezed on her one two many times…and then they run screaming from her in terror, or mom and dad come back home and she opens the door for them in a gas mak, and two their anxious questions responds in a muffled gas mask voice that everything is OK, then shows them the children cowering under their beds in terror