Wednesday, December 29, 2010
and at its own time
over time, and I will not let my monkey mind
dictate to me when that time is
I learnt to do a half summersault when I was ready
I learnt to go down the slides when I was ready
I said yes
I say yes
Finding my own way is scary - biut blissful
The more you are present
the more I am present
because you only exist in me
(not "me" as my story, but "me" as in that which underpins, which makes my story possible)
Hillel said it this way in mesechet sukkot:
"if I am here then everything is here"
If you, like me, are one of those people
who like me, gives more heaviness (koved), honour (kavod), seriousness (retzinut) to the existence of "others" than to "yourself", then this can help you because their existence confirms yours, and all paths lead back to yourself.
in other words all anyone ever "has" to do is show up, in their life, again and again and again
(how to show up? ah, this is a mystery which flows from mysterious "ratzon" - will)
Sunday, December 12, 2010
It seems to me people who often take on the 'heaviest' responsibilities, or who are in positions of enormous responsibilty, paraoxically are those who are most comfortable with the notion of limited responsibility. Thus heads of state may send their armies into justifiable or unjustifiable conflicts, but usually don't take personal responsibility for the 10, 100 or 1 million deaths of their "own" soldiers - and never mind those of the enemy. If it were not so how could they continue to function. Indeed some , like Menachem Begin, could not, perhaps becuase he did not really possess this ability to shrug off responsibility. He seemed overwhelmed by the weight of the Israeli fatalities in the First Lebanese War, and became a recluse in the years immediately proceeding his death.
I have faced my fear of fear, and am no longer afraid of being afraid
by not writing poetry, I neglect my duty to write poetry
See also manorisms
Monday, December 6, 2010
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Thursday, December 2, 2010
So I have to "steal" time for my writing, and do so often, addictively, some might say irresponsibly as I neglect more prosaic and economically valued tasks in favour of pouring out what rises in me. Anoos al pi hadibbur. Forced by the word.
My duty IS to write poetry.
The work of recognising and acknowledging our connections precedes (or at least happens simultaneously with) the thinking and writing of poetry, because all poetry is a manifestation of those connections....of course the poetry itself is a way of amplifying the recognition and acknowledgement of those connections....that's one of the reasons the sage Hillel said 2000 years ago "don't seperate yourself from the community".
Dad seems to believe what he says, that there's always a right way to do things, and what's more, he thinks he always knows what that right way is. So when he said " we think you should go to King David instead of a government high school", I automatically agreed. And when he said "Jake, you'll have your bar mitzvah at Pine Street Shul" I didn't really think if I liked the idea or not, I just found my head nodding in agreement.
My family doesn't go to shul mutch. maybe five times a year. But ten months before my barmitzvah I strated going every shabat - that is, every Friday night and Saturday morning. (I'll explain these things in case someone who is not jewish ever reads my diary and doesn't understand what the hell I'm talking about. At first they forced me to go, but then I kind of started enjoying it and went of my own accord. I suppose going so often made me feel comfortable there. I liked sitting in the back row with all the other barmitzvah guys, and and singing. I learnt all the tunes of the different prayers. When we weren't singing we told rude jokes about sex, or teachers, or exagerated the strength and destructive power of various soccer players. After the morning service everyone in shul wished each other good shabbos or shabat shalom, and then meandered over to the little hall next to the shul, where there was a brocha, with cake and cooldrink and chopped liver and herring and kichel. I avoided the yukky stuff and just went for the cake and cooldrink.
One Saturday afternoon, when we were driving to ten pin bowling in Northcliff, I saw some people walking down Louis Botha, just opposite the BP garage, past the old Putco stop which is now a taxi rank. The men were wearing black hat's and black coats, and they had beards. The women wore long skirts and thick blouses like the old Western school teacher in 'Little House on the Prarie.'
"Who are they?" I asked.
"Chassidim" said dad."fanatics who like to pretend we're not living in the 20th century."
Once I knew they were called chassidim I often noticed them. Something about them irritated me. Their clothes were so out of date, and their hair lookd greasy. They always stared straight ahead, as if tghey didn't see the traffic on Louis Botha, or notice the Africans waiting in a queue for the mini-bus. It worried me that they didn't realise they were odd. Roy told me that I always saw them walking on Saturday because their rabbi wouldn't allow them to drive on that day. That also seemed strange to me. The rabbis I knew ( and really I only knew Rabbi Zukerman at Pine Street) joked a lot and wished people mazeltov when they had a baby or got married. Some of them wore a funny black yarmulke on their heads in shul, that stood up on their head. They never said anything nasty or, for that matter, anything interesting. I couldn't imagine a rabbi who told people what to do. I certainly couldn't imagin a rabbi who cpuld tell Dad what to do. I know Dad was on the committee which kicked the last rabbi out. And Rabbi Zukrman couldn't even get us to listen to him, never mind the dads. He had to write notes to our parents which read 'please ensure your son attends bar-mitzvah classes REGULARLY and practices his portion, else I cannot guarantee he will be ready.'
Roy, who was in the U14 soccer team, and was almost as bright as me, was having his Bar Mitzvah in March. But he was having his at Temple Beit Ale. He didn;t have to learn all the stuff about milk and meat, or lay tefillin, or learn how to say the Amidah.
"Why can't I have my bar mitzvah at Temple Beit Ayl?" I asked Dad, "its much easier there."
"Because that's Judaism light" said Dad, "you can't just change the tradition when you feel like it. We've always been a proud Orthodox family."
When I told Roy what my dad said he just shrugged his shoulders.
"They hand out lunch bars on Friday night" he said, "and there are some hot chicks in the choir."
I wanted to go with Roy to his reform temple, to see what it was like, but Dad said he thought it wasn't a god idea, which translated meant I shouldn't go. For the first time in my life I disobeyed Dad, and went without telling him. There was an organ in the corner of the temple, but it wasn't used. They used to use a long time ago, Roy explained to me, but then some people complained that it made it too much like a church, so they stopped. There was a lot of English in the service, which was different from our shul where it was all in Hebrew. Another big difference was that the women, instead of sitting upstairs, like in our shul, sat right next to the men. It hardly seemed Jewish to me. I much preferred our shul.
On Monday I went to speak to Rabbi Suisa about the reform temple, and about the chassidim who weren't allowed to drive on Saturdays. Rabbi Suisa was the head of Jewish Studies at our school and came from Israel. He was not very old, and had a brown neatly trimmed beard.
"It's not their rabbi who forbids it, it is forbidden from the Torah" he said, and took down a bible. He opened it up, looked through the pages, and then showed me a line in it.
"here" he said, "read that aloud...."
"...you shall not kindle fire in any of your dwellings on Shabat" I read, peering at the tiny print, "what's that got to do with cars?"
"well, chazal - the rabbis of the talmud -explain this verse eans many things. One is that driving a car involves lighting a fire of a sort, inthe engine, and that's why its forbidden."
"So its written in the Talmud that you can't drive on shabat?"
"Not exactly. When the Talmud was compiled 1700 years ago they didn't have cars. But they made general rulings, from which we can learn about...um, which we can apply to modern situations."
About this time I learnt another new word. Hypocrisy, I started suspecting that everyone at my shul were hypocrites because they drove to shul.
"Are we hypocrites" I asked.
"Of course not" said Dad.
Ma didn't say anything.
"But apparently the Torah...I mean the Talmud, says you're not supposed to drive. Its a very serious crime to drive."
"We're not fanatics," said Dad. "The main thing is to be a mensch. Besides, we live too far away from shul to walk. At least the car enables us to get to services."
"Not that we ever go" I said.
"I hate smart alecs" said Dad.
Meanwhile time didn't stand still. One by one the guys in my Hebrew class at school were having their barmies. Each Monday we'd compare notes. Were you scared? Did you sing well? Did you get a lot of gifts? How much cash? Was it fun? And all the time the shabat thing was still worrying me. I asked Rabbi Suisa about it again. He said youwere definitely not allowed to drive, but not every Jew knows as much about their religion as he should. Some people just didn't know it was wrng to drive.
Exactly three months before my bar-mitzvah I got up th courage to speak to one of those chassidim. I waited on a corner of Louis Botha, and when one who had a nice face went past, I stepped up to him and asked if I could speak to him for a moment.
"Certainly," he said, in English which sounded exactly like mine, "what can I do for you?"
"Oh" I said, "you speak English very well."
"Why shouldn't I" he laughed, "its my mother tongue. What did you think I spoke - Portuguese?"
"I thought maybe Hebrew"
"No, not Hebrew. The Holy Tongue is for prayer, and studying the holy books. That's why its called loshen hakodesh - the sacred language."
"Oh" I said. "So you're a kasid?"
"Chasid yes...we're chabad chasidim. What's your name?"
"Michael" I told him.
"Michael" he said, "what a beautiful name. One who is like G-d. Well Mee -ka - Eyl, would you like to come to my house and have some cake and something to drink? We don't live far from here."
He seemed very friendly so I went along with him. I met his wife and children, all five of them, all younger than me, and all dressed in a funny old fashioned way, the girls with white lace thingies on the end of their long sleeves. His youngest child was a boy, who I thought was a girl, because he had very long hair, down below his shoulders.
"He looks like a rock star" I joked, to cover my embarrassment that I'd called him a girl.
"Yes, he's our star, allright" said his mom.
She offered me some cake and cooldrink, and I politely said no, but she brought me anyway, so I ate and drank. While I was eating I asked him some questions about his rabbi.
"The Rebbe" he said, "is a very great man. That's him there." He motioned to a big coloour photograph on the wall, of an old man with a grey beard and a big hat on his head, whose eyes were narrowed into little slits. It was an impressive face, and I gazed at it with interest.
After a while I got bored and said I had to go home for lunch. But as I walked home I was thinking about this rebbe who so many people - the chasid told me tens of thousands - listen to.
When I got home I told ma all about it. She was busy painting her nails. I told her that the chasid used the word "HaShem" for G-d, and had she ever heard of such a word. She said she wasn't sure, but she ws pretty sure she had heard some distant religious cousins using it. She said she thought it meant "The Name."
"That's funny" I said, "calling G-d the name. I wonder why they do that?"
Ma said she wasn't sure. I told her I had decided to walk to shul next shabat, t0 see how it felt.
"That's nice Micky", she said, and blew on her nails to dry them.
Rabbi Sweesa also seemed to think so when, two months later, and after a few more visists to Jeffry Krengel's house - that was the name of the chasid - I went and told him that not only had I started walking to shul, but that I had stopped driving anywhere on shabat afternoons. He gave me a big pat on my shoulder and told me I was becoming an authentic Jew. I wasn't 100% sure what he meant by that, but I know from his smile and his shouldre pat that he was proud of me. I wondered if the rebbee in the picture would also be pleased. I imagined he would be. The ony one who didn't sem to b epleased was dad. Especially whhen I said that I wasn't planning on forgetting my new habit on the day of my bar-mitzvah.
"Don't start getting all religious on us" he said in his irritated voice.
"I thought you wanted me to keep the traditions. Isn't that what my bar-mitzvah's for?"
""Within reason, but you don't have to go crazy. Besides, how will you get to shul on time if you walk?"
"I'll get up at six, and walk. I'll get there long before anyone else."
"You. Getting up at six!?"
"You'll be exhausted" said mom.
Parents. What are they good for?
"Let him be an idiot if he wants to" said dad, with a wave of his hand, "the problem is getting to the reception at one."
"I'll run there."
"Don't be ridiculous" he shouted.
I ran to my room and slammed the door. You'd think the man would give me a little bit of space, but he came bursting in after me - he never knocks - and carried on shouting. His face was red (mine was white.)
"We're an orthodox family but we're not fanatics. I'm not going to have you come to the reception three hours after the guest arrive."
He lowered his voice to the low menacing tone he reserved for 'his final word'
"Either you come with us in the car, or I call the whole thing off. I've got plenty of other things we can use the money for."
Then he slammed the door. I lay on my bed sobbing. I was hurt that ma hadn't stood up for me, and even more hurt by him. I hated him for not letting me try this interesting new possibility, that didn't harm anyone.
I even considered asking G-d to drop a bomb on him, but I decided not to risk it in case it came true. Instead I asked for his car to breakdown so that we would all have to walk. "Please G-d", I mumbled, "I mean please Hashem, at least make him sorry that he's forcing me to break shabat."
I wanted to tell Rabbi Sweesa what had happened, but he was in Israel that month. At my next bar-mitzvah class I stayed behind when everyone else went. I told Rabbi Zukerman about my problem.
"So what do you want from me" he said.
"Couldn't you speak to Dad, you know, explain to him that I'm only trying to do what a Jew is supposed to do."
"Let me think about how best to approach this" he said.
"So you'll help" I said eagerly
"I'll do my best."
I felt reassured. But I should have known he'd be useless. The next time I saw him and asked him what was happened he launched into one of his round about stories.
"Shalom bayit" is very important, he mumbed, "peace in the home. Your commitment to yiddishkeit is commendable. I've given this a lot of thought, and I don't think you should make changes too quickly. Give your dad a chance to get used to you being shomeyr shabat."
The only other person I had to discuss it with was Roy.
"My dad" I explained, "wants me to do one thing, and HaShem wants me to do another."
"Why" said Roy, "don't you just do what you want to do?"
"Well...I want to do what HaShem wants me to do."
Roy didn't have an answer for that. Not straight away. But two days later, at break, he came up to me where I was standing outside the tuck-shop munching a cheese roll, and said he had an idea.
"Look" he said, "How do you know that HaShem doesn't want you to drive on Shabat?"
"Its not just ME He doesn't want to drive, its all of us. He doesn't want you to drive either."
How do you know that?"
"Rabbi Sweesa told me that its written in the Bible and the Talmud."
"What is the Talmud?"
"I'm not sure exactly" I admitted, deciding to play safe, "but its some kind of big book, similar to the bible."
"Anyway" said Roy, "I phoned up my rabbi, and he says not all the rabbis agree that you mustn't drive on shabat. He said those laws were made in a different time and place, and aren't always good for us now. He says its like someone who's become used to drinking water from the tap. If you give them water from a well in the ground, like they used to drink in the old days, they'll get sick. He also said it is written y0u must honour your father and mother. That means you should try and make them happy."
"But not when they tell you to do something that is against Hashem's will. That's what Rabbi Sweesa said that verses are saying. When its us humans against what HaShem wants then there's no competition."
"As I see it" said Roy, "its what Rabbi Sweesa wants against what your dad wants. God, your Mr HaShem, doesn't even come into the picture."
I moved a little distance away from Roy. I was furious that he should question HaShem's laws like that. I didn't talk to him for a few days after that. I didn't talk to dad either, although he warned me to stop sulking or the "consequences would be very severe indeed." But I wasn't at all prepared for his reaction when, at the endof the week, I told him that I had made my decision and he should cancel the whole thing. I was expecting an explosion. I had already planned my excape route. But you know what he did?! He didn't say a word. Instead he went over to the sofa, sat down ,a nd burst into tears. It was unbearable. I didn't know where to look r what to do. I felt like my insides were being cut up by a very sharp razor. I wanted to gover and pat him on the shouldre, even though we were still supposed to be angry at each other. And I was still angry. What was he doing crying? I was the one who should be crying, not him. And ow he was crying and I had to comfort him. Crap! But there was no way I could look at him doing that. I had to get him to stop. So I gave in. But I wasn't happy about it.
I drove with them to the reception. I had to shake hands and smile at a lot of people I didn't know, and I got lots of gifts - books, records, some pens, and best of all - cheques. I put some of it in the bank and gave a third of it away to the Wildlife Trust. I had to do that secretly because ma and dad would probably have stopped me. I'm speaking to dad again, but really things aren't quite the same. Not that he's different - he hasn't changed at all. But I don't believe in him as much as I used to. I think he's a hypocrite, and I think his crony Rabbi Zukerman is impotent, although of course I haven't said that to their faces. Roy says if I don't tell them what I think then I'm the one who's impotent and a hypocrite. I dunno. I think Roy and I won't be friends for much longer. Either way I hope I don't grow up to be like them. That would be terrible.
(Written in South Africa about 1992)
For other short stories seehttp://manofestoyomi.blogspot.com/2009/06/someone-short-story-from-yeoville-1994.html
Bar Mitzvah - rite of passage around the time of puberty, a boy becomes, in the eyes of halacha or Jewish law, an adult
Yiddishkeit - Judaism
Adon Olam and Yigdal
mensch - decent human being
"You know how they do it" said Roy, "they do it through a sheet, with just a tiny hole for their cock"
I believe in HaShem. At least I think I do.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
a) Game reserves - each animal could be branded (literally and metaphorically) with the name of a corporate sponsor...eg this Zebra sponsoted by Investec, this rhino protectd by Falcoln Security, this tree proudly adopted by Anglo-Gold (could be gouged into the tree for maximum effect)
b) Coral reefs
c) Product placement in poetry
d) Relevant adverts projected onto the ceilings of post-op recovery rooms, eg for health insurance etc.
e)Safety announcements on planes, and announcements over school intercoms could all have adverts inserted into them
See also organic-advertising-or-foie-gras/
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Into the blender goes slightly aged banana, cut up peaches (I excise the bits the fruit flies have got to, of course), molasses (for iron), some soya or cow's milk, and a bit of honey, brown sugar or date honey to sweeten. If its a hot day some ice cubes as well. If they're a bit protein starved a big dollop of yoghurt. If we have some a splash of parav (non-dairy) or, occasionally, regular icecream.
These concotions are generally received with acclaim and downed with relish. Of course if I push the envelope and put in odds and sodds like wheat germ, barley grass, alkaline powder (because they don't eat enough veg and the body tends to become very acidic - an environment in which viruses thrive), left over trail mix the younger one, he of the curley locks and fussey palate - will refuse it with a polite "I don't really like it abba." The older one will eventually half surface from whatever book he is reading, extend a hand and fish around for the glass, possibly connect with it, hold the glass aloft in the air for another four or five pages, and then drink deep, so that a layer of pink or orangie liquid coats his upper lip and the fine fine hairs of his nascent mustache. "Excellent Abba, thanks very much" he'll say, "it tastes like coca cola."
If I'm in a sneaky unbalanced mood I may throw both caution and decency to the wind, and even experiment with dropping in things like old pizza, celery stalks, chinese broccoli,slightly off ricoota cheese, etc, but then guilt and cunning will make me compensate for, and disguise the taste of, aforementioned noxious ingredients by throwing in a chocolate biscuit, or masses of brown sugar, or a few dessertspoon fuls of milo. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But I'm managing to empty out the fridge without having to give everything to our spinifex mice, worm farm or, worse still, the rubbish bin.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
One of the amazing thing about Australia in particular, and perhaps about many affluent countries in general, is the amount of nurturing amazing stuff that's out there, freely accessible, in the public domain. One of the nices events on the Sydney calendar - if you can call it an event because its so meditative and lesuirely - is sculpture by the sea. Even though the photographs on the website are technically better than ours, this is what caught our eye. Some because of their whimsy, some because of their (sometimes disturbing) evocativeness.
How fortunate we are to live so close to such a beautiful coastline and to such a playful re-visioning of it.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
In addition skills must be very concrete – if you’ve authored a collection of poetry, that’s a demerit and a liability and indicates you’re probably a bit flaky, but if you’ve written a policy paper on implementing no leash zones for minature poodles under 7 kilos born after 2008 in the greater Randwick municipality then you’re potentially a very useful person!
Generalists and dabblers and dreamers are a danger, evidenced based experts who keep their vision narrow (but not necessarily deep) are an assett.
Perhaps this is all another dimension of what, in common parlance here, is referred to as the "tall-poppies syndrome" If you excel (in an area other than sport) you need to be cut down to regulation size. Of course, this tends to not be the case once you have truly made it - then, as anywhere, you are celebrated, and your succes becomes the collective heritage of all Australians.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
But Japan may respond to a downturn in sales, and anyway Korea and several European countries make some pretty good cars. Just a thought.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
(With apologies to Raymond Chandler)
I must preface these posts by saying that what motivates them is a feeling of anxiety in my belly and chest.
One of the reasons the Israeli-Palestinian struggle-embrace (even if the interdependence is not acknowledged) is so intractable is that it is such fertile ground for projection. People from all over the world, when they grow heated about it, are often not really arguing about the substantive issues, or even care deeply for the welfare of the protagonists, but rather are arguing about their own displaced psychic matter, projected onto one or other of the sides and identified with.
The Israelis are me, or the Palestinians are me, their suffering is mine, the injury to them is an injury to me, and so I must do something about it for “I” am on the line
Of course most debates in the public domain work this way, be it pro life vs pro choice, global warning vs climate change deniers, etc. But there is something about “the Jews” which seems to act as a psychic magnet, drawing huge amounts of psychic energy towards them both for, and usually more massively, against.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
What if real women were in washing powder commercials, instead of sterile bimbette-slaves with whitened teth and gym bodies whose entire sense of vocation is oncentrated in their role as family washerwoman?
What if all bran adds that "keep you regular" were filmed with happy custometrs on their toilets giving their testimony where it counts most
What if wills were read out as if they were Oscars?
What if infomercials were delivered with the cautious and measured double squeak of academic papers and academic papers were written with the hypnotic smiling blather of infomercials...
What if the ad agencies that come up with the names of medicines did cars, and vice a versa. So 4.5 litre muscle cars would be viagra, the latest model would be latecummer, fuelaway for a frugal hybrid, a staid family car would be dormicum, a low slung Italian beast Zoloft etc.
What if the galaxies are my cells and the stars are my atoms (then what do the atoms of the stars become, and what is the earth upon which my universe-body stands?)
What if animal rights activists started rescuing insects that had become trapped in spider's webs?
The Sydney Institue for Domestic Violence: Men helping men by sharing wife-beating strategies
Thursday, October 28, 2010
(I read it on the lavatory)
my poems are rather weak I fear
they will not make you shed a tear
products of a childish mind
you only praised them to be kind
therefore place them in a bin
never to be read again
I had just finished watching
To want to share is a holy thing
To want to influence is not
How often I confuse the two!
imposed from the outside
To eat from hunger, not from boredom
to be with what is here
to thank the G-d for gratitude
to meet desire and fear
In our house
everyone has an illicit supply of clothes pegs next to their beds
These are the generations of woe-man
The uncircumscribable freshness and revelations of youth
the despair of middle age
the surrender into grace of ripe maturity
the Jew in you
is furry and sweet
the Jew in you
dos not eat meat
I think I've earned
my master's degree
in feelings of
A comforting thought: as I get older I move from anonymity to invisibility
Now available from Kindle at only $5.95 a giggle. There is, however, an advisory. On Kindle the book’s beautiful illustrations are only in black & white, as Kindle does not yet support colour. If you want the charming originals, order the book online
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
now that I'm in my later 40's, a night on the town means staying up 'til almost 11:00 to write a few poems
Monday, October 18, 2010
After my divorce I was paralysed for eight months. I buried myself in work, and at night I took sleeping pills. But by September the sharp pain had become a dull ache, and there were moments when I didn't even notice it. Urged on by some friends, I started dating women again. A divorcee here, a widowed mother of three there.
The Sydney Institute for Domestic Violence: Men helping men be mean and sharing wife-beating strategies
Story about a psychologist who is soon to graduate and wants to get their unmet sexual "needs" "handled" before beginning unsupervised clinical work. Comedy. tantra groups. brothels. etc.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Using the eneagram to help your children intergrate their agression, and their "shadow" material.
Often when a child says to a sibling something like "I hate you, I wish you were dead" parents tell them to be nice and not to say things like that.
My own son sometimes displays in a veery mild way some of the constellation of traits that have noww been labelled asberger's, and which are equivalent to type 5 on the eneagram. But static labels placed on fluid beings can never do justice to their story...
interesting to compare the Reichian / Lowen taxonomy of personalities with the Enneagram...oral; schizoid; rigid; psychopath; and masochistic
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
"Not only do I HAVE to be a father to myself, but also to my father (never mind to my own sons) - and it is too much."
No wonder I might feel overwhelmed when I'm unquestioningly accepting this belief.
Part of me - admittedly only a teensy weensy part of me - wants to be with my dad in the old aged home. Or perhaps IS my dad in the old aged home.
On the flight out to Africa, the seemly interminable torturous 14 hour flight from Sydney, my head dully aching and my mouth dry, the night fears come, and I completely doubt my adequacy and capacity to be there for my family, my beautiful wife and children, who in this moment, in this flying tin prison, seem like my only anchors in this scary universe. And even though I know the task is made up, and no one gets "THE TASK" done - eventually all subcumb to something - at this point the task, the imaginary task I've made up for myself - seems much bigger than I.
...and I cannot protect them from birth or death. The only protection I can offer is relative – clarity of thought, how to get clear, the ability to work in partnership, a safe space for a while, money... and this I will work to provide, in keeping with the sutra in Pirkei Avot: You can not complete the task, but nor are you free to desist from it.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
I do not grieve, I am grieved
I do not think, I am thought
I do not breathe, I am breathed
Some people are good at negotiating
the stuff that is close to them
and some the stuff that is far from them
born under a lucky star
are good at both
Monday, September 27, 2010
All things being given, I’d rather live in a post-Jewish society than a post-Christian one, but Israel is, I suspect, not sufficiently post Jewish in that the discourse of a rigid, absolutist Jewishness is a growing voice there, occupying an increasingly large slice of the public domain. By post I mean a society which may draw upon a coherent faith tradition to inform the different facets of its public life, without allowing that faith tradition to become a coercive, rigid, over defined and oppressive lid on creativity and the endless tendency for forms to diversify. Yes, modern Israel needs to be in dialogue with the tradition from which it emerges - that is what makes it such a unique experiment. It is not a new expression of Islam or Christianity - it is a new expression of the group whose organising principals are some relationship with Jewishnes as faith, culture, history, sociological and personal experience. But no, there is no quintessential Judaism that can be pinned on individual Israelis as a straitjacket, even while a dialogue with the idea of a quintesential essence is maintained. (Its as valid as all other ideas...)
Secular Zionism as a cultural revolution drew upon ancient forms that Judaism had evolved and renewed them or discarded them or was informed by them or combined them with other forms. But post 67, as a national religious discourse has occupied an increasingly strident place in public debate, voices that want to create and transform and hybridise "the other"/"modernity" with varying of the inherited legacy of Judaisms (s intentional!) are increasingly under attack, from purists and gate kepers of "authentic" Judaism or "authentic" members of "Am Yisrael" (the Nation of Israel) as opposed to "traitors, leftists, yafei nefesh etc. ) Ironically the national-religious are also creating new forms all the time, but it seems to me these forms are not the vehicles for liberation that I and many Jews seek.
To paraphrase Ben Gurion: We must not let the reactivity and unconsciousneess of the Israel bashers distract us from the more urgent task of dealing with our own reactivity, conceptual rigidity and frequently low eq
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Be careful of them, he warned her, they only want to hurt people.
I associate sex with oil and movement...
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
then I awoke. It was Vivien calling me to wake up from what she had assumed had been a nightmare.
"You're having a bad dream" she said. "you've been mumbling and then saying help me, help me, help me.
It sems her trying to wake me up had entered my dream, and I'd hovered between my dream and the body in bed...
TO BE CONTINUED
Monday, September 20, 2010
You'd think the above would be a truism, but its not. People often seem surprised when others display two intense emotions simultaneously, when you're "supposed" to be only experiencing one. So giggling at funerals (perhaps because of the pomp and ceremony of it all), or sobbing as you're handed your long-awaited for Oscar (and perhaps feeling strangely numb or empty inside, not at all as you imagined it might be) while being perfectly natural or normal, are often regarded as slightly 'deviant' responses. And of course they're not. Because we've got twins.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
a) the back button on the browser is large and easy to see
b) It's function/reliability is predictable - it does the same thing each time you click it
c) Its location is predictable - the back button on your web browser is always in the same place, whereas a "back" link on the website you are visiting will often be in different places, depending on the website you are visiting.
d) The frequency of its use becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: people do and continue to do what they do most often
When offering consumers environmentally friendly options and nudging them towards choosing them, providers need to make sure that the options are
c) undemanding (for those who are not passionate about the environment)
d) predictable - eg you don't want to offer your customers bio-degradable bags that turn to dust on their way from their car (or the bus) to their front door
e) are in the same place next to the till each time they visit the shop - i.e predictable location
f) are free or priced competitively
g) piggy back on already established habits of consumption
Monday, September 13, 2010
to enter the womb
and the second betrayal was when I left South Africa for Israel
and the third betrayal was when I left yeshiva for the army
and the fourth betrayal was when I left Israel and returned to South Africa
and the fifth betrayal was when I left South Africa to become an Australian citizen
and now I have betrayed my stories
one too many times
too believe any of them
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Are feel good endings in synch with life?
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
To feed four hungry people take three blocks of Tofu, slice into pieces about 8mm thick, and marinate in soya sauce for a few hours. Add thinly sliced garlic and grated ginger to the marinade for extra pizzazz. If you haven't got that kind of time use garlic salt and ground ginger.
In the meantime heat up enough oil to deep fry the shnitzels - you'll need it to be at least a few centimetres deep. I use rice bran oil, which has a very high smoke point. When the oil is hot enough to pour on an attacking army, you're ready to get frying...
Gently ease the slices of tofu out of their tofu bath, trying not to wake the little dalins, and allow any excess marinade to drain off them. Then lightly coat them in either corn flour or chick pea flower (called Besan flower in some places.) Without hesitating, plunge the Tofu into a bowl where you have whipped two or three free range eggs, and them take them out and roll them in breadcrumbs. From there its only a short distance into the oil.
Once they are a nice tawny brown remove and drain on brown paper or an absorbent paper towel. Allow to cool a few minutes. I can testify that both kids and adults love these shnitzels, especially when served with wedges of lemon to squeeze on them.
Beteyavon (bon apetit) and may you be nurtured.
TIP: Buy the firmest Tofu you can find, and allow it to dry out a little before marinading. Don't make the slices too thin, or they'll fall apart when rolling them in the egg and breadcrumbs, but not to thick either, or they'll be a tad undercooked in the middle. A centimetre is fine.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
While in Terezen Hanus wrote a puppet play called "We Are Looking For a Monster" and the video component of the project brings this play to life, while retracing the last two years of Hanus's short life.
For more information please visit the project's website and view the short film below.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
· Peter Manseau, author of Songs for the Butcher’s Daughter, and most recently Rag and Bone: A Journey Among the World's Holy Dead. He has won the National Jewish Book Award, the Sophie Brody Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Jewish Literature, the Ribalow Prize for Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Mercantile Library First Novel Award. His books have published in eight languages and on four continents.
· Steve Toltz, author of Man Booker prize-nominated A Fraction of the Whole which the Courier Mail described as “Brilliantly funny… every sentence is a quotable aphorism clothed in light-hearted observations about human behaviour. A 700-page modern classic.”
· Joanne Fedler, author of When Hungry, Eat and a number of other best sellers.
· Mia Freedman, magazine editor, popular blogger and media personality.
· Paul Sheehan, columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald and The National Times and the author of three best-sellers, including Girls Like You and Among The Barbarians.
· Akmal Saleh leading comedian who has performed at Edinburgh Fringe Festival and many other comedy festivals and regularly on TV shows such as Rove Live, The Footy Show, The Glass House
· Morris Gleitzman, bestselling Australian children’s author whose books explore serious and sometimes confronting subjects in humorous and unexpected ways.
· Barry Cohen, served as a Minister in the Hawke government and is the author of eight books.
> Immanuel Suttner, author of The African Animal Football Cup, Cutting Through the Mountain, Learn about South Africa Series and the poetry collection Hidden & Revealed
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
A 43 year old man was found in his unit in a severely neglected state. Mr N, who the social worker had had phone calls about previously (from Mr N's wife) was unshaven, still in the suite he wore to the office, his tie askew and his glasses so dirty she was amazed that he managed to see the reality show he was watching. Mr N was eating straight out of a 4 litre icecream tub, and bits of iceecream had got on to his shirt and socks. Notes the social worker: the apartment was in a poor condition, with books, papers and bits of Meccano and Monopoly scaterred over every surface. Mr N's nails were long and uncut, he needed a good haircut, and judging from his body odour, he had not bathed for several days.
The only adult in the flat, Mr N's wife, was snoring in bed all the while the social worker attempted to interview Mr N, who answered in monosyllbles or with feelble liitle waves of the spoon he was holding in his hand,, sending droplets of melted vanillaicecream onto the social worker. Upon being pressed, he insisted that he was ok, and that "everything would be all right as long as he didn't have to go into work tomorrow."
Although no thorough medical examination was done of this first visit, the social worker noted that Mr N was rather corpulant, and displayed a great deal of flatulence. There are some questions as to whether Mr N is being fed a nutritionally sound diet. Mr N's children remained fast asleep while the social worker was there but at one stage Mr N's wife awoke, padded through to the lounge and asked Mr N when he was going to do the dishes. The social worker managed to clarify that Mr N goes to work, comes home and is immediately set to work on a variety of domestic chores, but there were no other overt signs of abuse.
That Mr N have a bath, a nail trim and a shave
That Mr N's tv watching time be reduced and happen earlier in the evening
That Mr N be removed to a place of safety where he can socialise with other middle aged dads
Useful form letters:
Letter of demand for late birthday present
Dear So and so
We have noticed that your birthday present owing to us is now overdue by two weeks. Should said birthday present not be on our doorstep, wrapped, and with apropriate card by the date on this letter of demand, we....
Letter of demand for late wedding present
We have noticed that your wedding present owing to us is now seventen years and three months overdue. Please redress this issue immediately or we will be forced to hand the matter over .
Monday, August 9, 2010
When tasked with looking after toddlers you are
a)unable to gain their attention
b) they physically beat you with their tiny fists
c)find yourself being assigned tasks by a domineering three year old
When you send your CV off to a prospective employer you
a) never hear from them
b) immediately receive a "Thanks but no thanks letter"
c)they take out a restraining order against you
d) they invite you in for an interview, but it turns out they've confused you with someone else
If anyone calls you it is
a) a pest control firm offering a fre evaluation of your pest situation
b) a wrong number
c) someone collecting money for children in Afghanistan
d) you don't have a phone
When you receive mail it is usually
a) a court summons for unpaid traffic fines
b) someone else's mail that was put in your box
c) you never receive mail
e) you don't have a mail box because you live on the street
a) only gay men contact you
b) women leave messages like "get lost you old fart"
c)the dating service goes bankrupt, taking with it you annual subscription of $357.00
When you try to get cleaners to come and tidy up your hovel they
a) ask you if they can call you back later but never do
b)refer you to a friend who is intending to come over to Australia on the nxt boat load of "illegal" immigrants
Feel free to add suggestions as comments
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Sunday, July 25, 2010
I have so far sent out in the region of 100 job applications. In response I have received
a) in many instances zero response
b) polite formulaic thanks but no thanks letters
c) two interviews.
The first interview was for an internet producer role at the Ted Noffs Foundation. I arrived early for a two pm interview, and was then made to wait for an hour before having a short and immensely casual interview with the grandson of the founder, one Matt Noffs (Its a VERY family run foundation, many of the executive staff are family members - just the kind of foundation I would structure myself.) Matt looked as if he were acquainting himself with my CV for the first time, and after a few nowhere minutes where I attempted to find out what they were looking for so that I could be it, we rose to part company.
"Its very unprofessional to make someone wait for an hour with no explanation, for an interview that was scheduled at 2pm" (me)
"well someone has to be unprofessional around here. See ya" (Matt)
Who knows? We may indeed see each other one day, coming out of train station or while crossing the street to get to an urgent appointment. So I took Matt's passing shot as a benedictive prophecy.
The second interview was with a company called ruralco, which has many rural retail outlets and a number of agriculturally based busineses such as stock feeds, fertilisers, farm insurance etc. During a reasonably lengthy interview (which I had prepared quite thoroughly for) with the IT manager and the marketing manager - Cameron - it emerged I'd been a teacher for two years.
"What did you teach" asked the IT manager.
I hesitated for a moment. "Jewish Studies" I blurted out, after considering saying something suitably vague like 'languages' or 'theology.'
I made quick eye contact before averting my gaze again, to try and guage how this snippet of information was being received. To their credit neither of them missed a beat. We continued shmoozing like old friends, and when I felt things were winding down, I asked if they - Ruralco - had any factory farms.
After being assured they did not, I mentioned that I was vegetarian, and that I would be bringing my own sausages to any staff sausage sizzles they might be holding (for the uninitiated a sausage sizzle is an Australian cultural event where sausages - ground up animal muscle encased in a synthetic or natural casing and generally flavoured with a plant derived flavouring agent - are heated on a (usually gas) cooking device which is wheeled outdoors for the occassion. Said sausages may be served on processed white flour rolls with sauces made from tomatoes or mustard seeds mixed with vinegar).
I'm not sure it was before or after my questions and declaration that I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Cameron had begun shuffling his papers - a reasonably clear indication that my allotted time was up and that time wasters should know when to move on. I dutifully said I had no more questions and was jovially seen to the door. I expected to get a thanks but no thanks message the next day but instead there was nothing - just a great big vacuum which left me wondering; was it my ambiguity about the commute? (it would have been about 2 hours 20 a day). My South Africaness? My (gasp) Jewishness? My vegetarianess? My Imanuelness? Was I too forward? Too backward? Too sideways? Or none of the above?
In the absence of data the mind is very creative with what it makes up - but two weeks later the matter was semi put to rest when the HR recruiter - an ex South African who had sent me to the interview sent me another email which clarified things, if not a lot, at least somewhat. It said "they still have not decided. Am leaving job today to become a wedding planner."
Not a bad idea. Perhaps I'll consider that option for myself as well, if the next 100 CVs I send out prove to be similarly unproductive. In the meantime the bills continue to stream in, and I mantain the daily routine of the landed gentry, while sometimes. at night, the repressed fear arises and keeps me tossing and turning wondering how it will resolve itself.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
One word poems:
I am all awash
thoughts like discarded plastic bottles
in the mind sea
a whale glides
perhaps it will be killed
by a Japanese harpoon
perhaps it will be torn asunder
by killer whales
perhaps it will die peacefully
on the sea bed
It is absolutely necessary to know
that enlightenment will never come
to Immanuel Suttner
I was walking home from the shops just before shabat
and I sat down at Diamond Bay Reseve and lookd out across the sea
and just before I picked up my bags to continue home
and it occurred to me that kabbalat shabat - and in particular the psalms that make it up - could be seen as a review of creation, of all the wonders that were created in the six days
before the crowning act of creation is non-creation
there is no stopping us when we are shopping
What does the infinite know of me?
A small lump of misery
all of these
On the pillow lies a skull
covered with a thin layer of skin and hair
inside the skull thoughts chase each other
in endless succession
I am acustomed to think of this skull as "mine"
but am I in the skull
or is this story of my skull in me?
Is poetry mostly
the snail trail
of the desire for recognition?
If I can distill an essence
of a moment
I cannot get enough of quiet
I drink up silence like a starving man
ever mindful how it may end
Sometimes my dhirhea smells like
steam powered railways
sometimes I see someone
who looks exactly like someone I knew
When people ask me “what do you do?”
I try to have a word ready at hand
I’m a writer
I’m a teacher
I’m a script writer
In response to MasterChef
to eat from hunger, not from boredom
to be with what is here
to thank G-d for gratitude
to met desire and fear
now that I'm in my later 40's, a night on the town means staying up 'til almost 11:00 to write a few poems
"I'm a breast man":
A man masturbating over a video
of a cow being milked
A devil as a mosquito
What gets in the way of poetry sweet poetry?
letters of demand
the desire to inhabit my roles as responsible provider
(after all, what have my children sinned?)
google analytics and ROI
language in suits
and the fear of imagination
how many times have I betrayed the one I love
to do my imagined duty
let you sleep at night
but inside there is
so much more
Lord preserve us
from the terrible poverty of excess
Like salmon returning to their spawning grounds
the wandering wondering Jews
have returned to Zion
at least, some of them
and I too have returned
to my spawning ground
or at least
some of me
A political poem
we stand for
This morning I had a telephonic conversation
with a rotund sex worker
who is doing her masters
in public health
and as she described her body
I stroked mine
then we parted amicably
with a promise from me
to make an appointment
I never kept
apologies for the way things are
a pity on her and on me
Royal Randwick Shopping Centre, Sunday Morning
Earnest Chinese Christians
over bibles and boxes
of factory farmed chicken
Always I have wanted
to be that love itself
no matter how it looks
the quiet order of things
in their proper place
the passing passions
my son is playing the piano
for my dad
over the phone
invisible electromagnetic radiation of the wireless phone
the thin chariot facilitating our
tenuous yet irrevocable connection
and I encourage and acknowledge him
as a good father should
wanting to model for my 78 year old dad with Alzheimer's
how he could have been with us
my son is playing the piano
for my dad
and I am showing him off:
"see... see the beautiful thing
that has come forth from me"
and it is all normal and natural
except that I am in Sydney
and my dad is in Sandringham Gardens
an old aged home in Johannesburg
"it sounds lovely" he says "very good."
and I, hyper aware of this constructed grandpa I build
for the boys, or perhaps for myself
from silences and absences
from a few words over the phone,
wanting there to be the solidity of dynasty
rather than the flimsiness of the orphanage
do my duty
and quietly grieve.
("How are Marcia and Jeff" he asks
though Jeff died in '99)
On some days my mind has me pinned down
by the short and curlies
Spring has Sprung
Its almost summer
suddenly someone’s turned the sun back on
and the breasts that have been hibernating all winter
are coming out again
the ghosts of cattle and sheep
cancer patients and octopii
that did not make it
cease to haunt us
as winter babies
and cautious spring flowers
raise their newborn heads
Rule of thumb:
wherever there is state sponsored anti-Semitism
there is poverty, corruption, and something to hide
poor people being ripped off
repression, torture, the controlling of the media
homophobia, the violent homogenisation of the individual
just look at Iran, Zimbabwe, Venezuela
I had just finished watching
this documentary about how
the holy crusaders had painted the town red
with the blood of any people
who happened to be Jews
on their way to liberate
the holy land
for the lord of compassion
when I got this phone call / the door bell rang
it was some Christians avoiding themselves
by selling the G-d of love
I am not one who was born to command
but neither am I one who was born to be commanded
Palestine will be free
from the river to the sea
as free as Gaza, the one party state
where to speak against Hamas is to seal your fate
as free as a woman of the Taliban
who can only breathe if her owner says she can
as free as a Bishop in Teheran
who can choose between a bullet or conversion to Islam
as free as Rafik Hariri was to crticize Hizballah
til they blew him and 21 others up to Allah
as free as a donkey, explosives strapped to its back
sent by Hamas in a donky-ish attack
as free as a cronies of Arafat or Abbas
to pocket billions of donor cash
Yes Palestine will be free
to spread around its bigotry
from the river to the sea
but Palestinians will live in slavery
free as ______________ held in the mukata
as free as a Kurd to speak Kurdish in his own land
Between 1982 and 1991 the performance or recording of songs in the Kurdish language was banned in Turkey, The European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance reported that "The public use by officials of the Kurdish language lays them open to prosecution, and public defence by individuals of Kurdish or minority interests frequently leads to prosecutions under the Turkish Criminal Code)As free as a Fatach member in Hamas land
thrown from the rooftops to see if they would fly / where they would land
as free as Gilad Shalit held by Hamas for four years
though his family wept a river of tears
as free as Hamas to abduct journalists who won't report what they're shown
as free as a coptic Christian to go to church
money into their pockets / private accounts
as free as a Sunni Syrian to criticise Bashar Asad
Since its 1994 founding under the Oslo Accords, the PA’s credibility has been hit by allegations of rampant corruption. In early 2006, the PA Attorney-General Ahmad al-Meghanni reported that he was investigating no fewer than 52 cases of official corruption. These totaled hundreds of millions of dollars and involved numerous senior officials of the PA and affiliated companies.
once I watched a man drowning
in his own spit