A Tu B’Av poem

I had myself Galadriel,
But it didn’t go so well.
I won the love of Arwen,
She up and rode away then.
I join swords with Eowyn,
But I was bested by my own hand.

Though the Pellenor Fields spread victory through the gates of Mordor,
My view from crumbling Osgiliath barely lifts me,
and I turn back to wander and observe the apples of the orchard.

July 21, 2013, Harlemville

Like falling leaves

Your golden skin
Your warm heart
Your fears and childish fits
Your pink love

I have loved you from the dawn
I have yearned for your love from before I was born

Spirits unresolved explode from my heart
Unheard achings of ages
Erupt through mythical me
Into material you
Fraying your nerves
Chilling your heart
wearing your thin
You’re walking on ice
On tip toes
Around the glass shards of a permanently broken heart
DO NOT WAKE THE BEAR

The Falcon flies over – spying glinting sparks of soul, scattered on the plains, in the woods, through the deserts.

The Bear raises his eyes from his berry munching, upon hearing the falcon’s call.  Now is the time to follow the Falcon.  Now is the time to confront the ancestors.  Now is the time to collect those pieces of soul, spread over the Earth of this life.

The Bear will walk and run and climb and swim.  Nothing can stop him from gathering these soul shards.

The hibernation is over, the spring gathering has come for this soul.

Like leaves falling
I’m wondering if you’re curious about me
And why don’t you call me
To see if I’m OK
To thank me for my love and passion
To tell me about your children

You see, you all lay golden and yellow at my roots.  You may have fallen from my branches, but you are not gone. There is no gardener to rake these leaves.  You are the litter of love at my feet.  You melt with the seasons into my roots.  Our love still nourishes me.

Still nourishes me.

Stillness, nourishes me

Your golden skin
Your warm heart
Your fears and childish fits
Your pink love

Like falling leaves
I pushed you away from my branch
I’m a fool
But I feel you at my roots
And I am nourished and blessed.

Grateful.

November, 2015
Nara, Japan

We Are Threads

We are the threads.

The threads between heaven and Earth.

We are the threads which are prayers become words become habits become reality become culture.

Let us help each other in our failings.  Listen without speaking, and the pain of wanting to interject rises and subsides.  We will split our hearts in two with compassion.

Love is the safest refuge, and the heartiest armor.  Go to battle, armored with compassion and armed with patience.  Flash the mighty sword of respect and fearlessness of difference and strangeness.  Then strangers no more.  The monsters of fear, rejection, and indifference lay slaughtered in our hearts.

We pull on the tassels of the robes of majesty, like children begging for candy.  The Queen of Creation bids her King to open his hand to us, to turn his face to us, and smile at us.  The love shines and pours from his eyes.  In his hands, sweet apples and honey from the garden.  We can still hear the bees buzzing, smell the loam of Earth from which our clay bodies were formed, and taste the nourishing sweetness.

Apples are brown in just a few moments, but honey is fresh for all time.  We embrace these apple moments, as the eternal honey sticks to our lips.

In our hands were play with the threads of prayer.  In our hearts we gather and untangle and knit and weave and raise up on the walls in the castles of imagination the great tapestry of our time.

Let it be known that we are here.  And the heavens shine upon us.

Give Me Winter

Will I wrankle all my friends by saying that this winter has NOT disappointed! It’s cold and snowy – just like winter should be! Makes me quite happy, actually. Here’s a piece I wrote in August 2013, anticipating winter:

I’m a winter person.
You think the winter is long? These summer days are ENDLESS. BRING ON WINTER!

Give me stillness and cool, open views and crackling fire and hissing steam heat.
Give me crystalline sunsets and crunching through the snow. Every turn of gray, and a million subtle blues.
Give me a wind that nips at my cheeks, like a frightened pup.
Give me the miracle of water become ice become water become foggy breath.
Give me the quiet blanket of calm.
Give me the thanks for the stored abundance.
Give me subtle magic.
Give me winter.

Pi Shabbat. Bringing abstractions to life.

This past Shabbat was pi shabbat. The Julian calendar date in the United States expressed 3.141592658. March 14, 2015 9:26 AM and 58 seconds.

Mathematical symbol pie represents a relationship. It represents the relationship between the radius or diameter of the circle and its circumference. How many things or concepts in our lives are meant to represent relationships between two abstract concepts? Quite a lot, but perhaps we don’t recognize it because they are so commonplace. The measurement of miles per hour leaps to mind, as I just saw the video in which a young man asks his girlfriend how many miles they will have traveled if they drive for one hour at 80 mi./h. The woman struggles with the relationship. She tries to work it out in her head, working from other relationships she knows, trying to figure out how long it will take her to go 80 miles. For some reason she starts at 35 miles an hour, and gets confused trying to double that and add 10. She fails to grasp that she already has all the tools he needs. All the information she needs is built into the question.

I get the sense that a lot of life’s troubles arise from not understanding that we already have all the tools we need, and that we might just be mistaking what are the qualities and capabilities of those tools are in order to understand our world and lives in a useful way. When we do not spend time playing with the tools that we have, you become clumsy and maladaptive. When we are not curious about the very things that are in front of us, we taken for granted and ignore their sophistication, there myriad usefulness, and the great joy and silliness that we can feel went engaging them.

I noticed this quite profoundly when I was looking into the kabbalistic expressions of that very fun ratio pi. It goes a little something like this. My friends started posting on Facebook places in the Old Testament where the measure circles as articulated. They’re gleeful to point out that these ancients were pretty darn close to pi. They stretch a bit to find hints that would show us that they understood that there was a particular relationship between the diameter and circumference of a circle. Renaissance era rabbis take a very infrequent and seemingly mistaken spelling of the word line, draw out their numerical values by doing good Amatoria, and show that the relationship between the properly spelled word and the improperly spelled word multiplied by the times that it appears spelled improperly in the text actually equals the closest approximation that the ancients had for the value of pi. That’s pretty cool. But it seems a bit of a stretch. And it also isn’t helping me understand anything about reality for my life.

The misspelled word thee renaissance era rabbis make a big deal about is the word line. the word line is a masculine word in Hebrew language. And in their philosophy the line represents masculinity. The masculine aspects of life are consider to be single focused, Linear, Driven to Direct goals. On the other hand, femininity is represented by the circle. The Circle represents the cycles that repeat throughout nature in our lives, it represents expansiveness and the ability to contain contradictions. It is also quite obviously the Portal for Life. The mistaken spelling of the Word line in these circumstances turns it into a feminine word. The word line as feminine would then represent some relationship between the masculine and feminine. So now we have one word that when analyzed signifies the relationship between the masculine and the feminine hey the very word structure.

But what are the characteristics of this relationship? Well those are the characteristics of the value of pi. Pie is considered a transcendental number by mathematicians. It is infinite and unpredictable, we cannot truly know how long it is and if and when it will stop and we cannot accurately predict a pattern reoccurring in those numbers. It is a process of infinitely refined approximation.

Making this even more fun is that despite is going on Shabbat. Shabbat is understood to be the most feminine time of the week. We are introducing the feminine into a very linear week by letting go of all the tasks that we reserve for the week, And instead rest and Recuperate and seek spiritual inspiration. And of course quite popularly, sexual relations on this day are encouraged in the Jewish tradition.

Now I get to thinking about the relationship between men and women. As a man when confronted with some conflict or some problem I want to fix it and get it done. The feminine aspect doesn’t really communicate that way. It doesn’t necessarily fix problems by directly addressing them, but gets to know them works around them in order to get a comprehensive view of the situation. As a man I rarely find this fulfilling. As a philosopher I love it. So if we take those characteristics of pie into our hearts as we interact with the men and women in our lives, but with the masculine and feminine aspects within ourselves, Or with the masculine and feminine aspects of the world we will see that it is nothing that’s ever finally solved. It’s a process of constant refinement and approximation. One can never truly and completely understand the other or possessed the other or control the other, nor will this task ever be done. The masculine can get some satisfaction that refinement has occurred. Another few places of pie have been reached in understanding and helping in some small way the feminine. And the feminine continues on refreshed by a somewhat comprehensive expression of the ever flowing. Is a good enough approximation that she can work with.

Pie then also summarizes in a way the teachings of Rabbi Tarson. We did not begin this work of calculating pie. And we cannot complete this work of calculating pot. But it is not for us to stop. The master, this urge for life is insistent. But we the workers are lazy. The work is very very long I think we can reduce some of the suffering of this long long labor by keeping an eye on the pie. By understanding and enjoying the fact that there’re these profound relationships that are indeed expressing themselves and giving us some direction, but we really will never know the final steps in that direction. And as long as we keep our minds on that concept we are engaged with the work, we are off the hook for a final result. Just keep at it, and enjoy how beautiful it is.

Two Kinds of Schmutz

I was recently reading a blog post by ShtetlKettle, and I got to thinking about some of the implications of what she writes. She notes that in the Torah two things are mentioned that you need to clean out of your house before Passover. There is the bread but there is also the bread starter or the sourdough. Now we don’t see sourdough very much in our lives or the bread starter that is the body or home to the yeast and bacteria. Our lives today are filled with processed and refined products made in a factory separate completely from our lives. But not so long ago every family had their sourdough, their bread starter. It was sort of a gloopy mass of living yeast. It was shared in the community, and passed down through generations.

So on Passover when we rid ourselves of bread, we are also enjoined to rid ourselves of bread starter. While much has been made of the connection between the rising of dough and the inflation of the ego, I haven’t until now seen anything written about the relationship between sourdough and any aspects of the human personality. So my little insight here is that on Passover while we are cleaning out the puffy stuff in our lives, our egoistic inflations of the self, we may also clear out the intergenerational and communal festering pools of potentially harmful bacteria and have a fresh look at people. Are we holding onto intergenerational or interpersonal behaviors, thought patterns, and views of the world that are poisonous and lead to constriction and a lack of freedom and clumsiness of thought and heart.

Ridding ourselves not only of the bread but also the source of the bread, and that source is the bread starter, we are also taking a leap of faith. I might think to myself, “fine I can throw out the bread because I always have the starter. But if I throw out the starter to where might I be able to create bread from again?” Yet when I do, I realize that I can start a new starter, and without any other control that I might have, without anything within my domain of knowledge. I will trust and have faith that there are yeast spores in the air. I will have faith that the yeast in the air will, without my intervention, land on the proper place I have made for it.

Wouldn’t this intervention against the bread starter, make Jews unable as a people to hand down bread starter from generation to generation. Wouldn’t it destroy the magical elements of the intergenerational passing down of the bread starter that we don’t fully understand. Yes! We are more authentic – we are living every year our own existential confrontation with that which people without microscopes cannot understand.

Which brings me to a tangential subject. If the tool of the baker is the bread starter, it must have some analogy to the tools of say a carpenter, or a writer, or rabbi. Forcing us in many ways to be artisans and crafts people of our own bakeries, our own workshops where we sharpen and create our own tools, our own language as writers who struggle and delight in neologism, and as mentioned in the Talmud, we are all also rabbis who must confront the Torah uniquely as our own, with faith in our tradition and education based on our Tradition, but we all must engage this text for ourselves. We must all stand before what we think is God, authentically and on our own.

But new tools and new bread starters are not for now, that is for two weeks from now when Passover is gone and we are beginning again anew to bake bread.

Bar the Gate! Man the Arches!

Humanity has often built Gates and Arches to commemorate transformational events. The Arch of Triumph, The Arch of Titus, etc. So, surely, we find meaning adding the suffix “gate” to the end of so many transformational events. It might have started by accident with Watergate, but I think we consider words too much as abstractions and too little as very real things. We play too much with the different between abstract and concrete, and get away with a lot of selfishness blurring the distinction.