24 September 2007

Emotion and Intellect

I had an interesting discussion in shul on this Yom Kippur. Asked if I had recently been to Israel, I responded that I hadn’t been there in years. I should go, I was urged. “Why?” I asked. Because, he said, my attachment to Judaism was too intellectual and lacked an emotional component.

I still don’t know what my friend meant, and though this might have been the appropriate place to discuss the issue, this wasn’t the proper occasion. However, I responded that I didn’t feel that way at all, and that indeed, my Judaism was essential to the very substance of my daily life. I tried I tried to live my Judaism as a system of ethics and daily relationships. He responded, “That’s what I meant, too intellectual. You need an emotional connection.”

Really we were talking about two different things, I think. He was talking about Israel and I was talking about Judaism. Coincidentally, I am reading Ruth Wisse’s book, Jews and Power (who am I kidding—there is no coincidence here!), and thinking about the Diaspora. I told my friend that the focus on Israel turns the rest of us Jews into second class citizens—that our strong attachments to everything outside Israel excludes us from participating with an essential Judaism. I reminded my friend that the Jews have lived mostly in diaspora, and that some argue that it is that condition which has fostered the creativity and survival of the Jewish people. Some might argue that the diaspora—exile—is the Ur condition of the human race. Being forced out of the Garden of Eden where all is given us forces us to actually confront the world and its hardships and evil. Out here is where life exists. Out here we can repair the world.

Anyway, I don’t know at all what is meant by his accusation that I lack an emotional connection. I have always lived in diaspora. I’m happy here. I love being Jewish. I love acting Jewish. I love Jewish thought and ethics.

20 September 2007

Brinng! Brinng!

Leaving home these days has changed. Cell phones have made calling home, E.T. de rigeur. I mean, if we call each other there is no charge, and even if we don’t call each other, we have an awful lot of minutes on our plan, and everything after a certain hour is free. I suppose she saves these free minutes for her friends when I am long asleep. And then there is text messaging, which I read in Cosmo Girl is far less expensive than either calling or emailing—the cost of running the computer less than the cost of the text messaging. And besides, we have unlimited text messaging on our phone plan. Then, there is Skype. There are times I call my daughter and see her, as if she were in the next room—which, of course, she is, except that the room is a thousand miles away. I’ve ceased being a helicopter parent and begun my role as helicopter pad.

Perhaps the notion of independence has to be rethought with the advent of all of this technology which links us intimately and seemingly, guiltlessly, to one another.

It has taken me some time to acclimate myself to having one child less in the home. Of course, the one away is no longer a child exactly, but it is impossible to consider her as anything other than my child. When I see her, I see her from the beginning, and it is very difficult to see her only as the adult in process. It helps me understand my own parents to consider this: despite being sixty years old, my mother still conceptualizes me as a child. This is a problem for both of us. And perhaps my consciousness of this reality will make it possible to know my daughters differently, and learn to see them as other than my child, and see them as grown up loved ones.

In the meantime, I remain occupied with phone calls and text messages and email attachments. But I’ve learned that my daughter’s generation don’t email: it’s just too retro. And I’m blocked from all of their facebooks and my spaces.
Anyway, I’ve spent the day listening to Opera. I never have learned to appreciate opera, and I don’t understand very much about the art and techniques of opera, but I have had a wonderful listening day. I don’t know what I’m listening to other than it is opera, but I’ve had a happy listening day.

11 September 2007

I See You!

I’ve begun to live in my memories of Star Trek. I bought a webcam or two, and I now have skype sessions with my daughter. We each sit at our computers a thousand miles apart--she in her dormitory room and I in my office, and we talk to each other. And her face fills my computer screen. And walking to and from class and to and from the malls she calls me. (Even my younger daughter calls regularly--last week she called from a restaurant to ask how she likes her hamburger--well or medium well done!) The notion of space has dramatically changed; I’m just waiting for the transporter. I’d be standing in class and I would say, “Scotty, beam me up out of here!”

I love the technology. I mean, it’s useless to hate it. I’ve never understood Luddites, though I’ve always understood their fears. I’ve been fortunate--my good in the world has never been taken away by the machine--

So, now I see her daily but her room at home remains absolutely clean!! And when she gets angry at me, she doesn’t yell--she says our connection is too bad to continue.

So, as google became a verb, so too will skype. I skyped my daughter today--she looked lovely, as usual. She was googling something for her class.

01 September 2007

Everybody's moving

I was gazing about at shul this morning, and I noticed the absence of the population of seventeen and eighteen year olds. This is the age of my eldest daughter. We took her to college last week, as I suspect other parents traveled with their adolescents to seats of learning across the States. Where once she sat beside me every Shabbat, she today settled in her seat somewhere else and I was, alas, alone. Even my younger daughter, who would in subsequent weeks share the bench with me, today attended another shul for another Bat Mitzvah celebration; I sat alone. As did all the parents of college-aged people. The daughter of another dear friend—the child only a high school junior—leaves home tomorrow to finish high school in another city. I guess that I am happy for the child, and sad for the community, but today all I felt was alone. My friend entered the entered, noted my presence, and said with sympathy, “You look sad!” I responded, “I am!” I projected my sadness outward onto the room, and prayed with a heaviness throughout services.
I did not today appreciate the eternal change of generations, though I saw the next one run joyously about in all of the space now opened. Dylan says, “Everybody’s moving, if they’re not already there/Everybody’s got to move somewhere.” I agree, but I don’t have to always like it, and right now, I don’t.
Sometimes when someone else moves, I realize how stationary I have become. Everybody’s got to move somewhere. Even me.