Sunday, January 29, 2006

happy red fire dog year

Happy Red Fire Dog Year, the first day of the Lunar New Year 4704!
Donut, who is also known as Donut-Ponut (lying with her Hedgehog)

Friday, January 27, 2006

how the heart hardens

I have wrestled a bit with the part of the Moses-Pharoah-Exodus story where it says that "god hardened Pharoah's heart"--in that case, whose responsibility is it that the Egyptian people in the myth suffer through all those plagues? Whose choice was it, if Pharoah would have given in, but for his heart being hardened against his will?

So, I am happy to read this interpretation from a much more muscular wrestler than I am, Rabbi Arthur Waskow of The Shalom Center. This piece of his is posted at a new group blog, Radical Torah, "a weblog which features multiple takes on parshat hashavua (the weekly Torah portion), as seen through the lens of progressive religious and political viewpoints. The project seeks to create a resource of authentically Jewish responses to pertinent social justice issues, timed in accordance with their relevancy to the Jewish calendar."
Perhaps the greatest archetypal tale in all of human culture about addiction to top-down, unaccountable power is the story of Pharaoh in the Book of Exodus.

Now, today, we are seeing this tale lived out before our own eyes. The present government of the United States has become so addicted to its own power, so swept away by its own arrogance, that it is playing out the tale of Pharaoh.

And the US government is not alone: the present government of Iran is talking like Pharaoh; Al Qaeda acts like a mini-Pharaoh.

Pharaoh begins by hardening his own heart to the plight of the poor and powerless, and after a series of disasters (the "plagues") brought on by his own arrogance, his addiction takes over.

God – read "Reality" – takes over, and from then on it is God Who hardens his heart.

What is this like? — Use heroin once, twice, thrice – and you are making a free choice. But at some point the addiction takes over, Reality takes over, God takes over. Now it is the heroin that is doing you, not you doing heroin.

If you choose hard-heartedness so long you get addicted to it, at some point you are no longer choosing: God, Reality, is hardening your heart.


Even when Pharaoh's own advisers shriek at him, "You are destroying Egypt!" he can no longer turn back.

Pharaoh has so addicted himself to his own uncontrollable power that he can no longer make a free choice. Unfortunately, when people who have great power insulate themselves in arrogance, the disasters they create do not wound only themselves. They wound the whole society...

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

slow light

Hmmm. Not blogging for a few weeks is a tiny bit like not sending out holiday cards for the past 4 or 5 years (or maybe it is 6). The time has been so full, I wonder: where shall I start?

But that's too daunting. Instead, I'll just start here, and say that this morning the sky was clear--so rare in the past few months--and the sun was angled low in the sky like it is all winter, and casually brilliant. I so much appreciate days like today when none of my things-to-do are too precisely time-bound. How luxurious to roll very slowly along in the morning commute traffic, and not feel hurried. To be able to notice all of the trees growing on the freeway covers and be filled by the sunlight glinting on the mountains and the lake, and know that it will be fine with my friend Jana whether I arrive at her house at 9 or 9:30 or later.

By lunchtime it was raining again (though the chill was warmed by getting to have lunch with Rabbi Ted!)

And now, in the dark, I'm still full of the slow light of this morning.
This Pillar of Sun, taken in Maine by Lucy Orloski, is from the NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day site

Friday, January 06, 2006

floating past the bridges

"...You know how a good bass player is just there, in the music, not the main thing but just a continual presence. This dissertation is always there, no matter where I live or what I do for work or how I feel.

Okay, so I was working on my dissertation the other day, and I encountered a new reality. Stepped right through the filmiest of barriers to this other side.

I realized that I'm done. This dissertation is done."
Congratulations, Jeff! I'm so glad you're inviting us back to cross the rio-grandio with you again!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

life is the only way to rise on wings

A lovely selection via Panhala, by Polish poet and Nobel laureate Wislawa Szymborska:

A Note
Life is the only way
to get covered in leaves,
catch your breath on the sand,
rise on wings;

to be a dog,
or stroke its warm fur;

to tell pain
from everything it's not;

to squeeze inside events,
dawdle in views,
to seek the least of all possible mistakes.

An extraordinary chance
to remember for a moment
a conversation held
with the lamp switched off;

and if only once
to stumble upon a stone,
end up soaked in one downpour or another,

mislay your keys in the grass;
and to follow a spark on the wind with your eyes;
and to keep on not knowing
something important.

~ Wislawa Szymborska ~