If I had a hammer…

Courses
Tibetan

An amazing language, an amazing course, an amazing professor. Despite the fact that we’re up against insurmountable odds (the fact that the course is being taught once a week instead of three to five times a week) everyone – myself included – is still incredibly excited.

I should be entirely caught up with it by this evening at the latest.

Phonetics

Is going well…I did not do nearly as well as I wanted to on our first homework, but now having the sheet explaining why I didn’t do as well as I want to (the ‘homework guidelines to answers sheet’), I now know how to improve my work to lift my grade to where I want it to be. Work wise, I’m not behind in this course. Overall, it’s quite enjoyable.

Grammar & Lexicon

Is going okay, more studying, waiting to get our homework back on Wednesday. This really isn’t my thing (I’ve never been a fan of syntax) but it is important, and JP is a wonderful instructor so it’s a pleasure to take the class regardless of the fact that it isn’t my favorite area of study. Work wise, I’m not behind in this course…but I don’t feel ahead either. I think I’ll feel more (or less) comfortable after I get my homework back and graded on Wednesday.

Grey cannot be Elephants!

Good Ideas in Computer Science

The course is going okay…I’m still uneasy about it…I’ve really been quite happy operating until now under the very firm impression that unicorns make the internet work and that gnomes are really what effect the processor speed of my computer.

TA
TAing for Scott is going wonderfully; we’re progressing with the course and everything seems to be going swimmingly…everyone’s really getting into it which is great.

Independent Study

Wednesday I’ll be collecting the last of my resources for my Independent Study with Wölk and hopefully meeting with him Thursday Morning to discuss them. First draft due at the end of October…I’m excited!

Sociolinguistics

Wolf turned in my grade in Sociolinguistics. From an Incomplete I went to an A- which is acceptable, not thrilling, but acceptable.

TESOL/TEFL/TESL

The course starts the second weekend in October; I’ll have my certificate on October 28th. My friend, Amalia from the Tibetan class will be taking it with me.

Overall

I’m uneasy at the moment. All it takes is for one thing to go wrong to delay or effect my graduation, and I don’t like that…compared with the fact that I normally feel like I’m going to fail, die and cause the end of the universe (I have an intense fear of failure which is why I rocket myself towards success…it’s a fucked up cycle)…things are just peachy.

I’ll be meeting with Rev. Linda today for some counseling/a sounding board; I’ll also be cutting back on some activities to make more room for more studying which some people may be unhappy with, but my main priority is graduating and thus, such is life.

High Holy Days

The High Holy Days were spent with my family at my Synagogue, they were emotionally refreshing and meaningful and it was wonderful to see the congregation, my former Hebrew School teachers.

Kol Nidrei

Kol Nidrei is widely misunderstood; it is my favorite day of the year, surpassing all others in beauty, in emotion, in power. In fact, it’s the one service that consistently moves me to tremble.

Kol Nidrei is when you are released from the vows you have made from the year before that you are unable to fill: not for want of trying, but because you have committed yourself to a herculean task and you cannot fulfill it because it is impossible, because it is detrimental to your health, to your well being…because continuing to attempt to fulfill it would cause undue harm. It is also when you pray for those who cannot pray for themselves, who if they were to admit who they are and that they’re Jewish would find death waiting for them at their door…who have to lie about their faith for the protection of themselves and their family…who have to deny everything about who they are…through your prayer, you absolve them of their sins.

I think I find Kol Nidrei so moving because of the other implications that is has for other groups of people who cannot admit who they are, who they love lest they too find death waiting for them. The Jewish people do not find honor in becoming a Martyr, or rather, they do not seek honor that way. The rule that supersedes all rules in Judaism is that Health and Life are above all else. If you had to eat a plate of pork or die, you eat the plate of pork.

This of course doesn’t mean that we don’t have our fair share of Martyrs: Janusz Korczak, who marched in valiant, silent protest against hate, inhumanity, and death in face of ultimate, unadulterated evil…and despite offers of amnesty – twice – went with his children to the death camps and died along with them so they wouldn’t meet death afraid and alone; or the Daughters of Israel, who when faced with their imminent rape and certain death at the hands of the Nazis, instead of surrendering to the violation of their bodies and their souls, drank poison leaving a note saying “Say the Kaddish for us…we are the Daughters of Israel…”

‘Say the Kaddish for us’

It really is about collective memory, isn’t it? Korczak didn’t know he was doing something righteous when he marched with his children, he didn’t know that one day there would be a statue of him with his arms around the worlds children trying to protect them, created in his honor…he did what he did because it was the right thing to do…and because he was righteous he became immortal.

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur was also very moving. It’s a day when everyone can just wipe the slate clean and move on. It’s a calming day, a moving day, and a relaxing day. Unlike Rosh Hashanah when I dress my best (which, really, is the only way to enter the New Year), on Yom Kippur I come to Synagogue in slightly ragged clothing, ripped jeans, a white button down shirt with the sleeves slightly rolled up (to which my Mother sometimes quickly explains to the numerous people that come up to me to comment on it that it’s ‘to humble’ myself, which isn’t entirely accurate either).

Perhaps the biggest issue I’ve had with many of my fellow congregants is that they believe you can attend synagogue once a year, fall asleep during Yom Kippur services, and because you dress in an Armani suite that somehow this will fool God, that this overpriced cloth and half hearted attempt to pretend that you care stands for anything…that they place more emphasis and belief in their belongings than they do in their faith.

If God has seen me drunk, has seen me high, has seen me doing things that no one should be doing, then why retain any pretense? He has seen me naked, he’s seen me at my best and he’s seen me at my worst (and every permutation therein): he is perhaps the person who knows me best, I can’t get away from him…he can’t get away from me…there’s no point in trying to hide behind clothing from your best friend…so I stand before God as he sees me on any other day, painfully honest with each other…I’m asking for forgiveness, he’s providing it, and I ask for it making bold notation that I’m going to fuck up again, and we’ll see each other, same time, same station, again next year…though this time, that’ll be in Israel.

Kapparot

In the ritual of Kapparot, where (and this is the cliff-cliff notes version of the ritual) a chicken is whirled around three times above the head and absorbs the sins of the fellow whirling it…(there’s an article on YNet defending it, which can be found here).

Now, first, I should probably admit my bias: I am in full support of the Chicken on this one (and not just because of my long association with rubber chickens). But, quite frankly, were I a chicken I don’t believe I’d very much appreciate the practice.

But, let’s think about this a little more logically. Let’s say that the whole Kapparot concept works (though I have my doubts…actually, I think the supreme architect(s) are looking down curiously going ‘Holy mother of…now I KNOW I never said ANYTHING about that…’) and all of a sudden this poor, innocent chicken wham -thankyousirmayIpleasehaveanother – bam has the sins of the person whirling him…but there’s a Twist…

and in a flash (though perhaps with a pause that seems to last only for a second, but hundreds of our years) the Chicken is reborn…but it was a bad sin….oh it was some kind of horrible sin (worse than wearing white after labor day)…and he’s reborn…as a slug…outside of a salt factory….all because some guy couldn’t be bothered to just go to synagogue and instead, picked him up out of nowhere, whirled him around his head three times and (perhaps, though apparently not required) glared at him in the eyes in some kind of meaningful-trancelike-gaze where the whirler went “take my sins” and the chicken went “oh cl*ck!”

…though on the other hand I guess we do have to allow for the possibility that maybe he got flung around by a Tzaddik a bit (though I question whether a Tazaddik would take part in the practice) and now he’s living the high life as a Koala Bear munching on Bamboo or he’s a Labradoodle or something.

Either way though, I think we can all agree that this has the potential to have serious implications for the animal kingdom.

Really, most religions when practiced by those who are in the middle and aren’t on either end of the extremes are incredibly, incredibly similar: do good (though what that ‘good’ is, is subject to debate), don’t hurt each other, help each other out, feed each other, be righteous, say you’re sorry…the most major differences, as far as I can tell are when people go to extremes on one end or the other and then we get to see what the real differences are, as they manifest themselves in various things…like chicken whirling.

A Life Update Later

I still have more to write about, but that’ll come later. For now, I need to shower and then get in another nap before I getup for the day.