Category Archives: Wisdom

Arrested in Ferguson in an Act of Repentance | Jim Wallis

Arrested in Ferguson in an Act of Repentance | Jim Wallis.

Repentance is a powerful theme throughout the Bible. But its meaning is often not well understood. Repentance is not about being sorry or just feeling guilty. It is about turning in a new direction. The biblical word for repentance in the original Greek is metanoia, which means you are going in the wrong direction, and it’s time to turn right around.

Jim Wallis never fails to make me think.  It’s easy to express regret; much harder to change direction.

 

Beatitudes

We attended the funeral of a friend who passed earlier this month.  She was a wonderful, righteous, generous, sweet person, teacher, and friend.  The funeral was a Catholic mass, probably the third mass I’ve ever attended — including the invite-a-Jewish-friend mass I attended with a friend when I was about 11 — so I was even more unfamiliar with the ritual than I am in a slightly closer-to-home reform synagogue or Episcopalian service.  But the lack of familiarity combined with the emotion of the occasion pulled me out of my own head, where I spend way too much time, and hit me with a 2×4 of wisdom.

It came in the form of the Beatitudes, which the priest recited because they were so very fitting for Liz Feldman — long a teacher and activist.  They really struck me, especially the final passage:

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

 Matthew 5:10-12.

It seems to me that Jesus was telling his followers that they would go forth and preach the word they believed in and would take a great deal of crap for it, but should have the faith to see beyond the crap, and realize that perhaps even because they had to take a lot of crap, they were righteous, and their reward was elsewhere than in the arena in which crap was being dished out.*  We take a fair amount of crap as plaintiffs’ lawyers, and I know and work with people who represent clients on the far margins of society, and take great deal more crap for it.  But when we are most reviled, and hear all manner of false, evil crap, it is likely just then that we are most true to our righteous course.

We’ll miss you, Liz.

*******

* Possible that religious scholars would not phrase it precisely this way.

Art Appreciation: Dustin McNa

Tim and I and our friend Kevin Williams decided to get cultured and appreciated some art last night.  Tim’s assistant Dustin McNa is a talented artist whose work is on display for the month at the Europa Coffee House.

The artist in residence:

{Image:  photo of a white man with short brown hair and a beard sitting in an upholstered chair looking toward the camera.  Above and to his right is a painting perhaps 3 feet high by 2 feet wide of a person standing facing the viewer with his hands held out in front of him as if to show something.  In the background of this large painting are buildings.  In the background of the photo are additional, smaller paintings and other chairs and tables in a coffee shop.}

I wish I had the vocabulary to describe his work but sadly that part of my brain is completely overwhelmed by the parts that think in outline format, answer Jeopardy questions about word origins, and remember to feed the dog.  But I really enjoy Dustin’s work and have purchased one piece that — when the part of my brain that should be in charge of organization gets organized — I plan to hang on my wall.

Dustin explains his work to Kevin:

{Image:  Interior of a coffee shop with table and chairs (some wooden; some upholstered).  In the left side of the photograph, a man (same man as earlier photo - white man with short hair and beard) sits on the arm of a chair looking up toward a painting on the wall. One arm is extended toward the painting as he explains it.  To the left side of the photo is another white man, with a knit cap, glasses and a beard.  He also looks at the painting as he listens.}

Christmas Display

I saw the most wonderful display in front of a church as I drove down University Blvd today.  Not a creche, no lights, no crosses, no Santas or reindeer.  Just:

{Image:  photo of a church buliding with -- in front of the church -- a long concrete and brick ramp under construction.}

a ramp under construction.   St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church is building a beautiful ramp in front of their church building.  No back entrances here; nothing ad hoc or flimsy.  They’ve given over the front lawn of the church to a cut-back concrete ramp, lined with brick to match the building.

{Image:  more distant photo in which the entire church building is visible within the frame, as is the ramp extending the width of the building.  Construction equipment is visible in the lower right of the photo.}

I was very moved by the message of inclusion that this collection of concrete and bricks and construction equipment sent especially at the time of year when there is generally so much hand-wringing about Christmas displays.*  Sometimes the simplest things speak the most eloquently.   It’s is even more moving, I think, because the ADA does not require churches to be accessible, so this likely reflects a simple decision that everyone should feel and be invited to worship.

Because ramps are fun to do in panorama:

{Image: a panoramic view in which the entire ramp is visible close up, with construction equipment to the right.}

********

* You know, the creche; the creche + menorah to show that we’re ecumenical; the creche + menorah-even-when-Chanukah-was-over-two-weeks-ago to show that we’re ecumenical but sort of clueless; the creche + menorah + Santa Claus to show that we’re not really religious, just seasonal; and of course the creche + menorah + flying spaghetti monster just because we can.

Reason #1,000,000 why I love Dahlia Lithwick

I never know what to think about Israel.  Partly it’s ignorance.  Partly it’s my mixed heritage and the angst I feel about what I *should* be thinking as a half- (technically entirely-) Jewish, thoroughly liberal American.  I have friends and family with deeply-held, passionately-expressed, 180-degree opposite views on the subject.  Over the past week, one friend posted to Facebook at picture of a person wrapped in a red and green flag with the caption “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes a duty,” while my dear cousin posted a link to “Friends of the IDF.”

Leave it to Dahlia Lithwick — the only person who could make reading about Antonin Scalia enjoyable — to say it perfectly.  Writing from her sabbatical in Jerusalem (emphasis added, as we say in the law biz):

I don’t know how to talk about what is happening here but it’s probably less about writers’ block than readers’ block. It says so much about the state of our discourse that the surest way to enrage everyone is to tweet about peace in the Middle East. We should be doing better because, much as I hate to say it, the harrowing accounts of burnt-out basements and baby shoes on each side of this conflict don’t constitute a conversation. Counting and photographing and tweeting injured children on each side isn’t dialogue. Scoring your own side’s suffering is a powerful way to avoid fixing the real problems, and trust me when I tell you that everyone—absolutely everyone—is suffering and sad and yet being sad is not fixing the problems either.

You want to hear about what it’s like here? It’s fucking sad. Everyone I know is sad. My kids don’t care who started it and the little boys in Issawiya, the Arab village I see out my window, don’t care much either. I haven’t met a single Israeli who is happy about this. They know this fixes nothing.

Thank you, Dahlia.

In honor of Banned Books Week

The copy of Ulysses that my grandfather bought in Paris in 1928, at which time it was banned in the US.

Shows spine of weathered copy of Ulysses

Camera
E-510
Exposure
1/4s
ISO
100

.

Flyleaf of Ulysses signed Clarence I. Blau Paris 1928

Camera
E-510
Exposure
1/40s
ISO
100

He was, of course, much smarter and more literate than his granddaughter, but I enjoy displaying the books I inherited from him so I look well-read.  Biography of Henry JamesHistory of the English Speaking Peoples?*  Of course!  Um… how about that Peyton Manning!?

*************

*Clarence was actually my Jewish grandfather, though his reading tastes tended toward the WASPy and Anglophile.  My Christian grandfather, on the other hand, was a big-ass Zionist and Nazi-conspiracy-theorist.  And you wonder why I’m confused!

“Whatever” — how have I overlooked this blog?

I just had to link to this excellent explanation of privilege.  Most of the time when you say something like “nondisabled straight white men are privileged,” you are either accused of being accusatory, accused of overlooking millions of poor nondisabled straight white men, or accused of overlooking affirmative action.  John Scalzi explains that being a NSWM is like playing a role playing game on the lowest difficulty setting.  Note:  I play precisely zero role-play games, but the wonderfully-written extended metaphor is very accessible.

Okay: In the role playing game known as The Real World, “Straight White Male” is the lowest difficulty setting there is.

This means that the default behaviors for almost all the non-player characters in the game are easier on you than they would be otherwise. The default barriers for completions of quests are lower. Your leveling-up thresholds come more quickly. You automatically gain entry to some parts of the map that others have to work for. The game is easier to play, automatically, and when you need help, by default it’s easier to get.

His follow-up post responding to comments and criticism is good too, as is his post ridiculing some of the stupid and/or assaholic comments.  From his comment on comments:

2. Your metaphor/analogy is good, except for [insert thing that commenter finds not good about the metaphor/analogy]

Well, yes. Metaphors are not perfect; it’s why they’re metaphors and not the thing the metaphor describes.

What’s even cooler about this post for me is that it introduced me to his blog, Whatever, and I now have the delightful adventure of reading through 15 years (!) of entertaining writing.