Friday, October 3, 2014

Prayers for the Broken - My Al Chet This Year

"L'shanah tovah tikatevi v' taihatemi”

May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.

There is the traditional Al Chet and then there is something more modern that I’ve encountered and I think it’s important because it grounds the sins from the formal and therefore the internal to the actual failures we commit during the year. The failures I have committed.

I need to remind people that a kind of personal god that looks like a human and has a form is not part of Judaisim – we use human shaped words to try to grasp something infinite – something not human. When humans use the word god the part of me that interacts with my religion hears a wordless/wordful thing that is “Universe”

God is not a magical sky fairy that is going to give me a puppy if I’m a good girl. The Universe is an immense thing that I struggle to engage with and understand and attempt to be the best human I can be inside of it. So the English formulation of “Ruler of the Universe” which is often used in translation is the one that speaks/works for me.

I am having immense difficulty with the things that represent Judaism in practice in the world being corrupted by specifically American duality and ideology. This is a day I will struggle with that some more.

One of the things that many people who aren’t religious practicitioners don’t know is the reason we say the Al Chet outloud during the day all together is because a sin cannot be forgiven unless it is admitted to outloud and publically.

But we say these things together to protect those who sinned so they can say it out loud without having to bear the burden or shame of it alone. We are all admitting to the sins because we are all people who share in the effects of the sin. In many cases we do actually bear the shared responsibility for allowing or condoning the sin as culturally acceptable or necessary in the first place.

So for all these things I ask forgiveness, in my version of public because right now it hurts to much to be in a prayer space – because there is currently no prayer space without politics and politics are nothing but methods of extraction for power interests  to enrich the already powerful.

And I have not figured out a way to stop that or stand against it yet – for that more than anything I beg forgiveness.

This was updated in 1978 – and it’s the one I’ll use tomorrow and here today.

We sin against You when we sin against ourselves.

For our failures of truth, Our God, Ruler of the Universe, we ask forgiveness.

For passing judgment without knowledge of the facts,
and for distorting facts to fit our theories.

For using the sins of others to excuse our own,
and for denying responsibility for our own misfortunes.

For condemning in our children the faults we tolerate in ourselves,
and for condemning in our parents the faults we tolerate in ourselves.

We sin against You when we sin against ourselves.

For our failures of justice, Our God, Ruler of the Universe, we ask forgiveness.

For keeping the poor in the chains of poverty,
and turning a deaf ear to the cry of the oppressed.

For using violence to maintain our power,
and for using violence to bring about change.

For waging aggressive war,
and for the sin of appeasing aggressors.

For obeying criminal orders,
and for the sin of silence and indifference.

For poisoning the air, and polluting land and sea,
and for all the evil means we employ to accomplish good ends.

We sin against You when we sin against ourselves.
For our failures of love, Our God, Ruler of the Universe, we ask forgiveness.

For confusing love with lust,
and for pursuing fleeting pleasure at the cost of lasting hurt.

For using others as a means to gratify our desires,
and as stepping-stones to further our ambitions.

For withholding love to control those we claim to love,
and shunting aside those whose youth or age disturbs us.

For hiding from others behind an armor of mistrust,
and for the cynicism which leads us to mistrust the reality of unselfish love.

Teach us to forgive ourselves for all these sins, O forgiving God, and help us to overcome them.
For all these sins, O God of mercy, forgive us, pardon us, grant us atonement!
The sin we have committed against You by malicious gossip,
the sin we have committed against You by sexual immorality,
and the sin we have committed against You by gluttony.
The sin we have committed against You by narrow-mindedness,
the sin we have committed against You by fraud and falsehood,
and the sin we have committed against You by hating without cause.
The sin we have committed against You by our arrogance,
the sin we have committed against You by our indolence,
and the sin we have committed against You by our irreverence.
The sin we have committed against You by our hypocrisy,
the sin we have committed against You by passing judgment by others,
and the sin we have committed against You by exploiting the weak.
The sin we have committed against You by giving and taking bribes,
the sin we have committed against You by giving way to our hostile impulses,
and the sin we have committed against You by running to do evil.
For all these sins, O God of mercy, forgive us, parson us, grant us atonement!

Litany Source = Gates of Repentance:  The New Union Prayerbook for the Days of Awe (New York:  Central Conference of American Rabbis, 1978), pp. 327-331

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Book Club Blog Post for the Magicians Opening

This is where promises might be kept.

Three of us have read The Magicians before and we'll be bookclubbing here with the comments holding the conversation.

We've promised to do this before but the pull is stronger now - we are all in transitions, we are all moving.

We will be reading at our own pace but discussing a chapter each week.

The goal is a close reading the way we would treat Phillip Roth, Virginia Woolfe, Vonnegut....

We may share some things about ourselves. This is my blog- a peice of myself that's semi-public and I will moderate comments and don't allow anon but you can join us if you'd like.

Because things are different now - but it's still the Dreamtime - a liminal space - we can walk together for a while.

This is where we will walk with Lev Grossman's The Magicians and see the things we see with him.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

When do we Build?

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. (Or their opinion, or ze's opinion - I like ze.) 

And sometimes mine is that you shouldn't have voiced it just because you can. 

Sometimes mine is "you are correct but just for you, perhaps you should have added something to indicate that your opinion is actually an opinion and not a judgment". 

Sometimes my opinion is "no - that thing you are saying is NOT an opinion it's a judgment and you are basically framing it in such a way that it is an order when you are trying to make a claim that other people should not do that to you?"

I'm entitled to all those opinions too.

I know that western culture is bad at respecting humans as feeling things but I'm getting concerned that "anger" is not just acceptable as a framework (because it is) but is also the default and accusatory position. Anger is awesome for violent revolutions to break free - but it's HORRIBLE for building things. So part of my opinion is this - we can respect anger as valid- but when do we create the building part?

Spoken as an eternally angry person.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Brief History of Extra Curricular Events

I've had the very unusual experience of honestly and sincerely trying to apply to a traditional four year college at an age that isn't even close to the "non-traditional" student or the revered and respected "senior citizen finally getting to follow her dream."
I'm directly in the middle of "neither fish nor fowl" age group again. Out of space, out of time. I'm beginning to feel very sympathetic to the Doctor.
There are many things that you are asked to do when applying to college for real, and I had never done any of them. When I went through school I collected my extracurricular activities as a way to save myself - not prepare for the future. As an adult I did things I believed in. I don't think a single one of them was undertaken for anything other than belief in what it was, joy of doing what it did or simply that I wanted to get good or better at doing it. It was certainly not for professional work or networking. That remains a place where I still look around helplessly, while I am more than willing to network for other people or projects.
So when it came time to fill out the "extracurricular activities" I ran into a problem - those activities are listed there to let traditional  students express themselves and their interests after having been trapped in an extremely regimented and ritualized world. Colleges need to know them a little bit, to see what sparks them more than ticking off the grades in a checklist - where is their passion?
It's odd then to look at several decades of "extracurricular" choices. What they really want to know it what can you learn outside of class. And I realized that I wanted to write something to that, but I am already scared of being a  fish in a helmet. So I wrote it for here and not for there.

A Brief History of Extra Curricular Events - What I Really Learned. 

I’ve had a lot of extracurricular and work experience – listing it all is monotonous, but the essay questions are very focused, and it seems to me the best way to share the worth of them, is to list them with the major thing I learned from participating in each one of them. So it’s more than a list, but less than an epic.

·      Elementary school – I learned that if you come back in when school is over and sit in the back of the library, you can read all of the international fairy tale and folklore books without having to worry about the checkout limit.  Also, I learned that no one checked the library after school.

 ·      Demonstration Swordfighter – Marklanders historic recreation – It’s better to duck.

·      Junior High School Student Government Vice President -  I learned that people who bully you mercilessly and call you Fish Face will vote for you if you deal with hecklers directly and support you and your issue, but still call you Fish Face for the next 6 years.

 ·      Dungeons and Dragons – If you can’t get cast in a show because you don’t look exactly like someone’s idea of a character,  you can make up something like that character and play it anyway. Oh, and I learned mapping, math, writing, drawing, researching and about having friends that stick with you way past Junior High School.

 · AV Club – learn all the equipment. Be able to fix all the equipment. Be patient and polite with people who didn’t and couldn’t.
 ·      Alternative High School – 2-hour classes lead to much better in class discussions and really getting into a subject than 45 minute ones.  I miss the lit class. 

·      Playcrafters, Summer Stock, New York Renn Fair, and New Mercury Theater etc - If you want to be an actress, it’s good to learn to be a stage manager too.

  ·      Stage Crew – I still don’t know why there’s a rivalry between tech and actors, but they all work together in the end. Also learning how to organize keep and use a cue book set me up to be successful as a software PM. It was a literal direct transfer.

 ·      Debate Club – I learned how to take notes on the fly and formulate a coherent argument without getting angry. I use everything I learned there professionally and academically.

 ·      Literary Magazine – I learned how to bring a project in on time and what a blind review system looked like. I also learned how to hold a poker face while listening to some very earnest, very bad vampire poetry.

 ·      Founding Member Teaneck New Theater – The hardest thing about a brand new volunteer local theater company is finding and developing stage crew. Stage Crews once developed and bonded with each other are like sports teams.
 ·      Creator/Editor In Chief Gateways MagazineWhen you’re running something complex it’s good to have at least some experience with all the pieces of the job so that you are able to budget project time and understand the needs of your team. Also, when you’re running a magazine outside the educational system no one keeps a poker face when listening to very earnest, very bad vampire poetry.

 ·      Art Institute of Philadelphia – I learned how to appreciate modern art even if it’s not my taste. It’s good to study things you may not like.

 ·      Temple Sholom Board Member – A caring community that supports each other and works to be inclusive of many types of contributions to that community is an amazing and humbling thing when they’re trying to save something they love. That said, I also learned to never be a board member of a congregation that’s merging ever again. It hurts.

 ·      Temple Sholom Sisterhood President – I learned that when organizations are built on a model that has its youngest members starting to be active around 50 years old and is built to last into their 80’s, sometimes the changes outside in society disrupt the expectations of the people inside that organization. If you’re much younger than the group you lead it’s important to really listen first. What your member is saying and what you are hearing might not be the same thing. Also long running gaming groups and Sisterhood have a lot in common.

MC3 Student Senator – When you are the person who is two generations older than the people you are working with, you should remember what you learned back when you were the Sisterhood President. Karma.
·      MC3 – M-Cubed Student Embedded Business – most people do not know what a specification or an app is, even if they are asking you to make one or the other for them. This is fixable with time and patience.

 ·      MC3 Information Technology All Campus Committee  - when you are a non-traditional student on a committee that’s in your former professional field you can really appreciate the staff and faulty of your school. But it takes it little while to find the right voice because it’s an odd mix of three of your cultural identities. It’s also honestly the best and most effective tech committee I’ve sat on in my life.

 ·      Magic the Gathering Competitive Player it’s a skill based card game, but it’s also the thing that broke down social barriers and allowed me to have comfortable intergenerational friendships at school. There is no age in gaming.

 ·      Montco Gaming Club – Department Head for Collectible Card Games – Some things really are the same even after thirty years.

Monday, December 17, 2012

It's the Holidays - and Friends Help

I am buried and overwhelmed and wearing my Don Quixote hat these days when my general outlook is more Sancho Panza on a good day and Aldonza on a bad one.

But I have a friend named Liz. She's a new friend but I met her Doing Things. Things I mean to write about here but keep quiet when push comes to shove because the desire to hide has gotten larger than the desire to share. Doing Things is how I keep it from growing too big.

Liz and Nathan sent me a package in a plain brown wrapper. I have said before that you cannot stop The Taunting, but this year the windmills and the Don Quixote of it all made it very, very close. But here it is the Taunting in it's plain brown wrapper - it followed all the rules - I knew it was coming but I didn't know what it was, it had packages that needed to be opened in order. And shockingly and beautifully it had Poppets. A Poppet. You cannot lie to a Poppet.

One of the Red Poppets came over to help and check out the Paper Poppet. Like all good taunting Packages this one came with instructions. The Paper Poppet is so beautiful and so full of Poppet that it was decided that he was going to have to find a way to be. He has decided that he would like to be a Billboard on a rooftop in Poppetropolis or perhaps a wall mural in the side of a building but he thinks he would prefer the rooftop view.

The Paper Poppet carefully removed himself from his charge much to the delight of the local denziens. The Choco's appeared joyfully on the scene. Not only was it chocolate it was chocolate that they had never tried before! NewThings!

And then they noticed that they needed to call over their friends and shouted across to the circus where the Coffee Poppets had been working out logistics for a food stand.

Because there is very little that makes that particular social circle as happy as things that combine their two passions, and here it was!

In bar form for relatively easy transport!

Plans and recipes were being discussed with logistics being undertaken and plans made to return for the others  . . . which left Red alone until Merri wandered by with her red balloon.

Packages are very exciting. It's all the wondering; "What could it be" and the excitement of red yarn.

Merri helped Red with the package and they spent some time guessing because they knew that Liz is a Maker of Things, and that meant that the inside could be almost any Thing.

And when it was opened the Thing was the best kind of Thing - A Thing from a Friend that could live in Poppetropolis and also BE a Friend!

They have all informed me that her name is Scarlet.

Sunray is looking into a rental for her now.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Dance - Everyone's Watching

The introspection didn't start because of the numerous and plentiful articles and responses about "geek girls" and "girl gamers" and women in general. It started, like so many things start, with Madonna.

I have always admired Madonna, even when I wasn't fond of her music. I admired her ambition, sense of risk and willingness to go big or go home. I liked her tough girl art-chick persona in her early movies, Desperately Seeking Susan and Who's that Girl. I rooted for her even though I didn't buy her albums. They were occasionally fun to dance to, and since I was desperately trying to be an actor I knew all the words and could sing along because that's what you do. You learn ALL the things when you are an actor so that you can use them. Ironically, unironically, bitterly, joyously. You need to be able to feel all the things the way someone might feel them, even if you don't particularly. The first Madonna song I liked was "Like a Prayer" and I probably liked that song because it's true.

When the person I love calls my name it still feels a bit like a revelation - and like prayer sometimes it's intense, or sometimes it's a shock that you still notice or care, and sometimes its a reminder of transcendence. Sometimes it's home.

It's a funny thing about that lyric though. Like all callow youth and the default of all pop songs and everything Madonna it was interpreted by some of my peer group to be about sex, specifically about blowjobs, because of the chorus:

When you call my name it's like a little prayer 
I'm down on my knees, I wanna take you there 
In the midnight hour I can feel your power 
Just like a prayer you know I'll take you there 
[ Lyrics from: ] 

But that interpretation was made by a bunch of oversexed hormonal theatrical twenty somethings who were busy either creating their own spirituality or vociferously rejecting oppressive theologies. I do not say that last bit with snark. It was the era of AIDS. We were surrounded by a group called the "me generation" in the press and the rising of the Moral Majority in our politics and school system. Everyone was either letting us wander along or preaching at/to us.  We were diesnfranchised in the most literal sense being taught that "you can't fight city hall". The biggest joke at my school ( once again most likely because it was true) was that we wrote a longform article on the apathy of our student body and no one read it because they didn't care. Literally, no one even picked up our school paper.

Here's the part of the song you have to ignore in order to concentrate on the sex as subtext in Like A Prayer

Life is a mystery, everyone must stand alone 
I hear you call my name 
And it feels like home

To accept that this song is only about relationships to other humans an not about something more; life, meaning, place, is to ignore that there's no relationship given, that there's no vision or contact with the subject of the song. It ignores that there might be a voice as metaphor that calls her name and the feeling is actually based in a religious feeling.

She wrote a song about her name being called. She made a video explicitly showing the conflicts of being called out by a suffering god and and and angry population and it was looked at not as a song truly about her personal expression/experience of the merging of the conflict/joy of that feeling and interacting with a suffering god in a world ignoring the god and abusing the symbols it was looked at as a publicity stunt to piss off religious people and a song about blowjobs. But that bit:

When you call my name

He said to him "Abraham"

It's like a little prayer

and he answered "Here I am."


If I had put this allusion through it's paces at the diner after rehearsal while everyone was making blowjob jokes,  I wouldn't have been mocked but I would have been kind of looked at as a killjoy. And honestly at that time the idea that Madonna was genuinely interested in religion or spiritual fulfillment would have been taken as a joke.  If I had brought it up in a group of pagan women I would have been taken to task for a number of things, but one of them would have been why I thought that Madonna would want to express her experience and yearning and interaction of the divine with male symbols and patriarchy.

I am reminded of these situations by thinking about the discussions around women in leisure cultures now.

Most of my female pagan friends at the time admired her for owning her sexuality on her terms instead of exclusivley make defined ones. It's hard to remember now when all of her bits have been co-opted and digested and third wave feminism exists but what she was doing was self-defined.  In retrospect she might be the only mainstream popular act to do that because after her came the two terms to minimize discussion of sexuality or women in cultural consumption "Attention Whore" for those who incorporated their sexuality their persona and "White Knight" for any male who might defend pretty much any woman with a public persona. You can't discuss anything that uses sex and bodies in performance or marketing without having the labels thrown around for chilling effect.

It's still hard for women to admit their sexuality or discuss fluctuations in it without it falling into some pre-packaged trope. Madonna managed to be self defined until very, very recently. When she hit fifty the "cougar" became a sexual stereotype for women who were somewhere between milfs and crones. She and Dr. Ruth Westheimer were my early models for empowered women talking about sex on their terms to other women and whatever men cared to listen, but not for men. Really for them. For us, for little, evenutally growing up, me.

The other Madonna song I liked was "live to tell" .

Madonna is complicated, she's a social signifier, I was waiting, really to find out what would happen next. The two albums of hers I bought because I liked them and they actually spoke to me were Ray of Light and Music.

Most of those songs still speak to me. She's writing about subjects that mean something. By the time they came out while people were very confused and starting to spread crazy rumors about what Kabaalah was ( hint it's not it's own religion and SURPRISE Catholisicim has it's own Kabbalah ) no one by that time would be surprised that her work contained religion and sex intermingled, and even if they thought it was her shtick, most people actually assumed that she probably meant it, even if they now judged her for being crazy.

Of all of the Madonna songs that fill up the cultural soundtrack of my life the one that I hear in the back of my head when I'm very, very still is the one that has these lines:

"When you're trying hard to be your best, could you be a little less"

Does anyone even know that song? Is it one of the ones that get forgotten because it's uncomfortable?

I don't actually play the song through at all. Over the last several years it's made me cry. Mostly because it's true. It's actually the only song or article or anything addressing the topic that feels like what I feel. She wrote it when she was approaching 40.

When you open up your mouth to speak
Could you be a little weak?

But she's not 40 anymore, she's 50 and when she was at the superbowl some other, very brave self defined woman who I admire for all the same reasons I admire Madonna wrote how disappointing it was that she was not embracing her age and seemed to be trying to reach backwards or fight aging in her superbowl performances.

And I wrote back to that woman through the lightness of tweeting that

it's hard 4 someone like me 2 figure out how 2 age in a way that's true 2 self. It must be x1000 for Madonna

And that performer agreed enough to retweet - amplifying my struggle and empathy to ALL of her followers who are quite dedicated. And I found myself worrying a tiny bit if there was a cost to defending something as nebulous as that fact that maybe it's just Madonna's turn to look around for who she is and how to be and find out nothing that fits. She can be sexual, and maternal, and flawed, and perfect and performing because ALL of our age and gender presentations are a performance.

And everyone is watching but the roles are narrowed. How do we explore the space? When do we admit that the construct of a public persona is just as authentic as the personal persona?

The difference is in the size of the audience, but here in the age of the internet all of our performance is the size of internationally sold out stadiums. We are all at the risk of suddenly being judged by the same number of people that will judge Madonna, just for a shorter period of time.

But that's a big thing to risk. We might trip up.

Other things are bubbling up right now about being a female and being in the now. This is it for this one though

"Do you know what it feels like for a girl"

Do we even admit what if feels like when we are still considered "girls" when we're looking to define ourselves post childrearing. Madonna was 40. Girl is much more complicated for me than bitch. I want to both claim and supersede it so that I can be seen as a whole person in the communities I operate in. But if I don't claim "girl" all of my tribe become slightly less visible ( even if I occasionally disagree with large percentages of that tribe).

You know what my male friends don't do? They don't refer to themselves as "boys".

I"m not sure I have an answer, I'm sure that this isn't my last exploration of this theme.

I am sure I want to dance.