Anochi afar v’efer. In Hebrew this means, “I am but dust and ashes.”
Seems to be a less than perky reminder about the inevitable, I know, but it does offer supportive wisdom actually.
In the Jewish spiritual tradition of Mussar (the Hebrew word for ethics), the soulful human trait of humility plays a fundamental role in a life of balance. To realize that each of us no matter our accomplishments, inevitably become part of the physical earth, is humbling.
Given the truth of this ultimate reality, how can any of us believe we are inferior to others, or superior? Anochi afar v’efer, it’s a perspective grabber, and a cool equalizer.
This raises a significant question about what it means to be human in the time we have. How do we strive to fill in the time between life and, ahem, the alternative? How do we make our lives meaningful even in the mundane? How is one’s “mundane” existence actually not inferior to someone else’s life of adventure, leadership, intellectual contribution?
We think of all kinds of answers here, or maybe we don’t even know where to begin.
The ancient Mussar Rabbis taught that each human is born with a personal spiritual curriculum to fulfill, and that we are each assigned the task of mastery of something in our lives. While culturally today, we tend to think that the something should relate to professional life or contribution to world repair, the teachings here focus on a more intimate area of human life experience, one that holds true no matter the decade in which we come across the teachings.
The mastery of something refers to the inner realm, the part of us expressed through the soul traits we are all born with but that each of us have in varying degrees of development and measure: humility, patience, gratitude, compassion, order, equanimity, honor, simplicity, enthusiasm, silence, generosity, truth, moderation, loving-kindness, responsibility, trust, faith, yirah (awe of God).
Read the rest of… Lisa Miller: My Mundane Existence is an Apple to Your Orange
SENATORS say they fear the N.R.A. and the gun lobby. But I think that fear must be nothing compared to the fear the first graders in Sandy Hook Elementary School felt as their lives ended in a hail of bullets. The fear that those children who survived the massacre must feel every time they remember their teachers stacking them into closets and bathrooms, whispering that they loved them, so that love would be the last thing the students heard if the gunman found them.
On Wednesday, a minority of senators gave into fear and blocked common-sense legislation that would have made it harder for criminals and people with dangerous mental illnesses to get hold of deadly firearms — a bill that could prevent future tragedies like those in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., Blacksburg, Va., and too many communities to count.
Some of the senators who voted against the background-check amendments have met with grieving parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook, in Newtown. Some of the senators who voted no have also looked into my eyes as I talked about my experience being shot in the head at point-blank range in suburban Tucson two years ago, and expressed sympathy for the 18 other people shot besides me, 6 of whom died. These senators have heard from their constituents — who polls show overwhelmingly favored expanding background checks. And still these senators decided to do nothing. Shame on them.
I watch TV and read the papers like everyone else. We know what we’re going to hear: vague platitudes like “tough vote” and “complicated issue.” I was elected six times to represent southern Arizona, in the State Legislature and then in Congress. I know what a complicated issue is; I know what it feels like to take a tough vote. This was neither. These senators made their decision based on political fear and on cold calculations about the money of special interests like the National Rifle Association, which in the last election cycle spent around $25 million on contributions, lobbying and outside spending.
Speaking is physically difficult for me. But my feelings are clear: I’m furious. I will not rest until we have righted the wrong these senators have done, and until we have changed our laws so we can look parents in the face and say: We are trying to keep your children safe. We cannot allow the status quo — desperately protected by the gun lobby so that they can make more money by spreading fear and misinformation — to go on.
I am asking every reasonable American to help me tell the truth about the cowardice these senators demonstrated. I am asking for mothers to stop these lawmakers at the grocery store and tell them: You’ve lost my vote. I am asking activists to unsubscribe from these senators’ e-mail lists and to stop giving them money. I’m asking citizens to go to their offices and say: You’ve disappointed me, and there will be consequences.
People have told me that I’m courageous, but I have seen greater courage. Gabe Zimmerman, my friend and staff member in whose honor we dedicated a room in the United States Capitol this week, saw me shot in the head and saw the shooter turn his gunfire on others. Gabe ran toward me as I lay bleeding. Toward gunfire. And then the gunman shot him, and then Gabe died. His body lay on the pavement in front of the Safeway for hours.
I have thought a lot about why Gabe ran toward me when he could have run away. Service was part of his life, but it was also his job. The senators who voted against background checks for online and gun-show sales, and those who voted against checks to screen out would-be gun buyers with mental illness, failed to do their job.
They looked at these most benign and practical of solutions, offered by moderates from each party, and then they looked over their shoulder at the powerful, shadowy gun lobby — and brought shame on themselves and our government itself by choosing to do nothing.
They will try to hide their decision behind grand talk, behind willfully false accounts of what the bill might have done — trust me, I know how politicians talk when they want to distract you — but their decision was based on a misplaced sense of self-interest. I say misplaced, because to preserve their dignity and their legacy, they should have heeded the voices of their constituents. They should have honored the legacy of the thousands of victims of gun violence and their families, who have begged for action, not because it would bring their loved ones back, but so that others might be spared their agony.
This defeat is only the latest chapter of what I’ve always known would be a long, hard haul. Our democracy’s history is littered with names we neither remember nor celebrate — people who stood in the way of progress while protecting the powerful. On Wednesday, a number of senators voted to join that list.
Mark my words: if we cannot make our communities safer with the Congress we have now, we will use every means available to make sure we have a different Congress, one that puts communities’ interests ahead of the gun lobby’s. To do nothing while others are in danger is not the American way.
My last column claimed that balance is possible in the face of chaos. I promised that we are all capable of maintaining inner peace no matter the environmental stressors—that work, play, challenge and rest are healthy integrative aspects of our lives. About the complaint of not feeling vacation-peace and bliss at home, I suggested that intention is everything.
Wehhhhhhhhl, I wrote that column from the window seat of my charming straw-roof cabana in the Yukatan Peninsula just steps from the ocean as a warm breeze kissed my hair. A little voice in my consciousness said, “Writing about stress management from an emotional and geographic location that represent the opposite of stress might not be believable.” Yes, mi pequeno internal voice doesn’t use commas, but it is very wise. And it is true that faith is much easier to write about when times are good.
So today I revisit my claim from the living center of chaos. I have been home for exactly 10 days, and I have weathered exactly 6 mini crisis since my return. 6! This might be a record.
How am I managing, solving, dealing, integrating, going with the flowing now, you ask?
I am leaning on ALL of my rebalancing support strategies. It’s a lot like the saying, “Don’t wait for the fire before buying the hose.” Turns out my impressive hose collection really is useful. And because of it, I think I’m managing with more grace than I used to—it’s clear I’m not going it alone.
One significant resource I relied on this week was prayer. I sat down in a beautiful location near my house where I could feel the vibrancy of nature all around me, and I asked God for help, a lot of it. I remember specifically not knowing what the help would look like for this and that issue, and especially for my daughter Abby, struggling with a problem so deeply that she’d lost her appetite for days, but I asked for the ability to recognize the help when it showed up.
Two days later when she finally felt hungry, Abby had me google the new Dominos in our Andover neighborhood. I dialed and we huddled together over the speaker-phone conveying our dreams of extra toppings. But when it came time for the phone number, pizza boy could not make sense of my cell number. Again and again we repeated it as he typed away on his Dominos Pizza computer, but politely he kept apologizing that there were too many digits.
After several minutes of this, puzzled and losing patience, we told him we’d call back. Was this some sort of joke? As I clicked “end” on my I-phone, the phone number I had dialed popped up on my screen before shutting off: +44 1264 363333.
Yes, it was a very good joke! I had accidentally tried to order a pizza from Dominos in Andover, in the United Kingdom!
We looked at each other and then at the phone, and then at each other. The swirling confusion around us dissolved into laughter, “Haahaah, the most expensive pizza on the planet, haha haha haha!”
Laughing harder, “After this phone call, we can’t afford pizza, hah hah hah hah hah!”
Stomach hurting and tears streaming, “I hope we’re still hungry next week when it gets here! Hahahahahahaha haahaahaa haaahaaahaahahahahahahahahaha!
We laughed at ourselves for about 10 minutes and then for 20 more as we called our family members to share what we had stupidly, hilariously tried to do.
Finally, with ribs and face hurting we slowed down, exhausted. Abby looked at me calmly and with a new light in her eyes, she said, “I feel so much better.”
Miraculously, what changed for my girl most in those minutes was her own sense of perspective. While the details of her week of struggle remained, suddenly her world felt much bigger than the confine of her problem—what better way to have the point illustrated than to order a pizza from overseas?
But what’s more, when 16 year-old Abby saw that her problem wasn’t her entire life, just merely a part of it, I knew that my prayer had been answered. God comes through every time, and has a most excellent sense of humor, because we want to laugh.
Read the rest of… Lisa Miller: God & Pizza are the Best Medicine
By Erica and Matt Chua, on Mon Apr 8, 2013 at 10:00 AM ET
The End Times are all the rage, ignoring the Mayan distraction, it’s still apocalypse now for many fundamentalists. A quick search of google reveals that “end times” has 2.6 billion results, compare this to a paltry 1.4 billion results for “God” himself and it’s clear that it’s a question on many minds. While the end of days can be debated until that very last day, what would it be like to know for certain that you’re living in the Book of Revelation? For Ephesus and Pergamon in Turkey, being part of Revelations isn’t up for debate, they are actually in the Book of Revelation.
If the end of days is more figurative than literal, merely representing the end of all that we accept as permanent, Ephesus today could be exactly what John the Baptist envisioned for the end of the world. Standing as one of the world’s great cities for 2500 years, today it lies in ruin. The collapse of such a city could have been nothing short of the end of the world for those that see the civilization they live in as timeless.
Read the rest of… Erica & Matt Chua: Witnessing the End of the World
By Lauren Mayer, on Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 1:30 PM ET
Hag sameach, happy Pesach, and how appropriate that the Supreme Court hearings on same-sex marriage will begin on the first day of Passover! Sure, most of us think of Passover in terms of biblical history, the one time a year we open the Manischewitz, or trying to find appetizing uses for matzoh (there are some great recipes online for chocolate-toffee-covered versions . . . ). However, Passover is also a celebration of a pivotal moment in history (the Jews escaping from persecution in Egypt), just as the Supreme Court case is a pivotal moment in the history of gay rights, and of the freedom of gay couples to have the same legal recognition as heterosexual couples.
I see some personal links between the events, as well. As a card-carrying Jewish mother, I like to joke that I’m secretly longing for a gay son (so he’ll go shopping with me, and he’ll never replace me with another woman). Plus Jews have lots in common with gay people, in that we’re often reduced to stereotypes and have experienced group discrimination – it makes sense that so many of us support marriage equality. (In fact, our synagogue performed same-sex ceremonies before they even considered interfaith marriages!)
Plus the connection between gay rights and being Jewish is what got me to The Recovering Politician in the first place. Last summer, I was researching ways to publicize my album of Chanukah comedy songs, and I came across an article about Chanukah music by Jonathan Miller. I wrote to him out of the blue, never expecting to get a response, but not only did he reply, he invited me to contribute to the site’s discussion of last year’s Chick-Fil-A controversy. I wrote about some of the same reasons, why Jewish mothers support gay rights, including a song about being a liberal Jewish mother, and joked that I should do a weekly song. Jonathan said Sure, I thought, Oh no, what have I gotten myself into?, and 8 months and 40 songs later, I’m still finding plenty of inspiration in current events.
So since a big part of the Passover Seder is to express gratitude, I’d like to officially thank you, Jonathan and The Recovering Politician, for launching a whole new creative venture and for providing a sane, civil community for discussion and sharing opinions.
By Nancy Slotnick, on Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 8:30 AM ET
“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”— Dr. Seuss
My sister invited me to her first annual Dr. Seuss-themed Passover Seder. “I hope you’re serving Green Eggs, no Ham,” I quipped. But I was so excited for her! The idea is so fun and original and so antithetical to the Passover seders of our youth, that it is a demonstration of freedom in her life. Which seems fitting for the theme of the holiday. Freedom from slavery, escaping to a new world, doing stuff that makes us feel like we’re going to get in trouble, but getting away with it. I feel like Thing One and Thing Two.
“One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do. Two can be as bad as one. It’s the loneliest number since the number one.” -–Three Dog Night
In my role as a dating coach, I’m helping single clients shoot for two. I have to convince them that two is better than one when most of them have experienced the above. I say in my marketing materials that I will help you to find “the One.” I should stop saying that, because it’s a misnomer. To say that you are looking to find “the One” makes the other person too important. I should say; “I will help you to find your Two.” You are your own Number One.
The song repeats though—“One is the loneliest number, one is the loneliest number, one is the loneliest number” just to make sure we remember. As bad as two can be, it’s better than one. I’ve been married for 11 years and my personal goal for freedom this Passover is to find the One within the Two. What does that mean to me? It means finding your own voice even in the face of someone you love, who disagrees with you. And in-so-doing, you make your relationship work better. It’s ironic. It sometimes feels like you have to get rid of the other person, like Moses with Pharoah. We want to get someone else’s permission to “Let my people go.” But all we need to do really is get out of our own way.
“No is the saddest experience you’ll ever know,” Three Dog’s song continues. It’s so true. I stopped saying No to myself. My husband and I saw the film “No” last week. It’s a true story about when an advertising campaign in Chile in the ‘80s had the opportunity to overthrow the prevailing dictatorship. They just had to get a majority to vote “No.” Which might not be hard if they could get a majority to vote at all. No one was going to bother to vote because they could not even imagine the life that could be possible with freedom. One of the most brilliant part of the campaign was that they added a + to the No and made it No+ or No Mas. No Mas Pinochet. No Mas Pharoah. No Mas oppression. Let our People Go.
By John Y. Brown III, on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 12:00 PM ET
With all this new Pope buzz and the chatter about the theological and political implications, someone is finally turning to a more practical and more interesting topic.
A good friend asked me (tongue in cheek) if women become priests, do I think they would make female cardinals wear brown?
That’s a great question. Although this issue will be decided in the Vatican it has far reaching implications that could include trademark infringement accusations right here in Louisville, KY with UPS if the Catholic Church ever tries to use the tag line “Brown Deliver”
That is the only real practical risk I see. I do believe based on what little I know about the topic the Pope and Catholic Church will pull off a “Fashion Win” for the Church. Brown is a staid and dignified color –yet also really makes the Roman Collar pop in a reverent way that says “fashionably infallible”
At least that is my best off-the-cuff answer . That is also tongue-in-cheek. ; )