Thursday, February 24, 2011


Warning -- this post is somewhat serious. Not in the "ohmigosh, that's so sad" kind of way, but it reflects some thought I had today when I wasn't trying to be anything other than truly reflective. So if you are here for the yucks, go back to sleep.

One of the definitions of religion is the movement that sanctions the creation of the sacred place and the sacred time. Some would say religion actually demands that we establish the sacredness of a place and a time. This, to me, leads to a sense of awe regarding both the power of religion and the power of the human as an agent of the religious ideal.

It isn't just that we can attend a place which has been anointed as the sacred place, and do so as a member of a community which has agreed that certain times are reserved for the sacred -- these would be power enough on their, it is the power each of us has to turn the mundane into the sacred even without the preset place or time.

Just as a note (this is a later edit) - this idea of sanctifying time and place actually elevates the individual. God says he will choose a place and that he will appoint times for us and yet we are also given the power to create sacred spaces and dedicate special times for ourselves. We are given a type of power parallel to god's and that's pretty neat.

There is incredible power in the communal and in the cooperative decision to ordain that a place and time have religious significance. But the true communing with the divine is the internalization of the process -- take the religious person out of the space but you can't take the space out of the religious person. When put in the position where the sacred place is not accessible, the individual can turn most any space into a sacred space. When the prime time is unavailable, a person can turn any moment into one dedicated to the idea of the religion. Any time can become a sacred moment if the intention of the individual is attuned to the will of the divine.

Turning outward can allow the religious person to connect with the whole, but turning inward can allow the individual to find the will to channel the divine spark and exude that religious ideal and then affect the surrounding in both time and space to turn any place and any time into a sacred one reserved for and dedicated to the transcendent.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

That smarts

I have been reevaluating my own intelligence recently - not in some objective way wherein I subject myself to a battery of tests and confirm that I know that if dog is to Winnebago then candy bar is to blasphemy, but against the populace.

My mom always told me that I was smart (and she was in mensa, so she knows smart). I appreciate how she pumped up my fragile ego and I have to agree that in certain contexts, I feel smart. I listen to morning radio shows and that reminds me that most people are really dumb. I watch reality shows and know that in reality, most people can't breathe without directions.

But, according to my calculations, I am only smarter than about 93% of the people. That is a non-scientific number based solely on my urge to convince myself that I am smarter than 93% of the people. This does not mean that I am 7% smarter than each person, but that a healthy chunk of the population of the world (est. 6 billion...7% of that is something in the 4.2 million range) is smarter than I am.

And, it seems, I surround myself with people who are smarter than I am. That's really nice because it means that the conversations buzzing around me will have to do with the liquidity of the market or the philosophical implications of a political shift to the right and not "what do you think this stuff in my ears is?" But it isn't so nice because it means that much of the time, I'll be at least 1 step behind.

Maybe this accounts for some of the underlying tension in my life. As a husband, I often don't do the right thing -- maybe that's because I'm not smart enough. At work, I seem to make mistakes (and note, I work in a High School because I like to assume that to most 16 year-olds, I still look smart) but maybe that's because I am not as smart as the others at work. Maybe I should try to put myself into an environment where I am the smartest. Where the 4.2 million people won't find me. I need to ask someone smarter where that place might be.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Private lives

My neighbors just informed us that they are moving. I can live with that. Then I overheard my neighbor say that he had known about this since last summer. What? That means that he has been walking around for the last 6 months or more with a secret. And a secret that he didn't even tell me!

Crazy, right? I know!

So I started getting offended and I thought "what else don't I know? What else are my friends hiding from me? Divorces? Lottery winnings? CIA jobs?" Man was I mad.

Then it hit me. In my imagination, you are all significantly more interesting than in real life. Even moreso than you could ever actually be. So I now prefer the idea that you all hide stuff, especially if you have nothing to hide. You are so much more fascinating that way.

And don't worry; your secret is safe with me, considering that I'm the one who made it up ;)

And right before shabbos this was
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

current prevents

There has been substantial buzz over a Pennsylvania teacher who blogged (using her first name and last initial) about her students (not identified by name or even singled out) in an unflattering way. People found her blog and decided that anyone who is angry at students and airs the grievances shouldn't be in the classroom.

Now you may not know this, but I also have a blog. You should check it out some time. In addition to a blog, I happen to own some very strong feelings about things. The question is, do these lines I type cross any other lines? I think that the answer is a solid "maybe."

The frontier of communication is the blog. The individual can publicize his own crackpot, personal views to an audience potentially 200 billion people strong. All those angst ridden poems in a shoebox on the bottom of my closet can be "published" and every feeling that i would have written on a scrap of paper or in a journal hidden under my pillow now becomes public fodder. What a rush - to think that the random guy on the street might have read (and, dare I say, enjoyed?) something I wrote. Wow! So instead of locking away my most personal thoughts, or whispering them to my significant other during a quiet evening of bill paying or ignoring each other while we play on our respective BBerries, or even confiding in that close friend after one too many cases of good old Knickerbocker, I put them out there hoping that I can turn a phrase and tell a tale that is cautionary or amusing. I increase my chances of immortality by increasing the chances that someone can become aware of my brilliance by dint of a google search.

But Victor did not need to build his creature. When we have the urge to father children, we bear some of the responsibility for our children. When I sit at lunch with my house guests and friends and slam student A, there is always the chance that someone at the lunch table will tell two friends, and they'll tell two friends, and so on and so on. Eventually, student A's parents hear what I said in my own house and I get called on it. Are they wrong? No -- they have a right to be offended that I would express myself in a certain way. Am I wrong? No, the feelings are normal (trust me...student A is such a yutz) and humans feel the need to commiserate and share ideas. It is no longer about who is right and who is wrong, but what are the consequences either way. We tell students to be careful with what they post not because there is anything "wrong" with what they say or post but because good intentions pave the road to hell, and often, righteous actions are the sidewalks.

Lacking common sense is not a crime. Having the kind of imaginative foresight which would preemptively account for any misuse, misinterpretation or other mistaken citation of personal ideas is nigh on impossible. And we shouldn't have to go back to an isolated state where we hide our thoughts for fear of someone's reacting poorly to them and crying "off with his head." So what is the middle ground between maintaining a purely private life and being constantly exposed to public scrutiny? Is it anonymous blogs on which we feel empowered to say whatever we want until someone figures out that any identity can be tracked online? Is it the virtual "hall pass" - a "time off" or a safe haven where anyone with access can say what he wants without fear of repercussion and anyone who reads anything signs a waiver against feeling offended? Good luck mandating emotions.

Till we figure it out, I let the bard advise..."Best safety lies in fear."

Monday, February 14, 2011

On Reliance

In the past, innovations in technology were the result of and designed for adults. The car, medical advances, fiberglass insulation. These were through the work of adult professionals and were made to be exploited by other adults. Children were a separate class because they had no access to suitable technology and relied on adults.

The computer generation has changed that. Now, the kid knows more about the computer than the adult. The kid programs the vcr or has the newer phone. The adult relies on the child and the tech company phases out older workers. The attitude needed to keep the age gap and proper separation between adult and child has disappeared, existing only, if at all, in an inverted condescension - the "children should be seen and not heard" has turned into "son can you fix my computer?" To which the answer is a sad "just don't touch anything dad; I'll get to it after my cartoon is over."

And this was

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bored? Games!

What is it about a particular game which appeals to me, or you. And hey, I don't even know you! I have been thinking that maybe, it is the proportion of luck to skill. I assumed, because I despise backgammon, that I didn't like games rife with luck. I mean, you can understand the game perfectly but get plagued by poor roles. That doesn't seem right. So, ok, I hate games based on dice rolls. But I like Monopoly and Risk and both of them rely on a healthy dose of luck. Then I thought about a game I like -- Othello, a game based solely on skill. Games like Mankala, Chess, and Checkers have all the plays out on the table and both players have the same chance to succeed. But I hate chess.

So I still haven't figured it out.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I'm being vulnerable here

With the Super Bowl only hours away, a young man's mind turns to something but I don't know what because I'm not a young man. I get all misty eyed when I think about the end of the football season and when I get all weepy, i tend to spill my innermost secrets.

I don't mind telling you this because I feel that we have really gotten close so I'll just lay it out on the table. I'm over 40, considered somewhat intelligent by a few people and I haven't the slightest idea how time zones work. No hold on -- I know what the obvious responses are:

1. you don't know how anything works -- you call in a handy man if your electric jello doesn't taste right. Why focus on time zones?

the answer to that is what would be the next response

2. time zones don't "work" -- they just ARE.

EXACTLY -- it is one thing to hide behind ignorance and say I don't understand how shampoo makes my hair so silky smooth and yet also shiny and clean but that's about a process. Time zones exist because the sun rises and sets in a particular order (alphabetical, maybe...I'm not sure). But I still just don't get it.

I guess this comes up because, naturally, of football.

Today's game (brought to you by the letter $) begins here on the East Coast at somewhere around 6PM. This means that when a man in tight pants down in Texas kicks a little ball towards other men in tight pants and then tries to knock down the man who has the temerity to catch it and try to and bring the ball back to him, someone one time zone over will look at his clock and it will read somewhere around 5PM. Farther west, the time at that moment will be 4PM and in California, the clock will display "3PM, Dude."

So far, so good.

But when I finally let out that last exhale as the clock winds down on one teams attempt at a comeback from a 2 point deficit, the clock by me will read about 11PM and I'll know it is time to go to sleep. In the west, the clock will read 8PM. Will they still have a regular prime time schedule? OK, let's say that they will and the game just happened to start in the early afternoon. Does a regular 1PM football game start at 10AM there?

How about sitcoms? Yes, how about them? I'm glad you asked. A sitcom can be aired on tape at any hour, so it could be watched at 8PM in New York and 8PM in LA. The only difference is that by the time it is played in LA, the New Yorker has had 2.5 hours to feel angry for having watched the show because it was stupid. This would lead me to believe that the ratings in LA would be lower because all the New Yorkers would call their California friends and say "don't waste your time on that crap. I saw it and it made my ears cry." The fact that this isn't the case simply means that New Yorkers are all spiteful bastards who want everyone else to suffer also.

But in the other two time zones, is all of life shifted? Is prime time from 7-10? Or even 6-9? Do they wake up to the 6AM news at 3AM? Maybe that's why we look at the rest of the country as being a bunch of lessers. You all go to sleep at 9:30 and wake at 3AM and that's just weird.

But like I said, I don't really understand time zones.