Thursday, April 25, 2013

EULOGY TO KAREN

AULOGY TO KAREN

It's not the passing

I lament

For we must all go

The way of the earth

But the absence

Of grace

Not time

Nor place

For the moment of departure

Leaves a space

Which can never

Be filled

And perhaps

Eventually forgotten:

Even those

Who swear

They will never forget!

This breeds seeds of doubt

For the living are blind

To the mysteries of death

And the dead

Can no longer shout

Nor whisper

Their presence any more

And that is an absence

Of grace

And a cause for lament

She was my cousin

And her life

Was well spent

Friday, February 15, 2013

YOU'RE A BLOCK PAST IT

                                                        YOU'RE A BLOCK PAST IT…..

 

                  Marc Greenburg was a New Yorker, to the tips of his fingers and including his toes. He lived In Queens, after the massive migration from the Bronx, of those of his faith.

                   He was a Jew, who was observant, although his accent never changed. Sometimes it was undecipherable. In the five Burroughs of the city, you had to listen closely, because eril became oil if you went from Brooklyn to the Bronx. There were subsequent problems in the various translations. Marc understood this, but his own accent was so thick, that you had to sometimes ponder his words. His Yiddish and Hebrew were , but that was not the national language and at 75, his accent almost landed him in the county jail.

                 It all happened when he was returning from the Shul on a Shabbat. He was still meditating on the Parishot for that week, which was Mishbatim or the statures of the law. At that moment he was stopped by an Afro-American, on a corner, to ask directions. He knew the area like the back of his hand, so he immediately told him that he knew the address he was seeking, but: You're a block past it…

               Now the Afro-American, who was the size of a linebacker and looked just as mean, shouted: "Discrimination!"  That brought an Irish cop and since they lived in a democratic country, Marc was swiftly taken to the local judge in Queens. She proved to be an Afro-American as well and had a striking resemblance to Opra on the television. The charges were declaimed and poor Marc, who still had his Talit and Kippur under his arm, was faced with a grave crisis.

               The plaintiff, who was adamant, was determined to make the defendant bleed justice. This was the United States and no discrimination was permitted here, so he blurted out to the judge: "He called me a black bastard!" They were all part of the same melting pot, Marc reasoned, but he also sensed that Opra (the judge) held a strong inclination for the other side.

                         "Are you a racist, Mr. Greenburg?"

              She didn't have a New York accent and he found out later that she had graduated from Harvard, but that didn't really matter. He knew that if she believed that he had insulted someone of her own race, then he was guilty before he could plead his innocence. He was congering  these thoughts, when the judge continued:

                         "If you insulted an Afro-American, by calling him a Black Bastard…you are guilty under the law. Are you aware of that?"

                Marc paused for a moment, for it had been written in the Mishpatim that same dictum, albeit thousands of years ago. It was that you had to treat the stranger with kindness. That much was clear and the stranger, metaphorically speaking, is a fellow citizen. Therefore, it would be against the law of the Torah to even contemplate insulting another human being. These ideas were solid in his being, but he did not think that he could adequately explain this to the judge and since it was getting near noon, he knew that all wanted a lunch break. Therefore, if he pleaded guilty, the fine would probably be minimum, because they all wanted to go home to eat. But, if he did that, he would be confessing he had broken a holy law. It was true that on Yom Kippur he had confessed repentance for many laws he had never broken, but that was a spiritual thing and this was real.

                 The judge shuffled some papers in front of her and waited impatiently for the defendant to reply. She knew he was a Jew and that the mayor of the city was of the same religion, so she really didn't want to make a big thing out of this, if it could be avoided. Nevertheless, this was a New York standoff and justice had to be done.

                              "So, what do you have to say for yourself Mr. Greenburg? Did you or did you not call the plaintiff a Black Bastard?"

                  There were thousands of years of light, between that moment and when his ancestors received the law on Mount Sinai. There was also slavery in Egypt and forty years in the desert. In fact, it was remarkable that he had survived so long. So, what could he do, but tell the truth.

                             "Your honor, I was born in New York. My ancestors moved from the Bronx, to Brooklyn and later Queens. Therefore. I get mixed up with my accents. Nevertheless, I Am not a lewd person. In fact, I respect my fellow man and when this fellow asked me, on the corner, where a certain address was, I simply replied: You're a block past it…"

                  A dead silence followed, in which both the judge and plaintiff were at a lack of words. The case was immediately dismissed and the only who laughed, was the Irish cop, who was from Brooklyn. Who immediately doubled up and blurted out: "You're a block past it!"    

YOU'RE A BLOCK PAST IT...

Friday, January 25, 2013

WHO ARE YOU?

                                                          WHO ARE YOU?

 

              Which came out of Alice in the Looking Glass by Lewis Carol: a mathematician, turned politician, who found an escape from his frustrations, in a kind of cartoon literature?

                And yet the philosophical question remains: Who are you?

                Since it's posed objectively, one might refer to the superego of Freud, which vacillates between the id and the ego. A sort of referee in the harbors of the mind. In other words…should I do this or that? The existence of free will allows us that much latitude.

                 But even with a free will, is it possible to understand completely who we are?

                 Now we are becoming subjective, because we are us and that includes not only our family, rather our environment: the country where we live, with all the ramifications of its laws and customs.

                 Consequently the who is you and you remain an individual: isolated in a mass of humanity, which requires conformity, in order to exist.

                Nevertheless, all existence, in a sense, is united in the existential question of who and the antecedent of you.

               It could be a simple measure of semantics, if not for the fact that a human being is born with more than scientific reasoning. He was born upright, as opposed to the other animals, who labor to survive, with their heads buried in the earth.

              This advantage allows him to contemplate the heavens and thus the universe. The very idea of this vast enterprise encompass the infinite as well as the finite; the latter reflecting the individual.

             Thus man maintains a superior place among the other animals, which remain subject to his determination and still man is an existential it, who because of his reasoning faculties, endeavors to be defined.

           If a Hindu considers his salvation the river Ganges and Muslim should go to Mecca at least once in a lifetime, they are (perhaps indirectly) explaining their existence. Likewise a good Catholic considers Rome as its base, while a Jew prays to Jerusalem. This also defines their beings and become the what of who they are. That much might be established and yet within these cults, there is still the individual.  Depending on his education, he can either become an innocuous conformer or secretly, perhaps openly, question the lot in which he is placed.

         This might complicate traditional matters, but man himself created tradition.

         In the modern world of high technology, tradition is lost, while the substitute is an onslaught of information, which inundates his means of communication in an untenable morass. It was as though one had access to the largest library in the world, but does not know which book to read first or why.  It is at that point that the who wavers and the individual becomes distraught. In some cases he could even become violent, simply because he does not know who he is. He is buried under statistics and facts, that don't relate to him at all. He instinctively knows that, but cannot describe his feelings concerning it, since he's been reprocessed by High Tech domination.

            In other words, what was once simple to determine, turns into a quagmire of incredulity. The question of who you Aare, is almost obliterated on the screen of your lap-top and the owner of same is more subject to it, than the reverse.  All of this is not only plausible, rather innately understood, for all who enter that world.

            It would be absolutely indiscrete not to recognize the millenniums which preceded our apparent pristine age and further folly, not to acknowledge there was always an individual, who intrinsically inquired: Who am I?

           If I might be allowed to open the aqueducts of the mind, notwithstanding the right or left lobe, I would have to say….You are You…

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

the Hatfields and the McCoys

                                             THE HATFIELDS AND THE McCOYS

 

                     Of course everybody know the story of the legendary feud, which occurred in the cragged mountains of West Virginia and Kentucky, just about the time of the Civil War, although what happened in between 1863, 1965 and beyond, in truth, proved it never ended.

                    It was not a legitimate war, nor a Police Action. It was a family feud and the origin was as deleterious as its dubious beginning.

                    One accord was that a Hatfield kidnapped a McCoy beauty and took her up in the hills to wed her in his own way. The other pertained to the amount of territory Kentucky could acquire from the breakaway state of West (by God) Virginia. Then there was the fact that the McCoys were of Irish descent and the Hatfields…well, they were English.

                    Now the Irish never forgot Cromwell nor are they short on memory for anything. They have a cultural trait of being heavy drinkers, composers of unique music and literature, but they don't forget and after all a family feud is a family feud forever.

                    It was quite possible that the Hatfields knew this so that the idea of of without end was quite plausible.

                   Then the modern times took effect and the result was immigration. The descendants of the Hatfields and the McCoys sold their lands, which were once ancestral battlefields to real estate investors who put up condominiums and then monuments were erected to attract tourists who would visit on the weekend'

                  After that, right on the Hatfield/McCoy line, a college was founded. It was called Hatfield/McCoy College, because the Hatfields had donated the buildings, while the McCoys donated the family library.

                 It was all tax free and that was what the descendants wanted. They lived in far off places like Phenix or New Orleans. They were all doctors, lawyers or businessmen which in the eyes of their ancestors, could be defined as not real Hatfields or McCoys. In fact they were all pretty much of mixed blood by that time, which was a long way from a McCoy maiden being abducted by a Hatfield.

                In retrospect, the Hatfields and the McCoys never did put down their coon guns or make a long lasting peace. It seemed that their descendants resolved themselves to progress and economic gain. Some coon guns were displayed for the tourists on the weekend and others put in the historical building at Hatfield and McCoy College.

               It was not an everlasting peace…but where can you find that?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

EVERYTHING MELLOWS WITH AGE


                                       "It's not the problem of my first male grandchild being christened as a Catholic. That doesn't bother me because when Irwin married an Italian that was to be expected. We were raised Protestants or Orangemen as they claimed in the old country because it was explained to me at an early age, that to be a Presbyterian meant you followed the easiest religion in the world...."

                                "Then what is it Mary? "

                                "It's the fact that he'll be there! "

                                "Oh, the x-factor.."Brian remarked and they both broke into a fit of laughter.

              Mary and Brian had been married for almost twenty years, so they could share the humor. They had both been married before and had adult children on either side. It was Mary's first husband, who was going to come to thee chrisining and even though he was the legitimate father of the son,  who had created another son, which was equal to a grandson, it was difficult for her to divine that if had come from the same source.  His name was Bruce and he was now into his third marriage, with two different sons that he had spired from two different women, since they had gotten a divorce.

              He was a successful financial manipulator and in retrospect, she considered that manipulation with distain. Before, it used to be despair, but that was long ago and now she was liberated from Bruce and brought into heaven with Brian.

              He was also an Orangeman, who had been born in Boston. His accent would have told you that a mile away.  He was very much unlike Bruce.  In fact, he was human.

                                      "If it's such a big deal, maybe I can go and say you were sick or something…"Brian suggested.

                                      "Never!  Do you think I am willing to give up one of the most important moments of my life, for the likes of Bruce? "

              She was not shaming so they got underway.  It was Boston in December and they were going to St. Mary's Church on the south side. Angela's family had come from there, so it was understood that that would be the best place.

               She was now sixty six years old and perhaps altered in appearance from whan she had eloped with Bruce at eighteen, but not too much.

               She had heard through the grapevine that he had been traveling through the Middle East on oil deals and after leaving Texas, where he married his secretary and had another child, h e ended up in Rhode Island, where he bought a yacht and a very nice home.

            



                 Obviously he was not suffering nor either was she. Brian had a good job in the administrative department of the largest hospital in Boston.  He was easy about his position and his earnings.  He was never stingy.  This was the afterlife, in the same life, which was bizarre, with respect to reality and yet, there was no other definition.

               Brue was born in a Brooks Brother suit, she used to say and even his wang wore the old school tie!  It wasn't true for he had faked his appearance and posture. In truth, he came from a background of Steinbeck sharecroppers, who led the life of displaced persons.  Somehow, someway he had shed that past, not unlike a rattlesnake that sheds its skin and had won out on the American scale.  He was still a snake while being incorporated into the accepted pit.

                But if I really have to see this man, she considered, as they drove through the streets of Boston: should I be friendly or even cordial?  There were snowflakes now but yesterday it was 65%.  The weather is changing, she thought, just like time, which never stops.

                St Mary's was not crowded. Not many people went to church these days, she considered as they went inside. It was an intimate ceremony, provided by an Italian born priest.  She didn't catch  his name. Something with a "nini"at the end of it.

                 She went to her place and before she reached it, she saw Bruce. He was with his third wife and child since their divorce. He had on a Brooks Brother's suit and was wearing horn-rimmed glasses. Brian was behind her, so support. Irwin, his wife and all her Italian relatives stood over the infant and holy water was sprinkled on his brow.

                She looked at Bruce, Brian, Irwin and the new life and considered that everything mellows with age.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

THE THIRTEENTH BAKTUN

                                               THE THIRTEENTH BAKTUN

               When it was first conceived, in the forth and third century, before the establishment of the Gregorian calendar, the Maya priests, in Mesoamerica, deliberated on the possibility of altering their vegisimal system already established, with the abstract alternative of eliminating the finite. Thus they created the zero.

                This allowed for mathematical exceptions, concerning what was related as an exact four hundred days, on a solar calendar, to come out to three hundred and sixty. As it worked out, that was correct and with this abstract conception of time, four hundred years counted for one Baktun. If you multiply that by thirteen, you arrive at the Gregorian year 0f 5,200 and this is where the story should begin. But it doesn't.

                        "The precept is sound, even though it does not correspond to the existing numerical order of 20 or one aunil."

                        "Anything that alters the nature of the universe alters the nature of man."

                        "Man and the universe are one. We must find a way to define that."

                        "It has already been defined by one kin and aunil"

                       "Yet this numerical value is at best flexible. It has been determined by our celestial observations. Would we impose on nature if we were to try to understand it better?"

               These ideas were related in curt monotones, but they were comprehensible.  The language promoted that effect. It was devoid of adjectives and limited to definite nouns. It was, in short, mathematical.

              The Maya priests, who sat cross crossed legged on animal skins, on the top of a great temple, remained mute. There was no competition here. They were merely minds, who were locked into a separate, coherent existence, attempting to define time.

                            "Then we agree. We will not forget the established structure for its numerical value; rather add a zero to allow for the variation of the universe."

               It was not a question, nor an answer, for there was nothing definite here. Everyone knew that they would not be present for the Thirteenth Baktun. Alas, it was all speculation. Who could imagine that the universe would evolve under the same calculation? Perhaps it was too abstract to consider otherwise and yet the world settled into the Thirteenth Baktun.