Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Value of Playing Devil's Advocate

This weekend was awesome. Having spent it with, among others, two illustrious Bloggers (and having discussed blogging-related issues far more often and at greater length than I ever have before), I felt it would be just plain wrong to neglect mention of it in this forum. As always, SerandEz were perfect hosts--the food was amazing, the company stimulating, and the baby absolutely adorable.

In addition to blog-related topics of conversation, we had quite a few other deep and fascinating (and lengthy) discussions. One of these related to whether it is necessary to acknowledge the validity of approaches that conflict with our own, and whether by doing so one is crushing youthful idealism.

I shall not even attempt to recap the majority of the conversation, but for me, the bottom line was that it is absolutely imperative to try to understand the point of view of those with whom we disagree, for two main reasons. One is that, though idealism is wonderful, it is impractical to refuse to see how the world functions (even if you disagree with the methods by which it does). Idealists are the only ones who will ever be able to affect change, and if they stay in lala land and never open their eyes to the real world and to points of view that differ from their own, how are they going to do anything? If you simply say “the other side is garbage” and dismiss it, no one will listen to anything you have to say. You need to understand the other side in order to argue against it.

Furthermore…and I think even more is crucial to understand that there is another perspective. That even though you may disagree with that perspective, it is an approach. It is valid. People who hold that approach are valid, and it is not right to harbor dislike and animosity towards them. We have to understand them in order to love them, to promote ahavas Yisroel. For me, this is the bottom line. Love your fellow Jew. The End.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

IMHO, Busses Should Be Non-Smoking

First of all, I just thought I ought to inform anyone still loyal enough to be checking this poor, seemingly abandoned blog that it is, in fact, not dead…the only hitch is that I have been doing so much living myself that I have necessarily sucked some of the life out of my blog. In other words, I’ve been super duper crazy busy. And you know what? I will continue to be this busy until March 20th. So if this blog is sporadic between now and then, I apologize. Also, I’ve stopped reading most of the blogs I like. I’m sorry. I still love you guys—I just simply don’t have time! Heck, I don’t even have time for my roommates! And, I know, I know, Chana will say “Well, make time!” And I will answer her, as I did this evening, saying “There are only 24 hours in the day. If I knew how to make more, I would!” Honestly, I don’t have the opportunity to procrastinate anymore—every moment is eaten up by some activity, and even my homework often gets utterly left by the wayside. (Case in point: I wrote an essay at 4:30 am on a red-eye flight into NY—having read only 15 of the 70 pages of required reading. Yeeeeah.)

But, despite all this, I couldn’t resist a brief reunion with my blog. I shall now recount an interesting experience from my very exciting and eventful weekend. My high school flew me home to be an advisor on their shabbaton, and placed me as the only authority figure in a bunk with nine 8th graders. Many fascinating, illuminating, and amusing events occurred over those two days, but I shall only tell you about one right now.

Once upon a time…
I was the only advisor on my bus to the campsite where the shabbaton was to take place. Picture this: I am sitting in the front of the bus. Smack in the middle of the 1.5 hour bus ride, I hear shrieks from behind me. I turn around, and see chaos erupting in the back of the bus. A Junior girl runs up the aisle to me and exclaims, panicked: “The back of the bus is filling up with smoke!” I look, and observe this to be true. And the smoke smells like burning rubber. Uh-oh. Not good.

Everyone in the back of the bus has gotten up, and most of them are panicking. The remainder are slightly amused. Two girls decide to alert the bus driver to the situation. They tell him rapidly and in high pitched voices about the disconcerting situation. His very apt and intelligent response is:
An elderly gentleman, it appears he is somewhat deaf. Eventually, he is so besieged by panicking students that he declares, exasperated,
“I’m pulling over!”
He does so, and gets up to see what the matter is. Observing the copious smoke, he gets out of the bus and examines it from the outside. He returns, and informs us,
“We’re overheating like crazy! We’re going to have to switch to a new bus.”
At which point he returns to his seat and resumes driving.

The students, meanwhile, involve themselves in wondering why we are now careening merrily down the freeway as the smoke continues to billow forth, call their parents and inform them that our bus is on fire, and speculate as to whether the bus will explode. I decide that someone should tell a real authority figure about the situation. So I call one of the Rabbis in charge. I tell him:
“The back of our bus is filling up with smoke, and we will probably have to switch busses.”
The sympathetic and useful response from this esteemed educator? “Hahahahahahahahahahaha!”
Right. Eventually, we pull over once again. On an on-ramp. To the freeway. (No, don’t ask me why we stopped there. I have no idea.) Soon we see another bus on the horizon, wending its jolly way toward our still smoking vehicle. It pulls in front of our bus and stops. The kids eagerly get up and fill the aisle, awaiting their exit from our bus (whose air is now as clouded as that of an unsavory bowling alley). Our driver bellows at everyone to sit down, as we must wait patiently as the two drivers transfer all our luggage from the old bus to the new one. We sit.

Eventually, we are told that the kids may leave the bus, slowly, and in single file, since we are, after all, sitting on an on-ramp as cars whiz past. I, however, am asked to remain behind, to assure that everyone gets off safely, and that all the luggage is transferred. The bus empties, and I stand in front of the open bus door, staying as close as possible to the bus in order to avoid being hit by a speeding semi-truck. Another five minutes pass as the driver moves duffels and sleeping bags to the new bus. I stand outside alone, waiting, and every few seconds peeking anxiously into the bottom of the bus to see how much luggage remains to be moved. Finally, he is done. I verify that everything has been transferred, thank the kindly driver of the rescue bus, and board the new bus, where, thank G-d, my kids are handling everything just fine. (Luckily, most of the kids on my bus were older, and not as rambunctious—if I had had freshman boys, I do not know what I would have done.) The driver starts the bus, and the rest of our ride is blissfully uneventful. The same, however, could not be said of the rest of the shabbaton (cue ominous music)…