Monday, November 22, 2010

Free Choice

What choice is ever free? There is no such thing. Every choice has a cost. In time, money, energy. In love lost or gained. In hope. In doubt. In the person you are and the person you could have been.

What choice is ever free? Is any choice really your own? Who will you hurt, and how? Who will you help, and how? What opportunities are you relinquishing to make this choice?

What choice is ever free? Are you ever entirely free to choose? Though I may know what I wish, I often cannot choose it. Chained to the spot, I can choose only amongst the limited options that confront me.

A world where choice was free would not be our world, the world we know. This is a world without a vacuum, a world of connections. I am bound to you, though we do not speak; to all my potential selves, though we may never meet.


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Words' End

Silence is eloquent. It is silence that reveals the communion of two souls—when you slip into that sudden space like children burrowing under a blanket, and the quiet moments fit in time like puzzle pieces. Silence can be a thing of discomfort, discordance, a desperate search for words—any words—to shatter the inappropriately intimate hush, stretched taut and straining like a rubber band. Then there is a silence that chills the bones like a starless winter night, bare frost-laced branches pointing accusatorily toward a muted heaven. A silence filled with unanswerable questions; the silence of separation and isolation. Yearning for connection, you cry out in the night—but there is no answer. Only a cavernous emptiness, and the knowledge that, try as you might, you cannot fill it alone.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tisha b'Av

A day on which to mourn. Much has been written, spoken about the difficulty of connecting to Tisha b'Av in the modern era. How do we make ourselves feel pain? How do we manufacture that emotion? My problem, today, is slightly different.

I spend my life running from sadness. It lurks around every corner, just out of sight. I sense it there constantly, knowing it waits for me. But a productive life is not lived under the shadow of desperation. Somehow, one must escape the looming spectre—death, meaninglessness, loss—and find the sunlight, a sense of purpose, motivation to act, to pursue greatness. So I become an expert at avoidance; not to deny the existence of tragedy, but to find life.

But here, on this day, I am enjoined not to run. It is a day to sit, to let the cloud descend and envelop me, to cry and rage against the agonies of being human. Yet I find it surprisingly difficult. Why? It should be natural, merely a matter of acknowledging what I am distantly aware of always. But I am so used to fleeing. Greeting the sorrow with open arms contradicts a lesson painstakingly learned. Like a well-trained typist told to return to hunt-and-peck, I must, for one day, un-learn the skill I have acquired.

Since sundown last night, I have found moments of the sadness I know I possess, have found the tears flowing. But I have also had many moments of strange placidity. I know I have enough grief and fear within me to cry uncontrollably, to rail and rage without pause, but I cannot tap into it. I want to find the area of vulnerability, the trigger that will allow me to begin to cry, unleashing all the emotion I keep huddled inside myself the rest of the year. But I am afraid, I think; afraid of finding myself overwhelmed, unable to rise again come nightfall.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Truth and Meaning

What is the difference between seeking truth and seeking meaning?

A life spent seeking truth entails endless frustration. There is no way to ascertain absolute truth; there is only constant searching, temporary conclusions, and redoubled effort—with, likely, minimal concrete results. But meaning can be found in many forms. Meaning can be found and peacefully lived with.

Yet is meaning a compromise? It is inherently subjective, self-serving, in a way. Seeking only meaning is settling for something that makes your life feel worthwhile—with the knowledge that while there may (or may not) be a law more absolute, it is one that you will not attempt to uncover.

But is a life of meaning all that we can hope for in this world? Is the search for truth ultimately futile?

Monday, March 01, 2010

The Little Things 3

A sky of mottled fiery rose and lavender-grey, seen through the delicate silhouette of bare winter branches.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It's the Little Things 2

Chocolate milk
In a yellow-walled kitchen
And through the window
Small white dots
Flying madly by

Monday, February 15, 2010

It's the Little Things...

The tall stained glass windows lend character to the morning prayers: the white pages of my siddur are highlighted in deep yellow, and the girl in front of me has pink streaks of light in her black hair. On the other side of the partition in the long room, men rush to take off their tefillin so that mussaf can begin. Through the quiet, a sudden symphony: the click, pop, snap of black boxes echoing across the sanctuary. I listen, note the sounds and the rhythm: music of impatient, solemn joy.

Sunday, February 07, 2010


What are the chances that I can sit down with a blank document, the two of us, cozy in my room which is a mess—papers fluttering round my desk, clothing draped over chairs and bed, dust giggling conspiratorially in the corners, and everywhere stuff, stuff, stuff—and, knowing that I’ve been unable to produce anything of value, knowing that I feel singularly uninspired (is that a cliché?), knowing that I’m slogging through the day and the next day and every minute draws me closer to worse; knowing all this, does the remotest possibility exist, is it even an option, could the page fill with words that, upon retrospective contemplation (or compulsive consistent editing), won’t make me gag with their ineptitude and my own sense of futility?

Or perhaps, if I write, if I write and the words sicken me and the writing is lousy and I’ve little to say and I know it, perhaps today I can make allowances. For one day only and get it while you can. And what’s more, I may succumb to the seductive consciousness of an audience, to the knowledge that I will put these lines somewhere to be seen, to be scrutinized, to be censured and mocked but at least to occupy a space of their own. After all, I know they would appreciate that.

Am I endowing the words with a separate existence, separate from me, separate from the sentiments they’re expressing, even? I am. It makes no sense. Making sense is not one of the goals I’ve set for myself today. The goals are—well, to be honest, I’ve neglected to set them, but filling pages with words is bound to make me feel better—isn’t it? I must believe it to be so, or my fingers wouldn’t keep typing, taking dictation from my brain, or is it my soul, perhaps? Clichés again. Maybe my goal for the day is to avoid clichés. No, too lofty. Then, just to be aware of the clichés I inevitably employ, in hopes that tomorrow I will use fewer? That seems reasonable. (Time for a generalization? Yes, I think so.) Clichés and melodrama—both are inexcusable, without exception, but can occasionally be done gracefully if doused with a liberal helping of disclosure and self-awareness. Ah, melodrama. [The weight of the world on my shoulders, the wisdom of years in my eyes, and here I sigh.] Easily ridiculed in others, laughingly justified in oneself. Oneself? There’s a pretentious word. I won’t get away with it. Let’s change the subject.

The Superbowl. Well. I think that’s all I have to say about that.

Am I reflective today, or just desperate? The latter, I presume. If I were reflective, I certainly wouldn’t be putting myself in literary costume and assuming an identity in order to presume to candor in print. I’ve been reading plays. It’s bound to do messy things to one’s sense of self. My sense of self has been floundering in any case, so a little further stirring can’t do much harm, can it? Transforming myself into a somewhat dispassionate narrative voice may be a nice change of pace.

Though if I’m pretending to honesty, I may as well admit: I’ve already been narrating lately. Out loud, sometimes. Monologuing too. When no one’s around, of course. I suppose this word explosion is just the natural next step—the desire to expose myself for what I am: a hopeless dramatic narcissist. Or perhaps, a girl who is confused and desperately wants to escape from her head, just every once in a while. Is that okay? It may be self-indulgent, but I haven’t used this forum for anything else lately, and you (whoever you may be) don’t have to read this. No really, you don’t. In fact, better not. You may leave now. I’ll keep on talking—I’ll feel more comfortable knowing you’ve exited the theater. Thank you.

Where was I? Oh yes. Rambling. A rambling path through overgrown woods: a cliché, but nevertheless a nice image. If only this piece of writing were something like a rambling path through the woods. It seems more like a slow trudge through a knee-deep puddle, each step squelching into mud that sucks downward—not enough to halt progress entirely, but sufficient to remind you that gravity is a terribly inconvenient force. But then again, you know, that may be an important thing to remember. How sad it would be to forget the tragedy of gravity; the tragedy of limits that keep us from floating, flying, traversing the heavens. It’s a painful awareness, but better than oblivion, no? And maybe that’s what I’m seeking. Awareness: painful, yes, and no doubt painful to read. (Why are you still reading? I told you to go!) But at least I’m fighting to keep my eyes open, though gravity pulls my lids down toward slumber. I won’t go. I can’t go. But I’m so tired…and then I jolt back into consciousness and feel gravity again and know, and know, and wonder whether I’ve said too much or too little and why.

(Did you know that words fail? The entire point of this piece—I don’t know if you’ve noticed—is to demonstrate that words fail. Haven’t I done an excellent job of flaunting their ability to fail abysmally?)