When a T-Shirt’s Not a T-Shirt

One of the too-many classes I’m taking this summer is a course in business ethics. When I added my second major in political science, I had everything planned out perfectly–and then I was told I needed to pick up additional, non-political science classes for the college (i.e., non-major) requirements. The first was a literature class (I’ll be taking fantasy in the fall–which does excite me) and the second was a philosophy class.

Which didn’t excite me at all.

Looking for an easy course that would at least have some tangential relevance to politics, I finally decided on business ethics because I didn’t know much about businesses, but they’re an important part of our economy–and thus an important consideration in politics.

It hasn’t all been fun, but what I’ve learned has been worth it.

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Throwing Eggs on the Floor

Part of N.C. State’s motto is being globally engaged but locally responsive. For most students this probably remains an abstract concept, fuzzy words that don’t mean much from one day to the next, but for those in the Alternative Service Break program, it’s engrained in every trip: Not only do we have a service project in diverse parts of the world, both domestically and abroad, we also have a service project in our local community.

Last year, before my team went to Belize to build a drying rack with cacao farmers, we spent one weekend helping rebuild a house with Habitat for Humanity. The work with hammers and nails was certainly invaluable experience to get us started.

This year’s service project no doubt has prepared me just the same for Alaska.

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No Reservations

This past weekend was in a few words amazing. In many words, it was too great to mention in only one sitting.

It began with a flier I saw on the doors to my residence hall: Cherokee Diversity Trip! Apply Now! I just barely missed the information session (I came stumbling back from a long night of Parkour when I realized…oh, wait, there was something else happening tonight), but I ran to catch the last few minutes and then stayed a few minutes longer to (very gratefully) get filled in on the things I had missed.

That weekend, I wrote my application. I hadn’t made a wondrous first-impression (Parkour is exhausting, and sweat isn’t exactly flattering), but I hoped my words would say enough.

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A Yoke-Filled Diet

Lately we’ve been hung up on a few things–most notably, perhaps, my attempt at reconciling tradition with my personal evolution. The “fear” of the Lord. Sharing words of Torah. All this, all that. Et cetera. I hate the idea that I must “reconcile” anything–saying it like that implies there’s some inherent disconnect that needs to be overcome. If this is what my faith has become, can it still be called faith?

Matters of philosophical importance aside, this week’s teaching sent me straight to the footnotes.

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From Precepts to Pillars

1.2       Shimon Ha-Tzaddik was one of the last members of the Great Assembly. This was a favorite teaching of his:

The world rests on three things—
on Torah, on service of God, on deeds of love.

Week number two, and I’ve made it. It feels good. So far, this commitment is keeping to its goals (or rather, I’m keeping to mine). I know last week’s came a day late (and depending on time zones, this one might appear a day late as well), but in my defense that was only because of a problem with my internet not loading on Saturday, not that I didn’t do my studying then.

What’s more is that keeping this commitment is itself a fulfillment of these three pillars. (I use “pillars” in a neoclassical sense, in imagining the world held aloft on three pillars akin to Atlas and the globe; perhaps such a visage is scientifically inaccurate, but it’s metaphorically useful in such regard, as should one pillar fall, the standing of the other two becomes inept and the world falls no matter how strong they might be. It’s a balance, no doubt, which likely I’ll get at later.)

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Three Precepts

1.1          Moses received the Torah from God at Sinai.

He transmitted it to Joshua,
Joshua to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets
the Prophets to the members of the Great Assembly.

They formulated three precepts:

Be cautious in rendering a decision,
Rear many students,
Build a fence to protect the Torah

Before I begin: A note on the English translation: The Pirkei Avot was originally written in Hebrew and in some parts Aramaic, but obviously, my Hebrew is not terribly strong and my Aramaic is nonexistent. For this I will be using the translations from my siddur (Jewish prayer book), a copy of the penultimate edition of Siddur Sim Shalom. Although on occasion I may comment directly on the Hebrew using my scant knowledge thereof, this will only be on occasion, and on such occasions, I may inadvertently mistranslate, for which I ask now your forgiveness. Hopefully, this endeavor will aid in my acquisition of Hebrew. Probably, it won’t.

I begin: This is going to be harder than I expected.

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