I have a confession to make: I’m a complete and total sap. I turn to mush in the vicinity of someone I like. All things that make you go “Awww!” fill me with butterflies and rainbows and little puppies rolling in the grass. I love the sentimental–not sentimentality, mind you, but the sentimental–and those possessions I cherish most have the least practical use and the most emotional meaning. I’m impressed by the visual, but overwhelmed by the sensory–touch and sound, smell and taste–and if I can taste you in my breath, I am in love.
I just don’t show it very much. It’s easier around the edges to be sharper, more stoic and solid. There’s a lot inside me I don’t show, and only part of it are vital organs that really need to stay inside. The rest of it bleeds through like ink in any manner of manifestations until, like a blood-warmed bath, it’s all leaked around me and I’m drowning in my own feelings, unable to swim to the surface and save myself.
I don’t show that much either. On the inside, it’s a steady current of chaos. Until I look at it, until I perceive what fragments are there, it’s only a seamless, stable whole. Introspection becomes the bane of my existence, and come today–come this dreaded day of hearts and roses–all my introspection turns in toward love.
Ten years ago I was twelve. It was a Tuesday. We were already up, had gone about the day as usual. We were turning on the TV to watch MacGyver like we did every day. My mom was taking a shower before we had to leave. The only problem was, all the TV channels were interrupted by a live newscast each showing the same thing.
The scene was this: Two towers, a billowing cloud of smoke from the second.
My brother told me to go tell our mom, so I ran down the hall, banged on the bathroom door, and shouted the news to her. I didn’t know what it all meant, though: I was twelve, what did I know of World Trade Centers and terrorist attacks? To me a plane had flown into a building. It was tragic, maybe in those first few moments scary and exciting, but what did it mean to me–a twelve-year-old boy a thousand miles away?
Last week we met Rabbi Yoḥanan’s five disciples. Maybe you remember them? First there was Eliezer, that plastered well who couldn’t lose a drop, the one that remembered everything, for better or worse. Next was Yehoshua, the man who pleases everyone, for the recognition it brings him. After him came Yose, the good boy, that one overflowing with happiness and always willing to help. Shimon was next in line, that sin-fearing lad he was, the one who’d do what’s good for fear of the punishment behind it, but he still did good things, he did. Last of them was Elazar, the over-flowing fountain, who’d be blunt and upfront but be everything you’d need him to be.
A pleasant group, wouldn’t you think? And now that we’ve reacquainted ourselves with each of them, let’s see this next lesson that Rabbi Yoḥanan has to teach.
I’m starting to think I won’t be having any more thankful Thursdays this semester. For some reason beyond me, all my teachers like to have all my homework due Friday morning, so naturally, Thursdays have become crunch time for me: A fatal rush to the finish, pushing past the boundaries of bedtime into the realm of “when he said he wants us to lose sleep over this, he meant it.” But that’s alright: We grow and we adapt. We change our ways to meet the new days.
I was thinking a lot about that today, about adaptability and change. After a while, I found I’m rather thankful for it, but what does that have to do with snakes? Or more importantly, what does it have to do with planes?