This post is part of my 2019 Pride Month series “Proudly Reaffirming Identity, Diversity, and Equity,” exploring present-day issues facing the LGBTQ+ and allied communities.
It’s a logical dilemma, I told my friend Cole. We’ve been friends for over a decade–we met in an online writers forum and though we’ve never met in person, I consider Cole one of my closest friends. When you share your writing with someone, an intimacy develops that rivals romance, and Cole has not only shared but inspired my stories.
Cole is also trans, and while I was investigating transgender issues more deeply and hitting mental blocks of my own to better understand trans experiences, Cole was kind enough to let me lean into the discomfort and talk about the hard things.
Cole has also given me permission to share some of the words we exchanged, for which I’m especially grateful: Not only did their words help me understand things more deeply, they also said them far more eloquently than I ever could.
Last week President Trump visited Milwaukee. In class that morning, one student said, “He’s not my president.” The timing wasn’t right to go into the nuances of that statement, to correct the fallacy that blindly believes saying “He’s not my president” excuses us of his wrongdoings (when we, the collective voting citizenry, put him there) but merely excuses his ignoring us, so my response to her was subtler.
“Whether we like him or not, he’s our president, and we should respect that.”
I refused to get religious. In fact, “refuse” is the wrong word: I keep my faith wrapped around my neck but not gurgling through my vocal cords, so I never genuinely talk about religion with my students. Perhaps, this time, I should have.
Tonight begins Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, the commemoration of the rededication of the Temple hundreds of years ago. Normally I would light candles and celebrate with my family, but tonight that’s impossible: I’m still on campus, hung between finals, and candle-lighting isn’t exactly allowed in the dorms. (I’ve got a friend bringing me his lighter, and then I’ll at least light the candles outside.)
Since it’s been a long time since I’ve last lit any candles, and since it’s been a long time since I’ve written anything about the Pirkei Avot, I figured tonight would be the prime time to reprise both.
It hasn’t even been a week since I’ve been back and it already feels like my trip to Cherokee was ages ago. This has been a long week in terms of assignments, and with NC Pride this weekend and classes grinding to a brief halt next week for fall break before I’m bombarded with another round of tests, I can’t but imagine this’ll be a long weekend. Indeed, like last weekend, I expect it will be over too quickly.
On Saturday night we all went to a buffet for some home-made southern cooking (and let me tell you, it was delicious). As we were leaving, it suddenly occurred to me that after morning came, we would be returning to the nonstop, chaotic world centered about N.C. State but extending throughout all Western civilization.
And when I realized that, I knew I’d miss being in Cherokee.
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.
I teased today’s teaching last week when I explained my recent absence from writing and today I bring it back, but before we get to it, I offer a question to consider: What is wisdom? Who is wise? And why would–or would not–wisdom last over time?
It may be beneficial to take a moment to think thoroughly of these things before reading onward, but if you’d rather rush ahead, that’s okay, too–just keep all these thoughts in mind for later.
There’s a trick I’ve picked up that’s gotten me out of a few sticky situations. I’ve had a lot of leadership training, some media prep, and probably more math drills than most humans can suffice to think of let alone subject themselves to, but this trick, it’s none of the above. It’s a touch of psychology, an ounce or so of mythology, a few dashes of dreaming, and a whole lot of deceit.
But it’s not really deceit when you think about it. After all, what is the world past what we make of it? “If you build it, they will come.” If you make it, it’s yours to own. And when you own the world, there’s nothing you can’t do.
So where’s the lease, you ask? Right at your fingertips if you open your hand and reach for it.
Open wide the doors of your home and make the poor welcome as members of your household; do not engage in small talk with your wife. (Now if this be true for one’s wife, how much more does it apply to the wife of a friend! Our sages derived a lesson from this: One who engages in small talk with his wife harms himself; he will neglect the study of Torah and in the end will inherit Gehenna.)
I’m like, Huh—what?
So I’m tempted to say this one’s worth skipping since I will never have a wife, so it doesn’t apply, but if I’m truly to learn anything (and I hope I’ve already learned something), I have to realize that even the most far-out teachings can still have a lesson hidden somewhere in them for everyone. Going back to the precepts we began with a month ago: Be cautious in your decisions.