It’s been a long minute since I’ve taken the time to truly think about my goals. For over a year, my life has consisted of headbutting deadlines vying for my attention–child interview report due Monday, grade data analysis due Tuesday, dishes in the sink reaching critical mass and are those leftovers suddenly living?–so much so that it’s seemed like my standard state of mind has been stuck on survival.
You can’t really make progress toward long-term goals if you don’t take time to think about what those goals are, and today I’m determined to do this at least once before my students return, grad school begins again, and I feel stuck in survival mode once more.
I wish on falling stars. I make a wish at 11:11. I wish on birthday candles and math tests and every time I cross the street. But I’ve never tossed coins in a fountain to make a wish.
I like fountains, though. Harel and I had a habit of taking a picture with every fountain we passed. Then we’d taken a picture with all the fountains, so we stopped.
There was this moment, back in Queretaro just a week and a half ago, when he and I were in a museum and in the middle of its courtyard, there was this ornate fountain, its basin shaped like an eight-pointed star. I leaned over to admire the blue and white tiles inside it, for a moment thought of making a wish on those waters, but we didn’t have any coins on us. And yet, the moment lingered, drawn out, as though something were stirring, my pockets yearning for a few pesos to cast aside, the world waiting to grant our wishes.
I was out with friends watching Interstellar the other night. Afterwards we were standing around, trying to figure out the movie, some of us closer to understanding than others. I was one of these guys, trying to explain multiple dimensions to people who have never had to think outside three (and even had a hard time understanding those).
But I tried to take it further, make it clearer: dimension is not only a spatial measurement. We think of space in three dimensions: we can move forward/backward, left/right, and up/down–three measures, three dimensions. So what, they asked, is four dimensional?
It may seem like this will be a post about science, but hold on. Shortly, it won’t be.
Some things we can’t choose–our skin color, our parents, our aptitude for eyesight and how soon we need glasses, or perhaps how soon we lose our hair, or perhaps how long it takes us to remember what we were doing before we completely forget it. But some things we can choose–what we consume, how we spend our time, what we study.
This isn’t a list about choices. This is a list about all those things chosen for me–things that maybe I would’ve done differently had I the foresight to know better, the insight into my own destiny as the world shaped it for me.
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.
In another universe I am not the one writing this. In another universe I am still who I am, but wholly different–the personification of another facet of myself. In another universe I am the same man but different, a secondary, tertiary–an nth degree version of myself wholly unknown yet wholly undifferentiated.
That’s a good way of saying it.
Where all these universes meet–a place in time or space, removed from either or both–there is an integral self that exists beyond all possibilities.
The act of reality forming from thought differentiates these forms, causing universal constants to slip behind subliminal ideals, each variable taking upon itself a new manifestation based upon those factors that surround it.
Today I feel undifferentiated. It’s an integral part of my identity.
I read this week’s teaching for the first time more than a month ago–and I knew I’d loathe the moment I got to it. When the week opened at a conference in DC and continued with a maddening rush to pack my room and move on campus, procrastination came easily.
But as Hillel might remind us, “If not know, when?”
So anxiously I plow forward. One last teaching to end them all.
Coffee and chocolate. For me it’s been a love/hate relationship, and yet it seems coffee and chocolate are staples of the Alternative Spring Break trip I’m going on in March. It’s a comical story–but it has grave consequences.
For a few Tuesdays last semester a Chabad rabbi joined with a few of N.C. State’s Hillel students and spoke with us about issues in contemporary Judaism. Not to be confused with contemporary Jewish issues such as Israel, people leaving the faith, and the degradation of traditions, he instead led us through discussions about the modern significance of Yom Kippur, suffering, and free will.
It’s obvious, then, why I thought of him when I read today’s teaching.
I wrote this the other day and figured it was too mentally askew to be worth posting. I was in a bad place–stressed by finals, consumed by philosophy–and strange things happen in dark corners on bright days, you know? So I’ve been thinking about it anyways, and since I’ve had some more time to consider it, to reflect on it, I’ve found there’s actually some merit in it after all.
So with no further ado, I present to you “Dancing Fire”: