I have a student who speaks badly about women, swears when he shouldn’t, and reacts poorly to perceived criticism and the consequences of his actions.
I ask him casually in the hall how his day is going and he keeps walking without even looking in my direction. I sit down next to him in class to check in and I have to say his name half a dozen times before he begrudgingly acknowledges me. I try to have productive, relationship-building conversations, and he actively shuts me out.
Then he grabs some chalk and writes insulting messages on the chalk boards.
And then he gets pissed off and storms out when he gets in trouble.
My feelings are strong, and mixed, and I’ve yet to fully process the significance of a Trump presidency and the impact it’ll have on me, my friends, my family, and my kids.
But no matter how long my mind whirs and spits out warnings and error messages, it doesn’t change the fact that tomorrow the 45th President of the United States will take office–and whether we love him, hate him, or ignore him, that fact cannot be changed.
My phone is Harel’s when we’re together: He has an eye for angles and alignment more than I ever will. He snapped this picture in a plaza in Queretaro, and it’s still one of my favorite photos of all times–the color balance, the simplicity, its subtle complexity.
He also has a fondness for statuary. We once went to a natural history museum and he wandered off while I tried to read a lengthy description of Greek and Roman deities (it was in Spanish, but my familiarity with Greco-Roman mythology allowed me to piece together its meaning). By the time we drifted back together, he had taken pictures of literally every statue in the exhibition hall. Seriously. Each and every one of them.
I have a bad habit of taking too many pictures to remember something and then realizing later, as I look at my pictures, that they don’t really, can’t ever capture the moment like I had wanted them too, and instead of living it more fully, I had lost myself in the momentum of trying to catch it in pixels.
When Harel takes my camera, it’s hard to get lost in something I can’t have–somehow it frees me to be more present in the moment. And when I finally look back through my camera roll, I get to glimpse the experience through his eyes–what were the things that caught his attention, that drew his gaze, that made it memorable for him?
Even now, looking at the pictures he took for me, for us, it makes me feel closer to him.
It’s hard to believe five months have passed since I left N.C. State on my Alternative Service Break to Belize. It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since the trip began–the application process, the monthly team meetings, and all the fundraising… In the forefront of my summer plans and now in the background of my Resident Mentor training, Belize continues to be a prominent feature as I compile both a journal and a photo companion of my trip to send to those who helped me make it there in the first place.
Those are separate reflections, intimate monologues for the select few, but I promised and have been building an experience here for many months–and for just as many months, it’s been missing an important page: the final page.
Over the coming week, I’m going to close this chapter of the Writingwolf, taking you along from the moment our plane touched down to the cataclysmic changes I’ve experienced since it flew me back.
As a child I detested it. Now as an adult I have come to appreciate it. I may still at times despise it, but I succumb to it nonetheless. In this word there is synthesis. Togetherness. Means and ideals.
I can’t recall any memories of importance, but I can imagine some long lost day in the second or third grade when, before Hebrew school began, my friends and I would ride the wagon down the hill behind our synagogue. Sometimes I didn’t like going down the hill. Sometimes I would much rather sit and talk on the swings.
Sometimes we did both.
At six or seven we could see that both was better.
I was talking with a friend the other night and lately she’s been going through some hard times. I often find I’m not much help at giving practical help, so I offer only that which I’m able to offer (an obvious tautology that’s somehow necessary to include): So I do what sometimes I do best–I listen and console and support.
As I typed out my last text, taking special care to ensure every letter appeared in the proper place and only once (I’ve dropped my phone a few times; the keyboard’s become a bit fickle), it occurred to me when I typed “See, you’re looking on the bright side already!” that simply saying there is a bright side acknowledges and presupposes the existence of a side in shadow–and when I realized that, let’s just say the world split in two.
So elections were yesterday and despite distractions galore, I still managed to reach my daily word count goal for NaNoWriMo. Through antihistamines and philosophers, economic speakers and communication workshops, I thought the day would end on a solemn note. And when I saw some of the election results, certainly it seemed solidly solemn enough, but somehow there is clarity in these wins and losses–clarity that my vote didn’t count.
But don’t mistake me for apathy. There’s more to it than that.
Just a short while ago I was watching part of the Olympic opening ceremonies in London. It wasn’t until I was back in my bedroom it dawned on me that these games every two years are more than just a show of sports and athleticism, more than just a fancy parade of nations vying for medals and recognition–they’re more than all of this. They’re something to be thankful for.
The Pirkei Avot is often translated as the Ethics of the Fathers, but even though “avot” means “fathers,” “pirkei” more closely translates as “chapters,” not ethics. So why the confusion? It’s because most of these books of the Talmud relate to ethical behavior in our daily lives. Throughout the past two summers and now throughout the past few weeks of this summer, we’ve looked at teachings as varied as how we do business with others, our obligation to bring God into every meal, and the importance of both group and solitary work. It’s amazing how so many of these lessons can be captured and gained from a text hundreds of years old.
Today’s teaching is a little different. Just like moving from the computations of algebra to the theory of calculus requires approaching the same subject with different eyes, it’s important to realize that there is more to daily behavior than simply what our actions define.
Lately I’ve been watching controversial documentaries. I love documentaries. It’s like a miniature lesson on all sorts of topics in a living room turned classroom for ninety minutes. The perspectives, the visuals, the ideas. I ingest them like ice cream, each flavor delicious in its own way, but even better with toppings.
Lately I’ve been watching controversial political documentaries. I like politics. So much I’m adding a minor in political science. So much I’ve considered running for office or working in government at some point. I’ve aspired to teach to change the world, but hey, I’ll say, maybe I can make a bigger difference somewhere else.
In one such documentary, someone commented with distaste how, after 9/11, President Bush told the people to go shopping. Although it seems this statement actually originated from media commentary on his speeches (and therefore, is more likely rumor than fact), when I heard this, I shut my eyes, ruffled my brow, and shook my head. Such a stupid thing to say! I thought, and thinking further, I wondered