I was sitting outside in the beautiful fall North Carolina weather (our first day of sunlight in two weeks), musing about the story I might write for NaNoWriMo…I have an idea, but is it enough of an idea–
And then, from a table near mine, “–faggots kissing.”
“I am, by calling, a dealer in words,” said Rudyard Kipling, “and words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” But I am, by vocation, also a mathematician, and there’s a strange yet beautiful intersection of words and math known as music.
I am not, however, skilled in music in any other manner than its consumption. I cannot carry a tune in a tote bag or keep the beat with any sense of rhythm (but I can rhyme, and alliterate, and parse the sounds of vocabulary into something musical, if still not music).
And yet, in all my years of listening–which is, perhaps, all my years in general–I’ve discovered that even at times when I cannot hear myself, I can find myself in music.
In my last post, I spoke about the uncomfortable reality of being a non-Christian in a country that mistakenly believes its religious identity (which doesn’t exist) is synonymous with its civic identity. I also alluded to a conversation with a friend who assumed Chanukah is a much bigger deal than it is–but instead of making my misconception corrections then, I decided to make them their own post.
Take Robin Thicke. He’s a handsome dude. Very pretty. Nice to look at. And though I’m saddened he can’t think of anything to rhyme with “hug me,” when his song hits the airwaves, my shoulders start rocking, my head starts bopping, and when that ubiquitous “Hey-hey-hey” comes up, it comes out of my mouth, too.
But I’m conflicted. I like the song, but I can’t stand for what it says.
Last semester in my religion class I found it funny that (almost) every time a religious group felt they had deviated from the true intent of their Scriptures or beliefs, they would start a new religion and from there build a new way of interpreting their faith.
It made me think of when the autumn comes and I remember how life used to be,. I was a playful yet shy little boy who defined my life in terms of how full my Pokedex was and whether or not I had caught the last episode of Digimon. I miss those days–not for their content, but for their simplicity. There were no such things as deadlines. Vocabularies were smaller. Complex numbers were still just imaginary.
So I did what I always did, in those moments before class began, or before it ended, or before my teacher next spoke: I wrote.
Throughout my life, I was raised among the scholars, and I discovered that there is nothing more becoming a person than silence; not study, but doing mitzvot is the essence of virtue; excess in speech leads to sin.
There was a person I knew some time ago whom I was quite fond of. I enjoyed the time we spent together and always found our conversations stimulating and provocative, our words always well-chosen and intense for the occasion: We must have spoken of politics, religion, sexuality, music, art, and any other number of fascinating topics. But the moments I cherished most were not these. The moments I cherished most were those when we had no conversation, when the only thing we shared was silence.
Sages, be careful of what you say lest you be exiled by the authorities. You may be exiled to a center of heretical sects, and your students (who will follow you there) may imbibe their teaching and become apostates. You will thus be responsible for the desecration of God’s name.
This teaching, more than any other before, has required me to look at the footnotes and the dictionary. In two places here, the meaning is unclear, or if clear, not translated verbatim (though for why not, I’m not sure). The first is the mention of heretical sects, which in Hebrew plays on the common metaphor of the Torah being mayim, water. The second is the mention of becoming apostates (apostasy is a total desertion from one’s religion or principles) literally meaning “they shall die.” These two notes in tandem, we can make sense of how one can such “imbibe” their teachings and die because of it.
Cross-examine the witnesses thoroughly, but be careful in your choice of words lest something you say lead them to testify falsely.
Honestly, I liked the ones about scholars better. The realm of law is simply a touch too far out of my realm of reasoning to really resonate well with me. But every step worth taking is, well, a step worth taking, so I might as well take this one, too.
When writing my commentary last week, in responding to judging litigants both as guilty, one thought that had gone through my mind was the pros and cons of choices we have to make every day. If I never have to cross-examine witnesses, I’ll never gain anything of worth from this teaching; so if I’m going to honestly learn from it, I’ve got to relate it to something I do daily. And I judge choices daily. And most often, I judge my choices harshly.