electricpaladin: (Hobbes)
Today was one of those days at class that reminds me why I'm doing this.

So, with my fourth graders, we've been talking about the Book of Kings (who were mostly sociopathic power-hungry maniacs), the tradition of prophesy and speaking truth to power, and the ways of speaking truth to power available to us in the modern world. Today was the culmination of those lessons. With some guidance from me, the kids made signs, picked a few chants...

And marched around the block, protesting the unfair and unjust policies of King Rehoboam, Solomon's son.

It was awesome. The second class loved it so much, they walked around the block twice. I had to repeatedly stop two kids from chanting "vote democratic!" and "Rehoboam's not as bad as Cheney!" and one kid worried that protesting ancient dead kinds wasn't 'cool' enough for him (as he explained often, he is 'in a band'), but other than that, the lesson went off without a hitch.

Not only was today one of those days when I felt the rush and the thrill, the fire of the moment - it was one of those days that drilled home the point "I am good at this."

I think I really am.

In other news, I've decided to go ahead with the writing blog project. I've taken [livejournal.com profile] homais's advice to use Blogger to start my writer's blog (and I'll be begging his help creating rss feeds and customizing it, and such). The updates will be based on my experiences and development as a writer, and there will be accessible content in the form of some of my stories.

I am soliciting all sorts of advice on blogging. I need a style - a blogging voice that somehow expresses my narrative voice - and most importantly, I need a name. A name that reflects my style without being lame.

A name that isn't dumb. On the internet.
electricpaladin: (Default)
Hickory dickory dock, Mark rode down the block
The block struck Mark, and his bike escaped with minor injuries


Lame, I know, but it seemed funny at the time. 'The time' being when I fell off my bike this morning. It wasn't anything serious. My foot slipped off the pedal and caught on the asphault and the bike shot out to one side and dumped me on my left hip and elbow. I have exciting bleeding bruises where I hit the ground, and also I chewed up one of the knuckles on my right hand (I have no idea how I did that).

I never knew knuckles bled that much.

Anyway, I'm fine. Actually, it was a good thing. I enjoyed walking my bike the rest of the way and getting to take a good look at all the things I normally race by. There are these great berries growin on the trees, dark blue, but frosted over in white. And places where the vines rush over the walls and fall to the ground, like verdant waterfalls. And two persimmon trees. They're bare now, but still heavy with fruit. Even when the persimmons are bashed in and oozing, there's still something beautiful about them. I like persimmons.

It was also nice to be reminded of how much I like teaching. I had a perfect excuse to go home and go back to sleep, but I decided not to take it, and to go and teach my lesson anyway.

Now, Kepler's, on the other hand, I might call in sick for. Teaching involves a lot more sitting than Kepler's - I'm feeling basically ok, but I'm not sure I want to stand and walk on this hip for four hours straight.

Anyway, Abby is taking good care of me, and I'll decide in twenty minutes whether or not
electricpaladin: (Default)
On Sunday, I was frustrated to find that I was scheduled to work during the Richard Dawkins presentation. Frustrated, because as I was to discover, I don't like what Richard Dawkins has to say, and I don't like how he says it. I found him to be a nasty, snotty man saying nasty, snotty things in a very cultured british accent.

I am a naturally argumentative person. My exploits are well known, and include a verbal battle with Oberlin's own resident evangelist. Honestly, listening to Dr. Dawkins, I felt like I was back in Tappan Square all over again, facing an asshole who was only a little more polite, a little more intellectual, and ultimately just as wrong, only in the opposite direction.

What is it that Richard Dawkins hopes to prove in his newest book, The God Delusion? He is trying to establish that God is, well, a dangerous delusion, religion a pernicious lie (in one of his previous books, comprable to a computer virus of the mind), and this whole faith thing really aught to be done away with. In fact, 'indoctrinating' children in religion is, in Dr. Dawkins's estimation, akin to child abuse.

Lovely, really.

I suppose I have Dr. Dawkins to thank for something, though. Listening to him helped me work out - in a Maimonidean, negative-theology sort of way - something that I believe very strongly. I am against all triumphalist and teleological modes of thinking.

By triumphalist, I mean so convinced of its own rightness that its ultimate acceptance by everyone is either inevitable or at least extremely desireable. By teleological, I mean positing an end point to the universe, a reason for everything, and then reasoning backwards from that, rather than forwards from evidence.

What's entertaining is that both Dawkins and Strobel (author of The Case for Faith and The Case of Christ and so on) fall prey to both these ways of thinking. Both believe that their ideas (radical atheism, evangelical christianity) should/will overcome all other relevant ideas, and both believe that the universe has a point (scientific exploration, Christ).

In reaction, I realize that I don't think anything has a point, or an end. The universe is not beautiful or elegant; it's arbitrary and cold. Our bodies are not smooth, beautiful engines for our enlightened wills; they are ugly, brutal, ill-functioning meat-things. Religion isn't about simple ethical lessons and easily swallowed mythologies; religion is messy and weird and full of incomprehensible crap. The universe doesn't have a point, and if you're looking for the point, you're missing the point. We can't give order to the universe - it doesn't have any - we can just try to improve the human condition and hope for the best.

But I think I'm at peace with all this.

I see numerous holes in my newly-verbalized ideas. How can I avoid triumphalism in my own thought, but at the same time, how do I avoid sinking into meaningless self-indulgent meditation ("that's how things are, such is life, don't try to change it - you can't order the disordered universe!").

Also, I'm still sorting out the consequences. If there is no point, then Judaism isn't my answer anymore, because I'm not looking for answers. There are no answers, because nothing has an ultimate point. Judaism can my question, though. I like that. Not Jew, but Jew? Great, but what does that really mean?

One of my coworkers says my new philosophy resembles taoism. Can anyone confirm or deny this, and if it's true, reccommend any works of taoism for me to read?
electricpaladin: (Default)
It's yom kippur. If I've wronged you, I'm sorry, I really am, and you should tell me.

A longer post is forthcoming.

VICTORY!

Oct. 8th, 2005 09:14 pm
electricpaladin: (Default)
Ladies and gentlemen, you are reading the livejournal of the proud owner of five jobs. Now, this isn't too impressive, unless you did your math and knew that, until about fourty-five minutes ago, I was the less proud owner of only four jobs. The fifth came through just now, a job at the local Borders.

Now, Borders isn't that much to be proud of. It doesn't pay that well, for one thing, though it offers health insurance and a pretty sweet employee discount. Also, as a work-friend of Abby's said: 'Borders, how could you not get hired there!" No, what I'm proud of is that this fifth job is all it will take to get Abby and myself out of her parents' house. Whithin a week or two, we will be living in our own place, with our own furniture.

In other words, I can unpack already. I can get moving with my year here on the West Coast, applying to HUC, working at my (five!) jobs, making friends and connections. Living.

Basically, good news, good news, yay, yay, congrats, congrats.

Also, I have no regrets about joining the Evil Empire. There is humanity to be found even in the depths of the Borders experience, sparks of divinity to be redeemed from even corporate life, and I will find them. And also have an apartment.
electricpaladin: (Holy Knight)
Today was Rosh HaShannah, the Jewish new year and the first day of the Days of Awe or High Holy Days, or whatever you want to call them. I went to services with Abby's family, and it was nice.

What it wasn't, though, was terribly profound. I can't decide whether to be troubled by this. On the one hand, I like profound experiences, religious and otherwise. On the other, when I think back on it, every other profound Rosh HaShannah has been profound in a distinctly bad way. They have all been new years in which I resolved to make some improvement or get out of some bad situation. Right now, I'm not in any bad situations, and while I know I have many flaws and failings, there are none that I have a burning, immediate desire to correct.

I suppose despite the various situations of my life - the lack of a job, my parents continued griping (more on that later), my various mistakes - I am actually content.

Of course, a lot of these situations aren't as bad as they could be. Take the lack of a job, for example. I do have three great jobs teaching religious and hebrew school. They are all fulfilling and fun, and who cares if they don't pay enough? I'm doing what I want to do with my life, and that's better than what a lot of people can say, and better than what I could have said last year. And, in addition to all that rather ephemeral optimisim, I have a job offer. A stationary and chatchke store called Papyrus is offering me 15 hours a week on betwen $9 and $10 an hour. It's not enough to get us out of Abby's parents' house, but it's a start.

The promised (threatened?) aside to my parents is this: I think I have finally found out the center of my mother's gripe. She doesn't think I'm asking for advice often enough. She's upset because she thinks I don't understand that she and my father are the only people in the world with my best interests at heart. She thinks there is something deeply wrong with what I'm doing with my life right now.

I guess she's right about a few things. I haven't gone to my parents for advice as often as I should. In my defense, my project was to get out of the house, and all my parents seemed to be able to talk about when I brought it up was how impossible this project was. Who wants that kind of advice? I had decided I was going to do it, and so I tried, and I succeeded!

Also, it's hard to go for advice to a couple of people who have spent years making themselves hard to talk to about problems, but I can't tell them that. Honestly, it's not that I'm afraid of causing a fight. The fights mean so much less from across a continent. It just doesn't seem fair to say something like that in a context where I know it will be misunderstood. If I could get my parents into family therapy or something, then maybe I'd be able to say it. In the meantime... ah, whatever. I'm out of that house, and as much as I love my parents, I don't think I'm living there again. Things might get better and things might get worse, but I'm going to keep myself safe. I don't know where their doubts and anxieties end and I begin when I'm living there, and that scares me too much for me to allow it.

That's all there is about my parents. What else have I promised to write about?

The kids! That's right, the kids. My Sunday morning class is billed at twenty-two kids, but considering absences, it's usually more like sixteen or eighteen. They're sixth graders, roughly evenly split between boys and girls, with a really exciting mix of personalities and backgrounds. A lot of them are "half Jewish" - though, as I tell them repeatedly, in my classroom they're Jewish, and that's all that counts - and the other half ranges from spanish to scottish. One of the girls looks middle-eastern, but she could be spanish, or just mizrahi.

They are really great kids. I have my share of troublemakers and eccentrics, from the boys who are so entertained by my difficulty with their names (it's only been three classes, give me a break!) that they keep lying during attendance to the girl who puts on such a bored, disaffected personality that I'm really afraid she's going to grow up and become a hipster, but they are all really just spirited. They ask good questions, and they don't resist my efforts to make the material exciting. Their misbehavior isn't even that bad; they have a hard time staying on task and sometimes it takes a while to get them quiet, but by and large there isn't any blatent disrespect and, as far as I can tell, there isn't any bullying at all.

I've only met the Wednesday kids once, and I haven't met the Saturday kids at all, but I'll post about them at some point.

So, in short, my life is better than I think, I have great jobs and good prospects, and perhaps that's the most profound thing about this Rosh HaShannah.

Also, when the haftorah and torah were being read in Hebrew, I could sort of half keep up with what it meant, which was awesome.

L'shanna tova.
electricpaladin: (Holy Knight)
It's been a while since a proper entry, and I haven't really got the energy to give you one right now. Here, then, is the quick, impressionist version of the past few weeks:

The job search continues with many good leads and no definite offers, yet. Hope springs eternal. Patience does not.

All my current games continue to be great fun. In local gaming news, I may soon have the opportunity to play in a game of HeroQuest, a sort of highly flexible mythic fantasy with incredibly well-researched and fully-realized cultures and religions. I'm looking forwards to it.

My jobs are incredible. Aside from a brief incident where being offset by the wedding-spawned long weekend caused me to MISS A CLASS (insert self-flagellative grumbling), I feel I've been doing a good job. The experience is a positive one for the kids, and for myself. Also, I am being offered another teaching position, bringing my number of classes up to three per week and my weekly income from Jewish education jobs to about two hundred dollars.

The rest of the income has yet to materialize. See the first bit.

I have begun watching Serenity. This is... a good show. I like it immensely. That's all I can really say right now, but more will be forthcoming once I've watched more of the show and, well, slept.

And finally, I went to my first Renaissance Faire with Abby today. She was stunning in a blue-bodice and a purplish skirt. I was... nondescript in my front-tie shirt, black pants, and sandals. I may make assembling a proper Ren Faire garb a project, once I've got the money for it. I had a fun time. Abby acquired a cloak, we both bought matching love-knot coin necklaces, and much strange food was consumed by all. Again, if the mood strikes me, I might write a little more about the experience later. Also, If you really want to know, you could check Abby's journal. She writes about these things sometimes, too.

This entry ended up being longer than I thought it would be, which is just fine. The promised proper entry, complete with organization, will show up at some as-yet-determined point.

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