True Story

I asked you your name

Shahar

because I knew the only way to repay you
would be to write you a poem —

that there would be no handing over of cash,
no exchange of phone numbers for future use.
I knew I could never collapse in your arms there
and weep as I might have had we been alone
or had you been an inch taller or wider.

Could not even touch your shoulder tenderly
to let you know that I know
that you

Shahar

are the human in humanity.

Your black knitted cap, a tad too wide for your delicate skull
may be what stopped you from continuing along the dirt road
when you saw me waving my arms from the highway above.

Your black knitted cap was certainly what stopped me
from wrapping my arms around your 54 kilos when you finally
succeeded in screwing on the spare.

I asked you your name before we parted

Shahar

because I knew then what I know now
which is that all there was between us is all
there ever will be, that once you changed
my tire and afterwards I asked you your name.

View from above

No matter how blurred or undefined my picture of God is, no matter how my connection to religion swells or retreats; the one God-related belief I hold fairly dear is omniscience. If God were a storyteller, let’s say, he’d be third person with both a bird’s eye and a worm’s eye view of all that ever was and all that ever is and all that ever will be.

Which means, I also believe, that God laughs a lot.

Laughs at our missteps, our confusion, our despair — in a loving, playful way, the way a parent might smile watching her toddler fall hard on his bottom over and over again in his attempts to learn to walk.

Or the way a writer foolishly grins as he shapes his characters because a writer is, in a way, in love with all the characters he creates — no matter how ugly or beautiful, how wise or how foolish.

I don’t necessarily believe that God is omnipotent, however. I don’t believe he interferes in the doings of man, though I do imagine that he might adjust the direction or speed of the wind from time to time so that man might meaningfully turn his head or shift his gaze. I believe that God watches us, and more than anything else concrete, I understand God as a representation of that great unattainable knowledge and understanding I’ll never have, but will never stop seeking.

I imagine, too, from his third person point of view, God watches us with great compassion.

I wish I could borrow some of this compassion from time to time when I tell myself my own story; as I do when I lie in bed at night and review my day; as I do when I tell “truths” about myself or make claims about how other people see me (as if I could really know).

Or when I dig through the first person evidence of my life: When I read my old journals (and cringe at my naive innocence or unabashed immaturity); or remember (out of the blue or obsessively) the things I’ve done I wish I hadn’t or wish I had handled differently.

Did you ever notice how much compassion we can summon up for others? For strangers especially? How our hearts swell when someone else is dwelling on what they once did wrong?

Yet, it’s insanely difficult — if not near impossible — to summon up that same compassion for ourselves. To allow ourselves to view our stories as God might or as the third person omniscient narrator would– minus regret, minus shame, minus fear — simply with close observation, the space for varied interpretations, and occasionally, with a playful compassionate laugh out loud.

The beet goes on

I thought the most interesting thing about today would be the beet.

I pulled four beets from the vegetable drawer because I knew if I didn’t do something with them today they’d go bad tomorrow.

I have a strange relationship with beets.

I want to love them.

I want to savor them like my friend Allison, who once said to me,

“Mmmm…I love beets.”

But I can’t. I just can’t. At best, I can tolerate beets when they’re roasted just so and soaked in a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

But beets are so incredibly beautiful that I will wash them and peel them and slice them and stand over them in wonderous amazement even if I won’t eat them.

dancing beet

The red pink of beets should not exist in nature.

It should be synthetic, it is so beautiful.

The spiral designs inside a beet, however, should exist in nature.

Beet innards are exactly the kinds of puzzles that nature produces and we call God.

I love beets, but I can’t eat them.

After the beets, I tried to take a nap.

Two of my kids were sleeping: one sprawled on the couch in a beet-colored dress with wrinkled flowers on the strap and the other with his head hanging off the bottom bunk.

He fell asleep in the middle of a tantrum while I tried to soothe him with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Chapter 1, page 1.

There was a knock at the door.

It was Nachum.

Looking for my son.

I knew it was Nachum because I heard his fingers drumming on the metal railing outside.

I liked that I knew it was Nachum and didn’t mind so much that he was rousing me from my almost nap.

My son was not at home. He was at a basketball game with his dad.

I told this to Nachum. He turned around and left as quickly as he came.

I tried to take a nap.

There was a knock at the door.

It was not Nachum, but a man whose name should have been Nachum.

He was in a rumpled white button down shirt and black pants.

He had a long black beard, too.

He might have had a black yarmulke but I didn’t notice when he turned to walk away.

I was too busy remembering his smile.

I gave him 20 shekels and he was happy.

I was happy, too.

So happy, I stopped trying to take a nap.

= = =

(This post was written in less than 15 minutes. Wanna take on the Friday 15-minute challenge? Write today for 15 minutes and leave a link to your post in the comments below and tag your post 15-minute Friday.)

Graduating to grownup

I didn’t write this, but oh how I wish I did. Actually, no, I’m grateful for the words. For knowing that someone sees the world this way. Saw the world this way. Grateful to David Foster Wallace for writing it, and speaking the “capital T truth.”

This video is powerful and touching and true.

*   *   *   *

This is Water

By David Foster Wallace

 

“The only thing that is capital T true is that you get to decide how you’re going to try to see it.”

“Please don’t just dismiss it as one finger-wagging Dr. Laura sermon. None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death. The capital T truth is about life before death. It is about the real value of a real education….which has almost nothing to do with knowledge and everything to do with simple awareness.”