A perfect sea urchin

My Evil Thoughts

Welcome to where I air my evil views, proud, uncowed, unbowed, and absolutely evil, superficial, and ignorant. Get used to it. To return to the main blog page, just click here.

The Book of Being Hammered

Sometimes a liturgy won't do it for you, not that I didn't enjoy some parts of the Yom Kippur liturgy, particluarly the story of Jonah and the whale. It's not the whale part, I like best. I like that Jonah is every man and a sinner as well as a saint. God builds straight roads with some very crooked pieces. That makes the story hopeful. Also, I can identify with Jonah, his fears, his self pity, his self absorption, all of it.

I also enjoy the story of the Ten Martyrs for pure over the top drama, even though I know the tale is not historically accurate, and the story of the avoda or sacrifices on Yom Kippur is not about slaughtering animals, though one wonders how the high priest kept his vestments clean. It is about performance and stage fright and anticipation and relief. I think all of us have been like the high priest at some point in our lives.

As for penitence. I am too angry. I know I am a sinner. I'll take my lumps. Sometimes pop music puts it best. "When the thrasher comes I'll be stuck in the sun with the dinosaurs and shrines, but I'll know the time has come to give what's mine." -- Neil Young. Well, let the thrasher come. There's a book of life, so you live if you're in it. There's a book of death and it's over. We all end up in the Book of Death some time. If we don't end up in the Book of Death, we are in the Book of Life.

You have to be in one book or the other, but that's not where it gets interesting, at least for me. You see, God has a third book, and this is the one that counts. The book is called the Book of Being Hammered. You know you are there. You deserve to be there. You can pray to have your name taken out of it, but as it says in the chapters of the Book of Isaiah (I believe it is part of Chapter 51), all your praying in the world is a pile of bovine excrement. God knows what you'll go back to doing and what you were doing before and could have stopped. He knows all the times you looked the other way because you were scaird for yourself or because you thought you couldn't help. You may be shomer shabos and keep kashrus, but unless those self practices open your eyes and spur you to action, you see no evil and do nothing about it. Well, guess what, you're in the Book of Being Hammered and you were hammered on the night before you went to fast, you got hammered on while you fasted (Actually you hammered on yourself in the hopes that God would see your faith, but remember he knows your heart) and when services are over and you go home, you can guess what is waiting. You deserve it. Take the lumps with good grace.

But for God's sake, don't get angry at God because of the way he made human nature, especially your own. God gives you a day to talk to Him on Yom Kippur. Now you're going to get yours, so what do you talk to God about? Well, there's plenty of people who don't deserve their hammering. If you look around you know who they are. Think of the morning blessing: Blessed are you King of the Universe who frees the bound. Well, I always remind God to take a look at the DeKalb and Fulton County jails. They are full of folks whose crime is that they can't raise bail money. God, aren't you behind and have some work to do? This is just a gentle reminder.

One Rosh HaShannah I prayed for Troy Anthony Davis who had an execution warrant on him and whose guilt was questionable. He did not deserve to die. The Federal Court spared his life and gave him a stay. How is that for getting written in the Book of Life!

This year, I prayed for the soon-to-be-laid off MARTA bus drivers. Layoffs are not for cause! Say that three times fast, but they sure are a great form of hammering. I also prayed for the people in the neighborhood on the hill above Avondale Estates. Those people's bus is the #122, but not one of them showed up at the meeting in Decatur to defend their route. On September 25, 2010, the #122 MARTA bus ceases to exist. Old people and children will have to walk more than a mile to catch a bus that takes them to a train station or to major shopping. The neighborhood above Avondale Estates will effectively become a "food desert."

I also prayed for the little gymnast, a six year old boy who skinned the cat on the bus and who turned cartwheels on the Avondale station bridge. He is six years old and has trouble sitting still, but any kid that atheltic is usually also very bright. I prayed that he have understanding teachers who teach him good study techniques before he becomes resistant and feels a big sense of failure. He could also be bright enough that he can work around his restlessness and learn anyway.

I don't deserve to be first in line. I deserve what I get. There are others who are innocent and who deserve better. Do what you will God, but spare the truely innocent.

A Closer Look at The Picture on the Wall

Credit for this story goes to Gerald M. Phillips. Never mind where I had contact with him or when, but he was not thrilled with my being at Yom Kippur services. He was and still is an atheist, but he does have a look around, and he had seen the mural on the wall at Torah Day School of Atlanta where I was for Yom Kpppur services. He told me to go look at the mural. It was of Noah's Ark. This is a common motif in nurseries. It may once have been a common motif for older children as well, but it is used less today because it competes with cartoons. After kids are a certain age, it disappears. The hallway where the mural was, belonged to all the children (K-8) who came down it to eat lunch. This is important.

I thought about the mural this morning. I did take a close look at it. The one thing that struck me were two peacocks in the corner. There was a boy peacock and a girl peacock whi was somewhat smaller, a perfect mating pair. Well, not quite. Only male peacocks have beautiful tails. Peahens don't. Someone who approved the mural did not know this simple fact of biology. I wniced. The mural reminded me of the community garden outside TDSA which is going to rack and ruin. There is no Indian Corn, no pumpkins, and no source of cut flowers for the ark. Again, lack of general knowledge has sad and embarassing results. I believe that every kid should get a strong, general knowledge background. Half a day is not enough, but my educational philosophy which is just philosophy since I have no kids is nothing new.

Then it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. The Noah's Ark mural at Torah Day School shows not people! It does not show Noah and his sons and their wives, and more importantly, it does not show the people in the village surrounding where the ark was built or farming in the fields near by or doing whatever people back then did. These were the people who got drowned in the flood, but when the ark was loading, they were not dead yet, so would not look at all gruesome. There is no rainbow over this ark, so it was still loading, so people are quite plausible.

The missing people hold the clue. Long ago, a former colleague of mine was describing gambling in the Mississippi Delta region. She said: "Before the casinoes there was nothing there." People have lived in the Mississippi Delta a long time. The blues were born in the Mississippi Delta. The ultimate way to turn people different than you into an other is speak them out of existence. The polite Atlanta version of this is "I don't know that neighborhood" or "I don't go there."

The Noah's Ark Story can teach, and this mural certainly teaches that it is OK to drown other people if they are truely other than you. You don't have to paint them. You don't have to give them faces. You don't have to give them names. We don't know their names because the rising sea levels which are the basis for the Biblical flood story were seven thousand years ago, but human beings were still effected by it.

Not painting those people in the mural, even if you paint them laughing at Noah and pointing fingers at him, paints them out of existence and also paints several questions out of existence that children might ask. "What were people like before the flood? Who were these people? Why did God drown the babies and the old people? What about the children? Weren't there any good people? What about good people living in North America or China? How could Noah's message reach them in the days before telephones or even reliable mail?" These are questions about justice and fairness. They also imply that real human beings drowned. It is good for kids to ask questions like this.

I would answer with a talk about Black Sea and Mediterranean flooding during the Chalcolithic (Copper) Age, and about how primitive people lived and about the fact that the real flood which gave rise to the Biblical story, left survivors. This way, children could develop compassion and understand God's mercy.

The bottom line of course is that I would not want to send any child for whom I had responsibility to a school that taught that some people, even people who lived long ago, were other and did not count and were not even worthy of discussion. That is a very evil message and one I think we've outgrown in the twenty-first century.

Of course my counter argument to Gerry and any one else is I have no children and am unlikely to ever have any. I have no dog in this particular fight. The rabbis in my synagogue do not preach the story of the Flood in the same way as the mural at Torah Day School. Teachers in Jewish Day Schools where the Modern Orthodox send their children are often to the right of the parents religiously, but sometimes what is right can be wrong.

That mural is not my faith or the way I practice it. I can disown it and do nothing more. If I had children, I probably could not be part of an Orthodox community or I would have to be very active for change.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 9/20/10

Shore Leave

Shore leave came unexpectedly. I was riding the Number Two MARTA bus back to Avondale Station this morning when my cell phone rang. I was sure it was a wrong number, telemarketer, or worse. It wasn't. It was my long lost friend wishing me a chagg sameach (Happy New Year as in 5771 and RoshHaShannah) all the way from Nokim, Israel. I was overjoyed adnd utterly suprised to hear him and angry too. Why was I angry? He is my friend and he waited months to contact me. Second, he got rid of his computer when email and Facebook are much cheaper ways to keep in touch and afford far more frequent contact.

A long distance, internationial call is way too brief for a good conversation. I couldn't ask him what he is cooking for Rosh HaShannah. I have never been able to ask him about the sea bass we never ate. Wishing someone a happy New Year, even if it is a religious holiday, as it is in our case, is way too impersonal. I did ask some important questions. You aren't going to learn the answers on this blog.

Still, I was ecstatic to receive any contact. I hope all of this makes sense. I'm still on this bucket of bolts. I have three doctor's appointments coming up to take care of the never ending storm. A trip to the scuppers should not bring such excitement. Last night, Lyistrata, my female cat, and I had a discussion about my health. I told her that I might also be losing my uterus. Lysistrata of course does not have a uterus or ovaries. She even had a second trimester abortion when she was spayed five years ago. I told my friend with missing female organs that: "They are going to put me in a cage and they are going to give me something to sedate me before they knock me out. You got ketamine, but they can't give humans ketamine because it makes them crazy." I told Lysistrata that I'll probably have a bigger incision than she had and my belly won't be nearly as tight as hers. I have petted her on her spay scar and it is tight and not one bit saggy like most spayed kitties.

I hope if they have to remove my uterus that I have a nice tight abdomen when they are done. I don't care about the scar. Scars are cool in their own way. None of the cats whom I've had spayed have had bikini incisions which is what they often do on humans. The closest to a bikini incision was Georgia. Her incision was tiny, less than an inch long, and cinched real tight. I guess the vet knew the patient would be jumping several times her body height when I brought her home, and those stitches were going to have to hold. Humans don't recover as quickly as cats do from this surgery, and yes, I'll keep my ovaries, not that they are worth much any more.

The last trip to the scuppers did not provide much drama, but there is always tomorrow. A four point something mile walk to where we are holding services is sure to stimulate some excitement. I just hope and pray that the iron pills have taken care of my anemia. The labs will tell all. I wish I could ask for healing prayers for myself on the bimah. I'm not sure if one can ask for them that way. I really do need it. The captain's Lady GaGa CD only helps me forget for a few minutes. I deserve better than this.

Happy, healthy, joyous, prosperous, and safe New Year. May 5771 be a lot better than 5770, but again, any new year is what you make of it. Pet your kitties and appreciate the purr they share. Eat fruit in season. Take a good long walk when you get the time. Don't feel guilty about Second Life if you play it. Tend your garden as Voltaire said, and tend it even when and if times get tough. May the sun shine at your back and the wind stay out of your face. Chagg ameach. See you all next year.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 9/8/10

The Ship of Misery V

"You're on this ship for a reason," the Captain told me. I caught him on his way to the scuppers. You know what they do in the scuppers. It's better than leaving it on the poop deck. Me, I have to still bring supplies to the scuppers. They at least have plenty of toilet paper in the scuppers too. A trip to the scuppers is the moment of truth. For twelve days, a red storm has raged that will not go away. Sometimes it drizzles and trickles and nearly stops. Other times, I am glad I am wearing some sort of protection. Last night I was sloppy but today nothing much is happening. The only thing it hasn't done is dry up. I am taking iron pills for anemia, so I can handle the small amount of blood loss. I had a negative pap smear last spring, so I can safely rule out the worst as can the doctor. I've also got big, asymptomatic fibroids.

This kind of thing just happens to women in the fifth decade of life. I'm not sure if the cure is not worse than the disease which makes matters even worse. It is inconvenient and scarey, but probably not dangerous. It feels just awful, however, to have your body out of control. I wonder if the powers that be would quarantine me if the ship docked and we could leave. I'm not too sick to go ashore, I tell myself.

Meanwhile, there is no one superstitious enough on board to fear that I will poison them. Yes, you can eat purple sweet potatoes. Yes, we'll get more of them if we dock at the right kind of market town. The bok-choi is for Shabbos. Yes, we have Shabbos on the Ship of Misery. Of course we have Shabbos on the Ship of Misery!

Right now my legs ache. I have been on my feet long enough for the storm to gather strength. It is time to head to the scuppers for the weather report. I get all the news I need in the scuppers these days, and I'm going to ask the captain to lend me his Lady GaGa CD. He might just do a poor, sick woman a favor. Meanwhile, it's back to the galley.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 9/2/10