Nota Bene  (NB*)


*NB - If you are offended at any point and/or don't want to be associated in any way with these personal meanderings, feel free to unsubscribe from any newsletter or social media associated with The Serious Type. If your name is mentioned anywhere on this site or elsewhere in connection with The Serious Type and you want it removed, please just let me know and I will do so, no questions asked.  These ideas and references presented here are my own and in no way represent those of anyone else associated with The Serious Type. email: nikki@theserioustype

N.B. SCROLL DOWN FOR WEEKS 1-9, in descending order

Men's Wedding Attire, Fernbank Museum, Atlanta, Georgia; April 28, 2023

February 24, 2024

Week 9:  Buddhism + Romance

I woke up this morning and wrote this to my "Deep Thoughts" friend. It's what he replies to me after I send these kinds of texts to him. He thinks I'm ridiculous, I'm sure. But he most always responds in a timely manner


"It’s because people like you and me are discouraged from or not interested in running for office. You have to be willing to give up your life, your privacy, your ego, your ease, your security, for that kind of job. It seems only the biggest narcissists/sociopaths or old, tired men fit that description these days. You need to be of selfless service to all others and have a deep, confident faith in God (and therefore yourself) every day to turn this country (and world) around. You need to be strong yet patient, open-minded and kind always but aggressive, firm and steadfast when necessary. You need to be in the middle of your life to have the greatest viewpoint and influence - not too young, but not too old. You need to be grounded in your own foundation yet comfortable and natural in anyone else’s home. You need to be educated and practical in the ways of the world yet still optimistic, creative and humble. You can’t keep expecting someone else to show up when you could be the one. You have to accept that you are not perfect and have sinned because that’s what it means to be human. You need to forgive and be forgiven. You need to surround yourself with trusted advisors from various backgrounds and expertise who have more knowledge than you yet respect you for your wisdom and character. You need to be able to laugh, dance and sing, but also mourn and cry when it’s appropriate. You need to have a solid and loving partnership to steer and comfort you during the highs and lows because no one can lead all alone, or be all those things as one human being.


Finding a couple like that is near impossible, and that’s why we’re in the apocalyptic state that we’re in today."


I have people - men, in particular - who help bring out these thoughts and ideas in me merely through their existence and our friendship. It's not romantic in the modern sense, but romantic in the large, sweeping way that Shakespeare imagined life and death. 


I can't always work in a vacuum. A writer needs to live in the world, not just comment on it. She needs to see and experience for herself what it means to be denied, rejected, manipulated, loved, hated, contested with, envied, admired and threatened by. She needs to feel this for herself, to be betrayed and captured and accepted by, given into, in order to write about it honestly. 


I don't know where I am in history nor who I am in the greater context of my life because I am still living. When Pontius Pilate asked Jesus if he was the King of the Jews and when the Jews asked Jesus if he was the Son of Man or the Messiah, all he could answer was, If you say so (or something to that effect). He did not fully know. He only knew that his words came directly from the Holy Spirit and it was not his place to know or not know if he was the Messiah, only that his words and actions were true and loyal. 


Earlier, I read a couple of Psalms of David and a poem in Eccelesiastes. Prophet poems. They are very beautiful. To deny yourself from reading those words is tragic, especially if you are lover of great literature, like I am.


I have been wondering lately why I am often not chosen as the leader if I don't make my own self one. My answer comes from an article I faxed another friend (from London to New York) about 26 years ago.  It was in The Wall Street Journal and entitled, "Paying through the Nose for a Stiff Upper Lip: 'Emotional Literacy' Leads to Success, Psychologist Says (July 17, 1997)" by Nicholas Bray. In it, he shares the English psychologist Ido van der Hejden's theory that, "People who are successful in business are doers, not the sort of people who meditate...But people who are unable to reflect on themselves often are unaware of how they come across to others...If you want to lead a large company, people have to be able to relate to you. They can't mistrust you: that's a no go."


Even though I believe that I am a doer and also have an extremely high sense of self-awareness "that gives [me] the opportunity to make decisions which are more intentional in their content than automatic or habitual," I am not relatable.


Bray summarizes Mr. van der Hejden's work concerning a lack of emotional literacy as a "serious handicap in dealing with colleagues, particularly from other cultural environments." I am experiencing this personally in my professional life right now. Many of my colleagues and Directors (who were raised in different cultures than I was) can't relate to me and therefore they don't trust me; we most often fear what we don't understand. They assume the worst about me rather than the best. Regardless of all the years and types of evidence reflecting high performance before them, they refuse to view me as an asset. I have become a liability because of my unrelatability, unabashed self-expression and clarity. Oh, well. Time to move on, once again. 



From I Will Recount Your Wonderful Deeds, Psalm 9, To the choirmaster: according to Muth-labben, a Psalm of David:


11 Sing the praises of the LORD, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done.

12 For he who avenges blood remembers; he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.

13 LORD, see how my enemies persecute me! Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death,

14 that I may declare your praises in the gates of Daughter Zion, and there rejoice in your salvation.

15 The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug; their feet are caught in the net they have hidden.

16 The LORD is known by his acts of justice; the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.

17 The wicked go down to the realm of the dead, all the nations that forget God.

18 But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.

19 Arise, LORD, do not let mortals triumph; let the nations be judged in your presence.

20 Strike them with terror, LORD; let the nations know they are only mortal.


--


Who are the wicked and who are the afflicted? Who are the enemies and who are the ones who remember God? I'd say they exist on both sides, in both places - in and outside of Zion. 


It's more convenient for the mind to choose a side between who is right and who is wrong; leaving it up to God seems or may feel too passive, too laissez-faire. Cognitive dissonance is a heavy burden. Are there degrees of evil, to evil? Is this how God works? Does God judge and punish the levels of evil, like in Dante's Inferno? Is this Divine Comedy the reality of our collective reality? (Education matters.)


I suspect there's no fair answer to all of this, except that sacrificing your own people, using them to protect you and make you notoriously rich, leaving them to bare, stealing and destroying them, forcing them to starve and beg while you build concrete tunnels to prepare for war and massacre - that cannot be a civilization worth preserving. How can it be? How can a democracy that encourages technology, equity, discourse, art not be the better way? For what were we given minds? For why were we made in the Creator's image if not to create? Moses gave us the law, laws in general, for a reason. We must uphold the law, develop and enforce laws for truth and justice to prevail. 


What peaceful person, what peaceful nation wants thousands of women and children, or any human, to be murdered? Who wants them brutalized, raped, corpses on the street? Who starts these conflicts? What kinds of people want death and destruction for their own glory? Whose history is this? And whose is it not?


Of all people, races and religions, the Jewish people do not seek war. Israel is never on the offense, always on the defense. They may act foolishly and/or avariciously, but not, by default, pugnaciously. Well, to be fair, Buddhism is a lot more peaceful a religion than Judaism is, but their followers have also been persecuted since the 2nd Century BC (see: China, Cambodia, Burma, etc). Yet Buddhists represent about 8% of the world's population today*


One reason the Buddhists have grown more in numbers than the Jewish people have is this: "Unlike Christianity and Islam, Buddhism does not require exclusivity of belief or practice. Buddhists do not need to affiliate with a local temple or Buddhist association, nor must they participate in the formal ritual of “taking refuge” (guiyi 皈依) to identify with Buddhism.**" Buddhism is an idea more than it is a tradition. Buddhism is a philosophy about life while Judaism is a way of life. 


Buddhism may have been the actual way that Jesus became the spiritual way (John 14:6). (Or something to that effect.)


Buddhism flourished because of the Silk Road, which carried goods and ideas from as far East as China and West as Rome, Italy. "The Silk Road is neither an actual road nor a single route. The term instead refers to a network of routes used by traders for more than 1,500 years, from when the Han dynasty of China opened trade in 130 B.C.E.until 1453 C.E., when the Ottoman Empire closed off trade with the West***."


The Silk Road passed through Israel. Recent evidence has revealed that, "Cotton and silk fabric imported from the Far East dating back to the early Islamic period some 1,300 years ago was recently found by a team of Israeli and German researchers in Israel's Arava region, suggesting that the ancient Silk Road trading routes from the Far East passed through Israel en route to Europe.****" It's safe to assume then that this trade route existed at least 1,800 years before this discovery even if the archeology to prove this has not yet been unearthed. 


I'd even say it's even more safe to assume that Jesus, with his travels up and down Israel, whose life story is a complete mystery between the ages of 13 and 30, learned about the Buddha***** and the Buddhist ways before returning to Jerusalem as a preacher. Many people familiar with the tenets and history of Judaism, which is unarguably at least 3,500 years old but among Jews definitively 5,784 years old, believe that Jesus studied Buddhism during his life and is where he received many of his progressive and advanced insights. The merging of Judaism and Buddhism, many could argue, is Christianity in its purest form. (The term for this kind of believer is a "Ju-Bu"). 


Despite (or perhaps because of) all this history, we are at the beginning of, or on the verge of, or already in the middle of (if you want to be optimistic) the Third World War. How can you deny that the major forces at play are not all opposed everywhere right now? Can you not see or feel it in your own small town, bubble or circle of friends? We mistrust each other more than ever. We disagree with each other more than ever. We are less open than we have ever been in our lifetimes. (While we are also returning to our roots.)


The hope and prayer is that we are beyond the ultimate stupidity of using nuclear arms against one another. That's just plain dumb. I don't want to move to the Moon or Mars, places I can't breathe without heavy contraptions (not to mention the dearth of natural beauty). Perhaps Thomas Jefferson needed to add to the Declaration of Independence: the right to life, liberty, freedom...and breathable air. Jesus. What the f*** is going on?


Let's return to the impetus of this piece, though, shall we? The catalyst, as usual, is my lack of physical affection and my abundance of passionate desire for it. It is true: girls just wanna have fun...but some of us need more of it to balance us out. 


Seriously, what does it take for a (neuro-divergent) girl [like me] to have some fun around here? I'll always be a sucker for a cute boy...God help (and bless) me. I never said I wanted to be a saint or a nun. 


--


*https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2012/12/18/global-religious-landscape-buddhist/

https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/buddhism/

**https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2023/08/30/buddhism/

***https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/silk-road/#:~:text=The%20Silk%20Road%20is%20neither,off%20trade%20with%20the%20West.


*****Buddha (Sanskrit: “Awakened One”) (born c. 6th–4th century BCE, Lumbini, near Kapilavastu, Shakya republic, Kosala kingdom [now in Nepal]—died, Kusinara, Malla republic, Magadhakingdom [now Kasia, India]) the founder of Buddhism, one of the major religions and philosophical systems of southern and eastern Asia and of the world. Buddha is one of the many epithets of a teacher who lived in northern India sometime between the 6th and the 4th century before the Common Era. His followers, known as Buddhists, propagated the religion that is known today as Buddhism. The title buddha was used by a number of religious groups in ancient India and had a range of meanings, but it came to be associated most strongly with the tradition of Buddhism and to mean an enlightened being, one who has awakened from the sleep of ignorance and achieved freedom from suffering. According to the various traditions of Buddhism, there have been buddhas in the past and there will be buddhas in the future. Some forms of Buddhism hold that there is only one buddha for each historical age; others hold that all beings will eventually become buddhas because they possess the buddha nature (tathagatagarbha). All forms of Buddhism celebrate various events in the life of the Buddha Gautama, including his birth, enlightenment, and passage into nirvana. In some countries the three events are observed on the same day, which is called Wesak in Southeast Asia. In other regions the festivals are held on different days and incorporate a variety of ritualsand practices. The birth of the Buddha is celebrated in April or May, depending upon the lunar date, in these countries. In Japan, which does not use a lunar calendar, the Buddha’s birth is celebrated on April 8. The celebration there has merged with a native Shintō ceremony into the flower festival known as Hanamatsuri.

The Old Thompson Barn, Carbondale, Colorado; February 18, 2024

February 18, 2024

Week 8:  Weight + Wonder

Why does Kansas City keep coming up for me? I suppose I am supposed to write Hattie Thompson's story. It starts there, Missouri, where she was born. Her museum house is around the bend from my home in Colorado; even the psychics say she wants her story told. Once this school year is over, I'll be able to focus more on what Hattie has been whispering to me. The Carbondale Historical Society has given me access to all of her letters and photos, which they have recently digitized (thank you, CHS!). 

What else has come up for me this week, like every other week of my conscious life, is weight, my weight. I have always carried more than I want of it, since I was eight years old. It's a boring topic, I know, but instead of being mean to myself, I tried leaning into it this week, embracing my extra pounds, which have been adding on more recently. I'd like to blame perimenopause (although I'm still regular), but I could also blame my emotional binging; many of us can relate to an emotional dependence on food or other substances to make us happy, to raise us up out of our daily discomfort, to give us a boost. But this week, I chose to stand in my largeness, understand why some of us hold onto our mass. There is something powerful about being large. You can't be bowled over easily. It's a message to the world to not be messed with. You take up space, and yet, at the same time, you are invisible when you are heavy. As a woman, you are often excluded from friendships and activities by the more pivileged and adored women. You can be ignored and disregarded easily. Being bigger is an easy way for others who have suffered from their skininess to reject you; they must justify all the hours and pressure they've endured focusing on their bodies to make them smaller, toner, sexier - weaker, controlled and bullied. 

So instead of hating my fat, I decided to love it this week. To thank it for sustaining me, for protecting me, for saving me in many ways. I am very healthy and strong otherwise, contrary to what people may assume. 

I want to love all these parts of me, so I can also let them go if need be. If I choose to, for me. I want to listen to my body and ask what it needs, what it wants, what it truly craves, instead of forcing it to take in caloried short-term pleasure. I want to be kind to myself and my body, no matter what. I want to feel the difference between being heavy and being light. I want to notice the change in my body and not depend on a scale or measuring tape to tell me. 

My body is merely a vessel. I need my body to learn and to convey what it was I was meant to convey. It is a temple. I should treat it as such. 

Which brings us to temples, and the destruction of them. To the ongoing conflict in Israel and Palestine. Whenever I mention the worry I have about how (un)safe this country is for me now and will likely become, the Gentiles mostly remain silent. A close friend for years expressed much empathy for the Palestinians even though she had just read a book about how anti-Semitism grew in France before World War Two though the Jews were (or at least thought they were, appeared to be) strong and active participants in French culture and society. We are never safe. As soon as we forget that, we are forced to remember. (This is why, my dear friend, being Jewish is not like being French. Pas du tout.)

I wonder sometimes if my weight is a rebellion against all the times we've starved. Does generational trauma work like that, too? How could I not indulge when in our past we've been on the run in the desert, in the ghettos, on boats that haven't been allowed to dock? 

Do I sound overdramatic? I wish that were the case. Should I take injections so that my brain is tricked into believing it is safe, that it doesn't need as much food as I feed it, so that it can find pleasure somewhere else than from carbohydrates?

I believe in past lives, in some form or another. This is not to say that I have always been a Jew, probably not, but in my genes, I have been. For as far back as any scientific test can attest to. I'm a pure breed. The majority of humans can't claim being a pure breed of anything anymore, including my own children. Perhaps that's why they'll pay so much for dogs with such exceptional specifications.

I think Hattie Thompson had Jewish roots that her father hid. I could be dead wrong, but this is what my intuition is telling me. If you saw a photo of her father, you'd probably agree with me (and I wouldn't call you an anti-Semite for saying so). But there's more to my intuition and her story than that, a lot more than just an image of a man born in the 1800s who found his way to Carbondale, Colorado after his wife died, communing with the Utes until they were forced by the government to relocate to a reservation in Utah. (Many are still there.) 

I want to investigate Hattie's heritage. I'll need to visit Kansas City, Missouri to do so. Anyone want to join me? There's got to be a lot more going on there than football and Taylor Swift (or guns and barbecue). 

--

41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” 45 Then He went into the temple and began to drive out those who [a]bought and sold in it, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house [b]is a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ” 47 And He was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him, 48 and were unable to do anything; for all the people were very attentive to hear Him. (Luke 19:41-48)

It is easy interpret this text as rampant anti-Semitism. It feels as though Jesus is condemning every single Jew who does not believe in him, who does not believe in his words, or his message. I wonder if we are supposed to remember that he is human here, about to meet his death, his destiny, his crucifixion, and in it, his fear, his pain, his anger and frustration with the Jews who did not believe?

I read a novel by Amos Oz entitled Judas (2016). It was the last book he wrote before he died in 2018. In it, Oz includes many examples of why Judas was necessary for the story of Jesus to exist. That without the deception, the prophecy of Jesus could not be fulfilled. I read this book while in Israel the last time I was there, in June 2019 for my daughter's Bat Mitzvah; I was reading this book while we were in Jerusalem where the novel also takes place. 

The Gospel of Luke depicts Jesus as angry, more so as the telling ensues. Luke was admittedly not a witness to Jesus' life but rather a physician who pieced together parts of Jesus' life and parables then made it his own. 

A writer of a story cannot help but subject it to their own humanity, their own emotions. I would gather that Luke was also doing this, imagining Jesus' reactions and condemnation as made sense to how he envisioned or internalized Jesus. 

It's critical to remember, however, that Jesus also preached about Forgiveness and Grace. As much as he could see the future for Jews who did not follow and believe in him as a (or the) Messiah, Jesus also forgave them for their trespasses as he knew they did not - could not - see the errors of their ways. He did not say that God nor the Holy Spirit nor Jesus himself would "build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation" but rather that these things would happen to them. Jesus (or Luke) doesn't name who would surround the Jews, either, only that they would be enemies. (Mohammed was born hundreds of years later.)

I often say that the Bible is the history of man's consciousness, a documentation of the human condition, which wrestles with God and our own existence, constantly - consistently. We make progress, and then we fall back again. We are making progress (history bends towards justice*), even if it doesn't feel like it. In times of war like today, we feel more bent over than slightly curved. 

I do believe the time is coming for the Jewish people to recognize Jesus as their own. They will begin to collectively recognize the time of [their] visitation and understand it was meant for them, in the best possible way, with the best possible intentions. 

Everything is a process, a growth (sometimes it's slow as Hell). You cannot embrace a major theological shift all at once. We are not built like that. It takes time to know, to see, to understand the Truth. You may feel something profoundly, but to comprehend it, that takes millions, billions, trillions of interconnected, interconnecting neurons, generations after generations to process, to internalize, to know in one's own mind as well as to feel in one's body and soul. 

Jesus was a martyr. Jews are martyrs for the Truth, too. He was one of us, is one of us, came from the same lineage as Us.

Do you know the feeling of rejection? Can you relate to its fierceness? Its depravation? Its embarassment and pain?

I often wonder where the Christians are in all of this. It's their turn to make this all right, isn't it? Are they not the ones who believe in Jesus' words? Are they not the ones who were (supposedly) listening? Are listening? Should be listening?

It is easy enough to hate the Jews for not embracing their own prophet. But that's how the story goes. That's how it was always supposed to go. There was no other way. Could not be any other way.

31 Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be [a]accomplished. 32 For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. 33 They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.” 34 But they understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken. (Luke 18:31-34)

--

So, I've given up bread for awhile. Let's see if that makes a difference in my weight. I wonder if it will make any difference at all in my life. Hard to prioritize my looks when I have these kinds of thoughts randomly throughout the day. Hard to avoid bread, also. Especially when there's good cheese around.

The teenagers are here at my house cleaning up the meal I made for them. High schoolers seem to appreciate my oddities. I wonder how I'll get to Kansas City and who will join me. I wonder who my real friends are. I wonder how these meditations will land; I wonder if they will be taken out of context, manipulated, misunderstood? I wonder if anyone will ever read them or care or simply continue to remain silent. I wonder, and then I remember, it's all in God's hands anyway. All I can do is type. 

--

*Though made famous by Martin Luther King, Jr, King was in fact echoing the words of 19th century abolitionist and Unitarian minister Theodore Parker.

Rye Playland, Rye, New York; June 14, 2023

February 10, 2024

Week 7:  Miracles + Mediocrity*

I turned 53 this week. It seems an odd age, not just because it's an odd - and prime - number, but because it feels like a nowhere's land. Some women my age are already grandmothers. My two children are still only teenagers. 

I don't feel any older than 38 or 42, at least in my body. Maybe I shouldn't write that down because it could change overnight. But in any case, it's the truth right now. I may get a little more tired after a drink or two, but otherwise, in my wildest dreams, I could even get pregnant again. 

I miss my babies. I really loved the baby stage. I nursed my first one until she was about two and a half. My second one I nursed until he was three. And then once when he was four at the Denver Zoo when he was having a mental breakdown and it was the only thing that would calm him down. 

I wanted six babies. Maybe I will still have six babies; they just may come in another package. 

I don't think of myself as a manipulator. I don't plan things out. I don't have a strong urge to control, or control others. In fact, I'm quite the opposite. I grew up in a family of hyper-control. I let that shit go a long time ago, and still at this very minute. 

We have no control. Well, we do, but not over the things we think we do. 

Order is nice. Structure is nice. Boundaries are good. They help us in so many ways. 

But they should not be made of barbed wire, or cruelty. 

We must forgive. We are made to forgive. God asks us to forgive every day. And to let go. 

I have often tried to control how I feel about people. It's kind of strange. I know I can't control anyone, so then I try and control how I think and feel about them. But that can change, too. I can change. 

I don't always have to feel the same way I did about them then. I can change how I feel about them at will. 

I am not a loyal person. Never in that way. I am loyal in that I will always love anyone I have ever loved before, but that love changes over time, can change over time, continues in its angle, its strength, its power. (I am not loyal in the way that I will lie or cover up your lies for the sake of our friendship. I care more about your integrity than your feeling easy around me.)

It's like a light. (the light

The more light I focus on you, the more I love you. And the more I love you, the more you grow. The more I grow. That is the Act of Love. That is the light shining down on you, through me, from God. (If you no longer want to receive my light, I will not be able to penetrate your shield against your will. This is what God means by free will.)

I love what the physicists are thinking and pondering about light. It is their way of loving themselves and the world. 

The light is the love. Always has been, always will be. 

The light is what started it all. The Bang. The Source. The Collision. 

That was Light; that was Love. God's Love. 

These ideas have all collided - the soul, the body, the mind; the holy ghost, the son, the father; light, mass, energy. They are merely ideas, and yet they are as real as the computer in front of me. All made from atoms, molecules, star dust, you and me, in lifetimes across the universe. 

Don't worry. It all spins around me. Around us, all the time. Circles upon circles upon circles. (Ad infinitum)

I was going to share my biggest secret here. I thought about it during one of my meditative drives to work this birthday week. Listening to only piano. What a miraculous instrument. 

I awoke thinking about Miracles vs. Mediocrity. Some people believe in the power of Miracles; some believe in the power of Mediocrity. It's up to you. Take your pick. (Most of our education systems teach to the middle, towards the mean, the median, the average. It does not teach to uplift but rather to pass a given thresshold, a set standard - a specific set of standards at that. Your child is often compared to others' achievements, not to their own.) 

My secret is not something I am ashamed of per se, and it's also not a complete secret. Many people know about it, even my own children. It's just something I prefer remains private. (I have learned that sharing myself with others deserves more respect.)

We all have a right to our private lives. Our private selves. It's not for the world to know or own. We all deserve to deal with our own struggles privately, if we so choose. It's also not our business to dig for the truth, to find one's sinful nature, to hunt down people with our own lack of creativity and self-inspection. (To create false narratives about people, or narratives at all?)

To commit a sin is to be human. There is no way to escape it. We are not better if we have not sinned because noone among us has not sinned. It's how you reflect on the sin. How you think about the sin. How you collectively define and punish each sin; how you treat the sinners, yourself included - and which ones you do not. How you interpret your sins as gifts from God to bring you closer to God. Sins are not for others to weigh; they are measured between you and God. Sin, by definition, is an act that works against or moves you away from the Light of God.

We have ideals. Ideals exist for a reason. We must continue to be idealistic because God created us in God's image: to be Creative, a Creator in our own Universe. To be like God. To Create like God. It is even a Commandment. 

(We must continue to create structures, boundaries, disciplines and consequences in order to be free to love and honor God, too.)


“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:37–40; see also Gal. 5:14).


God is the ultimate Creator. The Creator of Idealism. This is the beginning of God as an idea (as an ideal, not an idol, You shall have no other gods before me). In the Bible, the Old Testament, the very first words (Genesis 1:1) are: 

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day...

I suppose what I am saying, or meaning to say in all this zigzagging-ness, is that the truth has been discovered. We know the (Supreme) Truth and have known it for a long time now, even if the puzzle pieces are just starting to make sense and merge together. 

Let's find a way to make this light whole. It is fragmented and has become fragmented, compromised, splintered. 

There are optimal ways to do things. And they are always through Love, no matter what. That will never change. But the systems, the operations, the rules and the regulations (the angles, the perspectives, the lenses), sometimes those have to change, to clear the clouds, to capture the truth from a different aperture. Sometimes things have to change in order to grow. (Isn't that the definition of change, anyway?) We are here to grow and to change. And to remain the same at the very same time. (Just. Like. Light.)

I turned 53 two days ago. It's an odd age. It really is. But it's a freeing one. I am no longer young, but I am not yet old. Am I a miracle or a mediocrity? (What are you?)

(How does my light reflect upon you?)

It snowed quite a bit this week. It was looking much too dry last week, so this was a very lovely climate gift, Gracias a Dios. My son is skiing. It's not a safe sport, but it is an exhilating one. Sometimes the risks are worth it. (All I can do from this vantage point is pray.)

Comic by Steve Strogatz; National Museum of Mathematics, NYC; March 24, 2019

February 3, 2024

Week 6:  Teaching + the Butterfly*

During the middle of last week, I started writing an email to one of my colleagues. I didn't finish it, nor did I send it. I wasn't sure how it would be received as it was in reponse to her questioning my performance as a teacher. It made me reflect on my own education.

The email began like this:

Subject: Private Schools

Dear -


I’d like to clarify something you said during our conversation about my - and all - private school educations. There actually are no standards or standardized tests at private schools. The only standardized tests I took were entrance exams in order to be accepted. I only spent two months in a public school and that was during my first two months of kindergarten. I did take AP tests during my junior and senior high school years, however, so those were the only standardized tests I took while a student to use for college credit. 


There are no IEPs or any other classifications or labels or rules or exceptions for students at private schools who need more attention. They just get more attention, usually from tutors at and outside of school. Private schools usually have a certain academic level they teach at, which is why there are entrance exams to determine if they even have the ability to succeed at the school they’re applying to. 


There are no standards within the private school academic classes per se, either. The teachers teach at their own discretion with oversight from the directors. Each class can be wildly different from the next year’s even in the same subject (language classes, especially). This is why even though private school teachers were paid less than public school teachers in NY while I was a pre-collegiate student (perhaps they still do?), many preferred to teach at private schools for the reasons I was attracted to [this school] when I first started here. 


My goal [here] was to provide the students with the caliber and quality of a fine private school education but at no cost to them or their families. This is what charter schools were initially designed to do. [I felt a moral obligation somehow to share the gifts of my privilege with others.]


I chose to send my children to public schools because I didn’t want them to grow up in such an extreme bubble as I did. I wanted them to have a better understanding of this country through its educational system. I wanted them to experience a much more diverse group of people (from a socioeconomic perspective more than anything else), so they could fully understand at a young age what I did not, and could not, see. I wanted them to see where and how they fit within the greater society and their local community (of which I had none growing up) and believed I could supplement everything else they weren’t getting at a public school from my own knowledge and wisdom. I’m still not sure that was the best decision for them, but it is what it is at this point. Time will tell. [Other social scientists have used their own children as social experiments. See: Sandra Bem. I don't recommend this, however. My only defense is my ignorance and innate altruism. As well as my own issues with money and lack thereof.]


I do think standardized tests can be valuable. I’m also not saying private schools offer the best or better educations than public charter schools. Or even traditional public schools in some instances. It really depends on the specific schools themselves, in my [humble] opinion. 


I am just letting you know all this (if you don't already), so you have a better idea of what private schools are like and how they differ from public schools. Standardized tests and standards for what needs to be taught at each grade level for each subject just don’t exist. Like I mentioned, it’s up to each teacher in partnership with the principal to determine that. Textbooks also offered excellent direction, especially in Math and Science. 


My teachers were mostly eccentric people who were very passionate about their subjects. We didn’t have personal relationships with any of them. And when students did, they were completely inappropriate - but that’s a whole other story I won’t get into now. [Here is a public reference to learn more about this vulgar story so that I don't have to describe such evil myself:  The Atlantic version for those who have a subscription, The New York Times version, and one from the good ol' quality rag  New York Post.]


Some teachers were kind, most were not. Their job was to educate us to the best of their and our abilities. They knew they were raising the leaders of tomorrow. They took that role seriously but unfortunately disregarded (and sometimes abused) the social-emotional aspects of the child. They also didn’t educate us with any moral responsibilities like a religious school would. We had to behave absolutely, but we weren’t educated to take care of anyone else besides ourselves and our families. We were educated to become critical thinkers who could solve the greatest problems in the world, whatever those problems may be [as long as they were making us rich, prominent and more privileged at the same time]. I only understand my past this clearly because of my experiences as both a teacher, parent and administrator of various public schools. (Writing this to you now is giving me even greater clarity.)


I’ve learned an incredible amount from teaching [here]. More about human behavior than anything else. I am and will continue to keep the school in my heart and prayers, always. 

----

I ended my letter there. I didn't think it would get much traction. I tried to explain this in person the next day, but that also fell flat. 

As Artificial Intelligence advances, including all the reading, writing and math editing applications available to students today, I believe it's even more important to teach students how to make their own connections among subject matters and themselves. We need to teach them to be more human, not less. AI can correct spelling and grammar; it can even write summaries and analystical essays, and solve any Math problem known to man, but it cannot tell you how you feel, how a piece of literature relates to your own experiences, how a poem reminds you of your mom. AI cannot tell you what your passion is and how to follow it. 

I will always be a teacher, but I won't continue as a secular schoolteacher after this year. I just can't express the truth of who I am and help my students discover the truth of who they are in a government-regulated system that is inflitrating even the tiniest and most rural of community schools. Special education employees use the bulk of their time documenting, testing and meeting about academic and behavioral plans instead of actually being in the classroom (or private space) with the students. It's true that the classification is meant to ensure the student gets what they need. But even in my own child's experience, these labels don't necessarily promise that the students are being carefully cared for or considered; that is ultimately up to the "special" or "gifted" education teachers themselves. 

Two phrases kept coming up for me this week: Bureaucracy Breeds Contempt + Art Is Love

Do you want to support and inspire a child, especially one who doesn't fit into the mold, or develop academic skills at the same rate as the majority of their peers? Do you want to expand a child's mind and find each one's genius, celebrating it (and them) for the highest good? Filling out forms and regulating accommodations are not the way. Lifting their spirits through Self-Expression and Art - that is the way. They'll be more motivated to read and write and master math if you allow them to create and explore and investigate, either as individuals or as a collective. 

This week in national news, we learned about various United States states' suing of social media giant Meta on behalf of young peoples' mental health. 

CBS News reported on November 27, 2023Dozens of states are suing Meta, alleging the tech giant has deliberately engineered its social media platforms Instagram and Facebook to be addictive to children and teens. Attorneys general from states ranging from California to Wisconsin filed federal and state lawsuits on Tuesday,  accusing Meta of intentionally turning kids into social-media addicts. The lawsuits claim that Meta was motivated to keep children hooked in order to boost profits, and allege that Meta routinely collects data on children under 13 without their parents' consent, in violation of federal law.

Other countries, like Spain, are following suit. Meanwhile, even more U.S. states' Attorney Generals are getting on board. 

(Seems a perfect time for The Serious Type's social media platform to be raised from the dead, no? Anyone have a connection to Governor Jared Polis, by any chance?)

On Friday, January 31, 2024, NBC News reported that, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologized Wednesday to parents in the audience of a Senate online child safety hearing who say Instagram contributed to their children's suicides or exploitation..."I’m sorry for everything you’ve all gone through," Zuckerberg said after Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., pressed him about whether he would apologize to the parents directly. "It’s terrible. No one should have to go through the things that your families have suffered."...Questioning Zuckerberg, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., referred to a series of emails Zuckerberg allegedly received from Meta’s global affairs director, Nick Clegg...In one email, Clegg wrote, “We are not on track to succeed for our core well-being topics: problematic use, bullying and harassment connections and SSI,” which stands for “suicidal self-injury.”...Clegg, a former deputy prime minister of the United Kingdom, wrote in a subsequent email that Meta’s ability to ensure safety on its platforms was being hampered by a lack of investment in the efforts.

I doubt anyone in that room or at Facebook or Instagram or WhatsApp or any of the lawyers who brought their cases to the courthouse even know that The Serious Type (TST) exists. It doesn't matter in the least. Our mission began in early 2020, and here we are, almost four years later, and something is happening, changing, transmuting, being done. The documentary The Social Dilemma  must have helped push this agenda along. TST was a big supporter of the film when it was first released. 

Releasing your heart to the Universe, that's what matters. It's like chaos theory and the butterfly effect

I am sure that in some way The Serious Type added to this greater movement. I don't know how or when. I don't care. I am not stating this to boost my ego or justify my existence. I am writing this so that you can keep writing your most meaningful story, knowing full-well that it matters, that you matter, that everything, all of it, every single piece and part, are all connected. It's called the World Wide Web for a reason. 

Private school, public school, parochial school, homesschool, unschool: they all involve children and their developing minds, hearts and souls. You can say a lot of things to me, and I won't flinch. I can hold it altogether during scary and tragic events. But if you are trying to prove that I only care about myself and my own feelings and my own ego; that I don't care deeply for my students and for children everywhere; that I am a selfish educator who only wants my projects and passions to see the light of day; that I love my students less than you do; that I only care for the "smart" ones; that I am out for my own recognition; then I'm going to get hot. The blood will start to boil and reach my chest and my face, blotches overflowing like lava so that I can literally feel the temperature rising in my body degree by degree...

[I made more money during my first year out of graduate business school than I have since. If I were truly out for myself, I would probably be a billionaire by now, as former Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's ex-boyfriend and my former dotcom boss predicted about me a quarter century ago. Sheryl Sandberg, by the way, is now worth almost two billion dollars.] 

Those who don't understand or like me will say this extreme blushing is a mark of my guilt, my defensiveness, my insecurity, my mania, my emotional dysregulation. But even as I sit here alone on this snowy wintery day, a pumpkin-colored blanket draped over my legs, listening to calm jazz with my laptop computer as my only friend, I am still getting hot just writing these words. 

Why did God bless (or curse) me with this embarrassing physical display? So that I would never become a politician or actress? Who knows? There must be a reason why. It is not a Pinocchio's nose, I assure you. It is something else, like the shiver that permeates my entire body whenever I hear a real ghost story. It is some kind of emerging truth that I need to pay close attention to; but it is certainly not a lie. 

So now that I'm all revved up, I'm going to get off my couch and do some cleaning around the house. But before I do, I need to read some - and pray. My New Year's resolutions this year of observing Shabbat, writing, reading the Bible and praying are going great (B+). My exercising and eating, water-drinking, improvement of my appearance, not so good (C-). My cleaning up my house, pretty good (B). What else? My believing in myself and gratitude for my life, really good (A-). My humility (B-), honoring my family (B+), staying positive (B), presence at work (A-). Average (I'm estimating): B or B-. [This is my own rating system, not one that the government has designed for me.]

In any case, Shabbat has become my very most favorite part of the week, absolutely. Gracias a Dios!

Luke 11:5-13

International Holiday Bazaar, White River National Forest, Colorado; December 21, 2023

January 27, 2024

Week 5: The Chosen and the Three

The Jews are called the Chosen People because somebody had to be. If you believe in a Singular Force then one person had to have had the revelation - been given the revelation, been chosen to be revealed to - that this was a supreme truth, is The Supreme Truth. It could've been revealed to A-ha or Ee-ba or Ding-Dong or Lala-leelu-lin, but it wasn't, it was Abram, who then went by Abraham after his revelation.

Not only did Abram / Abraham have this revelation, but he was instructed, felt instructed to - was completely out of his mind with the obsession to - take this knowledge and share it with the greater world, moving his family away from the place they were all born in order to share the revelation. Not just because he wanted to get on the road and become a traveling salesman (like my father), but because he most likely would've been killed for his crazy idea if he had stayed too long in his multi-god universe (we call them Avengers today and many still worship them in plastic - not clay - form) from a town called Ur in Mesopotamia (you most likely learned about this place during your Ancient History lessons in elementary or middle school. Education Matters). 

Jews have had to carry this burden, this knowledge, for millenia. And the Muslims (in their own way) for they are part of Abraham's story as well. That every single person doesn't at least know the basics of this story is dangerous (Education Matters), so I will shorten it for you here:

Abraham and his wife Sarah (who used to be called Sarai, but she wanted an "h" added to her name, too) were getting old. She wasn't getting pregnant. There was no IVF. They had a servant. She was most likely very attractive even though her name wasn't as pretty: Hagar. Sarah says to her husband Abraham: we're getting old, we're not having any luck in the bedroom; go lay down with the servant. Maybe she can give you a son? (Because a female's reproduction rate is significantly less than a male's and Abraham was also instructed to have lots and lots of offspring: "As countless as the stars, [God] assures Abram, “so shall your descendants be” (Gen 15:5)). Abraham says no, Sarah insists, Hagar has a son by Abraham and names him Ishmael, which means God listens. Soon enough, however, Sarah, the old lady, gets pregnant. She also has a boy and names him Isaac, which means God laughs

Then this happened.*

The Jewish woman is not looking so good in this scenario, is she? But tell me, what would you have done? Have you never felt envy? Have you never been jealous of what someone else has? Can you not relate to this woman at all? Her husband is 100 years old and she finally gets to raise a son with the love of her life and share the revelation to the world together,  but at first she didn't trust in God, so she took the shortcut and enlisted her servant because she loved her husband so much she wanted for him to have a son above all else. She also lost her mind. Wouldn't you?

So, poor Hagar is out in the wilderness with her beautiful boy. Abraham loved this boy and was sad when he was forced to leave. 

Thousands of years later, Jesus (Emmanuel) is born from the generations (42 to be exact) of Isaac, Abraham's son with Sarah. 

Then about 570 years after Jesus Christ was born, Mohammed was born from the generations (21) of Ishmael, Abraham's son with Hagar. 

These numbers don't really match up, but does it really matter? These are the legends, true or not, that are at war again today, to this very day, on the very same piece of land where all of this originally (supposedly) occurred. Abraham died in Hebron, currently occupied by the Palestinians, not far from Bethlehem, which is close to Jerusalem, and just about 37 miles (60 kilometers) from Gaza. 

Also, it's important to note, that after Sarah died, Abraham married Keturah, a good and faithful woman, and together they had six sons. 

OK, now let's get back to the Chosen Ones. Why is Isaac the chosen one and Ishmael is not? Why did God even set up this terrible, awful, perpetual - and perpetuated - half-brother scenario? Why has this story survived with so much strength all these thousands of years? 

Because the truth, the Truth, of the Oneness of the Universe, was (is) astronomical. It was such a huge shift in Consciousness that everyone freaked out, and continues to freak out about It: scientists and children alike. 

The Grandness of the Universe is terrifying. But it is also beautiful. Incomprehensibly magnicently awe-inspiring. 

And we are but a speck? Or are we? Who knows? Most likely, yes, but perhaps we are special? Perhaps there are trillions of Abrahams in the multiverse, or perhaps there is only One? (We keep asking because we keep wanting to know...)

Traditionally, the Jews have been a more peaceful and organized people. Their strengths are intellectual and creative. Historically, the Muslims have been a more warring and tribal people. Their prophet Mohammed was a warrior, a military commander, a politician. He, too, had the same revelation as his ancestor Abraham: to share with his people the Truth of there being only one god (because soon enough the progeny of Ishmael had fallen back into polytheism). 

Hagar was the servant; she was not Abraham's equal like Sarah was. Isaac's line produced Jesus who was not a fighter, not a general or even a soldier, not a politician at all. An anti-politician, you could say. Jesus was a peacenik. Just like the majority of those vibrant people dancing to electronic music on October 7 in the Negev Desert. Most of those celebrants wanted Peace, not like their government minister, who wanted war, who wants War, still - a secular politician whose surname means, "God is Given" and whose first name means, "son of the right hand, son of the South, son of my days." Oy vey! (Ishmael, by the way, became an archer.)

All in the name of God? Yes. But why so cruel? Why so horrific? Why does any of it have to feel so evil? How is there is a God with so much evil in the world? - as almost every disbeliever argues. (What would be the need for God without the existence of Evil? I ask you instead.)

Because we, as a collective species, are still dumb. And why are we still dumb? Because of our egos, which no longer serve us as well as they did before all our technology. Egos are for pure survival. Food, sleep, sex. (Egos are to protect all that and to make sure they keep happening. Egos live in our reptilian brains, the amygdala. Education Matters.) The evolution of the physical body looks very different than the evolution of the human soul. 

For our tiny global population, Jews are proportionally off the charts when it comes to intelligence. No one can dispute that. Nations and individuals don't hate Jews because of their (our) wealth. We've been extremely poor during other (many) eras. We have been slaves. Money is what freed us, or so we believed. (Many continue to believe this.)

They hate us because of our intelligence, which, like generational trauma, has been passed down genetically, too. Our inherited intelligence combined with our inherited trauma makes us also disproportionately mentally ill (crazy, insane, coo-coo, nusto, weird, strange, mysterious, brilliant, genius, schizophrenic, bipolar, anxious, neurotic, odd, depressed). We don't fit in with the masses. We try, year after year, day after day, century after century, job after job, town after town, country after country...but we don't, not really, not ever. We just don't fit into a box. Any box (except our own). We are hated because our reptilian brains fear what we do not understand; fear becomess hate; hate becomes aggression; aggression becomes murder; and so on and so on. 

Whenever we think we do fit in, like in Germany during the late 1800s and early 1900s, we realize in the hardest of ways how we don't. Because we are very smart, because we always figure out a way to survive against all odds, because we don't need a homeland to exist, because we can never be truly destroyed nor eradicated nor gone. Why? Because we are the Chosen People. Why? Because someone had to be. 

But it wasn't only one person, you know. It was really two. As soon as Abraham knew, so did his wife, Sarah. They were one flesh. They were equals, and she knew it, too. And their son, he knew it also and passed it on and on and on and on and on, until today, to every corner of the Earth...

...whereas Hagar, she didn't know, not in the same way and not at the same time; she was the servant, she was not there when God revealed God. Yet Abraham loved her and God loved her and there she was, all alone, in the desert with her beautiful little boy who grew up to be an angry man who passed on that anger and hatred and resentment, and now... 

While Isaac split into two: Isaac became the Jews and the Christians. The Jews split into two and recruited a lot more. 

So then, Abraham was split into three; his second son was split into two; and his first son remains the same.

(Now, what should we do about that? All become Buddhists? Good luck with that! They're too kind and passive to fight for anything. Even if Jesus was further enlightened by them somewhere along the Silk Road, most likely by a traveling salesman, a merchant of India or China or both, selling something of value, or maybe not...my own father was a traveling salesman who traded in and with China and India, but those stories are for another day... but, oh, look at that: "Jews from Jerusalem traded with the Chinese and used the silk road to transport goods from Jerusalem to China. The goods transported from Jerusalem to China included perfumes, jewellery [sic], silk and perfumes." My dad manufactured clothes, shmatas, as they're called in the Garment District by garmentos.)

Let's return to the Power of Three, though, before we get way off-route: 


Abraham had three baby-mamas: Hagar, Sarah, Keturah;


the Abrahamic Revelation was split into three religions: Judaism, Islam, Christianity; 


God is split into three forms: The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit; 


The Universe is split into three variables:  Mass, Acceleration, Force (thank you, Newton, born on Christmas Day) - 


and later: Mass, Light, Energy (thank you, Einstein, born on Pi Day). 


We are All Connected. We are All One. We are All Related. Mitakuye Oyasin. Bring Back the Bison. They are reborn souls of genocide and theriocide. 

(Then I find and read this passage below online. I had no recollection or knowledge of this passage before looking it up just now, I promise.)


[God] says to [Abram], "Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old she-goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young bird.” He brought all these and cut them in two, placing each half opposite the other; but he did not cut up the bird. Birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away.


What does this represent? I don't know what other scholars have said or written (I haven't looked that up on Google yet), but based on my previous line of thinking from just a few minutes ago, this is what I think it means:


The "three" represents the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Islam and Chistianity, split into three different forms: a heifer (cow, perhaps a bison), a she-goat, and a ram. Which religion is which? I'd say the Jews are the ram, the Muslims are the she-goat and the Christians are the cow(boy)s, but that's up for further debate, of course. 


The turtledove and the young bird, perhaps those are Isaac and Ishmael, or Sarah and Hagar, or Christ and Mohammed? (Hard to say. Maybe they're all the same entity?)


In any case, the animals were cut in two (see: Aristotle's theories about the soul divided into two soulmates, otherwise known as "twin flames"), split in half (like the atom bomb; have you watched Oppenheimer yet?), as they oppose one another (blowing up the world, both literally and figuratively), forever yearning for wholeness, but the bird (the young bird, I assume, not the turtledove, or both?), that is/they are already whole, the one religion, the one idea, the Unity, the Singular Force, the Supreme Truth, untouched, reborn, a child, just born: Jesus. Meanwhile, the birds of prey, the bullies, the crabs (as they've been modernly dubbed), Abraham "drove them away." (The truth sets us free, even in death.)


Abraham saw, heard, felt, followed these directions. And then his eight sons were born, first by his maidservant (some later referred to her as a concubine, a whore, a hired slut, which really isn't fair, is it, but we're not going down the rabbit hole of feminism and misogyny just yet, don't worry) and then by his first wife and then by his last wife. 


Yup, these are all Deep Thoughts, my cowboy rodeo friend. Can't help it. Born this way and not my fault. But thanks for going on the ride with me, anyway. No one likes to be in a boat all by herself for too long. (Have you caught any fish yet?)


The story in Genesis continues:


As the sun was about to set, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a great dark dread descended upon him. And [God] said to Abram, "Know well that your offspring shall be strangers in a land not theirs, and they shall be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years; but I will execute judgment on the nation they shall serve, and in the end they shall go free with great wealth. As for you, You shall go to your ancestors in peace; You shall be buried at a ripe old age. And they shall return here in the fourth generation...


Damn, Abraham! You're good! How did you know all that so many years ago? How smart you are! How intelligent! What a mensch


Oh, right, that wasn't you at all. That was God using you as a mouthpiece, a vessel. As a prophet. Circles, circles, circles, Pi Day, Pi Day, Pi Day, Mitakuye Oyasin, Mitakuye Oyasin, Mitakuye Oyasin...as the natives always say. We are All Related. 


One, two, three; 

un, deux, trois; 

uno, dos, tres; 

wahad, tneen, talateh; 

akhat, shta'im, shalosh. 


Thank you, Internet; you allow Consciousness to move at a speed closer to light than mass. I am grateful for you despite all the damage you are inflicting upon all of us, especially our youth. And yet, without you, these words and knowledge and ideas would be a big jumble of scattered pieces living somewhere inside my insatiable (often tormented) brain and/or hidden in libraries impossible to access on a Shabbat morning tucked inside a Colorado Rocky Mountain valley townhome, the sun shining, begging me to take my dog for a walk around the neighborhood.


Good Shabbas, everyone! May your deep rest provide you with enough resilience to carry you forward for the next week. 

Seriously, 

NB


*The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. 9 But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”

11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son.12 But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. 13 I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”

14 Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba.

15 When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she began to sob.

17 God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”

19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

20 God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. 21 While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt.  - Genesis 21:8-21, NIV

Senior Absurdity Day, Horace Mann School, Bronx, New York;  October 1988 

January 20, 2024

Week 4: Bullies + the Bulls

I have found that the stronger I get, the more obstacles (in the form of other human beings) I have to overcome. We use the word "bully" or "bullying" these days to describe this experience, but when I use that terminology, even if only in my own mind, it makes me feel like I am the victim; as in, I am allowing myself to be bullied, or even worse, I deserve to be bullied. 

(But that's not really what's going on. What's going on is that I am being challenged so that I may grow and become ever stronger in order to fulfill my destiny.)

Bullies are merely people who need to demean or derail other human beings in order to feel better about themselves. They will tell themselves a story about how you are less; then tell other people this same story about how you are less or set you up to fail until the energy around you shifts and, if you are vulnerable, eventually you internalize this story and make it your own. 

(Don't allow it to become your story; your story is much greater than even you yourself can imagine.)

This is not to say I don't have faults or aspects of my personaility that could use some work; of course I do. However, a true friend helps to lift me up or makes space for me to accept my weaknesseses while a bully uses them to her advantage. 

(Her advantage for what means, to what end? She is merely rerouting your journey so that you may follow your divinity.)

The first significant bully I encountered, and then countered, was Lizzie Grubman. In certain elite circles, she was, and still is, quite well-known. We were in eighth grade and she may as well have been Donald Trump. In fact, there's an excellent chance her father and Trump knew each other somehow while conducting their business around Manhattan during the 1980s. Maybe they were great friends. Maybe they were enemies, and still are. Who knows, and who cares, really, except to say that bullies don't begin and end in middle or high school. Some of them never grow up. 

(Oh, and look at that...thank you, Internet, for providing this proof of my logic: https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2020/05/allen-grubman-donald-trump-hack)

I have mostly faced female bullies, and I find them, in general, to be more sneaky and backhanded than male bullies. Oftentimes you can't see them coming until it's almost too late. 

(Too late for what? She is always right on time.)

If I could write on my resume "bully-buster" I would, but then that would defeat the point. I find that most of my professional jobs end these days in dismantling the bully. But it's not something I go looking for, really, or strategize about. I am not much of a strategic, manipulative or competitive person. Really, I'm not. I am motivated by ideas, creativity, psychological and academic challenges, collaboration, cooperation, entertainment, adventure and peace. Love, actually. Adoration and praise are fleeting and often false; flattery and accolades hold little weight for me. Appreciation and gratitude, those hold a lot. As a result, I have almost no patience for meanness (among my peers in particular), or for ignorance, arrogance or gossip. 

(You gossip sometimes, too, don't you?)

Many say that what you see or attract is what you yourself are putting out into the world, or that your complaints are a reflection of your own shortcomings. Sometimes I think that's just another form of "you don't love yourself enough" (see last week's entry for more on that). When I'm feeling less defensive, I can admit these are traits I'd rather not admit exist inside of me, as they exist inside of you, too. That's a fair enough argument. We are each mirrors of one another. 

(You can also come across as arrogant, but that is not who you are. When you are feeling attacked, you protect yourself with self-assuredness, which can look like arrogance.)

However, the most insecure of us, the most unaware, the most jealous (parts) of us become the greatest bullies - and source for bullying. Hence, the best way to counteract a bully is to become the best, strongest, most capable and kind version of yourself, which, again, means turning and facing towards God. 

(Loving God so that we can love ourselves fully.)

Bullies are terrified of God. The light blinds them and they become disoriented. If they look towards God, their meanness begins to fade, and that terrifies them. For if they are not expending their energy belittling others, well, then, they have more time to look inside of themselves, which is the most courageous and intimidating act of all. 

(Have mercy on them.)

God knows we have too many in key leadership positions in the world right now. It's looking more like the 1930s every day.

(Love your enemy and your neighbor, both.)

I don't have the solution to eradicate bullying. Each individual case varies. Bullies can be extremely tricky. However, I can say with much confidence that there are a few truths that are analogous to throwing a bucket of water over the Wicked Witch of the West: 1) Honesty, 2) Integrity, 3) becoming the best version of yourself, 4) Faith in the Goodness of an Almighty Loving God, and 5) not wanting to fill the void yourself with the space provided once the bully is removed or disappears. 

The last two truths are the most critical with regard to shutting down the bullying cycle. Do not attempt, or even imagine yourself, taking over the power throne where the bully currently sits. That is counter-productive and just plain wrong. This is not the reason why you are working and praying to remove the bully. You want to counter the bully so that everyone around him can be free to be their best selves, not so that you can take his place. Not so that you can enjoy that collective power for yourself. That defeats the whole point. Lift up those around you so that they are self-empowered enough to see and deflect the bully for themselves. Be willing to step away completely from the conflict once you have shed your light on it. Trust in Justice. And the indominable human spirit to fight for its freedom. 

(Do not make any plans, period. Just be.)

The most brilliant prophets in history have understood these tenets well. Prophets are the very best bully-busters on record. 

(They trusted in the voice of God and followed what God told them to write, to say, to do.)

This is why it breaks my heart over and over again that the Jewish people don't claim the pre-eminent prophet as their own. It's like being the Chicago Bulls in the 1980s and '90s and trading Michael Jordan to the Houston Rockets. Michael Jordan needed the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Bulls needed Michael Jordan. They made history together. 

What even is the etymology of the word "bully"? Well, again thanks to the Internet, we find a most fascinating flip-flopping:

"One noun bully was a term of endearment and familiarity originally applied to either sex. It is first recorded in A comedy concernynge thre lawes, of nature Moses, & Christ, corrupted by the sodomytes. Pharysees and Papystes (1548?), written by John Bale (1495-1563), English polemicist and historian, and Bishop of Ossory:



The woman hath a wytt,
And by her gere can sytt,
Though she be sumwhat olde.
It is myne owne swete bullye,
My muskyne and my mullye,
My gelouer and my cullye.
Yea, myne owne swete hart of Golde."


Damn, I'm good. Aye, that is the rub, though, isn't it? It isn't me. I am merely a vessel that's being led by some higher force I can hardly understand. This force has gifted me with the ability to share my journey with you so that we may learn together. I can't explain it any other way but through words that were written long before the beginning of my current life (Isaiah 55:8-11).

(To this I remember, Loving God is a practice. It is easy to forget. It is easy to forget ourselves when we forget God. This is why we pray. Together and on our own, we pray so that we always remember; so that we remain humble and compassionate even - especially - in the face of our greatest adversaries and during the most turbulent of times.) 

Forgive those who tresspass against you so that your tresspasses may also be forgiven. 

Seriously, 

NB

Con paz, shalom, sa'aalem malekim, go in peace, avec paix 

Toronto Pearson International Airport; December 22, 2017

January 13, 2024

Week 3: Insecurity + Loneliness

Have you noticed this, too? When someone wants to insult you without your thinking it's an insult they say, You don't love yourself enough. You need to love yourself more. You are too insecure. This is code word talk for: I want to keep perceiving or treating you the same way and not take any responsibility for it. It is your fault for not loving yourself more. You are the one who has to change, not me. In our New Age language, it's okay to judge someone else's self-actualization. In actuality, you both have no idea. 

I do believe I change. I can transmute. I am not the same person I was 20, 30, 40 years ago. And yet, in some ways, I very much am. 

I can learn extremely quickly what I need to learn at the moment. And other things, like how deep one's falseness can be, it can take me a very, very long time to discover. (Even my own.)

Forgiveness. On both sides. Most people don't want to be seen. Most are terrified you will see them for who they truly are. 

I'm the opposite. I want to be seen. I want to be seen for who I truly am. I think it's a good thing. (Most of the time - except when I don't.)

When you are looking towards God, up to God, towards the Light, towards the most authentic version of your own self, then you are changing, transmuting, forgiving, loving, nearing. 

When you are looking away from God, away from yourself, then you have become more soul-less. (Is this what you mean, then, when you tell me that I don't love myself enough? Are you trying to hurt me or help me? I can't always tell the difference.)

This is not judgment. This is how it is. 

How do I know this? Because we all know this. Deep within us we know that we are God. And we can see God. And we are part of God. Because we are All One. We are All Connected. 

We are All One, and yet we are all Unique. Every single one of us. We are not a statistic, as the tyrants and malipulators believe, we are each our own person, flawed and perfect All. (Yes, even the tyrants and manipulators; they are part of us and we are part of them.)

I am insecure at times, often, but that is not because I don't love myself enough, or that I don't love people enough, it's because I don't love God enough. 

I get lonely. Very lonely. I want to be seen. I want someone to love me and truly see me all at the same time. Because when I don't feel that Loving Presence, I am lonely. I don't feel seen. I don't feel known. I feel all alone. 

But I am not Alone. (And neither are you.)

I love myself. I care very deeply for myself. That has certainly grown over time. But there is also something inside of me that scares people, that makes them not trust me, that makes them wary, that makes me know I am ultimately an outsider. The outsider. (Sometimes even an outsider to my own self.)

Could it be because I am Jewish? How profound is anti-Semitism? How secret is it amongst its crowd? How loud? How quiet?

Or, instead (I say with much Hope), could it be that I am beautiful, that I am, too, beautiful for them to see, that in fact I feel more beautiful towards myself than they allow for? 

Is it my blatant moodiness that makes people uncomfortable? My disarming honesty? My virtual self-flagellation? My internalization of others' projections onto me? My over-analytical, over-active mind? (My simultaneous contradictions?) I don't know. I don't know really what makes people question my motives. I do enjoy my own company, which I am continually striving to understand and accept. (Even my depression has become oddly comforting because of its familiarity.)

Life is a process. We learn every day. We love and can hate on the very same day. We can feel to the bottom of a hole for a lot of the day. Every day. 

I'm no preacher, but maybe I am. I don't know, but every day I know more. 

This is my Shabbat sermon. In this way, I am most committed. 

I was healthier this week for sure, healthier to my body, and to myself. I cleaned and took care of my home more. I listened to myself more. I expressed myself more. I rested on a day I needed to. I listened to my body. I was humbled and turned toward my commitment of honoring Shabbat. I did do a little work today, but I forgive myself for that, for it was out of Love (and to secure a paycheck) - 

And, during this week in particular, I tried to connect with many people in my life for whom I feel an even deeper sense of Love for in some way, in some greater capacity, for whatever reason...and they are knowing it, too. (Aren't they? Does that even matter?)

In this I trust in God who loves me most of all. 

Con paz, shalom, sa'aalem malekim, go in peace, avec paix 

Seriously,

NB

*After writing and editing this entry, I opened up to where I am in the Jewish Annotated New Testament (Amy-Jill Levine et al) and read the entirety of Luke 9. #52 (#gfy)

Old City Jerusalem, Israel; June 13, 2019

January 6, 2024

Week 2: Rest + Regulation* 

I can't say I did an excellent job of following all the goals I set for myself last week. Not even a very good one. Then I realized I can't fix all my bad habits in one week, nor would I want to. The mornings are toughest for me. My dreams are full and worlds in and of themselves. When I wake, it takes some time to reorient myself. Hopping right out of bed at the crack of dawn seems as impossible to me as running a marathon at this very moment; it's going to take a lot of training to reach the end of those daunting twenty-six miles. 

Most of the dreams are complex, winding through various rooms and scenarios. Many of you are in them. So are faces I have no recollection of ever encountering before. Some of my dreams have actually come true in what we deem "real life." There was a period of time when I wrote down many of these dreams because of the significant influence they were having on my waking decisions. 

This morning I woke to a dream about a group of unfamiliar young people, mostly in their twenties and thirties. I was also of that age. We were studying and performing and falling in love with one another. This is all that I can recall at this moment. 

For New Year's Eve, I attended a beautiful party with beautiful people, dancing and singing to beautiful music surrounded by a vast landscape of streams, rivers and mountains. I couldn't help but sit in the corner of the large room alone at one point, conscious of the fact that just a few months prior on October 7, a group of beautiful people similar to this one on the other side of our planet were also dancing and singing and playing music, blissfully, innocently, communally, celebrating life and one another surrounded by a vast landscape of desert, sand and mesas. 

The ritual I am choosing to embrace first and foremost is the Sabbath, also known as Shabbat or Shabbos. It is the Fourth of the Ten Commandments**, which is recognized (although not necessarily practiced) by the three monotheistic religions of the world: Judaism, Christianity (Protestants and Catholics) and Islam, which comprise of more than half (57.6%) of the global population. Much has been written about the holinesss of Shabbat (the seventh day of the week), most eloquently by Abraham Heschel in his book, The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man published in 1951, which I read many years ago. In it, he wrote, "The solution of mankind’s most vexing problem will not be found in renouncing technical civilization, but in attaining some degree of independence of it."

It may seem oxymoronic or lazy or incongruent to choose the Day of Rest as my first active ritual. But my hope is that it will become the finish line of each week that allows me the strength to fulfill all my other daily responsibilities and goals. 

During the Sabbath (Friday night and Saturday day), I will do what rewards me and honors God the most, the activities that do not feel like "work" to me, including: prayer, study, writing, being with family, sleeping late, eating bread, drinking wine, lighting candles and playing in Nature. There are many laws in Jewish orthodoxy and much commentary about what and what does and does not constitute "work," a lot of which can become extraordinarily burdensome in this modern era. 

I am not necessarily making up my own rules about what is permissible on Shabbat, but rather interpreting the commandment in a way that feels possible as a first step into a life of worship and faith. I prefer not to argue right now about the slings and arrows of our each making up our own regulations to fit our own needs at the expense of society as a whole, except to say that I do believe our connection with God is our own connection with God; it is a personal connection that should not be interfered with by any other human being, including an imam, pastor, priest or rabbi. The holy books of Judaism, Christianity and Islam all confirm and espouse this singular divine relationship, so who am I to dispute it?

I am well aware that there are many non-monotheistic religions, atheists and agnostics who follow other ritualistic practices that help with achieving similar goals. For me, this is just further proof of how much we as humans desire and need tradition in our lives. It may even be fair enough to conclude from these examples that we are biologically programmed to develop traditions, all of which are are tendrils originating from the same stem (as I mentioned in my first post).  

We are all connected. Even scientists. "The 3,000-year-old concept of monism [the doctrine that only one supreme being exists] may actually help modern physicists in their struggle to find a theory of quantum gravity and make sense out of black holes, the Higgs boson, and the early Universe. Chances are high that we witness the beginning of a new era where science is informed by monism and the Universe is perceived as a unified whole. (Heinrich Päs, All is One)"

I am jumping ahead here, so I'll return to the introduction of this contemplation. One of the goals I set for myself this year was to write (here) every week: to say something of value that I have pondered throughout the week. I found myself looking forward to this dedicated time when I would write down my ideas in some cohesive fashion. (I even cleared my bedroom desk from all the shit piling on top of it). Writing allows me to make sense of my own thoughts, place them in some kind of order, preserve them for future reflection. "Better to write for yourself and have no public than write for the public and have no self. (Cyril Connolly)"

I had an idea of keeping track on a Google spreadsheet of all the goals I listed last week, rating my success as the year progressed. I would make this spreadsheet public for anyone interested in following me, helping me to remain accountable, perhaps inspiring them to do the same. However, on second thought, I think I'll keep this rating system private for the time being. It's between God and me, anyway; another way for me to remain steadfast in my resolutions this year of focusing on myself and my own well-being, and not giving a f-k (thank you, JMS) about what anyone else thinks of me, except of course, for God. 

Seriously, 

NB

*The click bait title I came up with was "Holy Arrest." But upon Googling that phrase, I learned it's a reference to Jesus' detainment after Judas snitched on him, so I returned to the original boring title for this piece instead.

**God recorded the Fourth Commandment in Exodus 20:8-11 (this is numbered as the Third Commandment by Catholics and Lutherans):“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it."


13 Moons Ranch, Carbondale, Colorado; New Year's Eve 2023

January 1, 2024

Week 1: Discipline + Freedom* 

One of the key truths that I have learned as a parent and teacher is that role modeling matters. It is one of the ways we are biologically hard-wired to learn. Monkey see, monkey do - even if the word "monkey" has now somehow become derogatory, you get the point. 

I created The Serious Type as a way for young people to express themselves with the hope that this platform would help to improve their sense of self-worth, mental fitness, agency and overall productivity. I imagined it at the beginning of 2020 and started bringing it to life later that summer. Since then, many people have graciously contributed their time, resources and energy to the overall vision. We have produced several projects, including a proprietary digital platform, which is currently in hibernation. There are still some other projects in development.

The world is even more chaotic and frightening than it was during those Covid-induced days of 2020 and 2021. We are increasingly overwhelmed and polarized, working ever-harder to maintain some semblance of normalcy and status quo. A band of dictators and tyrants are using the Earth as their own private video game where real people are being murdered in the worst imaginable ways. As a result, they keep us at odds against one another as we argue over the degrees and justifications for evil. 

How can I ask anyone (young or not) to share their ideas or fund productions that I have yet to fully model myself? So, here I am, using a simple platform to expresss myself in the hope of picking myself up out of the muck to create a better future for myself. Myself, me, I. I must fill my own cup for it to spillith over. This I have learned through much trial, tribulation, and error, not to mention the continual reminders from friends and family alike. 

What I have recognized in myself is a treacherous lack of self-discipline. It is what the most successful people have developed in themselves minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, year by year; it is how they judge those around them. Although I was not by any means a rebellious child, my puerile rebellion has continued to this day. I do not want to be controlled. Who does, really? I do not want anyone to tell me what I have to do, what I have to say, who I have to be. This is the ultimate freedom, isn't it? Don't we all want to be and feel free? Isn't this desire at the deepest core of the United States of America - in its founders' flight from their homeland, in their fight against their oppressors, and in their constitutional documentation? Even while they were oppressing others in their new land at the same time? I won't get into that irony here, but rather as a point of how we are continually fighting for our freedoms, no matter who we are and where we live. 

And yet, our freedom is not won by being completely free: free to make our own schedules, free to act in any way we want, free to say whatever we want. Even within our freedoms, there must be limits if we want a healthy, functioning society. We need schedules and set expectations among one another. In order for us to feel truly free, we must limit our freedoms. This is the ultimate irony of life and why the formation of society was developed in tandem with religion. It is not the religion itself, but rather how it is interpreted. 

Religion - an organized awareness of a higher force than the individual human - exists for good reason. It exists to give us boundaries, tradition, rhythm, schedules, expectations, rules, laws, purpose, meaning, community, responsibility and accountability. It is not the root of all evil. In fact, it's the complete opposite. A friend recently described all religions as different tendrils that have each emanated from the same stem. I think that's beautifully and exactly spot on. 

A secular legal system is simply not enough to maintain our collective sanity. If we do not recognize a higher power that we must answer to; that we must respect; that we must trust as the ultimate Force for Good then we are doomed. What we call God; how we experience God; what God is; how God could ever be possible in light of the historical and present chaos and atrocities, well, that's way too much to cover here. But it's what I hope to explore as I keep writing this blog. 

For me to do that, however, I need to become a lot more disciplined. Referring to myself as an "artist" is not a vaild enough excuse for not setting a strict schedule for myself. There is no way for me to maintain a healthy mind, body and soul without one. It's true, I have gotten away with a lot so far. My ingenuity, intelligence and good luck have allowed me to mostly play by my own rules, but it's not working anymore, not if I want to enjoy several more decades on this planet. My freedoms don't make me feel free anymore; they make me feel lazy and unmoored, wasteful, spoiled, and stagnant. Perhaps this is simply the result of female aging. 

In any case, I'm not quite sure how I'm going to do it. Wake up earlier and exercise. Limit my indulgent eating. Clean my house. Go to work. Prepare for work. Be present at work. Feed and support my children and pets. Improve my appearance. Be grateful for what I have. Be kind and generous to others. Pray and read and study. Write. Open my heart and opportunities for love. Be sober. Drink a lot of water. Be humble. Honor my family. Every day. Every damn day...oh, yes, and stay positive!

It's a lot. I don't know how I'm going to do it. I don't know how anyone does it without stead-fast faith in something greater. I don't think that kind of belief is a crutch; rather, our belief should be legs to stand on. The crutch is everything else that supports you when you can't walk up straight on your own two feet. 

*If you are offended at any point and/or don't want to be associated in any way with these personal meanderings, feel free to unsubscribe from any newsletter or social media associated with The Serious Type. If your name is mentioned anywhere on this site or elsewhere in connection with The Serious Type and you want it removed, please just let me know and I will do so, no questions asked. 

Any funds that have been contributed to The Serious Type have been used already for previous projects. Should you want to support current projects moving forward, including this blog and the awakening of the sleeping digital platform, please reach out to me via email. I have chosen to use this platform, and not create a new individualized one, with the hope that one day my words will inspire others to express themselves using the multi-purpose Serious Type platform that is waiting to be reborn. 

A Happy and Healthy 2024, Everyone! We have nowhere else to go but up...

Seriously, 

NB: Nikki Beinstein, or "an abbreviation for the Latin phrase nota bene, meaning note well. It is used to emphasize an important point."

nikki@theserioustype.org

*NB - If you are offended at any point and/or don't want to be associated in any way with these personal meanderings, feel free to unsubscribe from any newsletter or social media associated with The Serious Type. If your name is mentioned anywhere on this site or elsewhere in connection with The Serious Type and you want it removed, please just let me know and I will do so, no questions asked.  These ideas and references presented here are my own and in no way represent those of anyone else associated with The Serious Type. email: nikki@theserioustype

Banner Photo taken in Central Park, NYC; Fall 1988