yom kippur confession

yom kippur.

what can i say that won’t sound predictably cynical?

for one thing, i can’t complain, because ironically, my caregiver status and mom’s sickness give me the perfect excuse for not having to be subjected to tedious, excruciatingly meaningless hours of mindless ritual repetition of archaic prayers that half the congregants don’t even get, or else they’re too busy checking out each other’s latest fashions, or schmoozing.  but see how i framed that statement in positivity!  i’m not complaining, because i’m obviously not there!  that was my token attempt, now back to our program.

yom kippur is a disturbing day in the jewish calendar, there’s no getting away from it.  it’s the one day when jews officially refrain from all the materialism, overindulgence, and business as usual, to compensate for all the religious atonement they never have to bother with throughout the year.  they stand and sit repeatedly for hours on end, going through the motions of repentance, trying hard not to think about FOOD, but you know that’s what they’re obsessing over!  the average jew in this country has to be well enough off just to afford to be jewish, and you know fasting isn’t one of their favorite pastimes, let alone something they’re forced by poverty to endure on a daily basis, like much of the world.

meanwhile, the real meaning of the day gets lost, or diluted, or circumlocuted.  no one wants to actually confront their guilt or failings toward each other and make it right, before g-d will forgive them as a community or individual.  i know i don’t!  that’s the aspect of YK that’s more disturbing to me than all the hypocrisy, tedium, ostentatiousness, etc.  i’m already admittedly an outlier from religion, but as a person with a whole history of regrettable behavior and attitudes toward others, all that weight comes home to roost on top of me especially on this day.  a lifetime of yom kippur repentance in dust and ashes could not absolve me.  where would i even begin?  so instead, i just sit here and type, and wait for another day to be over.

i suppose this sounds like a confession in itself.  but i never pretend to be the good or altruistic person some folks might think i am.  also, i suck at apologizing or asking for forgiveness, or forgiving others.  (in case you hadn’t noticed.)  my childhood environment was not very conducive to learning those skills, yet here i am as a much older, supposedly maturer, adult, still blaming and resenting the past.  it’s the most difficult thing in the world for me to grow up and do the right thing for the right reasons.  maybe it’s humiliating.  or maybe i know too well that i’ll just fall back into the same bad attitudes, so why pretend?  the remorse is genuinely there, but the character is lacking.

i’m not even sure why i’m saying all this to the indifferent void.  it’s an odd feeling, particularly on this day of the year, to be such a disconnected outsider in the land of ultra-religious practitioners that i myself was once a part of.  i burned out on religion long ago, so i have no interest in going backwards.  still, indoctrination dies a slow death, so i still feel like a fugitive from justice on this portentous day.   only myself left here to come clean to.

on the other hand, i didn’t think about food once while writing this!  ok, well, maybe for a second i did.  and the day is half over.  we’ll see how that goes, round about beer break time.

just another 9/11 in the VOE

my parents always used to go to the world trade center, to shop and eat.  i remember looking down from one of the towers, high above the streets.  not long before 9/11, i was visiting, and we drove along the road overlooking that familiar skyline as usual, taking it for granted.

and then one day it was just gone, in a scene from a nightmare.  my parents and people i knew could easily have been up there on that day.  i have a young relation  who was running through the devastation with her kid, to escape.  and of course everyone from here knows of people whom they lost that day.

the major flight paths go right over our house to and from newark and other major airports.  you get used to the constant drone of planes overhead.  you never get used to that sudden silence, and after that the panic when you did hear a jet.  today the sky seems a bit quiet, as i imagine they still reroute traffic on 911, so i notice when a plane flies over.

now ground zero is like a sacred mass burial ground that pilgrims visit from all over the world.  i imagine future kids being told, your ancestors are buried there.  for that matter, so are some older people’s descendants, or perhaps the ones that would never be born.

who knows, if you dig down deep enough, there may be an ancient native american burial ground under there, over which new york was eventually built.  just the way my mind works, not trying to make some inappropriate point here. i guess i’m just thinking about burials lately, for some reason.

mass murders are not something you forget easily.  what must it be like for people all over the world who go through it every day, as a matter of course?  for us here it’s the exception, not the rule.  imagine generations of communal memory traumatized by genocide.  9/11 x infinity=the history of the human race.

well, it being 9/11, i think i’m entitled to a small lapse in my otherwise cheery posts!  ok, i admit it, my little experimental foray into positive thinking is doomed, DOOMED!  i’m way out of my depth here—depth of despair, that is.  who am i fooling?  9/11 is just another day in the VOE.



‘all these impermanent things’

my next door neighbors have been observing shivah for the death of their wife/mother this week, so i’ve been spending more time over there than i have in decades.  we all go back to the very beginning of our families living here.  we kids played together in our yards (people used to do that), and now i’m playing with their little kids.  if it weren’t a funeral, it would seem almost festive.  it seems to be one of the few times in human culture that we all take the time to get back together and hang out, anymore.

so it got me thinking about the differences in our two families, and how that eventually played out in each case.  when that family first moved in, their older parents lived with them.  their whole extended family appears to live in the general NY vicinity.  to this day, their house is modest, neat, and functional.  they actually use every room, including the living room!  it’s clean but looks lived in.  the kitchen is tiny and not recently redone.  little grandkids are allowed to play wherever the elders are visiting.  nothing is fancy, pretentious, or museum-like.

likewise, the whole family is casual, laid-back, and unpretentious.  they’ve always been very practical and down-to-earth.  they all seem emotionally stable, and get along.  they’ve consistently reached out to others, and never put on airs or façades.  predictably, the grown kids stayed nearby or dropped in frequently.  even now, in their major loss, with hundreds of loyal relatives and friends coming and going and camped out, they continue to take it in stride and be at ease.

yesterday was typical: one daughter was sitting under a tree breastfeeding her baby, with a crowd of well-wishers gathered around talking, her little son playing with his truck, people coming and going, no one particularly concerned with appearances or rigid behavior.  only the size of the crowd and the kipot gave a hint that it was a solemn religious occasion.

at this point, i’m not going to launch into a diatribe about all the contrasts in style, upbringing, and results between our two families.  anyone who knows me, or has followed this blog, knows all too well what i think about that subject.  you can pretty much predict the two different outcomes for yourself, using inductive reasoning.  two contrasting sets of circumstances, two very different results.  exhibit A, exhibit B.  there seems to be a direct correlation.

it boils down to priorities.  a pristine façade and rigid expectations can never make up for a healthy, realistic, mutually-respectful approach to human relations.  i’m not sure the two can exist comfortably together.  the first is artificial and leaves you in the end with nothing but an empty museum.  the second puts people and their needs first, material things and judgement in perspective.

there is a third option, in which total chaos rules, but that may not be as opposite to the first as it appears.  in both cases, human needs are overlooked in the shuffle of mixed-up priorities.  they are both unhealthy, unbalanced conditions.

so anyway.  yes, this is yet another death-related post!  but only incidentally.  i suppose it’s another negative point of view, but it’s where i’m from.  i can’t go back and change my upbringing or the bad decisions resulting from it, but i can try to understand where humans go wrong and lose sight of what really matters.  life is too short to sacrifice what is precious to what is impermanent, egotistic, and hollow.  i should know–on many levels.






ah the irony!

and…wouldn’t you know it, someone goes and dies, just when i was being so convincingly (to no one) cheery and positive.  you’d think all those adorable kittens and flowers would have done the trick, but NO, someone has to go and DIE and undo my earnest attempt at levity.  but i’m sure you could see right through it anyway.  who was i fooling?  this is the dept. of death in the vortex of evil [DOD in the VOE, yo] so what do you expect?  but i’ll keep doggedly trying to be what i’m not, even with all the dead bodies flopping all around me.  stiff upper lip, and all that bloody rot!  festive fun(erals)!    😀


‘always look on the bright side of life…’ monty python

i was all ready to default to my usual ‘why me’ gloom and doom setting, when i remembered i’m trying to keep it positive.  it’s so unnatural!  i’ll die and all few of my followers will breathe a sigh of relief.  whew! now we won’t have to kill ourselves!  though i doubt i have that much influence over anyone.

so, positive.  how about this?


this is my clever mascot, closet skeleton!  just hanging in the lovely ‘cask of amontillado room’.


and this:

here is a cute cartoon character i was watching with my gson when he was younger.


but wait, there’s more!

look, a festive and cheery birthday decoration i made!



somehow i suspect i’m not getting quite the positive effect i was going for.  i suppose you want cute kittens and heartwarming domestic scenes.  ok, ok, you win…


(oops, how’d he get in there?  but he looks cheery enough, wouldn’t you say?)


there now.  feeling better?  see, i can be positive when i try.