Monthly Archives: December 2013

Accentuate The Negative

meee

Welcome to 2014.  Well almost.  When the calendar flipped the page 14 years ago to the year 2000 I doubt any of us would have predicted the world to be what it is today.  Mired in political unrest, global conflict, economic collapse and growing hatred for everyone, our world seems to be spiraling into the abyss.  And no one seems to care enough to stop the process.

Those who know me and at least marginally like my writing skills generally know that I do my best work when writing with emotion.  If that is indeed the case, expect to enjoy this article.  Oh wait, enjoyment is a thing of the past.  That’s not what sells anymore and certainly not what gets the most attention on social media.  Instead we need to focus on our disdain for those who do not hold the same political views as we do, for if as a conservative or liberal, someone has a different philosophy they must be the cause of all the world’s problems.

We also talk much tougher these days.  There’s no need to attempt any peaceful solution with the enemy when it is so much easier to send an army to fight on our behalf.  I know people will die, but that’s of little consequence since I’ll still be safe at home and able to proclaim my militancy on social media.  After all, we can’t really trust anyone today, can we?

I am the son of Holocaust survivors.   The knowledge and clarity I believe my parents gave to me has lead me to an understanding that the Jewish people always have some form of a target on their back from someone.  Understanding that we have been murdered, terrorized and attacked in the past does not give me a persecution complex.  It just gives me insight.  However, believing that anyone whoever says anything bad about the Jewish people wants us all dead does indeed mean I have a persecution complex.  This is a statement that can apply to anyone who belongs to a group that has suffered some degree of persecution on any level in the past.  Not all contradictory statements are signs of bigotry.  Sometimes they are signs of ignorance, sometimes they are incorrect statements, and here is the hardest one for people to come to terms with, sometimes they are actually correct.   But they very often do not constitute attacks on an entire group of people.

Of course there have been those who jumped to the side of bashing Nelson Mandela since he passed away, and although I am not one to think someone is great just because everyone else does, I do indeed recognize the behavior and actions that made him great.  As a Jew, I don’t think he is an anti-Semite because he hugged and made nice with Yasser Arafat.  This is the same man who made nice with the men who imprisoned him for 27 years in the name of what he considered to be the best strategy for his nation moving forward.  I guess that means Nelson Mandela was actually in favor of apartheid.  Interesting since by standing next to Fidel Castro he automatically becomes a Marxist, right?

I remember the days when even if we hated the president, we still respected the office.  Even when we hated the president so much that we could claim a president’s behavior didn’t show respect for the office, the people still maintained their respect to some degree.  Today is different.   Whether it’s calling George W. Bush an idiot or insultingly calling Barack Obama a Muslim Mullah because his middle name is Hussein, all respect for the office has gone out the window. 

Today another popular approach is fear mongering.  Beware of the impending martial law or New World Order.  Soon we can expect everything to change and our entire world will go to hell and the very fabric of our society will crumble.  The good news is, and this is very important, when it does, we can make a nice post on Facebook and bring to everyone’s attention what a visionary we have always been.  After all, it’s more important that we are right and look heroic to our “friends” than that we actually say or do the right thing.

I’m not bitter. I’m really not.  I actually feel quite good about the future.  I’m just trying to write a post that will appeal to the masses.  Good tidings and positive vibes are just, well you know, not realistic.  So I might as well call this article the sell out, because who is actually going to “Like” your post on your blog or your thread on Facebook if talks about optimism for the future.  That would be lame.

So with all of you who feel resolutions are important on New Years and not so important the rest of the year, here’s an idea.  How about being resolved to find some good in the world instead of constantly focusing on everything that is wrong with it?  Who knows?  In the process you might actually find the good you’ve been missing and make something good happen.

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How to enjoy Christmas Unreligiously

IMG_20131225_222743_492OK, so unreligiously may or may not be a real word (it appears that it is but I don’t feel like changing the whole beginning),  but the message can’t be sent without making the point that specific religious doctrine often has nothing to do with what is seen as a religious holiday.  In the event that there are conservative minded Jewish people out there who would be critical of the fact that I, as a proud Jew would openly say that I am able to enjoy Christmas day, let me start by making a very important and more poignant point.  Many Jewish people celebrate Jewish holidays the way that I enjoy Christmas.  By enjoying getting together with friends or family, enjoying the food and having a fun day off of work, nothing they do on these holidays, sometime even the most solemn holiday of Yom Kippur, is specifically Jewish of action.  I stop short of saying it is not religious because you can make a valid argument that any time you show warmth and respect and love to anyone it’s a religious action, but that action is not indigenous to one group of people.  I personally apply specific Jewish action to many of my practices on the most important Jewish holidays such as Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Passover, so when I say I enjoy Christmas, nothing about that is contradictory to my life as a Jew.

So with that said, here are my highlights from Christmas 2013.  Starting with Christmas Eve when I shared a drink with 2 housemates.  This was not just any drink though.  This was Sortilege.  If you are Canadian you very possibly know what this drink is.  Sortilege is Canadian whiskey mixed with maple syrup liquor which I experienced and enjoyed in Montreal when I visited a little over 2 months ago.  And yes, even though it is as sweet as it sounds, in a small glass over a cube of ice it’s really quite delicious.  After an early morning workout I did a few things I needed to get done and made my way to Queens.  Through my special friend, I received an invitation from her mother’s friend to come to her mother’s friend’s Christmas party at her home in Queens.  But first in stopping off at her mother’s house I received some wonderful gifts, most notably a very beautiful Hanukkah Menorah.  Personally I think it’s a great thing to receive a Menorah on Christmas, being as it covers all bases and the sentiments of so many people.  For the record, that takes nothing away from the other gifts I got, I just found there to be a cool significance in receiving a gift on Christmas that I could use in my personal religious practices.

Although the food was great, it was nothing I am used to eating and I may be answering for it for days to come.  But there are some situations where you just shut up and enjoy, and this was one of those times.  Injuries were minor this year, no one hit my head with a car trunk, other than the hostess burning herself on a tray of food, despite my special friend encouraging her to let me take out the food and get burned instead.

Once again the hostess’s 7 year old granddaughter was given an endless supply of presents while we sat around and watched her enjoy every one of them even if just for a minute.  She also showed a talent for giving nicknames as she provided one for everyone at the party.  For the record, in the future you can address me as Fun Guy Silly Man Boo.

On the way home I was taken to see a house so covered with lights you couldn’t even clearly make out the shape of the house.  However it was such a beautiful site that I was once again grateful to my parents for raising me with an appreciation for the non-religious aspects of non-Jewish holidays, allowing me to enjoy the views, the food, and the company without feeling as though I was compromising my values.  If anything I was staying true to my values together with people who in many ways share those same values.  Regardless of what religion they or I believe in.


A Universal Message

 

Universal_Loving_Kindness_by_ChikatsuWhen the woman sitting near me on the bus provided the young man getting on with a discounted ride, it was unlikely this interaction would have much impact on either one.  The man, who was probably no older than 18, did not have the correct change.  The woman offered use of her metro card and exempted him from giving her the total value of the ride.  The man thanked her politely and she went on listening to her music as though nothing had happened.  But something did indeed happen.  One person was nice to another person, someone quite random for no reason whatsoever.  You might say this is no big deal and considering there is a good chance both of the parties involved have already forgotten it even happened you’d have a valid point.  So why is it worthy of a post?

 

I have no idea if the woman practiced any religion let alone celebrated Christmas.  I as a Jewish man do not celebrate Christmas.  However, if there is one thing I recognize and appreciate this time of year is the message of goodwill to all men and women.   It got me thinking and brought me to one important conclusion.  A conclusion that mostly everyone reading this would say is obvious, while also being sadly aware that it is not practically applied throughout the world nearly as much as it should be.  And the conclusion is as follows.

 

If you believe in any religion or structure designed to uplift your spirit and soul, if you do not use this as a means to improve your treatment towards your fellow man, you are not only missing the point, you are degrading its very essence.  It all starts with how we treat other people.  I make no claims to always doing it right, but I know when I do it wrong, it is I who am wrong and I who need to improve.  No matter what you believe, we exist together as human beings, and if we are not able to show acts of decency, let alone kindness, the future is anything but bright.  But if we grow into individuals always working towards the betterment of ourselves and others, we do credit to the structure we follow.  And for those of us who believe in God, we truly do behave in his image.

 

Happy holidays to everyone.

 

 


Time To Worry More About Our Selfies

 obama-selfieAt one point in my life I came to the conclusion that those who attempt to control others do so either because of an inability to, or fear of, not being able to control themselves.  I believe it is the same mindset that causes people to jump at every opportunity to criticize public figures.

 With that in mind, following all the recent fuss being made about the President’s selfie with the English and Danish Heads of State, I decided to put my two cents in and give my take on how we should really look at this from a broader perspective.

Although I have no trouble recognizing that the image of President Obama and the other two leaders posing like a bunch of high school kids does not look great, I choose to reserve judgment on the matter.  Without knowledge of what took place prior to the picture there is no way of really knowing if anyone, and if so who, was at fault for this major world incident.  I mean, it’s not like there are other things of more importance happening in the world.  And since we really don’t know what conversation took place prior to the photographic shot heard around the world, calling it inappropriate on the part of any one of the three leaders is something I’m not prepared to do.  Not to mention the lose lose scenario here.  After all, we all know that if the situation was that one of the other two suggested the photo op, and the president had declined, the website “Everything’s the Liberal’s fault” (not an actual website but it just as well could be) would probably have a headline along the lines of  “Arrogant Obama too good to photograph with other leaders”.

 With that said, the worst part about this is that it’s become such a major news story.  The same thing that makes it one is the same thing that makes the whole situation so sad.  And that is the importance the image has been given.   Let’s be honest though.  A large percentage of people are no longer looking for their leaders to be as perfect as possible.  Instead they are looking for their leaders to be as perfectly aligned with our way of thinking as possible, regardless of their character or behavior.  So much so that if they are not, they will find fault in almost everything they do and if they are, they will almost always find a way to justify it.  After all, isn’t that easier than addressing our own character flaws and trying to become better people?

 

 


Where Was The Greatness?

nelsonmandelaWhy all the fuss about Nelson Mandela? What did he ever do to improve my life?  Should I spend any time mourning his loss?

Now that I have your attention let me start by saying that when Nelson Mandela passed away we truly lost one of the great men of our time.  I find that on occasion people speak of or celebrate an individual because they get swept up in the popular moment.  Sometimes speaking of someone’s greatness is just a fad that comes along with a bandwagon of people who don’t genuinely care about that particular individual.  Although I am sure there are those who fall into this category where Nelson Mandela is concerned, part of what made him great and part of why there should be all this fuss about him, is that in his greatness he impacted millions upon millions of people way beyond the borders of his homeland of South Africa.

In general I believe the human race looks for greatness.  If we can’t find it in ourselves we look to others to show it to us.  Nelson Mandela’s greatness was out there for all of us to see.  His battles against racial hatred, not only towards him but towards every person of color in South Africa’s former regime, were battles he clearly fought to cause a great change in a society where bigotry was a government sanctioned policy.  The sacrifice he made, 27 years in prison, was almost as great of a sacrifice as anyone could make.  When he stepped out of that prison on February 11, 1990, it gave millions of people hope that any fight can be won when willing to do whatever it takes.  Although so many of us may not be willing to or able to go as far as we need to, in Nelson Mandela we witnessed a man who was willing to and had the intestinal fortitude to go the distance.

However, as great as that was, it was only then that Nelson Mandela’s greatness truly would come shining through.  As people we are flawed.  In our flaws we are constantly asking God and sometimes our fellow human being for forgiveness and mercy.  We all do wrong and when we do, we hope for a second chance or sympathy.  Do we always give others the same?  I know that I don’t.  Does that make me a bad person? Not necessarily.  Does that mean that someone who has witnessed terror and evil firsthand and does not bring themselves to forgive someone is of lesser character as a result?  No. However, the ability to forgive, at least on some levels, will always make us better than we are.   Nelson Mandela once said:  “The first lesson is forgiveness.  You must not allow hate to fester in your brain. You can never allow racism, hatred, and bitterness to rent space in your head.”  Sounds easy, right?  Try it some time.  It’s not that easy.  Stop and think about the people who you believe have wronged you and whether or not you can put hate and bitterness behind you.  Now realize that in Nelson Mandela we saw this happen from a man whose very freedom was taken from him and who was a prisoner not because of what he did or even who he was, but because of what he was.   Despite this he moved forward with a powerful hope and love for mankind that truly made him special.  So yes, if only in the example he set he helped anyone who was watching, and although I do believe we should mourn his loss, it is more important that we celebrate his life, for in doing so we show understanding for his legacy, hopefully improve our own, and learn a valuable lesson.  The lesson we learn is that the best way to live life is with hope, understanding, and love for others.  Although it is difficult to do, we should never allow whether or not we attempt to do right and wrong be dictated by the behavior of others.  Nelson Mandela did what he felt was right, even when exposed to those who clearly did wrong.  That to me is the foundation of greatness.