As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, when I should have been mourning my mother, my thoughts were distracted by air raid sirens, and rockets being shot at my country… and I didn’t really feel that I had the time or the inner space to deal with what was happening. And so, when all of that quieted down, I turned off the radio, and all the usual distractions… and just tried to collect myself. As many of my friends have mentioned, rituals help a person to deal with life-changing events. But I see rituals, like prayers, as similar to ‘training wheels’ on a bicycle. They can help you to avoid falling on your face. But ultimately, what is most important is to find your own balance. And once a person learns how to really ride a bike, those training wheels are more of a hindrance than an aid.
The same, I believe, is true of prayer. We have prayers written down in the prayer books, and they can teach us to give form to our prayer. They can also unify us with our friends, when we pray as a congregation. I have nothing against them. On the contrary, I think they’re good. But ultimately, when a person calls out to his creator, he really wants to do more than send a form letter. The same is true for rituals. They teach us how to behave in concert with our community… manners and respect for our fellow man; how to sanctify our relationship to a day, or to another human being… but they can’t take the place of true personal commitment, and an awareness of our own feelings on the deepest level.
When last Friday came along, and I realized that I hadn’t written anything that week, and sat down to write a post on this blog, I soon understood that I just wasn’t ready. The things that were on my mind, just weren’t the sort of things I wanted to share with my readers. So I decided to go off fishing. It was an analogy. In actual fact, I have never fished in my life. But I have accompanied friends on fishing trips many times. I just preferred not to kill a living creature if I didn’t have to. But I did eat the fish that they caught. And when I think about photography or painting, I liken it in my mind to fishing. Unlike the hunter, I don’t go after my prey. I just throw my line or net into the waters, and gratefully accept what came along… or threw it back into the water.
I like to write when there is nothing else I’d rather do… when the words are begging to come out… when they’re threatening me, if you don’t write this soon you’ll forget what you meant to say… That is when I like to write. Or take a picture… it’s the same thing. I don’t like doing anything creative out of a sense of obligation… and on the whole, I’m a very lucky guy. Most of my life, I’ve enjoyed whatever I did. So I decided to forget about writing for the time being, and just take my camera, and go to the places I most enjoy, and see what would happen.
What happened, was an endless chain of memories that went through my head, including things that I didn’t even know I’d remembered. I’m not sure if all these memories were connected really, with the death of my mother… but they were certainly connected with my relationship to myself, and were part of moving on from one chapter to another. As the week went by, I found more and more that brought me happiness and reminded me of my place in this world, despite the fact that most of the memories were somewhat disturbing. Yesterday, I went off with my dear friend Noga, to visit the sea. That is a place that always offers me comfort, and helps me find a good perspective on life. I don’t go to get a suntan, or to take a swim. I go to visit; to smell the salt water, and hear the roar of the waves, and gaze out at the infinite. So it really didn’t matter that there was a light rain. But even when there wasn’t rain, there was a heavy mist that left droplets on my eye glasses, making it difficult for me to see… and after a while, I realized that there was the same problem with the camera lens. It was limiting. But still it was a great pleasure.
I went with my dear friend Noga, and we met with Yizhar… and there was some pleasant conversation and a visit to the ‘inside’ marketplace at the Tel Aviv harbor, which was full of people… even a couple of rather attractive and well behaved dogs, and by the time we were back in the car and on our way home, I was more relaxed than I had been in a long time, and had a sense of well being. So much so, that I turned on the car radio to hear the news. What a shock. Among a long list of items that were reported, including the visit of our prime minister to Germany, there was mention of the fact that Amir Perez had formally handed in his resignation from Parliament.
Now he isn’t that important to me as a member of parliament. But he was just recently voted in to the number three spot in the labor party, and it seemed completely unreasonable that he would resign now, just before the national elections, which are supposed to take place in another month and a half. I went looking for another station, but no one else was mentioning it. It gathered that this was already old news. Yet it really awoke my curiosity. Back at home, with the help of the internet, I was able to read the whole story. It turned out that this man, who had only a few years ago, had been the head of the party, was offended by the fact that he had less influence than he used to have. And that the present party chief hadn’t given him the sort of respect he thought he deserved, and had switched parties on the last day on which the political parties present their roster of candidates for parliament before the next election.
I have been proud in the past of our representative democracy here in Israel. Though I didn’t think it was perfect, I did think it worked very well most of the time, and that it was the best system when compared to all the other alternatives. But as we approach this coming election, it’s seems as if politics has become more like a ‘reality’ show on TV than a true representation of the will of the people. Not that I know much about reality programs. I have only watched one episode, of something called ‘survival’, and it seemed infantile to me, at the time. But I had that impression, and I’ve heard a lot about them, because they’re quite popular here. And now, thinking about what has happened as we’ve been approaching our coming election, I have the strong feeling that something has really broken down in the political arena. My first thought, was to write a humorous piece about politics here, but then I realized that most of my readers aren’t familiar enough with our political system to appreciate something like that… still, it was a sign that I was moving from personal ruminations to thoughts about the world.