My dear friends, last week I wrote a poem… and got some comments on the blog and a lot of mails. Didn’t really know how to reply to them all. In the past, I have written posts, and turned comments off. And then I would get mails, asking why I had turned the comments off. That people wanted to respond to what I wrote. And you know, I really do enjoy the comments. So this time, I left the comments on, even though I knew that it would be very hard to respond. In fact the week has gone by, and I haven’t responded. So I decided to take this opportunity to explain my situation.
There are so many levels of communication. Sometimes we tell what’s happening in our life. I know there are bloggers who share their most intimate feelings, aspirations, and anxieties on their blogs. Often these people choose to protect themselves with anonymity. They adopt a pseudonym, and use a picture of a flower or a fish as their icon on their blog. Sometimes I don’t even know if they are a man or a woman, young or old. I’ve often felt a discomfort when reading such a blog. I felt a need to know where the voice was coming from. And so, on this blog I use my own name, and that is my real picture at the top of the page. But then, when relating to very personal matters, I can’t help but think of the subjective nature of personal material. And I wonder about the many different ways one could look at the same experience.
On one hand, I want to be accurate about what I present on the blog. And on the other, I am aware that because the story is so personal, what I’m saying is highly subjective… and if it were viewed by another human being they might see things very differently. Moreover, some things are so complicated. Stories have previous incarnations… they’re woven like a Persian rug, with threads from numerous pictures interwoven and emerging again and again as the images change. On occasion, I choose to tell my story as a parable, and other times, I turn to poetry.
Some people asked, is this true? Is it literal or figurative? Are you moving? Did you have such and such a relationship? So let me tell you how I see poetry. For me, poetry is as true as it gets. It is cutting past the skin. It is getting to the heart of the matter. It is a cutting away of the explanations and justifications, and the apologies. It is laying the soul bare. It is piercing through the fog and the mist and the manners to get at the essence. And once the soul has been exposed, each of us has to understand it as best he or she can, from our own experiences in this life. There is no point in explanations, because everything has been said. I know that in academic circles, a poem is sometimes taken apart to better understand it. If you were to do that, it’d be okay… it would be you’re way of getting to the heart of it. But I couldn’t take part in such an exercise. I wrote you a poem, my dear friends, to tell you where I was at. What more could I possibly say.
But in our tradition, there are certain exceptions to the rules. For instance, we refrain from using the explicit name of our god. But for the purpose of learning or teaching, we are permitted to say the name. So I’ve decided to tell you a bit about last week’s poem… and to tell you a bit about bull shit too. All for the sake of the learning.
After living for 40 years in the same apartment… a condominium… my very dearest friends have convinced me that it would be in my interest to move to another apartment, where according to them, I would be more comfortable. It never occurred to me to move. It would be a move to the next neighborhood over from where I’ve lived all these years; into a newer and better built building… near a nice shopping center. There is a list of all of the advantages and it goes on and on. One night, after listening to some powerful convincing, and actually visiting the proposed apartment, I agreed. But then, returning to my trusty old home, I looked at the walls, at the old furniture, at the books that cover almost all of my walls, the ghosts of old memories started coming back to me from forty years of living in the same place. And that’s what I put into the poem. Of course, I could have written a book. But that wouldn’t have fit on the blog.
Meantime, while my friends are taking care of the arrangements, and packing up my belongings, and cleaning the accumulated dust, and putting my many possessions in order, my dear friend Janne, has provided me with a room in her home, in a small village, a very short distance from Jerusalem. The pictures on this post were taken where I am presently residing till the dust settles, and I’ll actually move to my new home. Believe me, it’s a very emotional experience. But life has been good to me. And my life right now is very good too. Aside from the very gracious hospitality of Janne, I’m also enjoying the companionship of Georgia the cat, who’s appeared on these pages recently, and Charlie the cat, and Bonnie the bitch, all of whom amuse me and help me pass the time in what otherwise might be sheer hell.
And now, about bull shit. This is an expression I learned when visiting in America. It was a common expression, used often when there were doubts about the veracity of something said. I was reminded of the expression when I got a few mails asking me if what I’d posted last week was true.
From what I understand, some years back, in the western part of the USA, they used to sell these 50 pound bags of bovine feces as manure for the cultivation of agricultural products, vegetables and flowers. On the bag there was an impressive picture of a healthy bull, snorting and pounding the ground with his front hooves. The picture was supposed to convince the farmer buying the product, of the effectiveness and the power of the manure in the bag. But since farmers were skeptical about advertising even in those days, and knew that there were more cows in the meadow than there were bulls, they used to refer to this product, with a smile, saying ‘bull shit’.
But the story is not so simple. It turns out, especially these days, that there is a substantial difference between the dung of bulls and steers when compared to milk cows. Cows are fed more roughage and grasses, because a lot of grain cuts into milk production, whereas the diet of bulls and steers consists of a base ration of hay and corn. If raised for meat, they often get a protein supplement as well as salt, limestone and dicalcium phosphate. So maybe, at least nowadays, there’s no reason to scoff at bull shit. For as we know, what comes out is influenced by what went in.
I love your comments, my friends, and I hope you enjoyed this explanation. As I mentioned before, the pictures here are of my present environment. I hope that soon I will be home again… even if that home will be a bit different from the one I’ve been used to for the last forty years.