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Tag Archives: rock badgerImage
For the last three months or so, it has been very hard to for me to write my usual Friday blog post. What has been going on here in my country… a post modern war… has provoked thoughts and feelings that I’ve been unable to share with any but my closest friends who live here and understand the paradoxes that are part and parcel of coexistence with a hostile minority that takes advantage of all the many comforts of our free and modern society, while trying to destroy the state at the same time.
Especially, because my view of how to deal with the situation differs from the policy of our government, and because I know that the ‘enemy’ is listening, I dare not discuss the issues while we are still at war. And I won’t hide the fact that what’s been happening on the streets of my beloved city cause me great pain and sadness. This too, limits my ability to express myself… to the extent that I didn’t even reply to the generous comments of my friends on my posts. Last week, I had intended to post an article about how I deal with this depression and sadness. But then there was another insane attack, and once again I was struck dumb. I just posted a picture I had composed during the week, and let it go at that.
This week too, there have been a number of news items that radically influenced my state of mind. Not just on the subject of the war. There were a number of subjects I could have discussed, had I been in a more positive mood. But unhappy as I felt, it seemed best to say nothing. I thought I’d just publish a photo I like to let my friends know that I’m still alive. But then, this morning, I looked at the calendar, and realized that it was Christmas day. Unexpectedly, I desired to send my heartfelt good wishes to my Christian friends for a very happy holiday.
You know, I’ve spent some time in Europe, and in the Americas, where Christianity was the religion of the majority, in many of the places that I visited. And I was aware of certain characteristics that might be criticized, when the establishment is identified with religious morality. But this was half a century ago, and since then religion has become much less imposing, and many young people pay it no mind regardless of their cultural heritage. And that is even further complicated by the commercial abuse of the traditional holiday. But in my country, Christians are a small minority. And those I’ve gotten to know exemplify forbearance and modesty as well as a desire to do good deeds and act out their love for their fellow man. They remind me a bit of an animal who is native to our country, but seldom seen because he’s shy; the rock badger, of whom I’ve written on a number of occasions.
Since my neighborhood is at the very edge of Jerusalem, rock badgers often come and visit. And when I go off to meditate or collect my thoughts in a park or nature preserve, and sit quietly for a length of time without moving, I have the opportunity to see them and watch as they relate to one another and to the wild life and lush vegetation in our fair city. They are exceptionally intelligent, and different members of their community have different roles to fulfill within the framework of their organized life. I am often amused at the thought that they are related to the elephants, for they are quite small, between the size of a cat and a dog, and have very small ears compared to those of an elephant. In any case, I’ve chosen to share some pictures of them together with my wishes for a Merry Christmas.
One of my great pleasures, on my morning walks, is observing wildlife, and occasionally meeting with them face to face. Living in a suburb on the very edge of Jerusalem, I have more meetings with animals than I did years ago, when I lived pretty much in the center of town. There are numerous reptiles, and small mammals, and of course, many birds. There are a great variety of birds in Israel, because aside from our local residents, there are many exotic birds who visit us as they fly to and fro, from Africa to Europe in the summer, and then back to Africa as winter approaches. And strangely enough, it seems there are more birds in the center of town than in the suburbs. One of their favorite hang outs is in the vicinity of the Bikur Holim hospital, right in the center of the city.
More often than not, I don’t know the English names of the animals I meet. And when I look them up in the dictionary, I find names that no one has ever heard of. And this is particularly true of an animal I wish to tell you about today. The rock badger is a very common animal in Israel, and is found across central and southern Africa as well. In our country, they are considered similar to a rabbit, and rabbits are often called by the same name. but in studying them, I discovered that they’re not of the same family, and not even distantly related. In fact, the only animals they are related to biologically, are elephants and sea cows. They are light brown in color, about 40 to 50 cm in length, and weigh about 4 kg. In our country, they are known as the most timid of all animals, and they’re noted in our culture for being wise.
It’s because they’re so shy, that I’ve been drawn to them. When I was young, they were always afraid of me, and used to scamper away as soon as I saw them, perhaps because I was often accompanied by my children or cats when out walking in nature. But in recent years I’ve had repeated meetings with them, and some of these meetings have been very pleasant. I’ve sat with them for 15 and 20 minutes at a time, and even had the questionable pleasure of having them talk to me. I say questionable pleasure because I didn’t understand them at all. But last week I sat with one of them for quite a while, and neither of us talked. And only after some time had passed, I took his picture, for in the past, opening my camera usually caused the badger to leave my company.
These animals live in groups from 10 to forty in number. They choose to live among boulders and rocks, and post sentries who give an alarm when seeing animals or humans who might threaten the group. Though famous for rock climbing, I have seen them climb trees with great agility. It is said, though, that they spend most of their time resting. What is interesting about them, is that they have many different vocal calls, sometimes referred to as ‘songs’, and one gets the impression that they have some sort of language based on different tones. They can be quite talkative when among their own, and not bothered by other animals. On rare occasions, I’ve met with two or three at a time. Usually, with one coming forward to meet me, and the others watching from behind. But most of the time it was one on one. Up until recently, I had met with them in their natural habitat, usually in a small forest close to my home. But last week, I spied one fellow in the park. And when I sat down and waited patiently, he came up close.
For a few days now, I’ve been making the acquaintance of a rock badger. In a park near my home, as I take my morning walk. I don’t know what they eat, really, so I haven’t tried to buy his friendship with food. I suppose they eat the fruit or the leaves of the local greenery. In any case, these animals are known for their shyness. They will run immediately, when coming into contact with humans or large animals, and so it was unexpected to find one in a public park. I’ve come across them in the forest, and not so long ago I photographed one in the forest, that approached me as I was sitting quietly on a boulder. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in a park before. The first time I saw him, I immediately sat down, and he watched me for a while, before going away.
But then it happened again and again in the same place, and I realized that he liked the place. Maybe, had even taken up residence there. There are some high bushes in the vicinity, and this gives him a place to hide if need be. Each time, he came closer to me. And on the third meeting, he came very close. But unfortunately, when I raised my camera to take his picture, he ran for cover. But as soon as he got to a relatively protected place, under a fence, with high bushes behind him, he sat down and started looking at me again. And that is when I took this picture.
Usually, I enjoy walking through my own neighborhood, and other neighborhoods of Jerusalem. I like looking at the homes, the little additions people make to their houses, and the little gardens around them. Changes occur very slowly. The biggest changes are brought by the seasons. Even so, I enjoy walking in the familiar territory. Very often, I get carried away by my own thoughts, and pay less attention to the cityscape. It happens, that I don’t take a single picture on my walk, because it is all so familiar. But still, I carry a camera with me each time. From experience, I know, that if I were to take my walk without the camera, I’d be sure to see something that I’d want to photograph… and then I’d regret not having taken it with me.
But on these days of early summer, it is a special pleasure to take a walk in the park. Aside from my neighbors who walk their dogs, or study, or read for enjoyment… there is also a lot of animal activity. And it seems that the living creatures feel quite secure in this environment. There are a lot of crows. They are the predominant birds there, sitting high on trees, on fences, lamp posts, and the backs of benches… and sometimes searching… for what, I do not know, in the mowed grass. And then there are a wide variety of smaller birds, the most attractive of which, are the sparrows, that I follow with interest.
From time to time, I see waves of birds, in groups, according to species, rising gently into the air, moving to high places as a human being with leashed dog walks by. And then, after the interruption… slowly they all return to continue what they were doing. From time to time, a big truck goes down the street next to the park… and all the little creatures react… some by freezing, and others by running further into the park, and then the noise passes, and we continue enjoying the beautiful summer day; peace on earth, and good will towards all.
This evening is the start of tabernacles. It is the only holiday in the bible, in which we are specifically asked to be happy. I have written about this holiday before, and I will probably write some more about it in the coming days. My base has moved, from my home in Jerusalem to my home away from home in the village where some of my children live… and though we may take some trips on the holiday, which lasts a week, this will be my base now, and as I’ve explained in previous posts, and last year too, this is the holiday in which we all move out of our houses and make our homes in temporary booths. And try our best to be happy.
Which brings me to the subject that I wanted to discuss with you today; The experience of a holy day or holiday, or religious experience. Before the day of atonement, I spoke of what was about to happen; what I was about to do on the holy day… with great confidence. Having done it so many times before, I felt that confidence when talking to others about it. But it is not really like that. And when I concluded the day, I thought again about what I had written, and wanted to append my description. One of my friends here, among the bloggers, asked me, was it a ceremony or a ritual. And I answered, a ritual. But what I would like to explain now, is the difference between ceremony or ritual, and a truly religious experience.
There are ceremonies and rituals, and prayers printed in prayer books, and they all attempt to prepare the person for the religious experience. But when I thought, how do I explain the religious experience to someone who might not have experienced it, I looked back through my life, at the many experiences I have had, looking for something parallel that would be understandable even to a non religious person. And what I came up with, was a series of experiences I had, more than forty years ago, in which I took LSD, Lysergic acid diethylamide. It is a semi synthetic psychedelic drug; which has been shown to be very similar to a substance that can be found in a normal human head. In very unusual circumstances it is secreted naturally. But by taking a dose, prepared by a chemical company or a pharmacist, we can experience a short cut to a religious experience. LSD was first synthesized by Albert Hofmann in 1938 from a grain fungus that typically grows on rye. Since then, it has been experimented with by psychologists and psychiatrists, philosophers and clowns. It was popular for a while in the 1960s counterculture. And after reading a book written by Aldous Huxley called, “The Doors of Perception”, I decided to try it myself.
The drug I bought was from the Sandoz Laboratories in Switzerland, and was of high quality. In those days, it wasn’t a drug taken to ‘get high’. But to experience transcendental awareness. It was a short cut. You didn’t have to fast for days, or pray for long periods, or climb a mountain. Or learn the many disciplines associated with spiritual research. It wasn’t like studying yoga. You could just swallow a pill, and begin to experience some very unusual awareness after a half an hour to an hour. It worked on just about everyone. You could be an atheist or an agnostic, and still enjoy a very religious experience. It was and still is considered non-addictive. But I don’t know if I would take any today, now that it is produced by underground manufacturers, and sometimes mixed with other drugs. In that period, I took it some fifteen times. Sometimes with friends and sometimes alone. I took it in a variety of circumstances. I could tell you many stories of my experiences with the drug, some of them very humorous. But the most outstanding feature of this drug, was that I experienced certain phenomena that up until then, I had associated only with the religious experience.
It was a trip. You could make all the preparations you wanted, but you didn’t really know where you’d get and what would happen while you were on that trip. You had to give up control, whether you wanted to or not. You didn’t know exactly when it would start. But you knew very well, once it had started. It usually lasted for about eight hours. It could be very good; a taste of heaven. But it could also be a nightmare. And then you just had to go through it. In English, that sort of nightmare was called a ‘bummer’, and there were those who studied how to avoid them. But the truth of the matter was that it was dependent to a large extent on what was happening in your own sub conscious. So there was no sure way of protecting yourself from such an experience. Having taken the drug, one experienced altered thinking processes, hallucinations while eyes were either open or closed, and an altered sense of time.
While I was doing the work of the day of atonement, I had a sense of being intensely involved in the reality around me. The past and the future were fluid, and I found myself face to face with some of the things that I am most scared about, and most worried. Not life and death, because I’ve already dealt with those questions and reached a certain understanding and acceptance. This time, the subject was free choice and wrong choices. And not of my own. But the choices of people I loved; people who were young enough to be naïve and innocent, and we take pleasure in their innocence. I won’t describe the exact and specific issues, because one would have to know my world very well in order to understand what I was talking about. But suffice it to say, that if I had been walking on a narrow path at the edge of a cliff in a catastrophic storm, it would not have been more scary. Ceremonies… rituals… they have their place in society. But this was something much much more intense. I have witnessed what is called ‘extreme sports’, and I suppose there is something similar in that. But that is just for the thrill. And this was coming to terms with life itself. It was different.