On January 25th, the New York Times reported that George Orwell’s 1984 – a distopian novel about a world in which critical thinking is suppressed – is a best-seller. Orwell matters because – among other things – he reminds us of the price we’ll pay if we are complacent. The Times quoted Penguin Books Publicity Director Craig Brooks…
“We’ve seen a big bump in sales,” Mr. Burke said. He added that the rise “started over the weekend and hit hyperactive” on Tuesday and Wednesday morning. Since Friday, the book has reached a 9,500 percent increase in sales, he said.
That refers to the “alternative fact” episode and it’s not surprising that 1984 with its portrayal of reality control came to the minds of so many … so many of whom may not have throught about or read Orwell since their high school days. I find myself addressing in prose and poem the disconcerting issues of the time. I had envisioned something very different for my third act, but we do what we have to do and apparently Orwell felt the same way.
A LITTLE POEM
A happy vicar I might have been
Two hundred years ago
To preach upon eternal doom
And watch my walnuts grow;
But born, alas, in an evil time,
I missed that pleasant haven,
For the hair has grown on my upper lip
And the clergy are all clean-shaven.
And later still the times were good,
We were so easy to please,
We rocked our troubled thoughts to sleep
On the bosoms of the trees.
All ignorant we dared to own
The joys we now dissemble;
The greenfinch on the apple bough
Could make my enemies tremble.
But girl’s bellies and apricots,
Roach in a shaded stream,
Horses, ducks in flight at dawn,
All these are a dream.
It is forbidden to dream again;
We maim our joys or hide them:
Horses are made of chromium steel
And little fat men shall ride them.
I am the worm who never turned,
The eunuch without a harem;
Between the priest and the commissar
I walk like Eugene Aram;
And the commissar is telling my fortune
While the radio plays,
But the priest has promised an Austin Seven,
For Duggie always pays.
I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls,
And woke to find it true;
I wasn’t born for an age like this;
Was Smith? Was Jones? Were you?
– George Orwell
POWER IS NOT A MEANS. IT’S AN END.
The current state of affairs has many pulling 1984and Animal Farmoff their bookshelves, dusting them off and reading them again, probably for the first time since school days.
“Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.” George Orwell, 1984
Eric Arthur Blair (pen name George Orwell) “was born in 1903 in Motihari, Bengal, in the then British colony of India, where his father, Richard, worked for the Opium Department of the Civil Service. His mother, Ida, brought him to England at the age of one. He did not see his father again until 1907, when Richard visited England for three months before leaving again until 1912. Eric had an older sister named Marjorie and a younger sister named Avril. With his characteristic humour, he would later describe his family’s background as “lower-upper-middle class.” MORE
“There is not a single instance in history where hate has brought joy to human beings. Hate destroys those who hold it in their minds and bodies. If humanity released all hate, fear, and resentment, then no dictator could ever rise, and we would have peace on earth. Peace on earth can occur only through peace within each of us.” ~ Rhonda Byrne,The Secret Daily Teachings
There’s a saying, “Energy Flows Where Attention Goes”, that has been attributed to several different sources. Regardless of who initially said it, I believe it to be true. Not only is it true, I also think it’s crucial as a way of “Overcoming Hate”, which is this month’s BeZine theme.
In order to “overcome” anything, it must first be understood, and broken down into the parts which make it up as a whole. When you think about the word “hate”, what comes to mind? Do you picture the opposite of love? Do you picture anger, or fear in disguise? What makes up this powerful emotion to which we humans so often cling? Why do we allow it so much power to influence and run (and ruin) our lives?
From a certain perspective, hate may be defined as “Judgement directing Anger”. There is a good, more in-depth post about this at one of the blogs I follow, here. In addition to judgement directing anger, I also believe that fear is a strong component of hate. Whether it’s fear of “Different” or “Other” (someone who is “not me” or “not like me”) or fear for survival, fear of someone taking away what I have, having more than me, being better than me, etc. ad nauseum. To truly overcome hate, we must be willing to overcome (and face) our fears.
Just as there are almost infinite shades of grey between black and white, there are many nuances of hate. I found a chart from here which shows some of the most widely accepted types, but there are different variations and combinations of all of them. Do any of your personal “hates” seem to fall into any of these categories?
Oh, I know there are people who will say, “But I don’t hate. None of those fit me. I try very hard not to hate anybody or anything.” While that may be true, hate is such a base emotion that I find it hard to believe anyone who says they “never” hate. Trying hard not to hate is a noble effort, and a good first step. Self-awareness is always a good thing, even when it’s painful.
But then I would ask, what are you doing to decrease the hate in the world? Using the self awareness you have worked for, to be mindful and not spread any kind of hate can be a lot tougher. Especially in today’s technological society, where memes, tweets, and all manner of social media stories spread like wildfire…often without being fact-checked, without the user consciously thinking about what kind of ripple effects and consequences sharing that particular story, meme, tweet, etc. will have.
There is a big difference between passion and hate, and it seems like lately, people tend to confuse the two. I understand being passionate about something, willing to stand up and fight for your beliefs. So when does it cross the line to hate? When it harms other people? When it harms your own well-being? The measurement is probably different for everyone, and only you can make that call.
Where is your energy going? If you are focused on the negative, then all of your energy and attention is only making that negativity stronger. “But what about all these other people who are spreading hate and misinformation, how do I change their minds?” you might ask. I could answer with something like “only love can conquer hate”, and while I do think that’s true, it doesn’t quite address the reality of the extent and amount of hate that we face every, single day. The thing is, you can’t control anyone other than yourself. So you concentrate on YOU.
“Never waste energy on talking to a closed door with a person ready to fight behind it. First work on releasing the fight, then opening the door, and then finally finding any middle ground for reason. Then a dialogue can start.” ~ Casey Kochmer, Personal Tao
Where is your energy going? To what are you giving your attention? Is your focus only serving to spread and invigorate hate or are you helping to overcome it?
Many years ago my daughter came home from kindergarten and told me, “Michelle said a bad word at school today.”
“Which one?” I asked.
“The ‘S’ word.”
“Ohhhh.” Subject matter we don’t want our kids learning in school. “Do you know what it means?” I asked.
My five year old flashed me an I-wasn’t-born-yesterday look, and said, “It means stupid.”
I heaved a mental sigh of relief, and exercised my Superpower Poker Face to keep from laughing. “Do the kids say any other bad words?”
My daughter solemnly nodded. “The ‘H’ word,” she said.
“Help me remember what that stands for.”
“Hate,” she told me.
I was a storyteller long before I had kids, and understood the power of words. That didn’t prevent me from indulging in colorful language, mostly offstage. But when my first child was born, I determined to turn all my verbal toads and snakes into rubies and pearls.
Just as I saw the world anew through my children’s wondering eyes, I listened through their innocent ears. I saw how words loaded with negativity seep into the consciousness like toxins into groundwater. At our house, everyone was encouraged to speak their minds, using language constructively, not to hurt or humiliate.
When my little innocents toyed with the word ‘hate,’ I explained that some words aren’t naughty but are powerful, and must be saved for emergencies or they lose their power. Just like with TV violence or antibiotics, excessive use results in an unhealthy immunity. Hate was a word rarely heard in our house. But since the election, that and many other ‘H’ words have come into common usage all over America.
H is for Harassment.
H is for Homophobic.
H is for Hitler, for Holocaust, for He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, that Haughty Hot-Tempered Hypocrite who is Hijacking our Homeland to Hell in a Hand-basket.
A great man once said that a house divided cannot stand. Inciting fear and hatred is the traditional means of dividing a people and strengthening a power base. Every day the Republicans implement new policies legalizing the persecution and diminishing the rights of people based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, and socio-economic status.
H is also for heartsick, which is how the majority of US citizens feels as American ideals are trampled and tossed aside. So last January 21st, here in Seattle, in solidarity with people throughout America, and on every continent in the world–even Antarctica–we donned our pussy hats and marched.
It buoys the spirits to walk shoulder to shoulder with 135,000 like-hearted people…
…in a crowd stretching farther than the eye can see.
People protested against the Republican threat to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and equal justice for all.
Even those who had never been politically active took to the streets.
These were people who weren’t afraid to speak up and speak out.
People who cared about the greater good.
People for whom the ‘H’ word is Hope.
H is also for hero…
H is for happening, for hookup, for hive and home and herd.
For helping hands.
H is for holdfast.
H is also for humanity and high ground. And that’s why and where we’ll take our stand.
I grew up with three older sisters. At times when I felt picked on, I would shout out my hurt feelings, “I hate you!” My mother was often right there contradicting me. “You don’t hate her. Come now, settle down…” Consequently, I have long convinced myself that I do not hate anyone, and I’m never angry. I am completely reasonable and can explain exactly why I am disappointed or frustrated. I will cry, but I am never angry. Except that…when I grew up, I yelled at my kids. I punished them. I rejected their behavior. I sometimes got physical, restraining them and even spanking them. But I do not get angry. And I do not hate anyone.
“That’s not fair!”…“How dare they!” I yelled at the television set, which was uncharacteristically out of its closet and in operation in the living room. “Hush now. We’re trying to listen,” whispered my mother. The story of Kunta Kinte set my 14-year old indignation afire. Injustice is wrong – even I knew that! How could grown-ups in leadership be so obviously abusive? How could I undo the damage that was done before I was even born? How in the world could the balance of power be corrected? “I hate authorities!”
My 31-year old husband was having chest pains. The doctor figured it was probably heart burn, but he finally did some blood tests and cardiac diagnostics. It turns out the father of my four young children had diabetes and arterial blockages and needed bypass surgery. I couldn’t understand why this evil, incurable disease had afflicted my family. “I hate diabetes!” I raged. But a metabolic disorder doesn’t choose a target out of malice. What I couldn’t admit was that I was mortally terrified.
These three snapshots into my awareness of hatefulness show me that I can’t overcome the underlying feelings of anger, injustice, or fear by rejecting or opposing them. Neither can I grow in compassion by being intolerant. I can only transcend hatefulness and grow in compassion by practicing understanding. That includes understanding myself – not passing judgment on my emotions, not avoiding uncomfortable feelings, but engaging with them head on. How can I practice this? I slow down and ask myself: What is it I feel? What triggered those feelings? Where am I hurting? What is it that I want that I’m not getting? I want to be kind to the little girl inside me giving voice to her felt needs. I sit with this idea for a while. I thank those feelings for bringing me awareness. I will use that in my decision-making. Then I look at my desires more critically. Is being attached to that thing, that outcome, causing me pain? What if I let go of it?
The more I work with my own feelings and come to understand myself, the more I can begin to understand others. When I see someone who is angry and hateful, I understand that he is suffering. Can I be present with him in this place of frustration? Can I be kind to that little child in his temper? Can I engage him in a discussion about the real causes of his anger, his feelings of powerlessness, his fear? Can my presence and interaction help him realize that attachment to uncontrollable outcomes may be causing some of his suffering? And finally, can I invite him to let it go?
The Thich Nhat Hahn Foundation blog motto is “planting seeds of compassion”. For the Lunar New Year of the Rooster, 2017, they suggested a practice phrase in the form of two parallel verses: “Awakening the Source of Understanding” and “Opening the Path of Love”. The Plum Village practice is to contemplate the first verse as you breathe in and the second as you exhale, “not (as) a declaration, but a living aspiration we wish to nurture”. Overcoming hate with a practice of understanding and love is a beautiful way to transform the world, I believe. I invite everyone to try it with me.
This originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of The BeZine. Here it is again, as it also addresses how to overcome hate, or at least, an idea of how harsh judgment is what we really must overcome — our own tendencies to be judgmental, and the judgmental perspectives / positions of others. This does not mean we should not judge — the emphasis should be read on the word harsh judgment.
After the election I find it difficult to write (just, justly) about (love, loving kindness, grace). Followed, as the election was, by the death of Leonard Cohen whose songs and as described (by those who knew him), whose personal life embodied grace, the task has become more difficult. I have lost my balance. I have fallen into (judgment, in this case, harsh judgment). Beauty seems cut off from the Crown, (Understanding and Wisdom) disconnected from (love and judgment). All balance has left me, I stumble up and down stairs as though falling, red faced, my prophetic legs unstable, my right knee (eternally) in sharp pain, my left leg (splendidly) leaning against a wall.
by Michael Dickel
And if these words confuse you, then they have communicated an aspect of my state, some limbs of the tree that sustains me. I will not explain. These fragments may not hold. I will try to find some pieces of the puzzle and lay them on the floor, without hope of putting the image together again. For the image shatters, overfull of signification. Its pieces slide into sounds, letters, words, phrases, a life sentence of confusion.
We may discern that the tree grows. We may figure out most or all of how it grows. However, ask the tree why it grows and it will simply rustle in the air of your breath.
Under the Palm Tree, Devorah sat in judgment. She was a warrior and a leader, yet her judgment was not harsh. She led because her judgment was seen as righteous and fair. My family name as I was born to it, Dickel, does not transliterate into the Hebrew aleph-bet very well. However, Dekel does work in Hebrew letters, דקל, and is a common enough family name in Hebrew. So when my wife and I registered our marriage in Israel, we changed our family name to Dekel. Dekel means (date) palm. I (am) a palm tree. I cannot explain.
In the 16th C., Moses Cordevero “discovered” or “wrote down” ancient (oral) texts, or simply wrote them as new texts. These are prominent among the received texts, part of the basis of Kabbalah (which means Reception, Received, but idiomatically, Revelation). One book is The Palm Tree of Devorah. At once it seems a text about how to be a good judge, like Devorah, and how to transcend our lives of judgment to obtain a Oneness with Keter, the Crown of Creation. Some excerpts, from Daniel Matt’s book, The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism (including his notes / commentary after the boldface text):
Your face should always be shining. Welcome each person with a friendly countenance. For with regard to Keter Elyon, the supernal crown, it is said: “In the light of the king’s face is life.” No redness or harsh judgment gains entrance there. So, too, the light of your face should never change; whoever looks at you will find only joy and a friendly expression. Nothing should disturb you. (85 from Moses Cordevero Tomer Devorah original 16th C., Warsaw: Joel Levensohn 1873)
“In the light of the king’s face is life.” Proverbs 16:15. CF Mishnah, Avot 1:15: “Welcome each person with a friendly countenance.”
redness The color of harsh judgment. (192)
Your mouth should produce nothing but good. The words you speak should be Torah and an expression of goodwill. Never generate angry or ugly words, curses, or nonsense. Let our mouth resemble the upper mouth, which is never closed, never silent, never withholding the good. Speak positively, always, with benevolent words.
All of these good qualities gather under the banner of humility, each one constituting a limb in Keter above…
It is impossible, of course, to conduct yourself according to these qualities constantly. Accustom yourself to them little by little. The essential quality to attain, the key to them all, is humility, for this is the very first aspect of Keter, under which all of the rest are subsumed. (85–86 from Moses Cordevero Tomer Devorah original 16th C., Warsaw: Joel Levensohn 1873)
So should your wisdom be accessible to all. Teach people what will be useful to them, according to each one’s capacity, pouring out to each as much wisdom as you can. Don’t let anything deter you.…Be careful not to give more than the mind of the recipient can hold, to prevent any mishap…
As Binah, Understanding, sweetens all powers of judgment, neutralizing their bitterness, so should you return to God and correct each flaw. If you meditate on returning every day, you stimulate Binah to illuminate each day.… (87 from Moses Cordevero Tomer Devorah original 16th C., Warsaw: Joel Levensohn 1873)
power of judgment Hebrew, dinim (דינים), powers of the sefirah of Din, harsh judgment. (192)
Do not say that returning is good only for the holy portion within you; the evil portion, too, is sweetened, in the manner of this quality. Do not think that because you incline toward evil there is no remedy. This is false. If you do well, rooting yourself in Returning, you can ascend there through the goodness rooted there. For the root of every supernal bitterness is sweet; you can enter through this root and make yourself good; your intentional sins turn into merits. The misdeeds you committed have been accusing you from the Left Side. Once you return completely, you raise those deeds and root them above. Those accusers are not annihilated but ameliorated, rooted in holiness. (88 from Moses Cordevero Tomer Devorah original 16th C., Warsaw: Joel Levensohn 1873)
the Left Side The demonic dimension, which branches out from the sefirah of Din, harsh judgment, located on the left side of the sefirotic tree. (192)
How should you train yourself in the quality of Hesed, Love? The basic way you enter the mystery of Hesed is by loving God to the extreme, not abandoning devotion for any reason at all, since nothing attracts you in the least, compared to loving God. (88 from Moses Cordevero Tomer Devorah original 16th C., Warsaw: Joel Levensohn 1873)
The sefirot (plural, singular sefirah), according to Jewish Mysticism, could be thought of as a series of vessels through which the energy of Creation / Creator (Keter) flow
from Ayin, אין, Nothingness, through Keter, the Crown (Head) of (Divine) Will
through the Point-Beginning of Wisdom (Hokhmah) and the Palace or Womb of Understanding (Binah)
into the Right Arm of (Hesed) Love (loving kindness, Grace) and the Left Arm of Power-Judgment (Din, Gevurah)
converging into (Tiferet) Beauty-Compassion-Mercy (Heaven, Sun, Harmony, Blessed Holy One)
into the right leg of Eternity-Prophecy (Nezah) and the Left Leg of Splendor-Prophecy (Hod)
converging once again into (Yesod) Foundation-Righteous One-Covenant (Phallus symbolic) and
flowing into the Presence as the Divine Feminine Aspect of God, the Shekhinah, from where it flows into the world / people.
The sefirot of convergences make up a central column, also.
These all make up a (symbolic) body, Adam (mankind, human) that is gender fluid (womb, phallus, Shekhinah all together). They comprise The Tree of Life. “The tree grows upside down,” its roots in the top, “an image familiar to us from many myths” (Scholem 42). “…Its trunk embraces the central and thereby conciliating forces; while the branches or limbs which grow out of it as various points encompass the contradictory forces of divine activity in Hesed and Din” (Scholem 42). The sefira of Hesed is love. The sefira of Din is judgment.
The sefirot could be a galaxy of stars, if you wish. The flow of this energy is two way. Jacob, when he dreamed of the ladder, saw messengers / angels going up and down the ladder (Gen. 28:12). (Not down and up.) The sefirot can also reveal themselves to our awareness as a ladder. The energy of Creation Returns in emanations toward Creator, Ayin,אין, Nothingness, and flows back down. Messengers going up and down, and up again. Hesed and Din must be in a dynamic balance to reach the convergence that is beauty-compassion-mercy in one direction or the duality (in triadic-balance with Keter) of understanding and wisdom in another.
Perhaps the emanations resemble particles falling into a Black Hole. As they hit the event horizon, they double, one continuing, one reflecting out, but as entangled entities. As below, so above; as above, so below. Perhaps the emanations resemble a Big Bang where time flows in both directions—beginning to end, end to beginning. Probably I don’t understand anything and do not have the wisdom to convey ( nothing(ness) ) אין.
However we might choose or be able to imagine them, the sefirot must be in balance. They are fractal—at all levels of the universe from quantum bits to macrocosmic, identical at all magnifications. They are Chaos. Ordered. Theory. The Shape. Everything.
And the opposite of love is not hate. It is harsh judgment. From harsh judgment flows, from us flows, the demonic dimension. For we are nothing but sefirot, energy, emanations of the Big Bang. For all I know.
A glimpse behind the curtain.
Pay no attention to the man behind the keyboard.
It doesn’t matter which you heard,
the holy or the broken Hallelujah…
It is taught in the Mystery of Mysteries: The king’s head is arranged according to Hesed and Gevurah [another term for the sefiraDin]. Hairs are suspended from his head, waves upon waves, which are all an extension, and which serve to support the upper and lower worlds: princes of princes, masters of truth, masters of balance, masters of howling, masters of screaming, secrets of Torah, cleannesses and uncleannesses—all of them are called “hairs of the king,” that is to say, the extension that proceeds from the holy king, and it all descends from Atika Kadisha [Ancient Holiness].
The forehead of the kin is the visitation of the wicked. When they are called to account because of their deeds, and when their sins are revealed, then is it called “the forehead of the king,” that is to say, Gevurah [Din]. It strengthens itself with its judgments, and extends itself to its extremities.… (Zohar, II, 122b–123a, cited in Scholem 53)
In the next three Sefiroth, we find Hesed (grace or love), Din or Gevurah (severity or judgment), and Rahamim or Tif’ereth (mercy, also known as splendor or beauty), in which the extremes are united and conciliated.Again, it is no coincidence that this sphere is defined by moral forces. (Scholem 42–43)
Hate is not the opposite of love.
Harsh judgment is the opposite of love. Out of the imbalance of harsh judgment (as opposed to judgment per se) and love comes hate. From hate comes the demonic dimension. The demons come from within. This is true for one. It is true for society. It is true of our human world right now, many nationalities, many Nationalisms.
They sit in judgment of us. We sit in judgment of them.
Out of the raised left arm of harsh judgment comes the demonic dimension.
Do not confuse this notion of left or right as anything to do with political camps or spatial dimensions as we know them. They are convenient and familiar shorthand for this side and another side that pull against each other. The image of Adam in the sefirot is a mirror image of the viewer. We see ourselves in everything. The tree is more complex, three dimensional, a series of branchings and series of branchings from those branchings.
The tree is an inadequately simple image because we know it. We see trees. We think we understand.
I don’t understand.
The purpose of all of the rhetoric. The flow of all of the hate. The riling noisy din of social media. Servers flickering. Serving up harsh judgments. All of us. Count me in…I’ll share that meme.
This carries. Comments. Brings. Back. Returns to. A beginning of sorts of bringing. Together or apart, I don’t know.
A furrowed red forehead with notable hair flying loose. “Hairs are suspended from his head, waves upon waves, which are all an extension.” In a weave over skin, the redness spouted its harsh judgments, a forehead extended to the extremities of the. Beast.
We called it hate, but he used harsh judgment of immigrants, of minorities, of liberals, of Hillary Clinton. He called up the judgmental. Yes. KKK. Yes. NAZIs. Yes. Bigots.
But. Also. And. Yes. Us.
Those who cried out against him and his followers. With harsh judgment. In harsh judgment. Becoming harsh. Judgment.
And the social media full of Din, the din, the noise, The Judgment. Without looking with love at the followers and asking, “how can I love them?”
Did you think Judgment Day meant someone else’s judgment? Something else’s Judgment? Perhaps it means the day that harsh judgment won. The election. No matter which person won, harsh. Judgment. Reigned.
I don’t love them. I judge them.
Don’t mistake me for saying we need to accept these harsh judgments of others that cast them as enemies—not immigrants, not those who are not “mainstream,” not those who are not “white,” an empty and meaningless category without inscription, a blank page signifying emptiness.
Please understand that the power (Gevurah) he wielded was not only over his followers. He triggered us. He caused us to judge. We answered. Off balance. We fell. Into hate. Fed by (our own) harsh judgment (of ourselves? our darker reflections? our shadows?). Which fed harsh judgment. The demonic dimension. Our demons.
We became part of the fire storm. Redness. Smoke. Mirrors reflecting our fears of who we really are back at us. And we became what we feared.
As did his supporters. They fell off balance into harsh judgment.
Trump fueled and fanned those flames. But so did all of the detractors on all other sides. A raging firestorm of harsh judgment—of Clinton. Of Obama. Of the Right. Of the Left. Of the alt-Right. Of Progressives. Of Boomers. Of Millennials. Clinton of Trump. (Some) progressives of Clinton. Of media. Media of anyone who sold viewers to their advertisers. Of those who voted for third party candidates. Those who voted for third parties of we who voted in the lie of the two-party system. Of those who didn’t judge. Of those who didn’t vote. Of others who judged.
There is room for judgment, to be sure. But it must be balanced by Hesed—grace and love.
I did not have that balance. I did not see that balance.
If we want to counter the redness of the demon with wild strands of hair, we must not join with “masters of howling, masters of screaming.”
I must find in myself Hesed, (love, loving kindness, grace).
We must find. Hesed. We must spread it outward. Emanate it up. And down. And up. We must remember that the opposite of love is not hate, that hate begets hate but arises from harsh judgments (being judgmental).
We must be less harsh in our judgments and more loving in our responses.
I must be less harsh in my judgments. Of you. Of me.
This is not to go to the other extreme. Hesed out of balance lacks boundaries, leaves us open and vulnerable, without defenses of any kind. Ready to be eaten.
We must judge, but justly, with love. And find solutions for people, not attack people as though they are problems.
We must call out the demonic dimensions with Hesed and send them back into Din. We must call out in love, to balance the mess we are in.
But we must also hold ourselves and others accountable for our (mis)judgments out of feelings of superiority.
We are all human. We all live in the world. We have divine potential, each and every one, even the orange redness with the wild hair.
And we all have demonic potential, each and every one, even the orange redness with the wild hair.
We must judge which is prevalent. With Hesed, love and grace.
And love is not the opposite of hate. But it brings a balance of judgment that leads from hate to beauty-compassion-mercy in one direction and to understanding and wisdom in the other.
Love must balance our judgment and guide our actions. Good must be on our tongues.
I don’t know how. I am angry. I am hurting. I am full of harsh judgments. I want to find a balance, though. And I want to remember that
…love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah…
I pick up my guitar and fall as much as sit down. My right knee screams in pain. My left knee sags. My right arm tingles, as fingers pluck the six strings. My left fingers press the notes, jarring my left arm to life as I make the chords: C – Am – C – Am -F – G – C – G – C – F – G -Am – F – G – Em – Am
I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
Well it goes like this:
The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah
I’ve read this past week that Leonard Cohen wanted Hallelujah to convey all of the possible moments, good and bad, when praise might come to our lips—the cold, the broken, the holy…
“Rabbi Tarphon taught us that while it is not our responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, we are not free to desist from it either.” —Rabbi Marcia A. Zimmerman, Alvin & June Perlman Senior Rabbinic Chair, Temple Israel, Minneapolis, MN in a letter to her congregation after the election.
Matt, Daniel C. The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism. San Francisco: Harper Collins. 1995. Citations from the 1997 Castle Books edition.
Each of the stanzas of this poem has the physical structure of a haiku. Though not a proper haiku (not least because there are no ‘season’ references, with the possible exception of lambs – Spring? – I don’t think so! There are no ‘Kiru’ either). Anyway, I like the way the form forces you to be pithy; there’s even less room for unnecessary words than in other poetic forms.
There is also, as you might expect, a portion of poetic licence … metaphor and allegorical reference. I have deliberately avoided punctuation until the last stanza, the punch lines, which are less equivocal. In consequence, there are different ways in which this poem can be read. According to the way in which it is read, its interpretation can change, albeit sometimes subtly. Feel free to tell me about your interpretation. Otherwise, I’m happy to allow knowledge of your personal understanding to join the many other sweet mysteries of life.
In conclusion, this poem asks questions.
Editor’s note: A version of the piece appeared earlier as a blog post.
does it bloom, this horror,
from my nonEuropean roots
from the scent of cinnamon in my blood?
the brown and yellow tinges of my skin?
or is it just your old soul and mine and
this intuition we share on the ground
of one another’s battles, witness the fuming
anger feeding disenchantment in the street
and the acquisitive tendencies of the elite,
cowardly saber-rattling, cut off from authority,
from that innate expressively honest power
of our erotic selves, our instinctive selves,
the non-rational knowing that embodies
strength, nothing weak or pornographic
in its expression, a profound antithesis
to the pornography of war and hate that,
in the end, is about impotence, about the
emboli of narrow minds, grasping oligarchs
fomenting tribal dissents for their own ends
or dropping bombs like a child bangs pots –
to overwhelm the fear of thunder, a game
of chicken, of the hawk-hawk play toward
a mutually assured destruction, just a
matter of time . . .
as we stand the ground of one another’s
battles where peace would be revolutionary and
the unholy alliance of wealth and fear-mongering
might burn itself out, find its way into justice,
but here we are, once again, in thrall to the
sociopaths that have us bloodied and bound ~
their eyes are the aged face of clockwork orange,
numb to the obscenities of maim and murder …
where is the will of the cup to overcome
the sword? time for the temple whores to
sleep with insanity and take the war out of it
Wrestling, names, and shipwrecks). Jacob / Yaakov wrestled all night with a messenger (of God, or angel) while crossing the Jabbok / Yabok river. In Hebrew and English, the two names are variations of each other, transposing consonants. The messenger gives him a new name, Israel / Yisrael as the sun rises (Genesis 32:22-31). I’m not sure that I can fully explain what that means. That’s why I have poetry. Here are two poems I have written about Jacob at the crossing of the Jabbok ford.
They’ve all gone ahead, those I loved,
those I cared for but did not love—
arrayed and ranked, walking toward doom
or reunion. This bank, this river I have crossed before—
this creek, this life, this wreck on this shore—
all too familiar, all too fresh, all too unknown, all too new.
Now a shadow over the moon, or
perhaps my own doubt
forms as I ford the stream.
Now I wrestle with myself,
with this messenger,
this something of nothingness.
Now the moon fades—
darkness less dark—
what is my name?
Now I limp away
from this tangled life
of deception and counter-deception—
to losses, deaths, uncertainty,
a favorite son sold to the gypsies—
Who will redeem us?
Soon my brother and I will embrace
but keep our defended distance.
Soon nothing will be the same.
Now, I wrestle with God.
Originally published in Voices Israel 2009: Poetry from Israel and Abroad.
Jacob wrestling with the angel
I didn’t notice you come up. It’s so dark.
Look at the river, though, a darker strain beneath
this evening’s melody, flowing against the harmony.
Perhaps you won’t believe me, but God has spoken to me.
He sent me here, on the journey, to this river. I must cross.
But I don’t want to. On the other side, reckoning. Maybe death.
Odd, how we will tell strangers things we wouldn’t tell
our closest friends. Not that I have had that many friends.
As you stare at me, I feel that you understand, though.
See over there, across the river? That direction is the direction
I must travel. I’ve already sent the others ahead. Made offerings,
sent gifts. A man grows lonely in a foreign land. That direction,
that direction I must travel, that direction is home.
How far are you from home? Your silence doesn’t surprise me.
I’ve kept to myself, too, not told the whole story.
I had to keep silent when I wore goat skin to fool the old man.
He took me for another, gave my brother’s blessing.
I don’t suppose you know what that feels like, to betray a brother?
Why do you remain silent? Well, you also remain here, listening.
I will continue. My brother liked to play rough when we were young.
As we grew up, he would hunt, ride, spend his time out of doors.
I studied, read. I was pale, he ruddy. I wasn’t really a sissy,
well, now you can see, I have grown strong, worked hard,
made something of myself. Back then, I guess you wouldn’t know
that I would do so well. That must be why I went along with my mother,
when she suggested the plan to cheat my brother. Well, I can’t blame
her, can I? I mean, she might have told me what to do,
but I did it. Besides, I was the one who made the stew, red with spices.
Anyway, after our father gave me the inheritance
instead of my brother, well then I figured there would be hell to pay.
So I left.
What’s that you say? Yes, it is growing light. You must go?
Work to do, you say? Oh. Well, now that you’ve heard my story,
even if you are a stranger, won’t you give me your blessing?
Are you sure you won’t tell me your name? What’s that? Oh,
I’m Jacob, the Usurper. What’s that you say?
You have another name for me?
Does prophecy help? What does exegesis reveal? What texts do we provide exegesis for? Isn’t all of Creation and sacred text awaiting exegesis? If we remember the sacredness of everything and nothing, would be stop hating? Do we miss the rhythm of harmony when we fall into judgment?
I. Prophecies of the poet
Dark shadows slip under waves
to catch an indecisive moment
and let it surface to lustrous now.
Thus, no decision becomes one.
Star glimmers, the sun on waves
accenting troughs’ deep colors,
remind us that contrast
strives to give shadows light.
Night falls, dawn rises—
or perhaps night rises to
the falling dawn. Invert
a scene and shadows
reveal unseen truths.
II. Poetic entropy
Sleep and dream fly
off together—dish and spoon
beneath a cowed moon’s
reflection. I wonder if daisies
die when the wine turns to dust.
Surfaces turn to dust,
flutter across the screen,
another abstract movie—
flashes of light and shadow—
Eyelids crumble, flutter,
resist an impulse of wake-
fullness. A wake behind
the boat loses momentum,
returns to a lake’s surface.
Flies surface on a window—
dark specks against winter sunlight—
driving speculation that our world
will fall back to dust, chaos.
III. Poetry books
Bargain books of poems,
English poems, that poetry
for kids, those books online,
some in a bookshop still; a
book stores gleaming nostalgia—
but even history books age,
textbooks go out of date:
book-free used books,
if you want to buy books,
poetry books, poetic coruscations—
slick bargain books of poems—
unrealized, found search-term hints.
IV. Poem lover
A glistening thought
slips into the night
and away at dawn.
A sleeper calls out
across the river
that drought dried.
A lover sought to
and other glimmers.
V. The end of poetry
Darkness cool and short
relieves the solstice heat
while the earth stealthily
slips around toward winter.
Dogs darken barks at sight
of shadows & eclipses but
dance high, wild with glee,
when they see glinting waves.
Tree bark peels away
only to display colors
beyond black, brown,
or gray imagining.
Peeling my eyes open
from sticky, closed lids
gives a methodology to see
this world unravel from dreams.
Deconstruction – a poem of revolutionary welcoming
I’ll take your hyper-inflated
phallus, ego-distended balloon,
id-fueled hot-air engine
that fills super-ego daydreams
to dizzying-heights of power—
and throw your craven, carved
wind on the fire of this year’s
revolution. Such a useless
log, poorly fit for fuel, and
barely at that, must burn
to ash before this dawn
comes, must rise in smoke
signals to call poets and
painters from themselves.
Then you can raise your
try to wave the smoke
from your eyes. We
will not be deceived—
we know who feeds
this all-consuming blaze.
And we will have
already come for you.
As you crawl out of your
wrecked ship of state,
we come for you.
As your cracked currency
drops from you, we come
for you. As you fall,
we come for you.
We come, not as you
imagine. With arms open,
we welcome you back to humanity.
The probability of our existence, of this green planet, of my lover—the odds against these are astronomical, cosmic. And there is so much to fear, so many possible and probable destructions, erasures, injuries, pains, slights. Yet, somehow, we speak to each other against all odds. And sometimes we understand. And, sometimes, we don’t need to understand, just to hear.
Not the odds, probability or possibility,
walking along a stream, waterfalls ahead;
nor sitting in mountain wind as the airport
slips away under the noise of clocks
forgetting the ticks that flock memory;
not geese in Oneonta’s skies—beneath duck’s
distressed, convening cackles; nor a wood
stove dancing passion as gasses
stream carbonaceous oblivion along
meridians calculated to deceive
a sense of order, a few imaginary
boundaries of time. So simpler to
receive the deception of hours while
sensing movement toward a finality
that constantly slips into tomorrow
until tonight comes—in the deep
slumbering giant silhouette-shaped
mountain range: a pass, a saddle,
a horse racing toward immortality,
limitless dreams fleeing past oaks
blown down in the windshear
storm of oblivion, dust, smoke.
Flying bound—aluminum, magnesium,
sodium chlorides, ferrous sulphates,
collide tidally among waves below—
the sea we cross from continent to
embattled continental plate, cracked
and distorted, a rift in sensibility—
sensuous signal of hot sulphur—springs
to life, dehydrates into burning
logos that desires mountains.
Trees, cracked and crackling, cry
out with screams, delight sparks
through the flue, invisible against
night skies. Jet aircraft roars over
soft piano jazz tango of the tangled
words: expressionless, blank, white
fonts floating in milk, reflected clouds
giving the illusion of a full moon,
the circle at the well’s top, the dark
clear water blued into green, self-portrait
shadow leaning over the stone-lined hole.
Reading Mexican poetry translated,
hearing untranslated Hebrew voices,
piano chords surrealistic eros, evolution
swims from the portals of splashing
planes in the curved sea ragged with waves:
Not the possibility or probability,
not the odds walking past
(the lottery ticket window)—
just bumpy air and rough decks
predicting nothing as the Tarot
reader considers by chance
a favor she once held in the palm
of her hand. The sun rose from
the middle of the body’s night,
drawing a margin of dawn
slated for sleep. A dripping distant
pendulum swings over a trussed
buxom heroine who laughs that yet
again the siren-wail saxophone-
imagined piano pauses, punctuating
sentences judged too heavy or light
among falling currencies, unslung
from tired shoulders. Still, we trudge
along hoping for the rising night
to rescue our exhausted ardor—
breathless, fatigued, silent.
Silence at the very center of
lays hands on us and prays
for listeners, discovering the
lack of oxygen in the air of
history, the thin cold atmosphere
compressed beneath wings.
Theory holds us up,
a thin blanket over our legs,
a neck pillow resisting stiffly
any hint of rest. Like geese,
I migrate, metallically tapping
a tin-drum heart in a blank man’s
chest, smaller than the eye
of the sparrow flitting beneath
our table at the cafe that last
day at the beach when the
pigeons stole the French fries
and threw away the foam box.
The wind came up.
The sand blew away.
all odds, we speak,
we don’t need to.
@2013 Michael Dickel
Originally published in The Art of Being Human, Vol. I (2013).
Can we recall our ideal state, our grace, the love we felt at the moment All was Created? Can we know anymore what we knew before we were born, before the angel touched our upper lip, leaving a slight indent under our nose as we forgot…
Once we dreamt, I don’t know what,
just conjure that. Like sun-warmed
rain in a dilatory rill, it refreshed our
feet. A blue feather wafts down as we
perch there—a bit of sky, flight, truth.
Vacant nights besiege us, nothing
more than a dried orange peel found
in a kitchen corner or white garlic skin
discovered sliding in the air along
the floor. The pips did not grow.
The bulb might have sprung up
green shoots, but these shriveled
as we slept. Who breathes like this,
loud and rasping, as though reaching
for a finish line that recedes from
my grasp? Hungers outnumber
dreams now. Peckish imagination
arises out of habit and unfulfilled
desire. Unrepentant love once
lived under a roof of dreams.
It took a broom and a mop
to clean up after the squall. So
we thatched our lives together
and slept under rising planets
and a cyclic moon. We hiked.
Where we could, we found springs.
From time to time, an acacia
provided scant shade when we
chose to sit. Sketches recollect
contrast and contradiction, rush-
hour delays on the way to work,
reality emerging from the sand.
Now, we decant wine from broken
promises and pronounce decrees
in the desert with dusty cant. Yes.
Once we dreamt. That, I remember.
I mean, then, I remembered. Now, I can’t.
Hate is it a termite mound built layer upon layer
There’s a symbiotic requirement; fire needs fuel
Words are just columns of hot air, without actions
They’re just cyclones of ridicule growing-
Redundantly weary it’s a multiplayer game.
You’ve got to work endlessly, closely, compliantly,
Connectively, multifariously, cooperatively
To expand or kill other colonies
With, opposing sides to build or destroy empires.
To become terrorists out to destroy airliners, you’ve
Got to be mad and lose your inexpressive mind.
Have a wooden heart the size of a termite hole
Never to bed, never to rise, did you know
Termites never sleep, never close their eyes.
Isn’t this the state of love and hate?
Termites they’re children of the night, I wouldn’t
Want them slipping through the cracks of my home.
Biting my soul, eating my home these social cockroaches
When found in a home means the owner will soon die
Hate is it a termite mound built layer upon layer
All I know is if left to their own devices it won’t be long
Before, they’ve eaten all the stars and maybe the moon
Adding more and more, fire to the fuel.