Fractured Prism

Someone told me of a beautiful Jewish concept, tikkun olam or repairing the world.  The explanation said that tikkun olam, for contemporary Jews,  most often refers to acts of charity or social justice.

In the broadest sense, the idea acknowledges that at some point our universe does break apart, that we repair our disarray one broken thing at a time.  One by one by one, we accept that being fragmented is part of our process.  Step by step by step, we let go of the broken pieces, allowing them to arrange into a different prism.

Part of becoming whole again rests on the willingness to accept ambivalence with all the anxiety and discomfort it brings.  What once felt comfortable and reassuring is gone.  The step between a problem and a solution is now a giant leap of faith.

Four months ago, my universe split.  It felt like that biblical word, asunder, was the only concept that fit my manic need to run headlong into fear.  Anxiety and ambivalence were constant and I made mistakes, one after the other.  Nothing felt safe.  The new normal was science fiction.

For each of those 130 days, I have been the elephant in the room creating discomfort to those I love as they cared for and reassured me.  For 130 nights, I have ached with the empty spaces.

Today, as I spoke to family and friends , read blog comments by neighbors (who are friends), organized a few pockets of disorder and stained an interior door,  I realized that  tikkun olam is happening. 

Four Ordinary Women has welcomed a new champion who will breath life into our efforts to be read.  Acting on Mark’s suggestion that I honor unfulfilled passions, I am considering future music lessons.  Who knows?  I might even stretch this new found Jewish idea and learn to dance.

Bob’s pictures will stay on the kitchen table.  His den is cleaned but unused.  A last gift, his  blue bathrobe, hangs on the bedpost.  I sit in his chair as I read or write, wrapping myself in all that he was.  Yesterday, I sold his boat and was able to watch it pulled down the drive without feelings of disloyalty.

My world is repairing itself.  Blessings on tikkun olam.


More Beliefs

I believe that friendship is one of  the most delicate of connections. It is a bond strong enough to handle the weathering of the most difficult days, but can wither with the ordinary.

I believe that we parent until we die, though we need to parent very quietly once the child reaches puberty. After the child becomes an adult, totally silent parenting is our best option.

I believe that having fun is vastly over-rated for the young and under-rated for the elderly.

I believe that we have encased self-esteem in fake cotton candy.

I believe that ‘universal truth’ is extremely elusive.

I believe that civil discourse withers as underrated in our age of rage and vitriol.

I believe that those who oppose abortion must, in justice, provide for those unwanted children born because abortion was not an option.

I believe that every child is precious and deserves a run at ‘equal’.

I believe that the values taught in my childhood church grease the wheels of civilization.

I believe that the nuns, the Sisters, have given heart and soul to serve  many of those values.

I believe that social justice is our greatest hope of healing.

I believe that gratitude is under appreciated.

I believe that appreciation is the soul of gratitude.

Conventional Wisdom

Some of that conventional wisdom is simply common sense.  Touch a hot stove and your finger burns.   The body needs sleep.   Anxiety makes us sick.   As you sow, so shall you reap.

Maybe not so much on the sowing/reaping thing.   Even a well sown field suffers devastation when weather is harsh.

The Kansas City Star has a story of a family of five living in a motel, cooking in the bathroom and kids playing in the hallways.  I didn’t read the entire article so I admit to not knowing the details of ending as a human interest feature.  But the point is that this family’s story is common.  Homelessness is becoming common.

Shortsighted planning?  Credit card abuse?  Instant gratification, unwillingness to save towards future purchases?  That mysterious ‘better life’ for the kids?   Agreed.  This is sowing weeds.

But there is more.  So much more beyond the control of budgeting for utilities, wearing last year’s coat, eating at home, driving less.  Desensitization to core values that foster restraint.

Corporate greed.  Aggressive advertising to influence children.  Media messages that create needs from wants.  Political pork.  Self interest grown to monster proportions.

It is more than the economic bubble doing the bursting.  And just for he record, there is no way to recover a burst bubble.  Try that.  You can’t.  It is gone.

Starting over?  The top of the economic strata is just fine.  No need to start over.   And the ‘supplemented’ strata will be steady until the money runs out.  The middle suffers the most–and the middle carries the weight of the top and the load of the bottom.


“One of the misfortunes of our time is that in getting rid of false shame we have killed off so much of real shame as well.”  Louis Kronenberger, Company Manners, 1954

“It’s A Shame We No Longer Seem Able To Feel Shame.”  Ellen Goodman, 2009

Shame comes when there is a violation of cultural norms, a self-conscious emotion springing from an awareness when violating those norms.

So, if the cultural norms support the New York Post hiring the woman who opened the door to the downfall of the New York governor, shame has no place.  (That Governor, and not his wife, was  invited to speak at Harvard University.)

If the prostitute gets a prestigious job while the wife stands strong, is shame part of the picture…the picture of governors, presidential candidates, sports heroes?   Downcast eyes, contrite demeanor and pleas for forgiveness do not count as shame.  More to the truth, these things are a reflection of being caught.

Financial schemes, banking loop-the-loops, CEO bathrooms with plush to gold standards are shameful evidence of entitlement and over the top ostentatious behavior.   But if one is entitled, why would one feel shame?

Or more, to the truth, shouldn’t we all feel some shame at the sinking standards?

Poverty Chic As Oxymoron

I confess to reading the title of another blog and moving on, not bothering to read the text. Unfair?  Maybe.

The image of this oxymoron stayed all day.   At times, I felt some anger that anyone could link those words–poverty chic.   Of course, I should read the entire article before writing.  I justify my assumptions because of previous reading…sad stories where a buyer settles for a lesser luxury car, skips the Hawaiian golf vacation or cannot spend as much on jewelry and clothing this month.

Because of recent and unusual circumstance, I was in a heavy traffic shopping area where money seemed to flow.  Elaborate baby strollers, beautiful 20′ bicycles ridden by well-mannered kids, name recognizable handbags and clothing, and lots of shopping bags were the chic signals–“being or in accordance with the current fashion”.

To be clear, I met and visited with many gracious people.  Those with whom I was working were charming and talented.  A neighborhood kindness marked most conversation.  We spoke of many altruistic things such as volunteer activities, cancer research, support of the arts.  Some of this people might actually know poverty through past experiences or current organizations.  But they did not live there anymore.

Poverty isn’t chic on any level.

There is no fashion statement made in handing a chit to a thrift store worker in exchange for a specific number of used garments.  Sharing a bed  with hunger or cold is deep and constant pain.  Scrambling to get an appointment at a free clinic makes little sense in a land of excess.

The search for Social Justice is a constant quest.  Many intense and talented people touch the heart of the subject by their writings and their involvement in dedicated organizations.

The linking of ‘poverty’ and ‘chic’ is not a part of the solution.  Rather, it is more an ignorance of the problem.