Rachel Barenblat’s Velveteen Rabbi blog is a favorite, and she’s asked for bloggers to answer five questions. http://velveteenrabbi.blogs.com/
It’s my last day of winter break, and she’ll nominate those who try for some small blogger award, so I’m giving it a try. But maybe answering these questions will answer a little about me and why I write.
To answer the first question honestly, my favorite book is the Bible, which explains why I blog about it. To be less boring I’ll link it to another favorite, The LIttle Prince by Saint Exupery, which I’ve just reread. I love Biblical text because of its mystery, its time machine element, its mix of profound ideals and details, its history of grappling, its passages that are beautiful and I love, and those I hate and scream out for wrestling with: its richness. It is God-inspired ideals shared throughout the world and through the ages, with levels of meaning from the simple to the metaphorical to the mysterious. And because it’s grows richer as it’s shared, I share my thoughts. As its reread through my life’s times, it takes on different meanings each year. For more on the strengthening power of Torah check out Dan Nichols’ Chazak midway through this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3RUKmvD0bc
When I first read The LIttle Prince in my late teens it spoke to me about holding on to childhood wisdom and rejecting the busyness of grownups pursuing important matters, losing their insights that love and stars and beauty and “pressing your nose against the glass” to see outside the train window are the most important. Childhood should not be ephemeral, but eternal as the LIttle Prince is. That the water the Prince and the narrator/pilot seek is spiritual nourishment is hinted at by the linking of the well to the pilot’s childhood Christmas memory. So the Little Prince is a book of spiritual and timeless ideals – how Biblical is that? The pilot meets the Prince, and their love is forged in the crucible of the desert: just as Abraham journeys and the Israelite nation is born there. The wilderness is our place of spiritual encounter and forging our love affair with the Eternal.
From an adult rereading, I am convinced that the book is about parenthood. The star/asteroids are the places from which children’s souls originate and then return when they die. I think the Prince is the pilot’s child who was born, blazing this loving relationship into his dad’s heart, leaving him heartbroken when his child died, and teaching his dad about love and eternal truths. What counts is what the fox teaches the Prince, who teaches the pilot: that which is invisible, what you waste time on, love itself gives the stars their meaning. So this book for me is like Torah, taking on new meanings with rereading at different stages in my life, with various levels of meaning, mysterious and begging to be grappled with, beautiful. I wish I could know if others feel the same way, so please chime in! This link to the Little Prince http://home.pacific.net.hk/~rebylee/text/prince/contents.html
The second question asks about a fictional character I most identify with, so I’m totally going to go with the pilot from The Little Prince. Flying along, looking at the stars with wonder, hearing their laughter each time they twinkle -knowing there’s so much craziness holding them together and making them shine. Like the pilot, I have learned to love most by falling in love with my children. They reached me from whatever asteroid they came from in the desert I didn’t even know I was isolated in and taught me about the roses from their particular star. They tamed me. But you have to let them go to find their own planet to tend in the end, they grow up and leave you, richer but sadder.
The third question is kind of fun, asking which five people, living or dead, fictional or real I’d invite to dinner. The first guest’s a gimme, Albert Einstein, of course: Einstein knew that feelings of wonder and awe was part of the fabric of the soul just as space and time are the fabric of the universe. He also struggled with his Judaism, but also famously said God doesn’t play dice with the universe in railing against the uncertainty of quantum theory, and sought a unifying field theory because of a deep attraction to unity in the universe – Adonai Echad!
What incredible conversations! What insights I’d leave the table with.
Next I’d totally invite Dr. Jane Goodall, whose forays into the wilderness have forged a connection to our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. Chimpanzees grieve, war, stand in awe before natural wonders, use tools, and are endangered by human activities. Jane has dedicated her life now to conservation. She’s a heroine of mine and also a fabulous story teller.
My next two guests are who I’m named for. My Hebrew name’s Miriam, after my Grandma Bertie’s mom, a Russian immigrant who opened a grocery store in Jersey city, where chickens had to be plucked! I’d love for her to tell me of what life used to be in the old country, and gain insights to the person who partly raised me. Great Grandma and I are namesakes of Miriam from the Bible, you know, the one who watched brother Moses in the Nile, was a prophetess and led the Israelites in music across the waters to freedom. I’d ask her about the music and the timbrels, about freedom, about sibling rivalry, about prophecy: what an opportunity. Maybe she’s where I get my passion for music.
That leaves me only one choice left for the dinner party, which is unfortunate. My top three candidates are: Jefferson Smith: Jimmy Stewart from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Anne McCaffrey, author of Dragonriders of Pern, and George Gershwin, who died so young, with so much music in him. I think I have to go with Anne McCaffrey, because she’s the only one I actually did invite to dinner. She lived in Scotland, but in the fan letter I emailed her many years back, I said if she were ever in New Jersey…. I lived many a day in my dreams on the planet Pern, in the musician’s guild with Menolly, making friends with tiny fire breathing dragons while composing melodies. It would be an honor. Their memories are for blessing.
My favorite place to pray is either a synagogue filled with inspired music or my back deck. I know it’s not a mountaintop or anything, but it faces east, I can hear both natural and man made sounds and feel the breeze, and it’s so accessible!
The final question asks something I hope for in 2013. I’m not so young that I think change can happen overnight, but I also know what Margaret Mead said is true, not to doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed it’s the only thing that ever has! So I’m hoping for gun control legislation, and the start of serious change in conservation and climate change laws. If we will it it’s no dream? So why not dream big, it sets the stage. If not now, When? Now listen to the first song in the Dan Nichols link, because miracles do happen every now and then!
Write back, what are some of your hopes, your dinner invitees, your favorites? I’d love to hear!