Monday, March 30, 2009

It's tiring but sweet

Long before there were blogs or Facebook people were trying to find ways to express themselves on the Web. Recently, I found the files from an early personal home page of mine (from the mid or late 90s, I guess). It was surprising to me to see how much my situation then mirrors the one I'm at, today. . . . and how it's very different.

The page started out (yes, with the much-bearded photo to the right) with these words at its top:
My name is Alan Abrams. My life has three halves. Having 1.5 lives crammed into one life keeps me pretty busy, but I'm not complaining -- it's pretty sweet most of the time, although I can get pretty tired.
It went on to say something about my job (I was a buisness journalist then working for a then-daily newspaper called The Journal of Commerce). It then went on to talk about faith. Here's what I said (pre-Rabbinical School, mind you) about faith:

Ok, work is great. It keeps me off the streets and/or from napping all day. But where does it all end!! Nowadays, we tend to think of each other as if we're all machines or commodities designed for certain tasks. When can we tell ourselves and/or our bosses that enough is enough and that we're human after all?

For me, that enough-is-enough comes every week with a sundown and lasts until the next one. When enough is enough, I am transmitted to a holy place where no person rules over another. It is a place that does not exist in space, but only in time. It is a place called Shabbos.

On the Sabbath, I have found freedom by accepting the restrictions and rules that Jews have accepted down through the ages as having come from God. Shabbos is His day. On that day He is the only ruler, the only King. And on that day by accepting his sole rule we find freedom because that act of acceptance allows us to throw off all the bonds that come from Mankind and from ourselves......ok, ok, so maybe I can't make myself completely free every time. But, I'm trying and in that process of trying, I have found a treasure in my life.

Now these days I would never use such gender-specific language for God like this. But it's wonderful to have a reminder of how central Shabbat was to me even at that early stage in my journey towards a serious engagement with Judaism. Sticking with that commitment to Shabbat has not always been easy and has involved many a sacrifice. It is very affirming to me to read the words I wrote about Shabbat those years ago.

I think there are three halves to my life also, today. But I'm not sure I would divide them up the same way. My faith life is so integrated into all aspects of my life -- including my work life -- now that I'm not sure I would give it a seperate category alongside the others . . . . It's just such a part of everything.

So what would the three halves be, today? Certainly, Love (hi, Minna!). Certainly, Work. . . . The third? Maybe, learning? Maybe (for the moment, at least) physical exercise. . . . . Whatever it is -- it's tiring, but sweet!


Here are some excerpts from the "work" section:
I am a reporter for The Journal of Commerce, the world's premiere source of daily information on international trade and transportation. My previously occasional column on technology will now appear once every two weeks!! But mostly I report on shipping. I love oil spills .. ... ok, ok, I don't love oil spills, but they make my life more interesting. Never forget, most accidents are due to human error and most human error is due to boredom and/or lack of sleep. Please, please, if you're piloting an oil tanker, try and get your rest and stay alert. If you own an oil tanker, please let your crew get the sleep they need. . . . . .

. . . . . The world's seas really don't have a police force, but our Coast Guard does a pretty good job, considering ..... considering being massive budget cuts and all that jazz. But, I tell ya, these guys are a joy for a reporter to deal with -- articulate, knowledgeable and willing to talk with very few exceptions. If I ever get lost at sea, I want these dedicated men and women looking for me.

And here are some excerpts from the "Love" section:
Work and faith are good -- very good -- but life would be pretty lonely without friends. I have some great ones!! . . . . We [New Yorkers wear our surliness] as a badge of pride, ya know.

Bunches of my other friends happen to be Southerners, but they're actually pretty surly, too, in their Southern way, which must be why I love them so much. They can be so brutally indirect. I admire them for that bizarre brand of honesty. And for their love. They really know how to adopt a Northerner.

I've largely lost touch with those Southern friends. They really helped me through some tough times in my life with their love and I am so grateful for that. But as my Jewish journey got more intense, it was, sadly and somewhat ironically, harder to stay in touch.

The other thing that's changed is that I guess I really don't wear "surliness" as a badge of pride anymore. That's part of growing into my rabbi role, and moving beyond identifying myself so much with New York (although I still love it and have it written on my soul for sure). . . . I've learned to be better at appreciating other places and the people who come from them. . . That's growth! :)

1 comment:

Minna said...

That's one surly beard!!! Thanks for the sweet shout-out. I am also from the South (South Fork of Long Island that is).