February 9, 2014

I’m thinking of the mechanics of knowing.  How do I know what I know?

Yesterday I was in a conversation that included how the internal combustion of fire figures in my contemplation.  So last night, I decided to light a candle so I could have a flame to refer to during contemplation.

I chose a yahrzeit candle because I wanted a flame in a container.  I would have preferred a stone container, but I don’t have one, so glass was what I went with.

It was not easy to light.  The wick was low.  It had been lit before.  (I don’t let them burn if I’m leaving the house or overnight, whatever the religious rules might require.)  I am not the first to attempt many of the things I do.  I like being (only) one of many.

After I got the wick lit, and not just a match burning on its own in the wax next to it, it occurred to me to wonder if I was lighting a yahrzeit candle because it was somebody’s yahrzeit.  My dad’s had passed.  So I looked up the date on which I had given birth, and on which the baby also died, in late February many years ago, and sure enough, Friday, February 7, 2014 was the yahrzeit according to the Jewish calendar for that date.

I was a day late, but the coincidence seemed too strong to me to be just a coincidence.  My Friday had included upheaval on a number of fronts in my life, too.

So I started wondering about the engineering of what happened, the mechanics of knowing.

I don’t follow the Jewish calendar in general, I tend to celebrate yahrzeits (which I think of as Jahrzeits) around the date of death on the secular calendar and when the spirit moves me (usually a few weeks before the date on the secular calendar).

The only person I know, I think, who calculates yahrzeits properly according to Jewish rules and the Jewish calendar is a cousin who is sporadically in touch.  I am not sure whether he is aware of the birth and death, and it would not, in any case, be eligible for being marked by a yahrzeit observance according to orthodox Jewish rules, because she didn’t live long enough (she didn’t live 28 days, she lived less than one day).  So I am not picking up on somebody else’s observation of a yahrzeit, I don’t think, but, on the other hand, I wouldn’t have done this myself on my own, without any input from elsewhere.

I don’t have a sure explanation.

But the experience fits into my sense of what I need to do to transition into another phase in my life.  I need to be less interactive, at least for a while.  The image that came to me is that of a generic grandparent sitting in the corner of a library in an elementary school, and just reading.  To themselves, silently.   Not interacting with the children or the staff.

This may mean not blogging, this may mean not posting comments elsewhere.  I don’t know, but I think it means paying more attention to discerning between what other people are calling for me to do and what I actually feel called to do, and only participating in the latter, even if in the past I have heeded the calls of other people as part of what I felt called from a deeper place to do.  I don’t feel that way right now.

I feel a need to make change in my life unilaterally, having tried for some years now to do this through a process of negotiation — I need to get off a merry-go-round I feel I have been on.  While it is clear to me that there are contributing factors to this situation from other people’s misperceptions, it is equally clear that there’s nothing I can do about that, especially when it would involve their recognizing that their process is flawed and producing errors.

It’s hard for me, though, and I did post a comment on Nick Kristof’s blog (in connection with his column about our prisons having become de facto mental health hospitals) earlier this morning, because, as I wrote in it, I was disappointed there were none posted yet when I had looked.   I try not to be doctrinaire.  It’s always a work in progress.


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