Archive for the 'synagogue' Category

Telling stories

December 11, 2011

I have spent a lot of time working on unraveling somebody’s stories, including how they construct narratives in order to process the world.  That’s what we do, I think, in this world, take pieces of stuff and form larger pictures.  If we try to make them cohere in a certain way, including with cause and effect, it’s more like our every-day narratives of our lives.  If it’s more like juxtaposed pieces placed near one another, sometimes overlapping, etc., it’s more like what we call collage, a type of art, to our way of thinking.

There is a tendency to use the narrative and our models of narratives more generally to guide our (future) behavior:  where does this storyline seem to be going and how can I influence it? is what seems to be the process many people use.   That stopped working for me a long time ago, and at some point between being practical about it (this just isn’t working) and willingness (although perhaps that willingness was induced through coercion or deceit) to try something else instead, I think I stopped desiring it to.

Which, on the one hand, has led to some interesting experiences, but, on the other hand, is kind of difficult to explain to other people, especially when people say, “Well, now that you have developed these skills, why don’t you apply them in this, that, or the other particular way?”

About those interesting experiences: here’s an example from last week.  I kind of heard at the previous week’s Friday night services that there would be a potluck supper after services the following week.  Maybe because they said that bringing food was voluntary, I forgot all about it.  Thursday night Jordan and I went food shopping, and I happened to buy the makings for coleslaw, which I don’t usually do.  The next day, late in the morning I find myself putting it together, and, even more unusual, throwing in things like cut up apples, walnut pieces, and dried cranberries.  I think I am being a good hausfrau and using up stuff in the cupboard and fridge.  A little later I found myself looking at an email from the congregation, with a view to forwarding it to someone else, and behold, it mentions the potluck (to welcome the LGBTQ community) and I start thinking, “I really should bring something, what should I do?” And then I realize I can bring the coleslaw.

So, it’s kind of nice to have something other than my intellectually accessible memory keeping track of what I need to do, and I’ve gotten more of this support since I got caught up in spiritual pursuits.  But being plugged in doesn’t seem to be something that I can then decide to use for my own purposes, or anyone else’s, just because it looks like it would be neat to couple this sort of support with some particular human agenda or other.  It seems to allow me to see what goes on in my life as pieces of collage, as well as a story unfolding in a particular direction.  But that collage perspective is even less about pointing me towards a particular goal.  In the past, I have figured out what some chapter in my life seems to have been about, only after the fact, in retrospect.  Maybe here, too, I will need to have started doing before I will understand what it is and why.

Friday night services

November 26, 2011

Jonas called last night while I was out at Friday night services, and when he called back today and I tried to explain to him where it was, he says, “Oh, I think that’s near where the mosque Salman and Nayef used to go to was, we used to go pick them up there sometimes.”  I remembered he used to be friends with these two Saudi princes, a pair of twins (their dad was getting medical treatment at Mass. General Hospital, I think), but I didn’t know where they worshiped or that Jonas even knew.  But I thought it was a great point of reference for locating a synagogue.  What I noticed as I walked to it from the MBTA stop were the Korean churches, but Jonas was unaware of those.  Could have been different neighborhoods we were talking about, too, and there have been about ten years inbetween.

Anyway, the last time I had been to Friday night services was years ago (and elsewhere), and I was less in a frame of mind then to notice how much of the experience was a group prayer experience and how much of it was something else (intellectual, social, musical, poetic).  These were very warm and authentic and friendly.  I probably need to learn the prayers and tunes better so as not to be distracted by trying to follow and remember the words and melodies.  But I was disappointed that the only time I really felt “the flow” was during the individual and silent recitation of the Amidah.  I am looking for that minyan, group prayer experience, not a group human interactive experience.  I am looking for the flow that can be gotten by a group, that kind of amplification of our voices, and the good stuff that comes in as a result.  I am willing to believe it might be had with this group, and I’m not going to give up after a first try, but I am harboring doubts.  It actually reminds me of the realization I had that when I take a walk with someone, doing so has more in common for me with having someone over for tea than it does with taking a walk by myself.  There, walking by myself has been, so far, the resolution to that issue, but a group prayer experience can’t be accomplished by oneself, I would think.