Sunday, March 31, 2002

the following, in yellow, is the beginnings of a journal I found on my home computer last modified monday august 7 2000. below it is today's entry in orange. also: thanks johns, if you're reading this.i love you. call me at school. I took 10 years of piano lessons before the piano drew me to it. I allowed myself distance from the instrument: I respected it, I honored it, its disciple. But not once during those ten years did I pass the piano in my living room, and, desire to play. I felt a duty to learn, to develop skills, it was, well, something I should do. I sit at my compaq today, at age 18, writing out of the confines of assignment for one of the first times in my life. Every so often for the past few years, a little voice in the back of my head fitfully whispers to me from his sleep. "Ari. Hey Ari. You should write." And On. "You say you like writing. You might even be pretty good at it." And on. "….Considering the limited practice you give yourself. English papers. Newspaper articles. Research reports. Please. You know that doesn't count. You're committed. You're held to it. It is so damn disciplined." And I mollify it with an resigned, "ok, I'll right something at some point soon." And on and on and on for all of high school and it never really happened.

I saw Fugazi tonight. Well, I saw a portion of the lead singer's head, the rhythm guitarists forearm, and the drummer's cowbell. Mostly though, I saw the nasty sweatstained back of the large guy who nudged his way in front of me. I stepped back, assuming he was trying to get past, and watched him set up camp right where I was standing, giving me a beautiful view of the moist hairs matted outward from the center of his neck. I glared at a few beads of sweat propelled down his neck by his gyrating body. Pissed and unassertive, I grumbled inwardly at my self-imposed impotence. The happy zen-mountaintop I have climbed for myself can place my in precarious danger of falling down the slope of impotence and resignation. Did I want to bother this guy? He was having a good time. Pretty damn selfish of me to interrupt his enjoyable evening with harsh and inconsequential words simply to see the rest of the bass player's face. I later found that the bass player was hiding behind one of the monitors, or the drum set, or both, so I would not have been able to see him anyway.

"The things you own, they end up owning you"
Last night I watched magnolia with my parents. For Daddy's Birthday I made dinner, good dinner too, penance for the lopsided birthday cake. I had spent the weekend alone in the house, and watched my one act of subdued teenage rebellion go very very wrong. I uninstalled the VCR, trying to pay attention at least to how many wires went in, and roughly where they went, and tried to move it upstairs to the other tv so I could cook and watch magnolia at the same time, but it didn't work. And I could not reinstall it.
And I freaked three hours the stress fantastic on the phone with CableTV Montgomery ("Now 'Comcast, Inc.'") getting everything working again. After the movie, the cable stopped working again, and I broke down. I don't even like TV all that much. My parents wouldn't be mad. More than anything I filled myself with the sense that I had done something wrong, that I was responsible for destroying something that was not mine. I wonder at myself, whether I am really what I believe myself to be.
Am I strong, or simply untested? Will my confidence shrink when I enter an arena exponentially larger than the bubble of my high school life? Do I have self-esteem without a support net of friends and family? I would like to think I am what I think I am, but how strong can I be if I can collapse over a cable TV box, if I allow people to push me around for their own convenience, if I allow trivialities to consume me?

I worry. My pseudo girlfriend from summer past Katie always told me I think to much. She was right, at least a little. I am not an impulsive person. I am not a wild person either. I would like to think that I am eccentric, that I don't fit under anything near the normal tent…..
More later

I feel like the patron saint of catastrophe visits me on occasion to keep me smart and considerate and responsible and safe. The first real party I went to in high school got busted by the cops and I got to take a breatholizer. The first night I went out drinking in Israel ended on my friends bed, with me holding her as she vomited and babbled and cried. These sobering experiences have kept me out of trouble, kept me a good boy.

an evening of warm, self-inflicted nausea. to romeo and juliet, with johnny, maya, and alina. debated the overbearing music with johnny, who thought it appropriate. though i first recoiled at this proposition, i now reconsider a bit. there is something in middle-school love that, to be faithful, requires some good measure of nausea to make it work. i suppose i just found it unpleasant to enter that skin again.
i find i can appreciate the skill and genius of artworks on a separate plain from my enjoyment of them. Example: momento: brilliantly done, but centered around a character i was meant to loathe or pity, left me depressed and dejected.
counter: 10 Things I Hate About You: i recognize that this is not a work of artistic brilliance on the level of momento by any means, but i enjoy it far more, i must admit, because i empathise with and admire the protagonist.

my faith in my ability to continue living and thriving in this world rests much on a sort of logical practice of my intellect. too often i realize though that my intellect plays servant to my desires: i found myself so in need of a bathroom tonight that for 15 minutes another thought could not enter my head. I could not speak sanely nor conduct myself in any reasonable way. Similarly, after partaking in a similarly glorious self-inflicted nausea from devouring too many pesach deserts, I could not more nor think properly, but as entirely consumed with digestion. often when hungry i find it difficutl to think of anything else than my need for food, unless i am in the midst of a conscious effort of abstinence such as a fast.
some try to master these desires, and place their intellects once more upon the throne. others embrace their desires as their rightful kings and revel in their rule. which path to take?

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

I have spent my day like unearned pocket money. Alone, I bounced from wall to wall in my home of fifteen years, lusting after other places I could be, things I could be doing there, people I could be doing them with. I spent my day waiting. Waiting for an opporunity to get out. See something I had never seen before. Discover--to make the day worth living. At last I decided to grasp the remains of the day on a run in Rock Creek. Five steps out the door, I began to realize my idiocy. How vain of me to consume my hours lusting after sights inaccessible to my eyes. The same ludicrous endeavor as striving to live in moments already past or yet to come.
Chained to a chair, I could fixate on a single spot and make new discoveries for all eternity. Likewise I could travel across continents from dusk until dawn for the rest of my existence and see nothing. One may take broad steps accross a room--cover, suppposedly, its whole expanse quickly and carelessly.
Anothier might in their second step halve their first,
and in their third step halve their second,
and in their fourth step halve their third.
and never reach the doorway.
Who makes more progress?

Discovery lies in the skill of the eye, not solely in the object of its gaze.
In the shrinking woods of Rock Creek, I follow a well-tread path between clouds of buttercupped clovers. An enormous gray-white creature--I'll guess at it a heron--joins me for part of my journey. With wind rushing past my cheeks, I close my eyes and take to the air. My feet feel impact still, but I no longer touch ground.

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

you are in the Moment. I am in the Moment. The Moment permeates all things. Some try to live in memories or in ambitions. But all of these defy the Moment in vain. We will always |||can only||| live in the Moment. So breathe deeply.Feel your alveoli loosen their beltloops.

After much phone fourplay and casual rolling in the grass, we find ourselves on the banks of the great river, forging our path between trees all growing against the great current they flank--trunks extending not toward the sky, but upstream, at some 20 or 30 degree angles from the ground. Climbing out upon the stone protrusions that gate and funnel the great river's flow, we are observed by creatures of the purest black--the elders, solemly holding court on a rock formation upstream from us; youngsters soaring in broad circular and oval paths overhead, baring splashes of white that clothe the underside tips of their broad feathered wings.

Ari (moaning with delight): What are those? Pelicans? Buzzards? Vultures? Crows?

Alex: Let's play dead and see what happens.

I now have an image for the word soar. Incredible. To fly--simply by effortless extension of the limbs. We fall from great heights and spread our arms to no avail.

On a river-bedded rock formation I meet a large limb, belonging to a long-passed tree. Dried wood, once a vigorous brown, whitened almost to dull ivory. Roots and branches indistinguishable: the entire ten foot limb, of uniform texture. At one end, branchings converge and diverge to form a portal, as might be found on the magic staff of a giant wizard. We watch as the sun makes it path above the black creatures

Whitecherryblossomed paths and small bamboo families accompany me through Potomac heartland into Rockville to Nomi and Jackie, (and Shoham--to whom I appear as a monster so fearful that she cannot but bawl and run away when she looked at me.) Then again into Potomac for:

Jackie to feed me extensively

Nomi to receive a massage from me

All of us to discuss music and monogamy

Barefooted drive to back to Rockville to Ambrosias, to pace and drum on counters and abuse the corridor payphone unil Johnny's arrival. Three hours over spanakopita, Webster's dictionary, Greek salad, time, milk, plastic straw football, religion, and baklava (Johnny refused the baklava; I, in turn, devoured it like a long-lost lover.). The meal would have been an immense joy even if Johnny had not so gloriously triumphed 26-18; even if the baklava's warm honeyed insides had not found a ravenousness I did not even know within me; even if we had not found common understandings of dictionaries, religion, and time. (in preparation for pesach i find myself in the habit of composing dayenu's to myself.)

I dedicate this entry to the trees growing out of the banks of the great river. May we all feel the current of the river we flank, whether we choose to grow with it or against it.

Monday, March 25, 2002

I sit drowsily amazed at my evening. How is it possible for me to feel so platonically comfortable with Alex, who insists upon infusing all her relationships with a steady stream of sexual tension? I suppose I shouldn't be so surprised: reasons beget reasons beget reasons why we should be good friends, why I will definitely lament her absence from my life next year, when I will live in Slater Hall on the Main Green and she will live in Ecuador.

I would like to amend/append a point made in an earlier entry. Upon closer reflection, my speculation that it is impossible to hold two ideas simultaneously now seems not entirely correct. Certainly there seem to be multifareous ways for any of us to direct our attention. I remember finding it peculiar that people had conversations while they were driving, with their passengers or on a cell. How could anyone be paying attention both to the driving and the conversation? My use of "idea" as a simply and easily definable concept runs into serious problems here. As if there were really some uniform object of the the mind when the mind is thinking, and the changes in that object marked time. The brain clearly cannot be understood as a passive vessel, or even a simply understandable machine.

In order to recognize faces, we need to be able to see a person and know them without having to first know how their nose hooks, how many centimeters apart their eyes lie, what angle their chin subtends to the lobes of their ears--all details of knowledge an artist would have to know to render an accurately resembling picture of that person's face.

I'm not quite sure where I am going with all of this, and I am exhausted, but I feel like I should keep going a little more.

what is scary about the dark? some part of the fear seems to arise from obvious reasons: I depend heavily on my eyes to know the world, and when my eyes are rendered impotent in dark settings if feel vulnerable and helpless. But I think there is more to it. I bet there is built in circuitry that reinfores a darkness-fear association, perhaps an evolutionary vestige testifying to the ancient importance of having increased awareness of dangers one cannot see at night.
Uch. I'm violating one of the top 10 rules of kindergarden. If you don't have anything good to say, don't say anthing at all. Clearly I am spouting for the sake of spouting for the for for the for for forthe forthe sake of spouting. I have nothing to say but it's ok. I have no idea what has made me so deleriously tired. Clearly the canoli alex and I shared at fino was laced--how would I know? It was the first canoli I had ever eaten.
Laced or not, it was delicious.

Sunday, March 24, 2002

Math=Danielle Rein
the girlfriend i left behind at summer camp when I was 10,
pledging the relationship would continue during our separation
I sent a few postcards to her
got a few back
and we forgot about each other.

But math, (unlike Danielle Rein, Where is she? Ford knows) has been sending me love letters recently, and I'm tempted to respond.

I am inspired by The Vector.
The Vector has an origin.
The Vector has a direction.
What The Vector does not have, though, is a point of destination.

immersion attempts in every moment and moment and moment fail
because i am with eyes inextricably fixed on some point of destination always.
this is a curse. i am almost never where i am.
how often do i find myself making love to a book, so enraptured by the reading that i can't bear to put it down, and yet incapable of flipping to the end to see how many pages i have left.
what is going on? i am enjoying what i am reading as i am reading it, probably more than most other alternative experiences i could be having. Yet I can't stop myself from anticipating the end.

If there is a fear behind this, it probably rests on my anticipation of whether a journey without a destination is even a journey.
I seek the power of The Vector,
to extend with direction from some starting point,

to reject the end point.

Saturday, March 23, 2002

Resoluiton: write more.
exit the safe padded cell of academic prose.
humiliate myself splendorously and more frequently.

i have been living safely, driven by safety's hero--fear.
fear has been my bathrobe since i rid myself of the grimy funk that bathed me last semester--
half sick half stressed and scattered, i blindly flailed, grasping for the ari i loved and remembered vividly.
it took me a semester to find him--or at least a close relation with all the important qualities.
after my recovery, i remember the blind flailing and grimy funk and i was scared.
and i am scared.
i have written one article for the indy.
i have blogged carelessly and casually, casually toe-ing hotspring water to little effect.

i will begin this project with quantity. discipline will take this form first. I will try and free myself in the process--this will be messy. very little writing in this journal will communicate effectively, sharpfully. Certainly nothing will be artful. that does not concern me. i hold myself here, on my distant planet, accountable to no one but myself, so i need no one else other than myself to excuse myself myself.

a note on definitions: i reject samuel jacobson's championship of the dictionary. words don't come from the dictionary, nor are they laid to rest there. i suspect words. are they any more than a composite of associations?
what is a chair? something people sit on. If I lie down on a chair is it still a chair? If I sit on a table is it no longer a table?
kundera's dictionary of misunderstanding explains this much more effectively and artfully than i can.
but that is not a concern for me. clearly my goal is not to outwrite kundera. nothing could be further from my goals.
postulate 1: we learn words by hearing them in multiple contexts, and assigning them meaning based on those contexts.
postulate 2: each person will have unique contextual two people have the same experiences. no two people will encounter words in the exact same contexts.

proposition: words have different meanings for different people.

--Composite context defines words (postulate 1). Every person encounters words in different contexts (postulate 2). Therefore, words will be defined differently by different people.

proposition 2: the meaning of words changes constantly.
why? we are continually encountering words in different contexts. each new contextual encounter modifies a word's meaning.

proposition 3: the extent to which any word's meaning is dynamic within a person or between people depends upon the variance of its contexts.

example: take the word "spoon": there is very little confusion among people about what a spoon is. Everyone essentially agrees. You ask someone to pass you a spoon confident they're not going to pass you a fork. Why? because almost any person who has encountered the word spoon has encountered it amongst people who define it in essentially the same way, by essentially the same qualities, and in essentially the same contexts. imagine, though, if a child was raised in a community that called an eating utensil with four prongs and a handle "spoon." What we call a fork would then be called a spoon. Or supposed "spoon" became used to refer to an extreme style of dancing, or horsegrooming. This rarely happens, so there is little confusion over the meaning of spoons. But sit at a table with four people and ask them to define God and who knows what kind of different answers you will get. The more similar the past contexts in which people encountered the word God, the more similar their definitions.

sigh. enough shitting into my blog for now. more soon.

Thursday, March 21, 2002


on my way,

and already there.

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Try repeating a group of numbers to yourself—out loud or silently. 1,2,4,8,16,32,64 continually. Now, as you are repeating these numbers, without stopping, continue reading. No. Don’t stop counting. Keep counting. Keep reading. You can multitask? Right?
No, of course not. But wait. Continually multiplying numbers by 2 perhaps a task that requires significant mental resources. Could we perhaps repeat just one number, the number two, over and over, and continue to read this sentence? Try it.
I might be able to convince myself that I am both repeating the number 2 and reading—simultaneously—but I suspect that I am in fact only mastering an illusion in the style of human beat box Rhazel, which he loves to showcase in a now famous tune called “If your mother only knew.”
Rhazel sings a verse. Then vocally produces a beat. Then he announces, like a proud magician, that he will sing the words and produce the beat--at the same time. The crowd listens dumbfounded. Rhazel’s gleeful question: “You don’t believe me?” He then gives away the trick behind his magic, halving the tempo to reveal that he in fact has interweaved the beat and the words. The beat and the words are not in fact being produced simultaneously but rather in alternating fashion. Rhazel of course knows that even once revealed, the illusion rests just on the edge of incredible. So he dives right back in. “The words, the beat, AND THE BASS—at the same time!”
Time, I venture, is only a measure of the succession of ideas, one after another (I of course am not the first one to venture this, nor will I be the last).

What then?

If we can figure out how to repeat the number 2 while reading these words, then we—might—stop time. Or perhaps not simply stop time. Time might cease to exist for us.

Saturday, March 16, 2002

i have lots of love to give.
take it.
take my love.
is this too confrontational for you?
would you prefer us all to gaze vaguely at each other
from safe distances?

does my love stink from its open offering
rotten from exposure?
i throw it around. proudly. with as much recklessness as I can muster.

and with universal selectivity.
are you upset by my screening process? i chose everyone and everything.
i offer my love to all creation.
and am told i have poor taste--worse--no taste.

but i do taste--perhaps like a dog tastes.
slurping with frantic and mindless vigor.

in that taste my love accepted.

Monday, March 11, 2002

Some couple thousand years after Ezekiel, Baruch Spinoza took up this great Jewish (and human) struggle in 17th century Amsterdam. How can we worship God and still follow his commandment not to make images of him? How can we relate to something whose form, whose characteristics and attributes, are by their nature beyond the grasp of our senses? How can we understand God enough to worship him and seek spiritual enrichment without making some sort of image of him?
Spinoza approached this struggle from a different side. He probably took the second commandment very seriously, for his philosophical writings on God implicitly challenge the tendency of Jewish and Christian texts to make images and visions of God.

(Exhibit one, provided by me--not Spinoza: the passover hagaddah includes a discussion of the rabbis amplifying the number of plagues that occured at the red sea. If God's finger brought the Israelites out of Egypt with ten plagues upon the Egyptian, then God's hand must have brought the Israelites accross the Red Sea with 5x10 = 50 plagues and so on and so on. My bewildered question: what? God has a hand? what? with five fingers? to what purpose ? this imagery)

Spinoza tries to prove--geometrically--that God not only exists but further is the only substance, that he is infinite and has infinite attributes. As a substance that has all and infinite attributes, God would be impossible to image because no image could have all and infinite attributes. Indeed, Spinoza seems to take the second commandment very seriously.

But I don't think his struggle is as irreconcilable with that of Ezekiel, or with the history of Jewish struggles that birthed him, as it might at first appear. Spinoza's community, who exiled him for his views, clearly didn't seem him as part of this beautiful tradition of struggle. But Ezekiel never seems to claim that his vision grasps all that is God. In fact, God comes to him in so many ways in the first few chapters that Ezekiel's revelatoins become rather dizzying...voices from within and without, the appearance of strange texts, fourfaced fourwinged creatures and so on and so on. Spinoza might agree that Ezekiel could in a way see God in all those things, because any attributes that those revelations could possess would in fact have to be attributes of God.

The struggle is thick. The human spiritual question inevitably bathes in it at one point or another. Where is God? Perhaps next time Ian and I will read Jonah's story.

read from the book of ezekiel with Ian Gray last night. It was one of his first encounters with the bible, and in retrospect ezekiel might not have been the best place to start. I should have known, but I had never really encountered ezekiel in any serious manner before, at least that I could remember, so I had no idea what we were getting into. the book of ezekiel starts with ezekiel's vision, which involves four four-faced animals moving with four wheels, which are in rings, which are in eyes. ANd then he has a vision of God, and then God speaks to him and tells him to speak to the children of Israel, to do various things with a tile and an iron pan, to eat rice cakes made from human dung and live on the street for three hundred and nintey days. if any of us were to encounter ezekiel on a city street, there is no chance we would take what he had to say seriously. why is he there? to portray the desperation of suffering, to embody the delerious challenges of the inherent human struggle to see God?

her toothbrush and toothpaste sit in my bathrobe pocket.

my bathrobe pocket!

for how long will they take up residence?

her down comforter embraces my bed.

my bed!

for how long?

why should i care to look down the road anyway? what lies for me there will inevitably come visit me on its own accord. No sense pining after it, vexing over what it will be wearing when it shows up at my doorway. no, i'll take to the ground that bears me up by the soles of my feet. sift some gravel between my toes. bounce and pivot about my heel. take a bold, i don't think, no not in a direction. bold because it is a directionless step. a step embracing itself, embracing its own movement, its movement part of a journey that knows no path, and that seeks no destination and therefore holds no direction.
step boldly for all its own worth.

Sunday, March 10, 2002

my fingers are tied.

Wednesday, March 06, 2002

I shouldn't be writing this. I'm sitting in accross a large square discussion table participating in my 2.5 hour once-a-week Totalitarianism seminar. I should be paying attention, but my mind drifted, I remembered my in-class internet connection, and I read Ester's journal and got inspired--couldn't help myself.
Believe it or not, I am paying attention and actively participating in the discussion on Hannah Arendt--I am in a multitasking mood. I even have IM on. It feels so wrong, and yet oh-so-right.

I have recently begun trying to start my day by saying Modeh Ani and begin and end my day with shma. I say "trying" because I often forget.
||Trying to remember|| in itself brings me closer to the spiritual home I seek.
I can find nothing more valuable than existence. Too often I forget to be grateful for this gift, when in fact I can never be grateful enough. Such gratefulness increases my pleasure in life--not in a mindless, numbing way, that "opiate of the masses" type religion might--no, not like that.
No, quite the opposite. Gratefulness increases my pleasure in life because it increases my sensitivity--inspires me to grasp at all encounter with greater force and sharper feeling.

Locke defines (in awfully written prose) identity for plants and animals as involvement involvement in a process of living. In this way the flowers, fruit, leaves, branches, trunks, and roots, participating in the process called life, could together possess the identity of a tree. I like this idea, and am tempted to snatch into my arms and run far away with it. But what of the seeds in the fruit of the tree? Do they belong to the tree? Or to the new trees they will birth? And what of the bacteria lining the roots of the tree, without which the tree could not properly nourish itself? Don't they too participate in the life process--and therefore belong to the identity--of the tree? Aren't these root bacteria also the tree?
Dirt. Dirt feeds the roots. Dirt is also part of the life process of the tree. Dirt is also the tree.
Water. Water is also the tree.
Sunlight, And sunlight also tree.

eck. i'm glad no one else reads this. I love being able to embrace ridiculous sentimentality. Effusive, poor writing. Somehow I can excuse --even embrace--it even when I would never expect others to do so.
Sap. I drink from the tree.

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

mildly absurd. Once a week. Mildly absurd.
Should I be excercising discipline?
Hmph. Hmph I say.
After extensive outlining, I am ready to sink my incisors into Locke's attack on innate ideas.

So ready, in fact, that I've decided to give myself some

breathing | room.

reflectcelfer. clear my head.
Swam on my fingers through polytonal arhthyms, vague structureless musings that often occupy my lovemaking sessions with the piano and bass. Aside from a few loosely recurring motifs, I let my effusion remain transient. One day--soon--I will sit down and compose--soon--with structure and intention--soon--with direction--soon--with weight and meaning.
For now I am glad to return to them. I hadn't in too long. It now occurs to me that much of my drive toward music may derive from redirected sexual energy. The old no-sex-baseball hypothesis.Now for some casual attempt at a workout, a quick trip to the store, some food, and I'll have completed my tour of random structureless pleasures for the day. And I'll be ready. And I'll lay the smack down on Locke.