Friday, June 27, 2003

The first security car, from RISD, rounded the corner of Prospect and College Streets slowly, eyeing a bit our van parked afront the vanWickle gates. But it did not stop. The next car, also from RISD security, passed us slowly, travelled another 50 feet, turned around, passed us again slowly, travelled another fifty feet, then started swerving a bit back and forth, as if the car was making a decision. We scambled a bit to put on a little clothing--some boxers, a towel, whatever was quickly available. Then the car finally turned around a third time, and came to a rest beside our car. A RISD security officer not much older than ourselves came out, and shyly asked us what was going on.
"We were just taking some pictures," Sasha, wearing only a towel, told him.
"Are you Brown students?"
The officer smiled, seemed to be relieved that this was out of his jurisdiction.
"We just received a call that there were some naked people running around the Main Green. But everything seems alright here. I have to admit I was having trouble getting the resolve to stop,you know."
As he was leaving, a Brown security car pulled up beside. As RISD security car two conferred with Brown security car one, a second Brown security car pulled up behind. The Brown security cars, to let us know that they would not be quite so good humored about the situation, turned their floodlights on the van. There were now three security cars surrounding us, completely blocking the otherwise empty Prospect street. We were not concerned, because we had already shot several rolls in color and black and white of us climbing about various famous Brown landmarks, and were quite satisfied with our success.
If the first day of the twentyfirst year is any indication of what dreams may come in the next threehundred and sixtyfour, then put me down as ecstatic to be twenty-one. Morgan played Trimalchio for the evening, an ingathering of arilovers at Brown. There was a bit of "this is your life" quality to it. Corey Jackson rocketed out of the back of my garden with John Neidich. Budish tackled me. Mr. Collier gave me a bouncy ball. Tibet and Rachel brought me oranges and a mango. Royal van D'Erickson crafted a leglet for me out of a twig on the spot. Jared and Chris brought my Bible. Robin Silk-Screened me a tee-shirt. The Roots and the Chili Peppers held court in various rooms of the apartment, but few people heard them--it was too hot to be inside, so most everyone gathered in the yard, to drink rum and eat carrot cake (crafted deliciously by Morgan). The entire evening was a whirling hug. Lucas and Sasha arrived as things were winding down, and spirited Morgan and I away to Lincoln Woods, where we evaded good-natured guards to go for a 4am dip in the lake. Warm and clear. And, as we drove back, we decided since we were already naked, why not...
Soon I will have to tell stories of my adventures with tiny roaring magnetic brainfields; of the sea hair Aplysia, whose rhythms I witnessed single-celled. And of home, ecstacies soon to be had this weekend. le-chaim!

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

times square.
the new york marriot marquis. somewhere between
Modern Millie Musical on the second floor lobby and
revolving restaurant on the fourty-fifth floor
several thousand brain scientists converged.
science conferences are perhaps not as strange or mysterious as we would all like
but they are fun and learningful and overwhelming
the way science fairs would be
if they hosted 1500 exhibits
of brilliant professionals
who loved their projects to tears
this was a conference of the human brain mappers
scientists bound together in the common navigation
of trillion-cell space
new proposals took aim at better guides for surgery
one research group explained their efforts to convey the visual world
to the blind by applying electricity to their tongues
in patterned stimulation.
a language researcher tried to convince us that every word we encounter evokes within us immediately a binding of all its truths. our judgements of truth walk through walls of sentence and paragraph and dance through full realms of knowledge and experience, all before the word even finishes stepping out on stage.
new work suggested that bearers of absolute pitch
can know tones as language
while others must grapple with tones in relative space.
a group from Yale dipped its toes into the sea of consciousness.
new images provided a peek at acupuncture's mysterious workings behind our cortical curtains
a hypnoticed induced hallucinated pain in patients--
and showed it in pictures of the blood coursing through their brain

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

two short emails,and i have been invited into the world of dark earths.
Terra Preta is a mysterious dark soil that seems to regenerate itself. A specific layer is mined by native Amazonians, so as to allow the soil to continue to regenerate itself. All roots that make homes in this soil are abnormally blessed, and give rise to plant communities of enormous fertility. Although it seems to have existing for many hundreds of years, the study of it seems to have intensified recently, within a certain tiny circle. I have just begun to explore.

Monday, June 16, 2003

I aspire to become a master chef of ideas and actions, cooking several dishes on separate burners all with seemless grace, only to suddenly and miraculously bring some of them together in a delicious feast.
I wonder sometimes if my cooking skills will ever sufficiently develop if I don't slow down and begin with one dish at a time.
But I think it's too late for that---some puff pastries are in the oven and some sesame-peanut pasta is simmering on the stove, and it would be a shame to neglect them and leave them to burn and shrivel. I will attend to all my little dishes, and hope to advance my skills slowly in many directions, at least until I find a dish that takes violent hold on the reins of my attention. The readiness is all.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

sunny day. powderpuff clouds. skin baking lightly after a few steps outside. beachtime! rounded up the kids in the neighborhood and around town, headed out to Horse Neck Beach.
As we crossed into the parking lot, we saw ahead of us an enormous cloud rising from the Earth in all directions, and we looked behind us and the sun had retreated and there was only cloud.
Having driven almost an hour and paid for parking, there was little to do but set up camp in the cloud, on the beach. Twenty feet away, the sea which birthed this cloud was barely visible. We played in the sand, and I learned a game resembling volleyball involving two frisbees. Good times. After collapsing our camp at day-end and exiting the parking lot, the rising cloud disappeared behind us and we were back in the blue skies of sunny day.
A rich weekend. Gardening. Music. Exercise. Learning Spanish. A few little projects. And Shabbat. Ah....

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

sad and confused now. confused, well, because i am not sure why i am sad. comedic, no?

Well, I would like to conjure some moments, some lights in my weekend.

Shavuot is a pilgrimage holiday--this year, I too made a pilgrimage. The south end of Providence's East side boasts few Jews or synagogues. I walked north every day several miles, sometimes in the rain, always singing, sometimes dancing, always walking alone. I have some friends in town here on College Hill, but pretty much all of my Jewish friends have split, for New York, Jerusalem, California, Philadelphia, Camp, etc. So I made a pilgrimage North, to discover the East Side's Jewish community.

I arrived at Chabad around 11pm, already feeling adventure in the evening. Muggings occur nightly on the path I walked--but I carried nothing, and sang and danced my way along, (perhaps naively) confident that no one would bother me. Tikkun leil shavuot had not yet begun, but there were two people sitting at the long tables, covered in plastic over white paper tablecloths. They provided me with some texts and eager help when I asked for it, but gave me space and time to begin the evening at my own pace. I started with creation. In the fourth day, I came across a teaching of Rashi: Rashi asks, why does it seem that light of the world is created twice? The producers of light, the sun, the moon and the stars, appear to be created both on the first day, and on the fourth. Why would any thing be created twice? What could this mean?
Rashi proposes that on the first day the luminaries were created, but only on the fourth day did they find their place and begin to define their purpose--distinguishing night from day, days from each other, festivals and holidays, and all the rhythms of life. Just so, Rashi teaches, is it with all of creation. On the first day, the potential of everything was created, only to find its place on a day later to come.
I had skewered this teaching and was beginning to turn it over the fire when Rabbi Mendel came downstairs. He had not expected me to come, and lit up a bit when he saw me--a little bit of the tiredness of his red-tinted eyelids faded.
"Come upstairs and have a bite of challah" he invited. Rabbi Mendel lived above the Chabbad house. When he discovered that I had not yet made kiddush and consecrated a sacred feast of revelations, he became very excited. He started flying around his apartment, diving into his fridge again and again, and before I could say "Rabbi, this is more than I think I can handle at midnight" he had assembled a several course meal, complete with challah and kiddush wine. As unusual as the situation was, I had been thinking about this shavuot feast for hours, and how much I would miss it not being home or around other Jews. I tried to thank him as he continued to brainstorm more things for me to feast on while apologizing to me for not having more to offer and urging me to eat as much as possible--his wife had cooked more than their kitchen could hold for the chag, and it MUST be eaten.

Over dinner:
"I am really glad you came. Do you know, I always leave my door open--just in case."
"Really? Aren't you worried?"
"What for?"
"This is kind of a dangerous area. I was a little concerned, walking over here."
"Well, there are muggings along Hope Street all the time, almost every night."
"Perhaps coming from where you're from, Providence is dangerous. But coming from Brooklyn, I am not concerned."

We talked about rejoicing in holidays, and the importance of infusing a day with intense joy and celebration. After dinner, we toasted lechaim, and we danced together around his living room, singing "vesamachta, bechagecha, vehayeeta, ach sameach!" until we were too out of breath to get another word out or to take another step.
Then we went back downstairs and studied a meimar, a teaching of one of the chasidic rabbis. This meimar asked, Why, on mount sinai, did God introduce himself as the one who brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, and not as the creator of everything? The meimar begins by exploring the antithesis in depth. There are so many reasons why God should have introduced himself as the creator of the world, the rabbi declares. For there can be no greater miracle than creation--the emergence of something from nothing. The meimar goes on to teach (my memory failing me here, its brilliance will be bastardized a bit, but perhaps a spark or too remains) that with the giving of the Torah, God gave the children of Israel the strength to appreciate this Torah as given to them new in every moment--as it is written in that same passage, "leimor" all these things in the Torah were given to be said, again and again and continually again, to be maid.
The author of the meimar explains that in understanding that the Torah is created new in every moment, we can appreciate that the world itself (whose creation begins the Torah) is created new in every moment, and it is thus implicitly that God introduces himself as the creator of the world through the way in which he gives the Torah.
Further (insert artful rabinnic transition here) we can learn from this passage that the most important element of the revelation is the relationship that is forged with God--God liberated the Jewish people from slavery, and they became free to serve God through the study of Torah. And it is through the study of Torah, that the miracles of all creation can be experienced. The creation of the world in each moment is revealed in the revelation of the Torah, which is too new in each moment.

I need to review the teaching again. It was graceful, and my memory is waltzing a little bit drunkenly at the moment.

The next day I attended Beth Shalom, hoping to stand at Har Sinai again, to feel the Earth shake and to be awed with my nation. Nobody cried or screamed or shook, but the congregants were aggressively welcoming. A conversation on my way down to kiddush:

Me: "chag sameach!"
Him: "Are you visiting?"
Me: "I am a Brown student--"
Him: "Would you like to come have lunch with my family?"
Me: " name is Ari...."
Him: "Hi. Steve. (a hand outstreched) So, are you coming for lunch?"

Then later, with another man:
Him: "Do you have somewhere to go for lunch?"
Me: "Actually..."
Him: "Ah, Steve got to you first, huh? We'll get you next time."

Shabbat, I learned this from Rabbi Akiva:
Man is beloved, that he is created in the image of God--all the more beloved, that he can know he is created in the image of God.
Israel is beloved, that they are called God's children--all the more beloved, that they can know they are God's children.
Israel is beloved, for they have been given a precious instrument--all the more beloved, that they can know they have been given this precious instrument, with which the world was created.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Tonight I will take a journey to Sinai,
and see what revelation I can find for myself
with Text, with Torah
I will step to the foot of the mountain,
and search for the end of my hybernation