Saturday, March 13, 2004

--this is my graduate student. he is the best of the best. when it comes to mercury measurement technique, his work is state of the art, the best in the world...back when I first started getting into the mercury research field, most of the measurements were way off. I mean, way off. Hundreds if not thousands of orders of magnitude. It would be like setting off on a trip aiming for Providence and ending up Wisconsin. That's how far off they were.
my meeting at Univeristy of Wisconsin, with what is apparently one of the most prominent researchers of environmental mercury in the world, went extraordinarily well. never underestimate the potential of complete strangers to come to your aid, and to give of themselves in whatever capacity they can. after an hour or so in their lab, which overlooks vast expanses of rippling water on all sides and evokes the feeling of being at the hull of a ship, my once-inconceivable project suddenly became emminently manageable.
it was thrilling to be in the presence of someone who loves their work so deeply. he was as excited to tell me about the precision and scientific rigour of their work as he was to talk about their expeditions to the most pristine and beautiful places on earth--Alaskan tundras, glacial lakes, the remotest parts of New Zealand.

this has been the week of the dam bursting. up to now, so many of my efforts have seemed blocked, slowed, and then, suddenly, everything is flowing. that is not to say that it will be easy going. on the contrary, there is so much more to do now that my head is not hitting up against an intractable barrier. i am diving with new fervor into my thesis...i wake up to spanish verses, and on their wings i fly through my days...jews and the woods has found a home, warm and sprung-floored, fruity and it is coming. oh yes.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

my vibrations and waves test really permeated my mind
as I stood arm in arm with a circle singing shalom alechem
I immediately envisioned the swaying of all the armlocked souls
as coupled oscillations
the superposition of infinite normal modes
describable and derivable,
yet only by an infinite sum.
It was at first disturbing to fuse visions of masses and springs with prayer circles
but the vision came without invitation
and I could not see it any other way

The Tikkun conference inspired all sorts of important reflections: what can I do with my little life to help heal this world? the question had never presented itself to me with such urgency and clarity. other questions, too...should political action movements have more concrete arms of their efforts? should protesters be beating their pickets into plowshares and then back into pickets again every other week? or are those who do more concrete social justice work more effective staying away from political action, and those who protest better to stay away from humanitarian projects? I think that, especially with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is so much talk and political action, so much protest and punditry, and yet so little attention paid to projects that could actually directly improve the lives of suffering Palestinians and Israelis...wouldn't it be powerful if political lobby organizations started putting themselves into such projects, channeling all this passionate energy into rebuilding lives on a grassroots level? Or is there a fundamental divide between grassroots groups and "higher-level" political action?

Will I ever be able to make love to words like Cornell West? Every word dances wildly on his tongue before he throws it deliberately into his hands, which roll and spin it and throw it out into the can tell he knows his words are holy.
Benj, Fatima, and I organized a Muslim-Jewish service to kick off the weekend, which was less a prayer service than a celebration and exploration of common paths and intents. If you would like a copy of the packet we put together, send me an email.

Monday, March 01, 2004

i had at least as much fun at my second african dance class, and looked at least as ridiculous
so much of my learning is with words
i haven't learned with my body since i learned to type and to play music
it is all so fresh--i feel like a baby to it, wide-eyed and clumsy
the drummers start up in a line, djembes between the knees, on the far side of the room
dancers (and dancers-to-be) line up on the opposite side in several rows.
the instructor, without a word, stands in front of the first row, shows them the steps a few times
and then sends the first row on down the room, dancing the first step to the drummers
when they've cleared, the instructor shows the second row, and so on
it's wordless learning, and it's communal learning
because i get to learn not only from the teacher
but also at least as much from
the many beautifully dancing souls around me

today my muscles are pleasantly sore from the dancing, the streching, and the lifting that I followed up with
i think many of these muscles had been sleeping
and have awakened well-rested and giddy
they pull on my noci-ceptors like little kids running up to their parent's bed at dawn
and shout to me "Ari, look! We're awake!"