Archive for March, 2010|Monthly archive page

The Tiller Man

In the beginning. The solemnity, in the beginning. Before the unraveling.

Girls. Girls, looking for attention. With their self image, and all. In the unraveling world, she spent a lot of time on her self-image. And she looked great.

I had not given enough thought . . . about the old paradigms unraveling? The change in the story…. to the garden. To me. About the unraveling world. About the speed of the unraveling. Of my world? And what it was that would be downloaded to replace it.

The solemnity. Of this young woman. The one that I met last week. Or was it 20 years ago? What are you gonna do with these gifts? Over time? The ones I downloaded before there was an internet

“I want to reach the deepest part of your inner being.” If she had one. So I bought this Tea for the Tillerman 8 track. For my car.

In the beginning…..just one bite of the apple. The ambition in the story …of the characters.. The ambition of a man, the ambition of a woman. In the world. Even in the garden. The story about the future. About time.

The solemnity….with an awareness of the solemnity, in the beginning. In a relationship. In the search for the divine. Who could see the unraveling, as it happened? To my world. With just one bite. Where was my attention? Where was her attention? Wanting a piece of me. She wanted a piece of me. And I wanted a stake of her. Despite the doubts about what seemed most true.

All those questions. In the beginning. No real answers … in the beginning. Who knew the solemnity, in the beginning? With just one bite? When it was not enough to encourage, to applaud. When there was the need to act. On love.

Man in Search of Woman. Woman in Search of Man. Winter into spring. The radical change. In the beginning, no real answers. Abraham Joshua Heschel titled a book, God in Search of Man.

In the Torah, the point of view … “Then the Lord called to the man and asked him, ‘Where are you?'” How fast things happen. The winds of change, after just one bite of the apple.

The point of time … in these stories. Since the days of the perfect tenses, in the past. Before all the unraveling …the keeper of flocks, the tiller of soil. The first job descriptions. Cain and Abel. When they both honored God from the work of human hands. And then what happened? In the story? When the future was now. As boundaries were set.

The Promise Land. What happens in the Promise Land? What was supposed to happen there, in the garden? To the garden. With the winds of change. When somehow the tomatoes, the old-fashioned tomatoes, became organic tomatoes. Was this tort reform? With an increased price? How fast things happen to the Law. Once the Law was passed down. The anger at the unfairness. Of systems of slavery, or new systems that replaced them. In the Promise Land, have you seen the price of organic fruit and vegetables?

To move populations through righteous anger…to a promise land. Emigrants having to leave. Through no fault of their own, refugees. With a desire for freedom. And safety.

What was the point of view of the next generation, in the search for the divine? In the point of view of Cain, the tiller of soil. The first born. Trying to work on becoming more worthy. In the beginning. In sacrifice. Freely trying in worship, bringing an offering to God from the fruit of the soil. Thoughtfully, in worship, what else could a tiller of soil have brought? As the keeper of flocks had brought the best firstlings of his flock, God looked with favor on his brother and was not impressed with Cain. The best offerings from the soil never really stood out. The point of view was all about God’s. Cain deeply resented God’s point of view. Or maybe he resented that he had been asked to be the tiller of soil? When his work never would stand out. The bonds developed in relationship, through sacrifice. In kinship to God, and thoughtfully passing on that kinship. Maybe it was the missing bonds which never developed in relationship, through sacrifice. With sincerity in content. And Cain took out his resentment in his relationship with God on Abel.

Content, much like the view from Ontario in the 17th Century, from an Ojibwe: “Where there is much grass, even in the month of the flowers.”

Beyond the reach and vocabulary of the masses, there is content. The high priests with their Office, starting their day, all over the world … priests who were instructed to thoughtfully read the same thing –in a sense, praying for content in the day. With implications, in the beginning, a priest in worship, reads his Office.  Over what is inside…. what else might a priest have brought …. but words? Reading his Office, over what is inside.

Looking for the human “fragment of salvation,” in the search for the divine. Note all of the conflict over points of view. Where was my self-image in all of this, and how could I prove something about myself ….through my work? Where exactly was I needed — like Abel had been needed? Who exactly was ever worthy of this inheritance?  When the firstborn actually had the land, it had been Abel who was forced to live like a shepherd.

“I’m Just a Kid, Caught In the Middle.” In these stories that were so much alive, about Cain. Did he become the keeper of the flocks, when Abel was gone? After the moral outrage of murder of his brother? When Abel was gone, from the point of view of God, was there moral outrage? In the days before the great famine and all of its implications, there was still Cain, responsible for growing the crops. The crops connected to the fatted calf that Abel had been sacrificing. So had Cain gotten what he set out for, after the murder — a job change to his own self-image? And in the content of his self-image, how had the world changed?

Where were you in these stories?  Like all these people in the Torah who had multiple wives? Esau. Jacob. Or Abraham, with his wife’s servant girl willing to do anything. The seemingly holy men of the Torah. In the times, in a world without specific laws about sex or even commandments about murder. After Cain, what would be the point of view of the next generation, in the search for the divine? About fertility?

Live. Work. Love. Pray. Where were you in “this’ story? In “this?” Did you feel the restlessness of a young man? Did Cain ever see his own part in the food he was eating every day. In this work? In this family? From the crops which had been so alive. “This” food. Had Cain inherited something else from Eve and from Adam? Was it the “Let me out of here” feeling as a 21-year old: Let me out of this school, this garden? And let me into the real world.

The food that he needed. That every free young human needed. That came from his work. Enslaved by so much work?  Each day because of the sweet apple…because of his father. Or had it been because of his mother?

Passover.  Wanting a pass in this life?  When there was so much work, too much work, to be done?  Do you see all the people who are enslaved by all the work?  Who has time to worship or look for God? Where was I in the story? Enslaved by what Egyptian in my life?  In my job?  In the ongoing story of my family? About all the unraveling in my world.

It was all about the content.  The networks … whether television, or the internet. Beyond the hardware and the software, it is about the information. And self-image.

Content, relevant content, in the world of current events. There is need for content, in search for the divine, with the internet.  Would relevant content survive, in the point of view of the next generation?

Sex is to violence as beginnings are to endings.

The challenge in this love, in the challenge Eve presented in the Apple to Adam, in that choice which was made before I was born, in order that the existential crisis of the Creator could be overcome, “Choose me or choose institutional religion.” The hell with the stupid rule about the Tree, imposed by the Creator which really was not going to get Creation going again?

Adam choose Eve. And Creation was then back to a point where people could live with either no rules, or their own human rule of law. Did you ever see how much Augustine of Hippo, with his Confession, messed up the world of contemplation….all Christians had to believe in the Augustine theory about Original sin which steals so much Creativity from children brought up, in the beginning, as orthodox Christians.  That as First People, we were entitled to the Apple, if not the Garden?  What is your perspective of the rights of First People?  

Shared dominion. Thee distant king. The rule of law. Sex and violence. In the beginning. In the unraveling world. About this speed of the unraveling. Of my world? So with all the suddenness, what it would be downloaded to replace the Law?

The solemnity …of the Law? For your lawless son left? The only son left?

“Let my people go to worship me.” Beyond the reach and vocabulary of the masses. In the search for the divine. Like Cain before him, Moses had killed, and now what? When you shared a heritage, or a culture, what would be the point of view of the next generation? When you had lost everything, or you seemed to have suddenly lost everything. Like Eve and Adam were banished from their home … and then Cain. With the suddenness in these unsettling stories, now Moses, trying to work on becoming more worthy, in the point of view, with sacrifice in self-image and solemnity.

With all of the movement in the story, like Cain, having to move again, perhaps with awareness in if not an understanding of the missing bond — like the later missing bond between Isaac and Ishmael, between Jacob and Esau, the first recorded twins. The content of Passover was through sacrifice and hard times, developing a kinship to your God, as a people developed a point of view which had once been God’s viewpoint alone. Bonds which developed in relationship, through sacrifice, to God’s point of view, when His work, His creation, had never once stood out to that tiller of soil, but now would to these one-time slaves? Stories like the one about Cain, about Noah’s wife, about Abraham and Sarah, and now about Moses, to inspire an audience to forestall species extinctions. The one with the echo of an inner hollowness of death. Or the aching involved to get out –of an egg. Passover was not so much a protection from the plagues, but about the solemnity of worship. In the beginning … as the ultimate profession of love.

When you had lost everything, what would be the point of view of the next generation about stories read for free, with no mention of financial assistance? Like the lack of assistance from the Pharaoh, until the death of his own firstborn? In the book Writers on Writing written and published by Bread Loaf Anthology in 1991, Richard Ford begins one chapter in this book called “Reading,” stating that he really learned to read at the age of 25 as he prepared to teach English in college. Ford’s problem was teaching young students in the relevancy business — who demanded relevancy in everything — how to read carefully. Once hearing complaints of a young student who objected that in the study of history — there are no people her age in the stories which made her feel so “invisible,” as though she did not, would not, qualify as a real — the study of history mostly involves the pain of adults, in what has been lost about the First Creation, and what must be done to bring back the missing bond which led to the first of all murders — after the beginning, with a solemnity, after the unraveling, with all the resulting shame.

Could you compare the number of generations that the Hebrews spent in slavery to the number of generations between Adam and Eve until arriving at the point of the story of Noah? In an approach of numbers to the Book of Genesis …. if you approached God, as presented in those 30 foot scrolls of the Torah of the Hebrew Bible, to one developing character, in what has been lost about the First Creation, and what must be done to bring it back? Ford’s problem was teaching young students about character, point of view, with authors showing growth and change of the character. Even with God, in the stories in the Book of Genesis, characters are presented having to answer for themselves the questions: How did He affect you? Did He frighten you? Did you love Him? What was He after? Did He change much during the time that you knew Him? What most impressed you about Him?

To bring it back? The Culture once here and lost? Did you grasp The Great Comeback story of Passover, when Moses was leading these sons of Abraham back to the Promise Land, from where Abram, Sarai and Lot had originated. Rushed out of Egypt. Six hundred thousand men on foot, not counting the children, set free. Along with their numerous flocks and herds … with no mention of the women, during the lambing season. After 430 years not in slavery to the Egyptians, but away from the place of origin, now wanting a stake in the world again, beyond that place of slavery. In the Promise Land. Freely trying in worship, bringing an offering to God in the desert. With a sincerity in content. Thoughtfully, in worship? With all of the radical suffering in the world, along with the radical love, maybe with a developing bond which a slave could never quite develop in relationship. Did you feel Hagar in the sorrowful mystery involving so many handmaids? Through sacrifice and hard times, when a people developed a point of view which had once been God’s viewpoint alone — God’s point of view, when His work, His creation, had never once stood out to that tiller of soil, but now would to these one-time slaves? Setting the captives free! In bonds which developed in relationship, through sacrifice. In kinship to God. A viewpoint thoughtfully passed on through that kinship. In answer to the question. ‘Who in the name of God do you think you are?’

Copyright © 2010.

I want my money back….I want my money back. 


“National Day of Unplugging” — not using computers, cell phones, or any technology from sundown on Friday, March 19, to sundown on Saturday, March 20th – had begun. What was the purpose of this? Of “National Day of Unplugging.” Dan Rollman of Brooklyn came up with the Manifesto idea. The principle is “meant to be added to your life in a way that is positive for you. There is no wrong or right, and no penalty for not observing them properly.”

 There is no right or wrong? Where was the serious contemplation? About was going on. The news events of the week. WHO is it or WHAT is it that is draining your battery this week? Like those people in Fargo who did not want to leave their homes, this week? At the time of flooding. Not wanting to be saved. While everyone else was filling one million sandbags.

 There is no right or wrong? The news this week. Paul Volcker, who was a former chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States and now chairman of President Obama’s economic-advisory panel, spoke about the sins of those Wall Street credit derivatives: “It’s hard to take tough restrictive measures before a crisis. And after the crisis it’s too late.”

 There is no right or wrong? Just winners and losers? It was tournament time in the United States. For votes on health care insurance. For basketball and hockey. I did not use the free tickets I was given to a game last night, tickets with a face value of $86. I was not invested with either a team or with a close following of the league this season. So I ate the 2 tickets. There was this building of a false sense of community, in sport. With all these venues. A new big league ball park was opening up here in two weeks. A place built not with charitable dollars but with tax dollars. There was this distorted sense of values. It was all about establishing personal kingdoms. And a distorted sense of self.

 There is no right or wrong? In Omaha, a city that had spent a sum closer to one billion dollars than $500 million for a city center with a sparkling auditorium, a new ballpark would be opening for the College World Series. Funded with tax dollars, the Triple A Omaha Royals did not want to play there. They wanted their own stadium. And now the division one hockey team across town was exploring building their own multi-purpose ice arena, because the Omaha convention center was too big to play in.

 In sport. In music. In venues. In awe of beauty. Of women. Or of the physical agility of men. The values that are associated with values in everyday American life. March Madness. The cost of tickets. An unsigned catcher. Parents now trying to pass along a tradition. With baseball. With the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. With compact disc collections. People looking for meaning in what they shared. Wanting to Leave It To Beaver. To the next generation. And on the surface, looking pretty artificial. With this love of nostalgia. unplugged2

 In a day and age when laws get passed to maximize human happiness. Politics does meet religion, in everyday life. The escalating ticket value, beyond imagination. The escalating cost of stadiums, publicly financed. Inflated values. Of athletes. Of homes. Of Americans. In the age of beauty. When the age of beauty replaced the age of truth. In the age of television. Normal Americans who think that a catcher, a batting champion, deserves more than $20 million per year to play in this neighborhood. It was a nice neighborhood. He lived two blocks away. A great kid. He could find places where it might cost more to live and play, without the sense of community. When the athlete had to leave Kansas in search of the wizards of Madison Avenue.

 I had a computer virus this month. As a result I was unplugged for a while. Involuntarily. Speaking of unplugged, Reboot is a growing network of more than 300 young Jewish technology entrepreneurs and writers who want to “reboot” the inherited culture, to make the traditions and rituals more meaningful in their own lives. Voluntarily. Dan Rollman said, “The last few years, I’ve had a growing feeling that my connection to technology was getting to be more like an addiction.” Never a particularly religious person, he took the idea of the Sabbath, which had always appealed to him, to Reboot. Thus, the Unplugged Sabbath.

 I was as likely to be to be saved from, immune to, the economic bloodshed in that next collapse on Wall Street, in any collapse, as my computer would be in a world with computer viruses. We would all be destroyed in the Bill Gates world. This world of computer programmed trades, on Wall Street. Our computers waging war now in the Middle East. I was as likely to be saved from, immune to, all the world’s problem as all those bishops — instructing the world on all the dogma about how to live properly — covering up the sins of sexual abuse. And then covering up the sex crimes of their own ordained people? Everywhere? Maybe because of a similar need for a smaller place to play, like the UNO Mavericks, the pope was going to be addressing the bishops’ crimes, his own crime, against their own people. His own distorted sense of self. And the cover up? And still investigating those American nuns.

 Pope Benedict’s pastoral letter to Catholics about clerical child sex abuse was forthcoming today, addressing at least the situation in Ireland, if not in Germany and all the world. This was the German who lived in a country that had never dealt amongst itself with the Nazi generation. I am not sure he had given a proper contemplation to, or even read, Crime and Punishment.

 Sin, and its aftermath. Crime and punishment. Making restitution. Doing good. And then thinking that the obligation somehow ceased, when you dedicated your life to someone or something. Leaders concerned about the inner spirit of others. Like being a minister or a priest as someone already serving, at practically no cost, this society. How do you punish them? When a priest had so little? When a slave had so little? When you took them out of Egypt?

 Passover. Those Egyptians, who had enslaved the Israelites. The system of slavery and what it did to the slave owners. And not wanting to look at the system that destroyed people. IF you were a slaveholder. The denial that it was evil, because I depended on the system. I had learned how to thrive in the system. Like the system which built stadiums. Or created health care taxes, to pay for health care. For everyone. The same health care. At the same cost. The same care for that catcher who would make $20 million. The same care for whoever it was or WHATEVER it was that was draining your battery this week. For everyone else filling one million sandbags. Or not. The smokers. Or the drug addicts. Not unlike those people in Fargo who wanted to be left alone in their homes, this week, despite the flood waters. Not wanting to be saved.

 In a sense it reflects dysfunction between God and all humans. The distance. In a world where those Egyptians, who had enslaved the Israelites. The enslaved Chosen People. And wanting to do something. About the evil in the world. About the evil systems which ensued. About the dysfunction that had come out of this creation that was so perfect at the beginning. Moses at the burning bush. The distance. Viewing the distance in the story. Was this God’s attempt at reconciliation? About the world? For what happened to the world of Noah? For what looked to be His indifference? To all the great people who suffered? And died, ever since. To the ones filling one million sandbags. And to all the innocent children.

 God and Moses at the burning bush. A burning bush still there in Egypt. The theophany. Moses decided something at the sight of the burning bush. “I must go over to look at this remarkable sight, and see why the bush is not burned.” He let his feet decide how close he was able to come… the burning bush. The trembling? The fear? In awe of something. And God said, “Do not draw near here. Take your shoes off your feet, because the place upon which you stand is holy soil.” God had heard the cries of “my people” in Egypt, And from, what the Hebrew Bible calls, within the thorn bush, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and I have heard their cry because of their slave drivers, for I know their pains. I have descended to rescue them from the hand[s] of the Egyptians and to bring them up from that land, to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey…” And along the way, Moses discovered God’s attempt at reconciliation. About the past. For what happened to the world of Noah. For what looked to be His indifference. To all the innocent children. To all the great people who suffered. And died. And the affliction of the people in Egypt, which was the basis for Moses killing a man.

 It all started, this story of exodus, when Moses decided to come closer to God in that burning bush. In a sequel to the earlier story, after it had been the earth that was cursed in the Garden of Eden, it all started, this story of redemption, as Moses was curious. And now, the change in the story of banishment. After the punishment had been that humans would work by the sweat of their brow. It all started, this story of exodus, when Moses decided to come closer to God in that burning bush. When God saw what had happened, in a world of slavery, where Moses had already killed a man. Moses, wondering in such a world with all of its systemic evil, why the bush was not consumed. In a place where he might even have approached with a strong sense of shame, along with justification. Because in Hebrew, it is written: “And He said: ‘Do not draw near here. Take your shoes off your feet, because the place upon which you stand is holy soil.'” In a sense, this was the world when Moses first became unplugged. The world without any codified Mosaic law, when the Israelite men of Egypt were no longer circumcised, when the physical sign of acceptance of the covenant made with Abraham years before, was gone? And this was the “reproach of Egypt” as Moses was asked to remove his own Egyptian-given shoes, to come closer to God.

 In a sense, the entire story unfolded after Moses first unplugged his sandals. From a system where there seemed to be no right or no wrong. From the system.
Copyright © 2010.



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Jonathan Spira
Information overload has decreased people’s ability to manage thoughts and ideas.