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Category Archives: Social

I Got Up Late this Morning

I got up late this morning,
Unusual for me, had nothing to do
Popping out from under the warm covers
Into the cool of the house
I found myself in the kitchen,
Baking.
Biscuits and butter for everyone,
Some for us, some for the neighbour girl
Who plays with our son and loves biscuits,
So I was happy to oblige
And, what little mess there was, I sang to as I cleaned.

Old movies played inside while out
It rained, then didn’t,
Then did.
The cool moist air roaming in drifts through the wide windows
As I commiserated with Edward G. Robinson
And Charlton Heston discovered what was really for dinner.

Even the dog didn’t want to go anywhere and
I, happy to oblige, let her warm my lap.

The truck never moved.
The only thing the unfolded laundry did
Was give me a place to put my feet.
No one asked a thing of me.
I was only too happy to oblige.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2017 in Poetry, Social

 
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The Wheaton Test Or What I Need to Know About You Before the Second Date: With an Amendment Three Years Later Regarding how Completely Wrong I Was

The Wheaton Test Or What I Need to Know About You Before the Second Date: With an Amendment Three Years Later Regarding how Completely Wrong I Was

Adam Byrn Tritt

Amendment
12/26/2016

There is a picture on my bedside table that was not there yesterday morning. It is a picture of a gloriously beautiful woman, sky and sea behind her, smiling. It is in a frame of gilt and funk and sparkle and it makes me smile nearly as much as the beauty in the photograph. It was a present from Arlene for Chanukah. And it is perfect.

Beside me, as I write this, is another picture, a drawing, actually, by Brian Andreas. We were in a gallery in Charleston, South Carolina. She was looking at Christmas ornaments, hand-blown globes, from Glass Eye Studios in Seattle. Each globe, multicolored, swirling, translucent, reflective, unique, blown with ash from Mount St. Helens. And she was going to buy one. The problem was that I had already gotten it for her, months earlier, in Tacoma at the Museum of Glass.

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Posted by on December 26, 2016 in Culture, Family, philosophy, Social, Writing

 

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Once Upon a Time, on a Board

This is a small story. It so happened that, for a short time, my wife (I still can’t say “late wife” and suspect I never will) and I were on the board of The Jewish Federation of Brevard and Indian River Counties. My wife and I. That makes this an ancient story as well.

For a short period of time, Lee and I fit that stereotype the world often holds, and holds against, Jews – we were professionals who had our own business and were, seemingly, doing well for ourselves. A stereotype held by much of the non-Jewish world and, in my experience, held onto by many American Jews as well. As a child, in a temple in Charleston, South Carolina, a city with the oldest reform temple in the United States, there too, not fitting the stereotype, we were reminded, constantly, even I, a student of ten years old, that we were not really members – we were there by the grace of the board and my father laboured weekends on the grounds, on the building, to gain entrance for my brother and I to Hebrew school, and for our tickets to the High Holy Days. But, now, now were were in. We were courted. We were voted onto the board. It didn’t last long.

This came to mind as I was party to a conversation regarding a menorah lighting, for Chanukah, in Viera. It could not be held where it has been for the last few years. In a large rotunda in the middle of a shopping area, two hundred people would be too many. It is a hazard. The Christmas tree lighting, we were told, only attracted sixty-five. Maybe that’s because Christmas trees are everywhere. Christmas is ubiquitous. But one has to strain ones neck, squint ones eyes, ask for field glasses to find a menorah.

That same area has a Night of Lights parade, or called some such thing, that blocks the traffic in several directions, detours people over four miles, results in congestion and accidents. I know this as I was stuck in that traffic, detoured, and crawled past the accidents. They have this every year.

And so someone asked if there was not a Jewish Federation which could speak to this. Perhaps talk to the powers that be and ask them to look at this fairly and logically. Here was my reply.

Brevard and Indian River. Jewish Federation. Unfortunately, that group, and their board, are as filled with hate as many other groups. I used to be on their board and eventually resigned in protest.

Here is that story.

We did much, while were were there, and maybe we were on the board for a year, to build the food pantry and make it accessible to everyone. And to promote the yearly Jewish Festival. After, a visible, welcoming group, a group that opens the door to understanding, even if it chooses to hold on to traditions, is less frightening, less mysterious. Create your own narrative so others don’t create it for you.

Then, at one meeting, charity came up, as it often did. This was after a long discussion about how to make the Federation into something that more people would want to join, and donate yearly, to. Yearly memberships were down. I suggested this was because people felt the Federation wasn’t doing anything for them, was not something that benefited their lives or that they could see benefited the lives of others. What were we doing so that people could see their money was being used well?

The discussion moved from that to making calls to past members, instead of just letters. That would do it, was the thought. That would increase donations.

Then, charity. A request to have a fundraiser for a charity in Israel. An open ended charity. No specific plan for the money. They would do with it as they saw fit when the need arose.

I asked if there was not at least a focus for the charity. Medical? Educational? Why did I want to know?

Why? I wanted to make sure the charity, our money, wasn’t going to be building houses in the West bank, or buying ammunition. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to be used to shoot Palestinians.

I recall there were twelve people on the board. I recall being stated at intensely, quizzically, unbelieving, by at least four. Then, a reply. “Why? It’s not like they’re people.”

I do not recall what Lee said. (Here I am tempted to say, “She of blessed memory,” as is cuswakemeuptom, but I do not want her laughing at me.) I do not recall because I was shocked and collecting my own thoughts but I remember she spoke at length, angrily, with heart, and tore into them in a way, considering their faces, they were not accustomed. We resigned that night.

At the core, here, I believe is a problem with what it means to be Jewish. And not just for me, but what it really means. Chosen. Not chosen because we are better. Not chosen to hold our noses high. Chosen by God, if you believe in such a thing, because we can do the hard work of bringing Tikkun to the world. Tikkun Olam. To make a heaven of Earth. To collect the shards of kindness into which the world has been shattered and bring them back together to recreate the vessel of heaven. Right action, Buddhists call it. Repair the world. Which is why a Jew should stand up for everyone. Which is why Jews were at the forefront of civil rights, why there are six Jews listed among the dead on the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery. Freedom Riders. Which is why Rabbi Heschel marched to Selma right next to Martin Luther King. Which is why we should not be for war. Which is why we should stand against poverty, against violence, disenfranchisement, and hate of all kinds, against all people. Tikkun is worth giving your life for.

This stand, and such is the pity, does not make me welcome in many temples. It often leaves me feeling lonely not just as a Jew in the United States, but also among my own tribe. And while I do not necessarily believe in God, or a god, I hold that concept in my heart. Tukkun Olam.

And that is a story from ancient history.

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2016 in Culture, philosophy, Religion, Social

 

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Let’s Burn Something Down Tonight

Let’s burn something down tonight.
Let’s find something old,
Something we used to think
We could not survive
Without, something significant. Let’s
Set it on fire.
An edifice we marveled at,
Something we looked up to,
Tall and strong, in
Admiration of power,
Importance, and potency.
Something we knew was forever,
Now, wondering
Why we ever thought
We couldn’t do without it?
Let’s burn it down.

Let’s set fire to something
That used to be the foundation of
Our being. Something
That would never occur to us
Could sink, erode,
Decay beneath us,
Leave our feet with no solid ground.
Something we built our entire lives on
But fell away. Let’s watch what’s built on it
List and lean,
Topple and crash by our own hand
Instead of the slow destruction of
Sand and rust.
We can be our own gods,
And end it with our own hands.
Let’s burn it down.

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2016 in philosophy, Poetry, Social

 

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Hair

I don’t know why I’m reading this tonight. Maybe it is seeing my kids after a year absent – seeing in the light of their eyes the omnipresent brightness of their mother. Maybe it is Sadie asking her questions, continuous, into the deep morning. Maybe it is part of the work of grief, the carrying of the weight in the dark to the mountain-top that is never reached.

Of everything I have ever written, this is the one I think of the most. Not the longest, by far. Maybe nearly the shortest. But the one that lives on my mind.

I was asked, by Murshida VA, what three things would I have someone know about grief.

I took a day to answer, then three things came at one. It has no schedule. It doesn’t end, or heal. One simply incorporates it into one’s life – a wound, a laming, to which one adapts, with which one lives, from which one learns, and with which one may become stronger. It cannot be controlled, anticipated, prepared for – it will be different each time and come in different ways. I will now add a fourth. It is the price of love – never shut it away and you will be able to love more, and again, and see love in all things. Those who cannot grieve cannot return to love, cannot return to grace.

Adam Byrn Tritt

I had pulled the car out of the garage and set up a chair.  Months earlier I had purchased a Norelco family hair cutting kit, and electric razor and attachments, for next to nothing at a garage sale. I had no idea why, but I brought it home, and now, now, it was plugged in and ready to be used.

The chemotherapy had left your hair in clumps.  It fell into the shower drain, left bits on the pillow, left itself on the couch. Each bit that fell, you cried. I watched as you turned once, as I held you up in the shower to see your hair on the drain.  Out of the shower, you stood, facing the mirror, clutching at your hair, pulling it out in clumps, tears falling, falling into the sink with the strands from between your fingers.

Hats you didn’t like. The scarves you used…

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Posted by on June 24, 2016 in Family, philosophy, Social, Uncategorized

 

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Kofia

He could be heard long before he was seen, booming his song. The bass slides down the isles, past the frozen fish, over the apples and oranges, down through the carts.

“He shops at Walmart/Just like you/He shops at Walmart/Just like me/Yes, he shops at Walmart/just like us/He’s got the whole world in his hand.”

I am here for a jar of peanut butter. Smucker’s Natural Chunky. And a small jar of grape jelly. I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and have none of what I need for it. And rice cakes. I had told my daughter I would have it on rice cakes. Ultimately, while better for me, the texture would be wrong and it would leave me still wanting a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But the truth is having the real thing would also leave me still wanting a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I always want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This time, just this once, I was giving in to it. Sort of. So taken with this desire, was I, that I pulled into Walmart.

“He’s got the whole world/In his hands/He’s got the whole world/In his hands/He’s got the whole world/In his hands/He’s got the whole world in his hands.”
Walking towards the peanut butter, meat to my left, the singing gets closer. The singing gets louder. The singing comes around the corner from the dairy. A man – black, built as though her were made of a barrel, seven feet tall. Maybe more. Probably less. Clothed in red and gold and browns from his shoes to his kofia. A kofia. One very much like my own, which feels so good to wear. Which, when wearing, leaves me feeling completed, whole, calm. The kofia that is never is worn out of the house – people might look. They might wonder. They might talk.

In his kofia, he is striding, pushing his cart, singing.

“Oh beautiful/for spacious skies/for amber waves of grain”

I have my rice cakes in hand, and heading toward the checkout. In line, behind me, a father and his son, eight or nine years old, and a few items. The singing walks by.

“Jacob rowed the boat ashore/Hallelujah/Jacob rowed the boat ashore/Halleloo-oo-yah.”

The little boy looks up to his father. “Why is he singing like that?” His father shrugs. I look at the older of the two, gesture in a way that asks if I may answer the child, and he gestures in kind. Yes, I may.

“Because he has somehow slipped past caring what other think about him. He isn’t concerned about what other people think. It probably doesn’t enter his mind at all. He is singing because he wants to. Like a lot of us would. But we don’t. We stop ourselves. He does it because he is not held by other people’s expectations or judgments and we should both learn something from that.

He looks at his father, who nods in agreement.

It is my turn to check out and, enviously, to the opening song from Oklahoma, I place my food on the counter.

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2016 in psychology, Social

 

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When I Wake in the Morning

When I wake in the morning I want to do yoga.
When I wake in the morning I want to go for a walk.
When I wake in the morning I want to spin wildly.
When I wake in the morning I want to lay in bed and bless the day.
When I wake in the morning I want to wash in dew.
When I wake in the morning I want to make a slow breakfast.
When I wake in the morning I want to stretch.
When I wake in the morning I want to recall my dreams.
When I wake in the morning I want to do tai chi.
When I wake in the morning I want to run on the beach.
When I wake in the morning I want to sit and write.
When I wake in the morning I want to meditate.
When I wake in the morning I want to putter in the garden.
When I wake in the morning I want to do qigong.
When I wake in the morning I want to sing praise songs.
When I wake in the morning I want to greet the sun.
When I wake in the morning I want to be glad.

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2016 in Poetry, Social, Uncategorized

 

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State of Being

Verbs are words that show a state of being—present, past, future. Transient or continuous. When we use the verb “was/were,” we mean something that has passed. It happened in the past. It is done. It is over. When we use the verb “is/are” we speak of something that is present. Something that exists now, current. An action that is going on right now. This moment.

For the purpose of my question, tense is not important. Past participle, continuous, perfect—none of these important to my question. What is important are simple tenses. Past and present.  

And so I ask, why do we say someone is dead?

We can say someone is alive. To be alive is a continuous state. Continuous, until it ends, either abruptly, or slowly, slowly over a period of time. Suddenly, or counting down, day, day, day. One hand. A few fingers. Done. Present becomes past very easily.

Someone is alive. Then they are not alive. But they are not dead. If we insist on using present tense we should say something that is an actual ongoing state. Something that is active. Her body is in the ground. She is decomposing. Her ashes are disappearing into the snowy stream.

Death is not an active state. It is not something someone does. It is the end of doing. She is alive. She is laughing. She is loving. She is healing. She is holding your hand, raising children. She is putting her feet on the dashboard on a long ride, talking, laughing, singing.  Under your hand, her leg is warm.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2016 in Culture, Family, philosophy, psychology, Social

 

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My Messy Desk

Einstein had a messy desk. Behind the messy desk were messy bookshelves with piles of reports, journals, and loose papers. A study published in the September 2013 issue of Psychological Sciences suggests, strongly, that a clean and tidy desk, or office space, leaves one doing socially acceptable things, having normative ideas, and, for want of a better set of terms, doing the right things, thinking the right things, and behaving. Those who worked in, or, in this case, filled out a form in, a messy room, with a messy desk, had less normative ideas, made more creative connections and reported being willing to try things much much further afield. They didn’t see the need to do the right things, think the right things or behave as expected.

I may never clean my desk. It does not make me smart. It doesn’t make me a creative genius. I may clean my desk. It does not make me dumb. It doesn’t make me dull. But the messier side of life is about being indicative of webs of connections. Not graphs. Not charts. Webs of ideas, concepts, facts, which may seem unrelated but later are pulled together to solve a mystery, a problem, a puzzle no straight lines or charts could solve and shine light upon an answer no single beam could illuminate.

It is why one needs to learn things that are of no immediate use. Of no seeming use at all. Because the more of those things we know, the more errata we have, the more connections can be made, the greater our potential for creativity. Connecting things no one had thought to connect in ways no one had before seen. That is how the unsolvable becomes solved. That is how the unanswerable becomes answered. That is the creative process.

That is the gift of a broad liberal education – one of curiosity and not direction. It is why America was a creative powerhouse. Losing that is why we no longer are. It now costs too much to be curious. It doesn’t result in a job. And we all lose.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2015 in Culture, Education, philosophy, psychology, Social

 

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Seven Questions for Adam: An Interview by Craig Smith

Seven Questions for Adam: An Interview by Craig Smith.

 

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