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A few years ago, an essay in the New York Times’ Modern Love column went viral for a good reason: It provided a recipe for falling in love. The formula is simple.
At my college reunion in May, I caught up with a classmate who had just been appointed chancellor of the largest urban public university system in the country. As we stood under a big tent drinking top-shelf liquor (it costs nearly as much to attend these reunions as it did to go to college there), I told him that I wanted – no, I expected – one thing from him.
A year ago, cracked open by grief, I walked into Temple Beth Shalom to attend Rosh Hashanah services for the first time. I am Jewish only by lineage; sorrow had led me to seek solace anywhere I might find it.
When I hear a weird noise outdoors, sometimes I’ll look at the Nextdoor website to see if there’s been a shooting in the neighborhood or aliens have landed. Sometimes I’ll browse the site when I need to hire someone to rake my leaves or can no longer bear to look at my own work.
Seeing photos of historic sites are often enough for me. I look for experiences with humans.
Mark Twain said many funny, true, quotable things, but among them was not “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything out it.” He simply repeated the quip of his friend, Charles Dudley Warner. But it’s nonetheless true. Especially during extreme changes in climate, we sure can spend a lot of time talking about something whose outcome we are can affect not at all. Just as some of us can enjoy hours discussing spectator sports. We weigh in with opinions about players and coaches, curse out refs, and bond in good fellowship.
The Holocaust was something I don’t remember not knowing about. The danger of difference is clear to most kids, but I understood that the numbers on great-grandpa Max’s arm had dark meaning.
It was, I think, simply coincidence that on the anniversary of his death, my interest in college basketball revived. It wasn’t because we shared that passion. Spectator sports held little appeal for him, save, perhaps, il Palio di Sienna, an insane, centuries-old horserace around a Tuscan town square that he was always happy to catch when he visited his father. He pointed out the track as we dined above the piazza last February. He talked about wanting to share that – and so much else – with me on a future visit. He would have sat with me during Duke games, if I’d asked. He would have made insightful comments about what he saw; he noticed things others missed. But if he hadn’t died I may not have needed to start following the team again.
We’re living in a curious time. Even those who profess a commitment to issues of diversity and tolerance slip up in their speech and betray old-fangled ways of thinking. It can be hard to remember that we need to be aware of the unintended consequences of our words.
I was a small, angular kid. I didn’t think much about my body; when I considered my appearance, I focused on the two front teeth that dominated my face, my life, my dreams.
My motives are no different from those of my finger-wagging friends: They arise out of a desire to help. Or, perhaps more honestly, to give an opinion about the “right” way to do something.
During the mediation, the officer said that while he had a slightly different memory of the exchange, his hasty words didn’t reflect what he’d meant, didn’t represent him. He wanted to tell me who he was: a father, an athlete, a coach, a 20-year member of the force, the product of an inter-racial family, a believer in justice and an admirer of Martin Luther King Jr., whose words about the content of one’s character he often re-read.
I’d decided to stop eating meat some years before she came into my life, and I had to figure out what would be OK to consume. Only plants? Nothing with a face? No one who runs away?
“I listened to the police officer and in that moment had to decide. Who do I want to be in the world?”
When it comes to pleasure reading, we gravitate to what we need at the cultural moment. I seem to be in a trench of surrounding myself with female psycho killers.
Tell people they get to choose, and then don’t listen to them, and you’re left with citizens who act like pissed off children. Say you trust them with power, and then pull it away like Lucy’s football; unlike Charlie Brown, they’re probably going to get angry.
Good men, good fathers, know that even if that can’t silence that ugly inner voice, they can choose not to parrot it. They love their children with generosity and forgiveness, though the sharp edges of their boyhood may manifest in ways that catch them unaware.
Teaching is only part of the job. I am expected to be a good citizen of the university and to help keep it running, hand in hand with full-time administrators.
All the clichés come home to roost, the stale sentiments finding their marks like characters in a familiar play. There’s old Carpe Diem, lurking in the wings, who reminds that it could all be gone tomorrow, so buy the shoes today even if they’re not on sale. There’s What He Would Have Wanted, who took over as my fingers sent long over-sharing emails to strangers who also loved him. Always standing center stage is But Wait, There’s More – the trips I’d been planning for us in my head, the gifts I’d not yet given him.