Saturday, April 10, 2010

Beware of Alligator

One of the first rules of being a teenage boy is that Manliness is next to G-dliness. I grew up beneath the iron fisted tyranny of this law, and I was not alone. It is practically impossible for a teenage boy to walk past a mirror without stopping to repeat this mantra while doing his best impersonation of a Michelangelo sculpture. Even in the animal kingdom I can see this law being observed on a regular basis in the form of the 17 young bulls that are constantly butting heads in attempt to establish their dominance over our small heard.

My teenage neighbors are no exception to this law. It is hard for me to recall a single afternoon spent with 14 year old Alfredo that did not involve some form of bloody knuckles, pushups, arm wrestling, boxing, racing, or some other type of competition. Thus, I was not terribly surprised the other day when Alfredo invited me for a friendly swim. I believe his exact words were, “Vamos a cruzar el rio para ver quien llegara primero.” Which can be roughly translated as, “Lets go swim across the river to see who can get to the other side first.”

After many comments about alligators smelling blood in the water, we had stripped off the majority of our clothes and were swimming with all our strength to see who would be the first to cross the hundred yards of swift currents and deadly wildlife. A small convoy of canoes trailed close behind us in the case of an emergency.

I swam with all the strength I could muster, trying hard to regulate my breathing and push my body through the water with the best possible technique. I managed to maintain a short lead over Alfredo for most of the crossing, but as we got within 20 yards of the finish, I saw a miracle take place. Suddenly Alfredo was swimming faster, and his head was high out of the water! At first I was shocked, until the finger tips of my left hand brushed the sand bar beneath me. Our swim had turned into a foot race. Amidst cries of cheater, and splashes of water, I raced with Alfredo to the muddy banks of the shallow river.

As I collapsed into the canoe, I was satisfied, knowing that I had once again proven that I was manlier than a 14 year old boy. Oh, sweet victory.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

It is hard for me to write out here in Delta. It feels like I am always busy, but nothing ever happens here. There is a weird time distortion that takes place on the river. Nobody is in a hurry, and time passes slowly. The most exciting events in my recent life have been the planting of a small garden, baking, and repairing a damaged board in the kitchen floor. I have been studying for the GRE, and I am mildly excited about the prospect of graduate school. I have also been thinking about doing freelance photography, and I am more excited about that. The thing that has me the most excited is, as usual, relational. I cannot wait to see certain people back home.

I finished Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinland, a couple of days ago. I was most impressed by the character of Jubal Harshaw, a cranky old man who is said to be the only human who can grok (understand) without speaking Martian. This character is even more interesting to me than ****Mr. Universe**** in The Watchmen.

In a discussion toward the end of the book, Jubal defines love as “a state of being in which ones own wellbeing is directly tied to the wellbeing of another.” While I do not accept this definition as final, nor would I completely accept any definition of love that came from a human, I do consider it to be one of the better attempts to define an indefinable word that I have come across. After reading this, I spent a while considering all of my relationships and trying to determine who I really loved according to this definition. I was surprised at how neatly the results coincided with the people that I already believed that I love. The most valuable insight that I gained from this was the realization that my mother loves me, my dad, and my siblings (and strangers) more than anyone else that I have ever seen. Her well being is so intimately tied up in our own that it is impossible for any of us to suffer without her suffering, or be happy without her being happy (she has somehow learned to be happy and suffer at the same time, which is an impressive feat).

I was amazed to think about how deeply I am known by my mom, and how little that is in comparison to how I am known by G-d. I want to know, and I want to be known. I believe that this is fundamental to how and why G-d made me.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

“Dreams are a way for your mind to process potential reactions to various scenarios (or fears), so that when the scenario actually takes place, you will know how, or how not, to react.”

About a week ago, I had a dream that my father had decided to become an orthodox Jew. I found the idea extremely upsetting for some reason. I particularly remember being upset when I realized that my mom would have to buy two new complete sets of dishes and cookware, one for dairy products, and one for meat.

A few days later, I had a dream that I was on a family vacation at a tropical beach. My brother in Law was there. He had everything so orchestrated and planned out, that it left no time for me to actually hang out with him and enjoy his company. Every attempt I made to get him to deviate from his plan and actually hang out with me was met with cheerfully obstinate refusal.

The third dream that I had was different from the first two. The first two dreams seemed to be my mind processing extreme versions of fears that I have with respect to some of my closest relationships.

In my third dream, I was dating a girl that I care about greatly. This dream was not about dealing with fear. This dream was about finally gaining a new understanding of my friend. For so long, I have held this friend on a very high pedestal. When I think of this girl, I think of beauty and romance. I have always thought of her as having a pure life, at least a form of a pure life. In my mind, she is on a never-ending quest for beauty, a quest that in my opinion can only have one end (or one beginning).

Through this dream, I felt peace in our relationship. Rather than thinking of her as this inhuman work of art, I was finally able to look at her and honestly say, “I know that you are just a person, but you are an extraordinary person.” This realization has brought me some peace that I did not know that I lacked. She is just a person, like you and like me. She is an extraordinary person. I appreciate her.