Friday, October 14, 2005

So much to do, so little time

I seem to be complaining a lot about this lately. I know I shouldn’t but I can’t help it. I feel harassed and neglected. I am really tired all the time and have taken up the habit of heading for the bed every chance I get. Of course as usual I have logical explanations for all of this. There’s the extra work from the website mixed with all of the High Holy Days Shul time. There’s the change in the weather and the receding sunlight as well. Or maybe it is just all of the pessimism and negativity that is all around me. But then again, that’s just Belarus.

But then again, I live with that, the Belarusian thing all of the time. Everyone here does of course and you kind of get used to it. It has its own music, its own pace. I think the locals refer to this as their “normal” as in, “How is your deal?” Normal. Quiet. Everything is good, everything is normal. And sometimes they even let sneak in that cute Americanism and say all is OK. And if you do show them that you are worried, I guess anyone can make a mistake, they just switch the phrasing to the future tense and say all will be good or all will be normal.

But the more I think about it, I really think what has me down now is was that dose of the west I caught over the last few weeks. I think I don’t rally like it when this happens. Hits you like a flu or maybe it just sucks up enough of your energy to where you are susceptible to a real flu. It is hard to describe what it is like, especially when you are speaking, in general to an audience that lives in the culture. There is a case there of not seeing the forest for the trees, I think. I do not think tolerance is a strong suit in the west and I think the reason for this is that people spend most of their developmental years learning how to build themselves up to the point to where they can endure assault and negativity with a smile. I am sure this is a great survival trait but when it comes to abstract ideas, and when I say abstract I guess I am only referring to ideas that do not necessarily concern your person work or pleasure, people don’t really want to make available those split second openings in the walls.

Not meaning to sound too much like a commie, but I do think that this availability to the idea, this allowance for the existence of an idea or thought, was a pretty strong part of the culture here. Certainly people had to give up a large part of their egos to achieve it, but to them, and within the confines of the system it was a socially acceptable thing to do and this is what they practiced. And the end result was endless attention spans and a more caring, in depth involvement with each other. I think this is where “petihoinko” comes from. This by the way if I forgot to mention was the word I translated “quiet” from above. Maybe a combination of quiet and slow.

This is not to say that this “other side” didn’t have its drawbacks. I am still prone to anger when the slowness of someone I am working with finally gets to me. And, in a practical sense, a lot of this slowness really always seems to simply end up meaning “let’s just slow to a stop and drink up everything we can find”, which is completely unappealing to me. Or at least has come to be so.

But my point is, is that there was something to be said for it, this allowance, this openness. And I am not the only one who liked this; everyone who came here during the Glasnost and post wall-falling times could see how it was, how open people were and how friendly. And they still are. My good friend John Malcovitch is still roaming around the world and writing abut it and even he has to stopped to mention that he admires the friendliness of the former communist world.

But you know it was the west’s insistence on coming in and taking, rather than sharing that really put an end to all of this. I remember when I first got back here three and a half year ago that people used to smile and say, and this was during the most corrupt and abusive times mind you: Oh, look how smart we have become! It is not like the old days when we were fools; we know how to play the game now.

I understand this as a rule of natural law that, regardless of intention to commit harm the unreasonable and imprudent man that starts the boulder down the hill towards the house is in fact to blame for the eventual destruction. There was also a baseball lesson the great John Noche of the College of San Mateo taught: Good throws breed good throws (and I suppose bad one’s loose games- He was also the coach of the Italian Olympic team way back when, by the way.) and that fits in here too.

But there never was as much as an “I’m sorry” coming from the idea men, the entrepreneurs, the financiers and global thinkers who came in and slept with the girls two and three at a time, drank the near free liquor, introduced the cool new drugs, stole everything that wasn’t nailed down and made promises that they knew they would never keep. There was never anything but all that talk about how it was an experiment, and how business is business and how wonderful and rich of texture life is in the west. And the best one of all: Oh, we ain't doing nothin' but trying to make some money. There ain't nothin' wrong with that...

One of the old timers at the temple was talking trash to me last night and he was saying that the Americans have bread which stays fresh for a week. He saw it himself with his own eyes during his month’s stay in Florida. I wish I had enough Russian to have explained the difference between a “shelf life product”, which could I suppose be engineered to stay fresh for a trip to mars if you needed it to, and actual bread which was made to be eaten within say, 36 hours at most. But I didn’t. And that reintroduction of the topic sort of scraped open the wound again. I guess that was all he was doing. I didn’t need to explain the difference to the man. I am sure he already knew. They have those long attention spans here, don’t you know and I guess he just never stopped paying attention and had noticed the little spike in my life and probably knew why I had become so grumpy.

It is so hard right now. It is so hard and I am so tired all of the time. I am so tired of not having money but I am also tired of there never seeming to be any way to acquire money without polluting or corrupting or stealing or screwing my fellow man. Where are the reasonable deals? Where are the fair contracts?

Anyway, I still have a long way to go before tomorrow. Thank G-d I get a day off. Though ironically, that endless Yom Kippur session might have had as much to do with my current fatigue as anything. Did I mention this already? Yea, I did.

Yom Kippur. Atonement and redemption. Redemption. Redemption is nice. Having a place to receive redemption is nice. The shofar at the end was cool. But we earned it. I said a yortzite for my mom yesterday. It was the first time I ever had a chance to do that. And though it caused a great deal of unexpected tears, that felt good too. As was hearing my and my father’s name mentioned when I was again called to read the blessings over the torah. I read the words this time by the way, and no, not from that plasticized card, but straight from the prayer book Hebrew. I have been practicing again and being able to do that also felt good.

But I think the point is that you first have to admit that you are imperfect before you can atone and receive your redemption. I think especially that people need to realize that taking advantage of each other’s weaknesses does not a civil society make. Breeds discontent and unrest. Unnecessary unrest, I think is a better way to describe it. Or, it deprives people of their peace.

Yea, I think that that got it said.

Please have a look around this big old Blog of mine. At the moment I feel like a juggler with too many balls in the air, but I think that the place is looking mighty cool, actually. Or, if that is not a good way to say it, I think I am making my point these days. Please have a look at that new (I am chuckling as I think about it) Polish Police and Administrative Corruption page. Oh, I tell you, it is like shooting fish in a barrel. And also have a look at the BHTimes news page. So much stuff going on.

And thank you very much for reading me.

More soon…