ON ATONEMENT AND BAGELS

Technically, this is a big day of reflection and fasting and I’m not supposed to be working, just thinking about things like what went wrong last year, why you were a jerk to people, and how you’re going to be better this year even though you’re pretty sure that at this point in life major change is not likely. But since this blog is mostly self-reflection anyway, it’s kind of appropriate today.  Or I’m justifying, but whatever.

That’s not to say I won’t do better in the next year 5780, for those of you keeping track at home, but meaningful change doesn’t come easy.  We all have very engrained psychologies, and all the patterns, neuroses, and involuntary fear and stupidity we’ve carried around forever.  In my case, six decades and counting.  Let’s face it.  I’m a mess.  You too, probably.

On a side note, sure it’s good to reflect and pray in a house of worship, but I go for the singing of the great Cantor Herschel Fox.  Here’s a sample from Kol Nidre.  Yes, I usually video a snippet of Kol Nidre.  Please forgive me.

 

Also in addition to fasting and reflecting, we’re supposed to ask forgiveness, not from God really, but from all the people we treated badly last year.  Can you imagine? That’s pretty much everyone I know.  Or even don’t know. Think about it.  You’re having a bad day because of business crap or personal upheaval, and you go to the store and the clerk is a little overwhelmed and you get angry and look at her in a bad way… seriously, even something as innocuous as giving someone a nasty look is worthy of asking for forgiveness.

So you can imagine how mean you can be to people you see all the time, like family and friends.  Nasty looks, snapping, being sarcastic.  You ever get in a fight with someone and they leave the room and you flip them the bird, at their back?  Well, they didn’t see it but you did.  And so did God.

Okay, do I believe in God?  Great question.  Oh that’s good, I just complimented myself on the question.  I believe in the concept of God because the idea that there is some higher power that demands that we act decently or there will be consequences is absolutely necessary or a lot of people would do whatever they want even if it hurts a lot of other people.  Oh.  That happens anyway, doesn’t it?

Of course.  Look around.  A lot of people are good and follow the social norms, but we all know those who aren’t, and don’t.  And we see a lot of people acting like this every single day!  From the snooty woman next door to, I’m going to say it, our President, a lot of people do what they want without any concern for others.  I’m not talking politics here, though I could.  I’m talking about reasonable behavior.  In the car, in the workplace, on the street, and at the top.

Smoked salmon with red onion and capers on a sesame bagel
This is what I will eat later, although I prefer and onion or everything bagel and I’m not sure we have any capers in the fridge. Boy am I hungry.  Photocredit://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/what-is-lox/

So imagine if there were no concept of what is good?  Call it God or cosmic energy or spirituality or whatever, without that, we’re screwed, because enough people already do whatever the hell they want so if we all did, well, that’s called anarchy.  And that’s only good for rock songs and dystopian novels.

And the thing is, most of those people never ask forgiveness or reflect on what they’ve done because then they might have to stop doing it and they don’t want to stop doing it because they believe their selfish and destructive behavior makes them popular, or rich, or powerful, so why should they stop?  Their behavior is rewarded with money or power, so why change?  I probably wouldn’t, but I’m not rich or powerful.  Does that mean I don’t act badly enough?  Hmm.

And while you see some of these, I’ll say it, assholes in there praying away and asking forgiveness right alongside the rest of us (and someone probably thinks you’re an asshole, too.  And me.) most of those jerks don’t give it a second thought.  It’s how they keep going.

Was the punctuation in the last sentence correct?  Or is it a winky icon?  Discuss.

Where was I?  Oh yes, self-reflection and forgiveness.  If you’re reading this, and you know me, I am so sorry that I acted like an asshole that time.  Or many times.  I really mean that.  I was probably having a bad day and I’m emotionally weak so I can’t compartmentalize my anxiousness or anger sometimes. Or I was over-reactive and oversensitive or defensive or a dimwit. My bad.

And there you go.  On to 5280 with a clean slate, sort of.

So what have we learned? I learned that when you need to write a blog post and have nothing planned, whatever is happening that day is good material, or at least it will get the job done so I can play some guitar before going to temple later.  We do the late service, which is awesome as I can sleep in, write the blog, play guitar and whatever while all the early people are in there davening away.  I just don’t like the idea of setting an alarm to go pray, although that’s what we do at Thich Nhat Hanh’s place down in Escondido, where you awaken to the sound of the gong at 5 a.m. to meditate for 45 minutes.  But I digress, again.

We’ve learned that even though people who do far worse things than we don’t even give it a thought, let alone ask forgiveness and self-reflect on how to improve, we still need to do the right thing when we can and realize when we do the wrong thing, even a little one, and ask forgiveness even we go the easy route and write a blanket request for forgiveness in a blog post.

Anyway, sometimes I get mad that some of you haven’t read my book yet, because I know you’ll like it, and how the hell am I supposed to become rich and powerful if you don’t read the damn book, so I apologize for that too, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go ahead and read it anyway.  And that means, yes, buying it.  It’s easy!

Just click here: Smoking in Bed: dreams of love, sex and terrorism.

Happy 5280 everyone!  And eat a bagel, for godsakes.  I think they have gluten free, but unless you have severe wheat reactions, a bagel once in a while, with a little shmear? And some lox?  Heaven!

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