Hold It All

Month: February, 2016

At Café Ventana, I Daydream, Seeing…

Your hand the first to shoot up in Torts
You smiling serenely at the gunners

You checking off your To Do list with equanimity
You noticing the unjoie de vivre jaws of your friends, knowing, sooner of later, those dentist bills will come

You taking off two Thursdays evenings a month to read whatever George Eliot you feel like
You realizing, “Yes, I’m a law student, but I am 16 other Fernando Pessoa selves as well”

Sunday’s Agenda

The Sermon on the Mount According to Vedanta
Swami Prabhavananda
Sunday 28 February 2016

All religions are true inasmuch as they lead to one and the same goal: God-realization. But arguments will not prove this truth. You have to experience it; then only will you be convinced. 23

Seek perfection! Realize God! 69

In all religions, two principles: the ideal to be realized, and the method of realization. 26

The love of God has to be won through self-discipline, which we have neglected to practice. We have forgotten the aim of life – to realize and see God. … We cannot love God and hate our neighbor. If we really love God, we will find him in everyone; so how can we hate another? If we harm anyone, we harm ourselves; if we help anyone, we help ourselves. 50

How can a spiritual aspirant who is longing for the truth be satisfied with theology, with philosophy, with doctrines and creeds? 73

In the long run, there is only one way to verify the actuality of God, and that is to see him for oneself. All attempts to arrive at a proof by means of reasoning are futile, because what we are trying to establish is only the existence of our idea of God. 87

Our goal in this life is to experience union with God and all beings. We can make this end the means of realizing God. If we practice trying to see the unity, if we do unto others as we would have them do unto us, our consciousness will eventually be transformed. Then we will actually see the one God vibrating in every atom of the universe and love him in all beings. 117 Read the rest of this entry »

Louisville, July 1986

I was walking up Broadway towards 4th
A rusty ’76 BMW 2002 going west sped by at 2:21 p.m.
“Walking on Sunshine” blasted from the radio
I thought of you

Share the Wealth with Jason Makansi: Writing the Journey to the Center: Ethnic Delinquency, Young Adult Activism, Professional and Fiction Writing, and the Lifelong Struggle to Get What’s on the Inside to the Outside

It’s a great time to be half-Greek and half-Syrian! Never has my heritage been so aligned with the headlines. One country is the poster child for global economic failure, the other for geopolitical failure. Every day, I can’t wait to “read all about it!”

In truth, I don’t consider myself very ethnically conscious. But writing has been the focal point of my personal and professional life, and when I started writing fiction (seriously) almost two decades ago, my ethnic sub-conscious would not be silenced. It took no time to get ethnicity from the outside but a lifetime to get it from the inside to the outside. Read the rest of this entry »

The Simplest and Hardest Question

At some point in each course, I ask a question that is one of the simplest and hardest questions of all.

A hand may shoot up after I pose it, thus indicating an avid interest in sharing with the other students the answer, well, her answer, to said question. Death-stares sometimes are the result from other students.

Typically, I will bring up the question when we are talking about the Buddha’s teaching on “Right Livelihood.”  Other times, having already covered that topic, I will bring it up yet again because of a phone call or face to face conversation I’ve just recently had.  It seems ever appropriate. Read the rest of this entry »

How To Make a Decision

A friend shared this with me this evening.  Some people out there may recognize their own process herein.


Step 1: Recognize option A as a reality

Step 2: Celebrate option A as the best possible choice in every alternate universe with no hesitations

Step 3: Recognize option B as a new reality

Step 4: Celebrate possibility of option B as new best possible choice in every alternate universe with no hesitations

Step 5: Pause

Step 6: Realize that option A and option B cannot both be chosen

Step 7: Experience immediate onslaught of existential crisis about self-identity, family, love, and God

Step 8: Read a lot of books about vocation and spiritual discernment

Step 9: Name all personal values after careful and painful deliberation

Step 10: Decide option A is good and pragmatic and safe

Step 11: Decide option B is unconventional and uncertain and exciting

Step 12: Decide option B best aligns with personal values

Step 13: Decide option A makes the most sense for career trajectory and family values

Step 14: Try to convince self to choose option A over option B

Step 15: Contact every mentor ever trusted and get them to try to convince self to choose option B over option A

Step 16: Decide on option B but continue to torment self with doubt, hesitations, and “what ifs”

Step 17: Accept option B

Step 18: Experience relief at having made a decision

Step 19: Reject option A and re-experience renewed existential crisis about how one is incapable of making intelligent decisions and has ruined one’s career and one’s life

Step 20: Comfort self that option A was not all it was cracked up to be

Step 21: Reach out to all mentors ever trusted (again) to confirm that life as we know it is not yet over

Step 22: Continue to torment self with doubt and derision

Step 23: Accept option B as reality and resign oneself to making the most of fate

Step 24: Promise self to never ever again make a decision

Step 25: Enjoy option B and delusional decision-free life (for the time being)

Two Pages

Your book arrived today, just a few days after I ordered it on Amazon (and on a Sunday no less!)

It looks beautiful and I couldn’t be happier for you

I opened up to the first page, eager to re-read what I had only seen in a PDF version before

And what a wonderful opening!

But suddenly it was too real for me

Layla’s ideas, inspirations, desires to go to Gaza reflected my own before I went to Ecuador

It hit me like a ton of bricks


And I had to sit with it and digest it for a minute….

and then an hour…

and then the whole evening

This still unprocessed, year-old sorrow of losing 50 friends after a single plane trip back to the United States of Apathy

And I will be honest, my hurt still runs deeper than I will admit to myself

But you awakened it in me, brought my awareness back to it

“Breathing in I am sad, Breathing out still sad”

If you can believe it, I had never cried since coming back from Ecuador, despite yearning for tearful release with every part of my soul

All it took was to read the first two pages of your book and I was gone, a sobbing, soggy mess on my couch

Well, you can count me among those who have been moved by your words

–from Chelsea Jaeger, July Gmail Chat


I recently read David Roskies’ book, The Search for a Usable Jewish Past, and from its pages I noted the following books or authors to read:

Ahad Ha’am
S. Y. Agnon, The Bridal Canopy, A Simple Story, A Guest for the Night
Alter, Modern Hebrew Literature
S. Ansky, Between Two Worlds, or The Dybbuk
Sholem Asch, The Psalm Jew, The Nazarene 
Sholem Asch, The Shtetl 
Rachel Auerbach, in The Literature of Destruction
Isaac Babel, Red Calvary 
Bialik, “In the City of Slaughter”
Boyarin, From a Ruined Garden
Boyarin, Storm from Paradise
Simon Dubnov
Rokhl Feigenberg, Chronicle of a Dead Town 
Fein, Selected Poems of Bialik
Finkelstein, Akiba: Scholar, Saint, and Martyr 
Glatstein, Anthology of Holocaust Literature
Chaim Grade, The Agunah, The Yeshiva 
M. L. Halpern
Howe, Treasury of Yiddish Stories
Howe, Voices from the Yiddish
Huberband, Kiddush Hashem 
Zelig Kalmanovitsh
Chaim Kaplan
Katznelson, Vittel Diaries
Kermish, To Live and Die with Honor
Rokhl Korn, Earth 
Mani Leib
Lewin, A Cup of Tears
Ber Mark, Scrolls of Auschwitz 
Mintz, In Praise of the Baal Shem Tov
Mintz, Hurban Responses to Catastrophe in Hebrew Literature
Miron, Tales of Mendele the Book Peddler
Nahman of Bratislava, Tales 
S. Niger
Yehoshua Perle
Polen, The Holy Fire: Teachings of Rabbi Shapira
Chaim Potok, The Chosen 
Theo Richmond, Konin: A Quest 
Leyb Rochman, The Pit and the Trap
H. Roth, Call it Sleep
Roth, The Counterlife
Scholem, The Messianic Idea in Judaism
Bruno Schultz
Shabtai, Past Continuous 
I.J. Singer, Yoshe Kalb 
Singer, Satan in Goray
Spielgelman, Mauss
Milton Steinberg, As a Driven Leaf
I.J. Trunk
I.M. Weissenberg
Wirth-Nesher, What is Jewish Literature?
Wisse, Modern Jewish Canon
Yerushalmi, Zakhor
S. Yizhar, Hirbet Hizeh 
Zborowski, Life is with People
Zerubvel, Recovered Roots
Chaim Zhitlowsky

Share the Wealth with Celine Dammond–Disability: Where Did It Come From and What Does It Mean?

What is the first image in your mind when you hear the word, “disability”?

Take that image and imagine that disability can touch people anywhere, at any time, without boundaries. It is a part of the inherent risk of being human. It is also a  multifaceted concept that intersects with statistics and science, health, racism, gender and sexuality, discrimination and beyond. The word implies a sense of loss, of a lack of ability that can be visible or invisible, physical or mental, permanent or temporary.

We’ll discuss the historical and contemporary models, meanings, implications and assumptions behind the word disability. From this critical standpoint, we will unpeel the layers of language and rhetoric that build the concept of disability.

Looking to the present, we will also discuss what disability means today by sharing how the word is being defined by people around the world who are challenging the traditional patterns of discourse.

Celine has an insatiable curiousity about the world around her, leading her to traditional streams of education and to explore and travel as much as possible. She holds a persistent and idealistic belief that rhetoric and communication are the most powerful ways to change the world for the better. She lives in St Louis and is pursuing a Master’s in Occupational Therapy.

Join us!
Sunday 21 February
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 p.m.
Celine begins sharing at 6:45
At the home of Courtney Barrett
6009 Westminster
St Louis MO


Like When I quoted Jon Sobrino in “Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine”

The quote is always fascinating because it changes out of context,
becomes different and sometimes more mysterious.
It has a directness and assertiveness it may not have had in the original.

— Susan Sontag