Who are you? - Jewish, American, veteran, Portlander by choice, age 53. Social liberal / libertarian, fiscal conservative / libertarian, pro-Zionist, anti-jihad, queer-friendly. Registered Republican. Co-parent to two wonderful kids, TNG and Bunny.
For those of you who have not run screaming from the room shrieking "Eeeeeek! A Republican!" - thank you for not doing that.
Last week's temp gig went well and I think I came away with a positive entry on my work record. It was even suggested that I apply for a certain open job position, which of course I had to clear with my agency but they're cool with it. So we'll see.
Saturday was an informal meeting at the Lodge to work on ritual practice. (ALL of us need practice.) Now that I live across the street from the Lodge, it's easy to attend these things.
Sunday morning I got caught up on housework, and Sunday afternoon I felt an urge for some mindless entertainment so I watched 'Sleepy Hollow' and 'Lizzie Borden' on Amazon.
This article on focusing the distracted mind popped up on my LinkedIn feed and it caught my interest. According to their research, Adam Gazzaley and Larry Rosen say, the ability to focus consists of two distinct processes: enhancement and suppression. Enhancement means focusing on the things that matter, and suppression is blocking out the things that don't. As we age (and this begins at about age 20), our ability to focus starts to weaken, specifically because of a deficit in the suppression function.
The attentional decline we experience as we age has more to do with our inability to filter out distractions, not our lack of concentration. If you think it’s hard to pay attention now, just wait until you age a few more years.
As it happened, the latest issue of the Lubavitch International monthly arrived the other day, and in it I discovered Shmuel Loebenstein's article on itkafya. Itkafya is a Talmudic word without a counterpart in Biblical Hebrew; it's related to a number of words meaning "to seize, overpower" (Jastrow, p. 1693) and the word itself means "suppression" or self-control. Loebenstein cites a study that showed multiple benefits when children were asked to delay gratification (eating a marshmallow) by exercising self-control.
... what better Aramaic word is there than iskafya (“itkafya” in Sephardic pronunciation), a word beloved of the kabbalistic ancients and equally embraced by Chasidic moderns. ...
When Chasidic philosophy lauds iskafya, the suppression of the animalistic instinct in ourselves, it is not talking about afflicting ourselves. It is about self-restraint, the battle between the ego and the id, the mastery of our character over our urges and instincts. You want to practice iskafya? Try not talking gossip for a day. Try befriending a person whom you dislike.
I've been struggling with mood issues lately, so this information is a good reminder of both the challenge and the potential in choosing what kinds of thoughts I dwell on, and which ones to let go.
Drinking in bars can get spendy, so I try to limit my visits to the bar downstairs (three shots of JW Black ran me 28.50 - this is why I buy my own whiskey) but I decided to splurge tonight, and I needed to get out of the apartment anyway.
Marco, the manager (of the bar and of the adjoining Italian restaurant) was there as usual. The bar hostess was a slim, attractive young woman whose name I didn't catch. The crowd was already thinning out (it was around 10pm, and the bar closes at 11 on weekends) so it was pretty quiet.
I gathered that an apparently drug-addled man had been banging on the windows of the bar and of the Admiral lobby shortly before I arrived. Portland's Finest had been summoned and were having a chat with the fellow on the corner. (I would later see a pair of police cruisers parked on the corner of 16th and Morrison after I left the bar.)
I'd overheard the bar gal say she was moonlighting while pursuing a Master's in geography. That got me curious and I asked her about it: What did a Master's degree in geography mean to her? Did she study primarily geological data, or political/economic, or both? She said it depended on what type of data you were trying to map - for example, if you wanted to make a map of the best places to buy a home in Portland, you'd take into consideration things like median home price, soil types, and so on. I was immediately reminded of Mission Possible SF which I knew from my days of living in the Mission District.
I paid my bar tab and headed upstairs. I'm on a budget these days, now that the ghost of Uncle Fred is no longer paying my bills, but I didn't mind paying a few dollars for a couple of drinks, a change of scene, and some interesting conversation.
A year ago, I spent two weeks in Kenya and Uganda visiting the African Jewish communities in those countries. This picture is the family of Yehudah Kimani (his parents Ruth and Yosef are on the right) looking at some Jewish books and educational materials I brought from the US. I like this picture because you can see Yosef holding a set of picture cards with the Hebrew names of various farmyard and wildlife animals - cow, chicken, horse, sheep, elephant - most of which are unlikely to be part of the daily experience of the largely urban American Jewish population.
Here, as you can see (look at the doorway) the situation is somewhat different.
I stay in touch with Yehudah and many others in the African Jewish community (in Kenya and Uganda, as well as in Nigeria and elsewhere in West Africa) via Facebook. (Yes, it does have its uses.) Just tonight I learned that a young man from Ghana has joined our tribe.