Drew T. Noll © 2023, all rights reserved

Sunday, November 29, 2009

My String

There is a string that attaches to the cell inside my mind that is responsible for the next essence of an action that I will make. That string extends from there outwards as it is tugged by the forces in the Universe. To be really smart, I just need to pull back on the string and force the forces in the Universe to my will. The problem is that in order to pull the string, first, I need to know that it is there. Second, I need to know that it is possible to pull. Third, I need to know how to pull it. And fourth, I need to pull it with the right intention.

It is all a matter of who the puppet is and who the master is. I operate on a daily basis as if I were the master; however, the real master is most often the string. I tell myself that I am justified in my thoughts and actions and that I can pull the string anytime I like–which is really the string pulling me... So, I guess I know the string is there. Next, I need to find the end of it. This is something like looking for my Tzitzis in the morning before I say the Shma. They are always wrapped up in my Talit ends and clinging to my back. I have to pause to find them and then I forget what I am doing. I do a kind of spiritual stutter and try to pick up where I left off, but it never really is the same moment.

So when I figure out where I think I was, then I can really pull the string. I tell myself that I am really pulling the string and then, the Universe is going to move. Nothing–I am left standing with tassels between my thumb and fingers wondering... maybe it is possible to pull the string. Then, without warning, I get a post-it from Heaven. The whole time that I was trying to find the string in order to pull it, the forces of the Universe where coaxing me in the right direction and trying with all their might to push the physical string into my physical hand.

I guess this is the intention part. When I am finely tuned enough, I can seek the proper help in order to pull the string of the Universe and bend it to my will. If my will is good, the result in the world is good. When it is not, the result is not. Now we have a whole new problem. What is good and what is not?

Let’s explore an experience that I had on the way home from work the other day. I was walking up the hill next to the fields and I heard a rustling in the bushes across the street. I stopped and looked for just a moment and was just in time to see a pack of jackals emerge from the other side of the road and jet towards me. Two saw me immediately and returned to the cover of the bushes but two continued until the middle of the street. They both saw me then and one decided to continue on the same trajectory, passing about a meter in front of me. I could see the individual hairs on its back. The second jackal, after seeing me, stopped abruptly by leaping about a meter and a half straight into the air while doing a summersault and at the same time returning from where it came, all in a fraction of a second.

Is this good? Is this not good? It is hard to say. I find it easy to make sense if I substitute the word good with the word truth. Now I can say, is this truth? Is this untruth? The jackals were really there, even if no one else around me saw them, so, it must be truth. Recognizing truth is good. So now I can define what good is. Good is the knowledge of truth. So my intention needs to be the seeking of truth in order for me to pull the string that manipulates the Universe. The more lies I tell myself, the more the Universe has its way with me. I will leave you with a small story about a rabbi and a student.

One night, when Yehudah Aryeh, the future author of the Sfas Emes, was a young boy, he studied Torah the entire night and did not go to bed until just before dawn. He slept only a short while and then woke later than usual. His grandfather, Rabbi Yitzchak Meir of Gur, reprimanded him for not waking early to study. The young Yehudah Aryeh absorbed the rebuke in silence. A friend who knew the real reason asked him: "Why didn't you explain to your grandfather why you awoke late?"

"What!" said the young Yehudah Aryeh. "And miss the opportunity to hear my grandfather reprimand me?" At a that young age, Yehudah Aryeh understood the profound wisdom brought down from King Solomon, who repeatedly stresses that the wise actively pursue building character while fools avoid it. Our character is like water to a plant. Abundant attention to personal traits promotes growth of character, just as water promotes the growth of a plant. Yehudah Aryeh realized that he could easily have justified getting up later, and perhaps might have even received commendation from his grandfather for his diligence. He knew, however, that while praise may be pleasant, it is not as conducive to growth as reprimand is, even though the latter may be unpleasant.

The truth is out there, somewhere at the end of a string. Now if I can only figure out a way to find my Tzitzis without stuttering...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Um... Where did I Leave Off?

Oh yeah, picking up the pieces from all night, scantily clad, squeegee fun, brain-dead computer zombies gnawing at my entrails, and precious green mold gently deriving nourishment before becoming pulverized into oblivion along with whatever was left of my mind.

Zach texted me the other day while I was at work. He wrote that I should not throw away the mattress because it needed to dry out. So, what goes through your mind right about now? I thought immediately that there was another flood. Then I thought that his bed never really dried out from the last flood. Then I thought about the old stinky wet queen-size mattress that I had seen up the street in the garbage. Guess which scenario it was? I texted him back that he was not allowed to have a big bed in his room. Yeah, I know... “But Dad, all my friends have a big bed... What is your problem? My bed is too small!”

Mayhem ensued, of course. Adele said that she didn’t agree with me about the big bed thing but, in the end, she agreed to support me because it was stinky and from the garbage. So now the mattress has been moved around the corner, but still in front of the house, sitting in the sun—on the good side, Zach was accepted into the officers training course for the Navy. If he makes it through boot-camp, he will then spend the next 5 years as an officer on a boat and get out with a bachelors degree in... something. I told him that he can have a big bed when he is in the army to which he replied, “You said I could when I was 17!” Yeah, yeah, yeah, it is still my house and my rules. I can change my mind anytime I like. (I am just fooling myself that I have any say whatsoever in anything anyways so don’t you say anything!)

Josh, after a particularly severe melt-down (we are talking a 2 year old variety with a 20 year old vocabulary) with regards to computer time management, decided to really get us. We locked him out of his computer and he decided that the best way to get it back was to appeal to our sense of empathy as parents. He crashed his skateboard into the curb and broke his ankle and big toe (or so we were led to believe). He spent the next two days hoping around with, no school, no computer, and NO CRUTCHES! We are such bad, bad parents!

Yeah, more mayhem ensued... eventually we were guilt-ed into finding a place here that is like a medical library where you can check out things like crutches. He was so happy to have the crutches and we spent the next couple of nights adjusting them and detailing them out with cut tennis balls for traction and everything. You should have seen him when he went back to school. He was just shining as he hobbled down the path to meet the bus. Eventually he was driven to another town for x-rays and when we all found out that there was no break, he was happy as a clam just to walk around like it never happened to begin with. So what should I have done when the school nurse called me today to tell me that he was accidentally sprayed in the face with pepper spray?

Let’s just move on to mold... actually, I am feeling a lot better now, Baruch Hashem!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Precious Green Mold of my Life

Disgruntled Alien Commuter ~ www.doronoll.com
I hate rules... When I was young, I tried everything to beat the system. I tried lying, cheating, and even stealing. When I was caught, I just developed better ways to lie, cheat, and steal until eventually; I just decided not to play. It was a lot easier to just live inside my head, creating my own narrative, while hiking around the hills or the beach. I walked for miles along the beach. I walked from one town to the next... and then back again, all the while inside my head.

The biggest narrative that I developed was about how I must have been placed on planet Earth as an experiment created by aliens sitting around a board room table. I couldn’t relate to anyone or anything and even when I played by the rules, I was totally alone; you know, be cool, have all the right stuff, be witty and say all the right things... I thought the aliens just wanted to see what I would do in a world full of rules, but void of engagement. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered that this was not so far from the truth.

I am not saying that I believe in aliens or anything; just that, the experiment actually existed, and believe it or not, still exists. So who are the aliens? No; not Hashem. No; not some force of nature. I am. I am the great experimenter of my specially created experiment: me! And the whole world is my petri-dish to explore my actions and reactions; to boldly go where I have not had the pleasure of being before.

So why do I keep getting bogged down in the thick gooey corners of the dish? Every time I have a break-through, some fatal flaw kills off any headway with the sound of a wrecking ball, crashing through the delicate glass container that once held the precious green mold of my life. It can’t be that I just don’t know how to conduct my special ‘ME’ experiment, can it?

The Talmud tells us that over every blade of grass that is growing in the world today, an angel stands there and hits it in order to encourage it to grow. I told my wife that once and she said, “How rude! Why hit?!” I said I didn’t know. Maybe it is because hitting is a very physical expression and something the physical understands. Which brings me to the point; maybe my little experiment needs a wrecking ball in order for me to pay attention and read the results properly...

Look out!!!!

And shavua tov too

Monday, November 2, 2009

Shitaphone Ve Oad...

Yup, if you remember from a while ago the shitaphone, you know it isn’t good... We just had to do it again, didn’t we? When I went to bed on Friday night, I was feeling pretty good. I was really getting into Shul and was feeling real connected to Hashem and my community as well. We had just come through the High Holidays and I felt really great! I, maybe for the first time ever, really explored the inner recesses during Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah was also very inspiring. I was ready for the next year with all kinds of zealousness and zeal. I even did tashlich in the little mayan that feeds the Roman bath house ruins by our home. Sukkot!!! We were in J-town for the festivities and I davened at the Carlibach minyan in the Old City too; just for good measure but, I digress.

So, we have all been praying for rain and this year we were answered with quite a storm. This was a storm that not only wet the parched ground, but filled the coffers a bit too. I wasn’t really expecting it but when it hit, the storm was, in hindsight, more than just water. The energy was intense. OK, OK... Let me just share a little about my life here recently in the Promised Land.


We are really trying hard to sort out the whats, ifs, buts, and maybes with that little tike. It started with frothing insistence on having my credit card for the appropriately named, WOW, online game World of Warcraft. Because Zach decided to start playing on the Israeli server with all his friends here, He changed the (shared with his brother) membership. This meant that Josh’s characters, that he had spent all kinds of time and money creating, were no longer accessible! So, rightly so, Josh wanted my credit card to purchase his characters back on the American server, where all his friends have been playing. At least that is the story that I can piece together from my, advanced in years and not experience,... experience.

I ended up giving Josh the card and the boys worked out some kind of a share the expense deal (yeah, I am still paying for both accounts but, maybe we will get to that a little later). Things were going fine for a while. The kids were just finishing Summer and starting to get back into school, which doesn’t really start until 2 months after it starts; don’t ask...

It was time to put the clamps on to encourage the most perfect of joints, the dovetail! We found it necessary to purchase a program that measures and keeps track of all that blurry eyed computer time! We were going to dovetail it all together and get things moving in the right direction, right out of the gates.

It was pure hell. And then it seemed to get better; but only seemed to. Josh downloaded a program to hack the password and then proceeded to... well; let’s just say it isn’t pretty.

Speaking about our life here in the Promised Land,


We went to bed on Friday night, full and content, and were woken in the middle of the night by Josh (he does that fairly recklessly and consistently), “There is a flood!” We roused ourselves, as usual, and discovered that... there was a flood! I threw on my underwear and went racing around the house to see where it was coming from. I followed it up the stairs and into the bathroom. Nope it wasn’t the bathroom so; I knocked on Zach’s door. It was locked. I knocked again. “What...” came from behind the door.

“There’s a flood, open up,” I said. The door opened and Zach turned on the lights. Standing in my underwear, I looked up and saw, surrounded by a sea of floating flotsam and jetsam, a semi clothed girl retracting up under the blankets into the corner of Zach’s bed. I couldn’t deal... I ran out onto his porch and found the culprit of the shitaphone. The leaves had blocked up the drain, again...

We spent the next couple of hours trying to squeegee the water out the doors. I was soaking wet from the downpour of rain and wading through ankle deep water on the merpeset, Zach’s room, the hall, and all the way down the stairs and right through the living room.

Talk about a shitaphone, (flood or crap-call, depending on your mother tongue).
And what’s more, I hate it when Israeli’s say, “yeheah beseder...”

How about, “hang in there baby!”