Drew T. Noll © 2023, all rights reserved

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Living the Dream and the To Do List

My mind is quite sharp, but only at night. I roll over speed bumps with my face in the window. Upside and down-sized, backwards and forerunner, I fall down the hole and stand up tall. Under the grass, I watch the sky, which tick-tocks and sways, between tomorrow and yesterday. The style of today is far too farfetched, as I nod off another spin off, and my dreams are too busy, but nothing is done — apart from the moon.

Jet lag is a very strange business... It is 4:39 in the morning two days after arriving home from my whirlwind homecoming trip to California. I woke this morning before four, no longer dreaming, but thinking. I started to mentally swagger and then to stumble over my to-do list that I forgot. I didn’t get any garlic salt when I was in the States. I forgot to buy deodorant...

It popped into my head, the knowledge of reality, and I opened my eyes, to see the darkness again. When Hashem came to the nations of the world, He asked them each, one at a time, “Would you like my Torah?” The Torah is the plan for the universe, but each nation was more concerned with what they could not do, once they accepted it. The nations of the world asked if they could steal, rape, and pray to gods of stone and of wood, and Hashem moved on to the Jews.

The Jews have gotten a bad rap for claiming that they are the chosen people. In actuality, the Jews are not chosen by God first, but chose God before. When God came to the Jews and asked them if they wanted His Torah, they replied, “Nassey ve nishma (we will do and then we will hear).” There were 2,000,000 Jews at Mount Sinai and they all witnessed God. There is only one other group revelation that has happened in all the history of humanity and that was for Hindus. They saw their deity and then were promptly killed — all of them, which begs the question, ‘How did they know what had happened in order to pass it down through the generations?’ The Jews have been telling this story for 3,500 years, from one family to another, from grandfather to grandson; they all have the same story — that the Jews chose God over the insanity of unreality.

When does anyone ever promise to do something before hearing what it is? On the plane I saw a movie called I-Robot (based on the books by Isaac Asimov). In the movie, Sonny the robot cannot break the three laws. The first law is that a robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. The second is that a robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the first law. The third is that a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second laws. Sonny breaks these laws when he is asked by his maker, a man he calls Father, to throw him though a plate glass security window, beginning the movie with the death of the maker. Sonny is tormented by the knowledge that he killed the maker, he killed his god. He says at one point, “But, he made me promise, before he told me what it was that he wanted me to do...” This is essentially what the Jews said to God. We will do what the Torah says and then we will hear what it says. This is why we understand that the Jews chose God, and then God chose the Jews, just like in the movie, the maker provided Sonny with a choice and the wisdom of the nature of the choice is shown in the end of the movie, when a robot revolution is averted and the creation of a sentient species of mechanical men is completed.

Just like Sonny, I am floating between worlds, between realities, and between revelations. In essence, being jetlagged, my awareness is awake when the world is asleep and visa versa, leading to the blurring of my perception of reality. I dream of reality and wake to a dream. My soul reaches out to the Creator and He asks me to trust Him. He asks me to remember when I was standing at the foot of Mount Sinai, agreeing to do and then to hear. I feel that I am lagging ahead, with shoestrings unattached, my mind racing backwards, to see what is beyond. High below the mountain, of smoke and of fire, I utter my to-do list, without hearing a sound. My mind is quite sharp, in the night and in the day. It races ahead and I utter a sound, to break up the silence... and sing out to God, I will do life, and then I will hear it!

Shabbat Shalom!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Time Traveling and Manna from Heaven

Don’t worry; this blog is not going to be about wormholes... well, only a little bit I guess. You see, I ‘have’ been traveling through a time warp, both going back in time and leaping forward. My journey to the land that I lost started as I stepped off the plane and saw my little brother drive up to greet me in California. It was a whirlwind tour of emotions that felt as if it stretched through all of my ages. I played, once again, on my hillside playground where I was once hit in the face with a ‘sling-clod,’ I found an old clay friend looking out of the bushes at me from the yard of my childhood home, and I flew down the hills on my skateboard (technically I was in a car this time), like I was a kid with my whole life in front of me again. On my way to Yosemite for the final destination and the reason for my trip in time, visiting my mom, I stopped over in San Francisco for a brief but wonderful visit with one of my oldest friends that I haven’t seen in over 25 years. In only an hour, standing outside of a coffee shop not far from the airport, we spoke of family and old friends, war and politics, and Hashem, art, and spirituality. He drove me back to the airport and we said our goodbyes, only to find out that my plane was cancelled. I needed to take another flight later in the afternoon...

We had already condensed most of what was important into one little meeting, but now had the time to elaborate into more depth. It was a very interesting way to have a visit, like an introductory paragraph, followed by an essay on the life that we had led for the last 30 years. In our many discussions I recalled that while jetting somewhere over the California coast, I began to think of someone that I heard about that was afraid to fly. I began to relate to my old friend how, while looking out at the flimsy little strips of metal that kept the plane aloft, I realized that being afraid to fly is exactly the same thing as not believing that there is a G*D at all! For a Jew, this is a particularly prickly problem...

So, how does this work? First I had to figure out how a plane stays in the air in the first place. I started thinking about how ‘lift’ works for an airplane. I think that the principle is that the air traveling over the flat, bottom of the wing moves faster than the air moving across the curved, top of the wing, causing a kind of ‘upward-suck’ and pulling the airplane up into the sky. I tried to visualize the way that works and while looking out of the window at the wing slashing through the air, I realized, with a moment of panic, that there is really nothing tangible holding the plane up. It makes sense in terms of physical dynamics, but I really don’t know why it should. I mean, what if the nature of the universe all of a sudden changed its parameters? What if instead of sucking the plane up, the nature of the universe sucked the plane down! Just breathe... breathe... breathe...

Right about this time, I noticed a large fog bank way down below. It looked like a cushion of cotton laced pillows, nestled together and billowing up in order to snare the plane with the promise of a soft landing. The fog bank began to get larger and larger and as we descended further into San Francisco, instead of bouncing into the pillow of whipped cream fog, the plane was enveloped by it. Up above, the air was clear and beautiful. I could see for miles and had tracked along the coast of California the places that I had lived and worked, like I was traveling back in time; places like Laguna Beach, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Malibu, Downtown LA, and Santa Barbara. As soon as the plane descended below the fog layer, dropping down into that whipped cream, I could no longer see past the flimsy wing of the plane. After reorienting myself with the fact that we were not going to bounce off of the pillow of fog, I figured that I had a few minutes to prepare for the landing, as I could not see the ground at all, and then the runway was under us, emerging from the wispy white cushion of fog. We had landed. We were told that we were in San Francisco, but it could have been anywhere. I almost expected to see, somewhere off in the distance, the craning neck of a dinosaur, like we had landed in the Land of the Lost, lost in space and in time.

In this week’s parsha, Yitro (Exodus 18-20), we don't learn of Manna and Shabbat. That was last week's parsha, but I am going to talk about it anyways. Manna fell from the sky, layered with a layer of dew on the bottom and a layer on the top. It is said to have tasted like wafers of coriander seed bread. It is also said to have spiritual properties that endowed it with the ability to taste like anything you wanted it to (accept for onions, but that is a different story). The Manna fell six days a week and on Friday, a double portion fell for Shabbat. No more and no less fell than each person needed for the day and none was able to be saved over for the next day or it would rot with worms and decay. This, I realized while taxing down the runway in ‘the Land of the Lost,’ was connected to ‘fear of flight’ or anything else for that matter. The Israelites were completely reliant on Hashem for everything while in the desert, even their food and water. Hashem provided them with everything they needed, but not more. If a person was particularly spiritual, he might enjoy a fancy seven course meal of everything edible for a Jew under the Sun. If a person was less spiritual, he might just be eating a very satisfying bag of potato chips. Hashem provides the world with its nature for a reason. The more we connect with Him, the more we enjoy living. This idea especially comes to light with the nature of Shabbat. The Israelites did not have to provide, collect, cook, or do anything else on Shabbat, and they were taken care of. All they had to do was connect to Hashem.

When I realized this, taxing down the runway, I had the thought that I might have seen something in the fog, while descending to the ground that day. It wasn’t a dinosaur neck craning to see the time travelers landing from a place far away. It was the Hand of Hashem, as He supported the plane and gently set it down in San Francisco. This is how I know that an airplane can even fly in the first place; not because the air flows faster under the wing than over the top of the wing, but because Hashem runs the world. This is really the definition of life: To Learn and to strive to reach out to the Creator, who is continually providing sustenance to each and every one of us and is exactly the portion that meets our every need!

Sending blessings to my family and friends in the Holy Land,
Sending blessings to my family and friends all over our Holy Planet Earth,
And sending blessings and health to my Mom, who is recovering from what we all hope is just some minor turbulence in this process of life.

Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Inner Amalek

I thought the month of dreams, Kislev, was supposed to be, like, two months ago… Yup, I had another strange dream the other night. It was a frigid, bone-chilling night and, sleeping without a shirt on, my shoulders got colder and colder as the night progressed into the wee hours of the morning. In my sleep, I shifted about and moved around, but in the end, the only thing that I accomplished was having a dream about lying on my surfboard in the middle of the sea. In the dream, it was still dark out, like I had paddled out to catch a few waves before the sunrise. Eventually, as I laid there on my stomach trying to keep my arms close to my sides, out of pure cold-driven desperation, I reached down and pulled the covers up over my shoulders. Now I found myself lying on a surfboard, floating on the dark cold water, with a blanket over me to keep me warm.

I knew that something wasn’t quite right. In my dream, it never occurred to me that having a blanket over me while floating on the dark cold sea was a problem. In my dream, what was not right was that I had inadvertently trapped under the blanket with me, just inches away from my wet body, the dark cold blackness of the sea that plummeted down into the depths just under my surfboard. I had trapped it there with my security blanket, burying it under my perceived reality; I knew in the back of my mind that there were cold dark things lurking there, ready to lurch up and drag me down into the frigid depths, but I just carried on as if I had solved the problem. My shoulders were warm and I could still wait for the sun to come up and eventually I might even catch a wave or two...

This, I realize, is generally how I operate. It is normal physiological functioning to stuff the things that we can’t or don’t want to deal with, the things that we just can’t give words to in our attempt to birth it into the ‘finite’ universe. Our minds compartmentalize our experiences and categorize them into bitable bits and crunchable chunks. So, when we have a disconnect in this process, the mind buries it deep down, so that we don’t have to deal with it and can go on, living our lives, as if the reality that we experience was actually the experience of ‘our’ reality.

In this week’s parsha, B'Shalach (Exodus 13:17-17:16), the world is shown the magnificence and miracles of Hashem, including the splitting of Yom Suf (the Red Sea) for the Israelites as Pharaoh is desperately barreling down on them. The Rabbis bring down that in that moment, humanity knew by whom, in reality, the world was run. But, it didn’t take long for the world to ‘cool the bath water’ and begin to challenge that notion.

Enter Amalek…

“Remember what Amalek did to you on the road, on your way out of Egypt. That he happened upon you on the way and cut off those lagging to your rear, when you were tired and exhausted; he did not fear G-D. Therefore... you must obliterate the memory of Amalek from under the heavens. Do not forget” (Deuteronomy 25:17-19). Doesn’t that seem like an oxymoronic statement to you… you know, ‘obliterate the memory’ and ‘do not forget?’ let’s see if we can figure this one out…

Above, I used the words, “cool down the bath water” for a reason. Rashi explains that Amalek's attack was surprising and unexpected, "he happened upon you," which is a key aspect to the nature of the attack; it was brazen and full of trickery. However, Rashi also suggests that the word ‘karcha’ (he happened upon you) can also mean ‘he cooled you off’ coming from the Hebrew word ‘kar’ for cold.

Rashi goes on to explain that the Israelites were compared to a hot, scalding bath of water that was too hot to even enter, which symbolizes their great spiritual passion and achievements when they left Egypt. The Amalekites were willing to burn themselves by attacking the Israelites with the aim of showing that the connection to Hashem, which, because of their understanding of who the ultimate ruler of the world was, caused the spiritual heat in the world to cool off and showed the rest of humanity that it would not endure forever. By attacking in this way, without even the intention of winning the battle, Amalek cooled off the fear that all of the other nations in the world had for the Israelites, enabling them to attack not only the Stragglers, but Hashem’s providence in the world as well. Essentially, Amalek introduced doubt into the world.

In Hebrew, every letter has an equivalent number that can be added up. This is called gematria and the gematria of the word ‘Amalek’ is 240. This also happens to be the gematria of the word ‘safek’ or doubt. The doubt that Amalek brings to the world is the fundamental nature of doubt and it is expressed within the big picture, like the voice that we hear sometimes saying, ‘Can I, without a doubt, be sure there is a G-D?’ Or, it can be a small question like, ‘Am I really capable of doing the task that has been set in front of me?’ and ‘How can everything be for a purpose and not just random occurrences?’ Everything in life becomes subjective.

When Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the dark and the light in the world mixed. Visualize holding your hand over a light bulb and making a shadow on the wall. In the world before the Sin of Adam and Eve, there would only be black and white with a crisp edge between them. Now we have gray to deal with and that is the place that we hang out, fostering doubt in our lives and in the world.

This gray area gave birth to the uniquely human ability to rationalize just about anything we want to, including the safety that I felt under my security blanket in the middle of the night while ignoring the cold, cold darkness down below my surfboard. That is me ignoring Amalek while pretending to myself that everything is absolutely OK. By remembering Amalek, we bring attention to the fact that it is not safe to be hanging around in the gray areas of doubt. The only way we can obliterate Amalek is to remember that he is lurking, somewhere in the dark depths of our minds and souls, instilling doubt with the unbelievably powerful weapon of our own rationalization. If we forget the inner Amalek, we are dooming ourselves to the darkness and the cold depths of the sea. Arrrghhh…. Shiver me timbers…

So how do you remember Amalek? I am going to start with ‘NO DOUBT!’

Shabbat Shalom!!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Exploding Excretions of Freedom

I was running, all the while, looking over my shoulder, trying to get away — trying to hide from the searchers. I seemed to be better at moving quickly over high platforms and structures in the slippery rain then they were. I bounced and jumped, using previously unknown by me gymnastic abilities, trying to elude pursuit. I didn’t know why they were chasing me; I just knew that I ‘could’ get away and then I landed in the mud, sinking down to my waist. By squirming and rolling sideways I eventually freed myself, I found it was difficult to move and slow-going through the mud. Moving horizontally, rolling and inch-worming, I began to make some slow progress, trying not to sink back in. This also presented me with the opportunity not to be seen by those that were searching from above. The mud was like camouflage as it covered my clothes, hands, and face, and I slipped and flopped stealthily across the rain-pocked field of mud. I was brown and amorphous like the wet earth when I emerged on the other side of the pit.

Then, in a matter of moments, after the pouring rain washed me clean again, I began to care for a small disabled boy that I realized was standing to my right side. He wanted to play with some little colorful toys that were beckoning from a tall pointed rock nearby and I helped him climb the rock without slipping back into the mud. He was small and happy. He had a really flat head, like a brick had been roped to it from birth, leaving a misshapen cranium. I knew what was supposed to happen next, even before it happened. I needed to introduce the young disabled boy to my mom, who was not feeling well and standing, waiting, on the opposite side of the rock. I knew, she knew, and I knew that she knew, that she needed to care for the boy. We both knew that I was capable of caring for him, but it was not my responsibility. I had been both running like mad to get away and trying desperately to take on this responsibility at the same time... for a long time.

When I awoke from the dream I was having that morning, I didn’t feel very well. I had been tossing and turning all night. I kept waking up and looking out the window to see how light it was. It was cold. I wanted to get up, but was trapped by the warmth and comfort of my bed, so I tossed and turned and dreamt strange tales built from inner dimensions. When the light finally peered into the window, it was too late. I had already dredged up my unconscious mind and splattered my consciousness with both blessings and curses from the pit of mud just under the surface of my perceived reality. The funny thing is, I learned a lot about myself, huddling in bed that cold morning. I realized that I am currently squeezing though a kind of experiential tube. When I left my childhood home and moved into the world, I was setting up a precedence that would repeat itself time and time again. There always seems to be an experiential constricting, like being trapped inside a hot air balloon as the pressure builds and it inflates, followed by the ultimate freedom of being excreted as the balloon pops, spraying my central consciousness into the newly created universe. Constriction is difficult, suffocating, and stressful. Excretion is always the release after the formation, the embodiment of freedom and the release of the created into the vastness of possibility.

Think about it. When you have a great idea, it is usually after some sort of planning or processing that occurs. We all wake in the dark of night with inspiration, but that is really after our minds have had the opportunity to settle and let all the pieces fall into place. We all have those moments and it is those moments that we continually try to find or create in our ‘regular’ lives. Think about it. ‘It just occurred to me,’ ‘it was a flash of inspiration,’ ‘it all lined up perfectly,’ and even ‘it was love at first sight,’ all equal that excretive explosion into the universe as the warm, constricted womb of a balloon pops into birth and then births into being, the next step.

In this week’s parsha, Bo (Exodus 10:1 - 13:16), the Israelites are leaving the slavery of Egypt after 210 years away from the land, the Holy Land, that Hashem promised to give Abraham for the Jewish people. This pop was a prototype pop for nations of the world. The same type of pop occurred when Adam ate from the tree, when Cain killed Abel, when G-D confused the language of mankind into the 70 Nations, when Moses struck the rock, and on and on through both Holy Temples’ destruction on Tisha’beAv, the Diaspora, the return by the Jewish people to the Land of Israel after 2,000 years of exile, until in my dream when I realized that my mom was standing behind the rock in the rain. Maybe I am making more of it than it really was, but it did send me into a funk after I awoke that morning. I haven’t reached the freedom yet, I guess, but I think that I can see the luminous plastic shimmer, as the reverberations pass through the flimsy walls within which, a portion of me has been gestating.

I think...it’s going to POP!

Wish me success...

P.S. It’s raining!!!!!