Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bribing God

Awhile back, I received an e-mail from a friend of mine. In it, she pointed out that we were both single, and she had a plan to fix this. The plan?
To spend some time regularly studying the laws of Lashon Hara, pledging to spend two hours a day not speaking Lashon Hara, in hopes that this would be a segulah to get us married. Then, as a group, the group devotes two weeks to devoting the merit of this learning to that person.

My reaction?

Wait, I'm supposed to try to manipulate my Creator through promising to do something I should be doing already? No, thank you.

Now, I think the whole learning the halachot of Lashon Hara is a great idea. It is something I plan to start doing.
The promise? Too difficult to make a promise about unless I make this promise between the hours of 3:00 through to 5:00 a.m.

Giving tzedaka is a time honored method for bribing God. But this? This makes me sad. Both because it seems to speak of an attitude where God can be bribed and because it seems as though my friend is really desperate about her single state.

Now, however, we're about to hit Tisha b'Av. I think that these Halachot, and those of dealing with others should be learned. Not, because we should try to manipulate or bribe the one who is our Father and King (Dad, I'll do the dishes for a month if I can just...) but because if we cannot treat each other well, then what is the point of this fasting? 

Amos: 5: 21 I hate, I despise your feasts, and I will take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22 Yea, though ye offer me burnt-offerings and your meal-offerings, I will not accept them; neither will I regard the peace-offerings of your fat beasts. 23 Take thou away from Me the noise of thy songs; and let Me not hear the melody of thy psalteries. 24 But let justice well up as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.

Monday, July 9, 2012

In defense of camping

So you can all understand why I say: this stuff is awesome! Specific experiences for another post.

Camping is one of the highlights of my summer. I love getting out, even with ticks and bears and other guests. I have to admit that it is true, some stuff can go wrong. Look out for hazards in any dangerous place.  Like pigeons, muggers, street singers, other cars, rogue bicyclists and bad pizza.  Now that you've been warned about the hazards, onto the fun stuff!

Having the chance to really get out and away from the city into the forest or by the ocean, breathing real air, enjoying the sun (with sunscreen) and getting a good look at the world around you is amazing. In the forest, you can look for flowers, mushrooms and raspberries, climb trees, look for songbirds and other critters.

By the ocean, look for beach grasses, beach plums and roses, horseshoe crabs, hermit crabs, sea stars, terns, gulls, willetts, splash through tidepools and build sandcastles.

Out in the more grassy areas, look for butterflies and bumblebees, field sparrows, wrens, larks, and little critters. By a lake? Dragonflies, blueberries, some fish, and at twilight look for deer and other animals. I once saw a pheasant!

Always, always look up! That's where you'll see the hawks and falcons, crows and vultures who seem to soar higher than Incarus.  You can see crows lurking, sparrows gossiping, seagulls looking for something to eat. Try to catch a hawk soaring, or the way the falcon glories in its flight. See if you can spot a crane or heron, standing still as still. Maybe an egret, if you're lucky. There's so much to explore and enjoy.

For instance, stars. Down in your suburb or city, you can see a few if you're lucky. Go out to the forest or by a lake one night, and stake out a clearing. Come back an hour after sunset (with a flashlight).
Turn off the flashlight. Look up. Lie on your back on the ground. You'll see so much more than the little dipper and Orion's belt.  It'll look like someone tipped a whole bucket of diamonds across the sky. Absolutely beautiful.

Listen to what's going on around you. You can hear so many different birdsongs that blend together in a kind of orchestra. So the forest sounds more classical and the ocean is more of a punk rock band. The lake is an in betweener, reminding me of the big band jazz orchestras. Forests have the trees for woodwinds, and more songbirds as the brass, while little animals play percussion. The brash sounds of seabirds and waves crashing on the beach are the jazz band, while the lake has the low lapping of its waters, and the harsh calls of the ducks and mockery of the crows. Look around. Look up. Listen.

Smells are stale in people centers. You get smells you'd never find in the choking hot fumes of your city, or the harsh exhaust of suburbia traffic. There's the fresh, salty tang of sea air, the cool freshness of a forest with the lush undertones of its undergrowth. You can scent the ripening green liveliness of a marsh, and the cool nuances of lake or river. Everything seems so much more alive.

Lounge around the campsite itself. Your space is fairly private because there are trees and shrubs separating you from your neighbor in the good campsites. (How goodly are your tents...) There's shade, and space to set up your chairs. A lot of them offer nature hikes, where you can walk with a ranger who will teach you exactly what it is you're looking at.

As far as the bugs go? Crouch down and take a proper look at one sometime. Hashem made some rare wonders. Look past the butterflies. Beetles come in so many colors!Sparrow, don't they bite?
Bite back!

Take a minute to stop going eww, and take a closer look instead. I just saw a beetle in the grass with the weirdest looking antennae. Its carapace was brown with a softly mottled pattern. So cool and the pattern on its back would make a beautiful scarf.
No, I can't stand cockroaches.
Why do you ask? ;)

There's something deeply healing about taking time out in the wonders God created. Stay inside? You'll miss it. Nature is both God's work of art and the ultimate playground. Go play.

- Sparrow