Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Value of Negative-Learning

Today I read Feel-Bad Education and Other Contrarian Essays on Children and Schooling by Alfie Kohn. It's an excellent book and I largely agree with his philosophy of education. One excerpt I particularly enjoyed is reproduced below.


So how is it that some folks emerge with an understanding that traditional education is unhealthy for children and other living things, and with some insight about why that's true (and what might make more sense instead), and with a commitment to show the rest of us a better way? How did they get here from there?

I suspect the key is a phenomenon that might be called "negative learning," in which people regard an unfortunate situation as a change to figure out what not to do. They sit in awful classrooms and pay careful attention because they know they're being exposed to an enormously useful anti-model. They say to themselves, "Here is someone who has a lot to teach me about how not to treat children." Some people perfect this art of negative learning while they're still in those environments; others do it retrospectively, questioning what was done to them earlier even if they never thought- or were unable- to do so before. Some people do it on their own; others need someone to lend them the lens that will allow them to look at things that way.

Of course, a mind-numbing, spirit-killing school experience doesn't reliably launch people into self-actualization, intellectual curiosity, or a career in alternative education. If it did, we'd want everyone to live through that. Nontraditional educators had to beat the odds, and they've set themselves the task of improving those odds for other children, creating places where the learning doesn't have to be by negative example.

I want new teachers to see progressive education at its best. I want them to spend as much time as possible in a place where they can watch seasoned educators work with children rather than doing things to them, helping those children to make sense of ideas and create opportunities to discover answers to their own questions, striving to shield them from stultifying mandates handed down from on high. It's hard enough to walk into a classroom on wobbly legs and face a roomful of students for the first time; if at all possible, you want to have had a few caring role models who take intellectual inquiry- and kids- seriously.

But if apprentice teachers find themselves instead in a place where test scores drive the instruction and students are essentially bullied into doing whatever they're told, then it helps to be able to think, "What a memorable display of lousy pedagogy and disrespect for children! I need to take careful notes so, when it's my turn, I can do exactly the opposite." Again, they'll need plenty of help: People can't just will themselves into being proficient progressive teachers. Still, construing a bad classroom as an opportunity for negative learning may jump-start the process, and the same trick can help people who are forced to deal with autocratic administrators, arrogant advisors, or even abusive parents.

How do some among us manage to perform this heuristic alchemy, adopting a constructive mental set even though others who are similarly situated end up just feeling lousy about themselves and about education? My hunch is that it reflects a confluence of environment and personality. Maybe the environment has to be really dreadful, as opposed to merely dull- but at the same time must include a glimpse of something better so it's clear what's missing. People need to know from experience that schools or teachers or families don't have to be like this.

The personality part, meanwhile, probably should include equal measures of assertiveness (including a contrarian spirit and a dash of up-yours rebelliousness) and empathy. The contribution of the former is obvious, but the latter is no less importantly. Some people suffer through the indignity or even brutality of being a newbie somewhere- a fraternity, a medical residency, whatever- and then, once they've attained a little seniority, turn around and abuse the new arrivals. They may derive a certain satisfaction from watching others suffer. They may even convince themselves that having been treated like dirt was somehow good for them. (Beware of anyone who rationalizes and reproduces emotional violence with phrases like "character building" or "tough love.")

But other people- the ones we're looking for- are those who say "I want to work to change this system so others will be spared what was done to me." They have the compassion and the courage to shake up the status quo and denounce cruel traditions. They've mastered the art of negative learning and developed a commitment to making the world, or at least whatever part of it they come to inhabit, a better place than it was before they got there.


Bingo. That's why I'm going to be an excellent teacher.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Other Side of Creativity

The Rav speaks of man's creative capacity, his unlimited ability to partner with God and also his ability to recreate himself and form a new 'I.'

The Rav does not speak about the other side of creativity. But Henri Nouwen does.
    Nuclear man is the man who realizes that his creative powers hold the potential for self-destruction. He sees that in this nuclear age vast new industrial complexes enable man to produce in one hour that which he labored over for years in the past, but he also realizes that these same industries have disturbed the ecological balance and, through air and noise pollution, have contaminated his own milieu. He drives in cars, listens to the radio and watches TV, but has lost his ability to understand the workings of the instruments he uses. He sees such an abundance of material commodities around him that scarcity no longer motivates his life, but at the same time he is groping for a direction and asking for meaning and purpose. In all this he suffers from the inevitable knowledge that his time is a time in which it has become possible for man to destroy not only life but also the possibility of rebirth, not only man but also mankind, not only periods of existence but also history itself. For nuclear man the future has become the only option.

    All those who create have the potential to destroy. The Rav addresses only the positive side of creativity, the Teshuva process. What about those who destroy Teshuva? Can one destroy the possibility of rebirth? Did Aher do that? Were his powers so immense that he in fact destroyed Teshuva as a concept when it came to him?

    If creativity holds the power- perhaps even the lure- of self-destruction, how is the creative being to act? What prevents him from remaining forever in a position of fear, scared witless?

    Perhaps it takes great courage to choose to do anything, fraught as that thing may be with the potential for evil. Perhaps the effort of choosing is the beginning of a fearful journey. Perhaps when our texts say that we all have free will, what it really means is that we can choose to create or to destroy, and our life is lived in that manner. Hence the statements that he who comes to purify himself is helped by God, while he who comes to sin is also helped by God. Also the statement that all is in God's power except the Fear of Heaven. What we value and revere is an expression of our secret self and it is that self who determines what to do with its creativity, the mark they leave on the world.


    I was watching "The Glee Project" and saw that Cameron Mitchell quit because the show wasn't jiving with his faith and convictions. Here's an article about it.

    He's quoted in this article as saying:

    “It’s very tough because I do have beliefs and I do have my faith, and in some ways that does make me very different from other people. There are lines that other people will cross, and that’s OK to them, but to me—I’m just different, I just believe in different things. There are certain things that I’m willing to do on video shoots, but when it comes to the kissing, that was really hard for me. That’s just how I was raised, you know?

    “My parents weren’t crazy-strict religious people. I won’t hit people on the head with a Bible, but I live by example and just try to be the best guy I can be. I have morals, and if it’s something that I feel like is crossing the line, then I’m not afraid to stand up. If you don’t stand up for something, then you’ll never stand up for anything. I just feel like that’s just what I had to do.”

    Just wanted to say how impressive that is. A 20-year-old kid walking away from the Western all-American dream. The contrast between this kid and Esther Petrack (just for choosing to be on ANTM, nothing else) is striking.

    Saturday, August 13, 2011

    A Very Poor Reason to Marry

    Did I ever love Noam? It's a question I've considered continuously these past months. Did I ever love anything beyond his position in that special world, the only world that's ever mattered to me? Did I ever, even back then, focus on the person who occupied that position? I know I never considered the person behind the genius- if there was such a person. Noam's personal identity was, at least for me, entirely absorbed by his genius. All the properties he had were defined in relation to his genius. But that would be okay, wouldn't it? If one can love someone for the curve of her nose or thigh, the charm of his laugh or his manner of smoking, why can't one love someone for his genius?

    Yes, I understood when Noam spoke of the power of his work. I had always thought of intelligence as power, the supreme power. Understanding is not the means of mastery, but the end itself (see Spinoza). This belief, pushed through the dark channels of the libido, emerged as the determinant of my sexual preferences. I am only attracted to men who I believe to be more intelligent than I am. A detected mistake in logic considerably cools my desire. They can be shorter, they can be weaker, they can be poorer, they can be meaner, but they must be smarter. For the smart are the masters in my mattering region. And if you gain power over them, then through the transitivity of power you too are powerful.

    And how is it given to a woman to dominate but through sex? Through sex a woman gains control over a man's body that he himself lacks; she can move him in ways he cannot move himself. And she invades and takes over his consciousness, reducing it to a sense of its own embodiment (see Sartre). Sex is essentially the same game for men and for women, but for women, most of whom are otherwise powerless, it assumes a life-filling significance. La femme fatale, la belle dame sans merci, is an otherwise impotent person who has perfected her one strength to an unusual degree.

    I have always loved in terms of power. Does this mean I've never loved? Does one love only if one loves for the right reasons? Are there right reasons? I don't know. But if I ever loved Noam, I Loved him that evening, on a train riding into Vienna, as he talked of his power, and feeling his, I felt my own. Since I can do no good because a woman/ Reach constantly at something that is near it.

    ~The Mind-Body Problem by Rebecca Goldstein, pages 95-96


    Consider: A woman's low self-esteem leads her to devise a "mattering map" in which she determines that her self-worth and the way in which she matters is only linked to the relationships she's in, the people she loves or is close to and those she has "power over" (in a sexual way). In order to matter, the woman enslaves a man to her sexually and gets him to marry her (and is especially excited because he's a genius). Despite her clear psychological problems, she never gets treatment. And (spoilers here) when her husband is discovered to have lost his genius, she mourns him but then stays with him out of pity and compassion (but not, it would appear, out of love). A rather disappointing and depressing book.

    Friday, August 12, 2011

    We Eat Lighter Fuel for Fun

    You may have guessed by now that Heshy and I are superhuman.

    What you may not have guessed is exactly why.

    You see, we decided for health reasons and various reasons that we would switch over to using olive oil in recipes. And my parents had bought us this huge jug of olive oil for Chanukah. So it stands to reason that not being wasteful, we should just start using that for cooking, no?

    But then it occurred to me one day that this olive oil was made especially to light Chanukah Menorahs.

    Which means it might have added ingredients to make stuff burn like for example...lighter fluid?

    But don't worry! I did not react with fear or woe! Only excitement!

    Tis Heshy & Chana- and WE CAN EAT LIGHTER FLUID AND NOT DIE.


    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Repugnant Nonsense

    A little nonsense is a dangerous thing.

    The problem with this whole new culture of texts is that people take these texts out of context, publish them and then turn them into gospel. This is especially true when these statements were made in a certain era (the 1970s, for instance) and yet people try to apply them to 2011.

    Case in point: I recently read some excerpts from Questions & Answers: Thursday Nights with Rabbi Avigdor Miller which were simply horrific. Horrific, I say. And to prove that to you, I produce them below.

    From pages 70-71:

    Q: Is college muttar for parnassah?

    A: I'm not going to pasken any sha'alah. I'll tell you this. I had to go to college recently. I went to Brooklyn College to help protest against making this shelter in our neighborhood. [The City was trying to establish a shelter in the neighborhood, which would have brought undesirable elements into the community-Ed]. It was a protest meeting. As I walked in, I smelled a terrible odor. The place poshut had a Reiach Ra. It stank! The whole college had a terrible odor. It smelled bad. You really need a gas mask when you go into college! There's no place in America that smells as bad as a college. If you go to a place of the Mafia, a Mafia den, the Mafia den is perfume compared to a college! I mean it. It's not an exaggeration. Therefore, if a person has to go to a college, let's say he's a plumber, and he's going to a college to fix the plumbing there, and he has to walk in, he should hold his nose. He can't help himself. It's his Parnasah. He has to go there. But to go there and allow yourself to be dunked in their toilet, that's a different story. You want to be dunked in their toilet for Parnasah, I'm not telling you what to do. Go to your rebbe. He knows you better. Let him pasken for you. I wouldn't pasken that. I should pasken if you should dunk your head in a full toilet for Parnasah? It's too much, that I should be able to tell you that! (#852)

    From Page 170:

    Q: The Rav said a person shouldn't look for a shidduch with a girl who has a career. What's the reason for that?

    A: A "career girl" is not the best shidduch, and let me explain. If a girl tries to learn some kind of an Omanut to make a living to support a ben Torah, yes. That's not a "career girl." She's looking for a zechus of having a husband who will devote himself to learning. I don't say how long he should learn. Whatever it is, it's a meritorious thing. But if a girl is interested in a career for herself, you should know, there's always a probability that she's going to be a very self assertive kind of a girl, a girl who thinks she's very important. And too much importance nobody should have, not even a man. Therefore, I know from experience that "career girls" are not the very best matches. If a girl tries to learn some kind of an Omanut for the purpose of supporting a ben Torah, that's not a "career girl." (E-209)

    From page 174:

    Q: Is it worthwhile to go to speeches by frum psychiatrists on Chinuch HaBanim?

    A: If you want advice on Chinuch HaBanim, go to Mechanchim, go to Talmidei Chachamim. Don't go to a psychiatrist or a psychologist. They get paid for it and they will welcome you, and you keep on coming and coming. One visit is followed by another visit. As long as you have insurance, they are willing to welcome you. Go to people that know the subject. The truth is, marriage counselors are of no use if they're not elderly Chachamim or elderly rebbetzins. Only they can help you. But regular marriage counselors only have a diploma and no experience. Many of them are divorced themselves, by the way. Many are divorced. Emily Post, who wrote for years and years in the newspapers about advice for marriage things, she was divorced and never got married again. So it's a waste of time and a waste of money. There are people who can advise you. Find out who they are, and ask people who are in chinuch: roshei yeshivos, people who were once Mechanchim. They will be able to tell you real practical advice (#E-206)


    If I wish to be charitable, I will say Rabbi Miller's points of view are limited by the time period in which he wrote them (the 1970s). But whether he intended it or not, I am sure there are people who are going to take them to heart today because plenty of people just follow whatever they read in some book with a picture of a man in a beard on it.

    So let me say the following:

    1) For the pure of heart, college need not be something to fear
    2) Career girls are often the best girls
    3) Therapists can do amazing things and really heal the soul that was damaged and irreparably hurt by mussar and by cruel religious people and Rabbis, and marriage counselors (including and sometimes especially secular ones) can transform marriages, sometimes specifically because they are young/ relatable

    And anyone who takes R' Miller's view in such situations is aligning himself with the side of repugnant nonsense. And also possibly of actual harm.

    Tuesday, August 09, 2011

    And Beyond

    Please note that I didn't hear this story directly from the Rosh Yeshiva but rather from someone who heard it from him. Therefore, the statements R' Shmulevitz made are paraphrased and any mistakes are mine.

    In one of the Kinnot we say, we mention that nobody could persuade God to have mercy upon the Jews until He came to our foremother Rachel. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob- none of them could change God's mind. But when it came to Rachel, God threw out the scale of measurement and justice.

    Why? Because Rachel had an unshakable argument. "I took my tzarah into my own house by giving Yaakov the signs when it was Leah who was with him," she said. "I thought I lost my future then. It had been apportioned that Leah was to be Esau's and I was to be Jacob's. Now Esau would be my lot. But I did it anyway."

    R' Aaron Lopiansky explained that when one does this and is maavir al midosav, goes beyond that which is expected in such a way, there can be no judgement. God throws out the scale because Rachel herself threw out the scale in her actions.

    During the Six Day War, when R' Lopiansky was in The Mir, the yeshiva was situated on a street where it was right near the Jordan border. Therefore, it was shelled. The bochurim shook in their basement/bunker and hoped that they would survive.

    When the war was over and the Mir building and its yeshiva had remained intact, some of the students asked R' Chaim Shmulevitz (then the Rosh Yeshiva) in what merit they were saved. Was it because of the Torah learning? The fact that the students were kind to one another?

    "No, it was none of these things," answered R' Shmulevitz. "Next to the Mir there lives a woman, a woman who is very bitter and griefstricken. The husband of her youth, who claimed to love her and who married her, walked out on her, leaving her an agunah. She had no children and she had no way to remarry. All those who saw her knew that she was an agunah, and worse, that she was one whose husband had left her deliberately. All her days, she walked around with this cloud of grief, bitterness, resentment and humiliation over her head. She was very unhappy.

    "When the shelling started, she came to hide in the Mir bunker. She didn't have one of her own. And she said to God, 'God, I'm forgiving my husband now. And if I can forgive my husband, You can forgive us whatever each one of us has done so that we can live.' She's the one who saved the Mir Yeshiva."

    When you are maavir al midoseich, when you throw out the scale, God has no choice but to do the same.


    I have always been attracted to magic and fantasy books.

    I realized today the reason why.

    It is because I am a magician.

    I have the power to imbue objects with holiness and also to imbue them with impurity.

    My actions directly impact and affect my own fate and possibly even the fate of others.

    I can uplift sparks that have fallen to earth.

    And to accomplish these things, I must live a rigorously defined and delineated life, in which my diet, dress, habits, thoughts and desires are strictly controlled.

    I am one of the chosen, one of those born with the gift of magic. Is it Lily's fault that it was she and not Petunia who was allowed access to Hogwarts? Should Lily then apologize for being chosen? I think not.

    It is a gift, but like all gifts, its use is disciplined. Its cost is high. And its power is astonishing.

    When we teach our children and they recoil at being told they are Jews and chosen and therefore must obey the laws of the Torah, let us frame it a different way.

    Let us tell them they are wizards and witches and therefore must listen to Dumbledore. At least if they wish to have any hope of defeating Voldemort. And they must trust in him, no matter how maligned he may be.

    They will be challenged along the way. But that is how it should be.

    Only in overcoming oneself (for Harry, dying when he wishes to live) does one achieve greatness.

    Your path is the path of justice and also of salvation.

    When you are born into this world, the question is...will you rise to the occasion?

    Will you be a magician- or not?

    Too many throw away their gift, overcome by the long, hard years it takes to master it, the rigorous control and discipline, the difficult tests, the arduous work. They determine that the cultivation of their gift is not worth the effort. They have not yet met the Alannas of the world.

    Be an Alanna. Nurture your gift.

    Sunday, August 07, 2011


    In 'By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept' the seminarian chooses to give his gift of healing and miracle-working back to the Virgin Mary.
      "So yesterday, I asked a miracle of the Virgin," he continued. "I asked that She take away my gift."

      "And just as I was asking that the Virgin take away my gift, I began to speak in tongues," he went on. "The tongues told me, "Place your hands on the earth. Your gift will leave you and return to the Mother's breast."

      "Yes. I did as the inspiration of the Holy Spirit bade. The fog lifted, and the sun shone on the mountains. I felt that the Virgin understood- because She had also loved so greatly."
    I was thinking about this idea within the context of Judaism. Would it be permitted?

    On the one hand, there is the idea in the Talmud that the rabbis could say, "I do not want this suffering and I do not want its rewards," which allowed them to relieve their pain.

    But it seems to work differently when one wants to surrender one's gift. God eases the burden but does not take it entirely away.

    1) Moses
    יד לֹא-אוּכַל אָנֹכִי לְבַדִּי, לָשֵׂאת אֶת-כָּל-הָעָם הַזֶּה: כִּי כָבֵד, מִמֶּנִּי.14 I am not able to bear all this people myself alone, because it is too heavy for me.
    טו וְאִם-כָּכָה אַתְּ-עֹשֶׂה לִּי, הָרְגֵנִי נָא הָרֹג--אִם-מָצָאתִי חֵן, בְּעֵינֶיךָ; וְאַל-אֶרְאֶה, בְּרָעָתִי. {פ}15 And if Thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray Thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in Thy sight; and let me not look upon my wretchedness.'
    God does spreads Moses' spirit amidst 70 men, but he does not simply take away his gift entirely. He does not tell him he can retire as leader now.

    2) Elijah

    ד וְהוּא-הָלַךְ בַּמִּדְבָּר, דֶּרֶךְ יוֹם, וַיָּבֹא, וַיֵּשֶׁב תַּחַת רֹתֶם אחת (אֶחָד); וַיִּשְׁאַל אֶת-נַפְשׁוֹ, לָמוּת, וַיֹּאמֶר רַב עַתָּה יְהוָה קַח נַפְשִׁי, כִּי-לֹא-טוֹב אָנֹכִי מֵאֲבֹתָי.4 But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom-tree; and he requested for himself that he might die; and said: 'It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.'
    Elijah is told he may appoint Elisha in his place, but not until he finishes his tasks (he must annoint Hazael and Jehu).

    So God has mercy and also compassion, but He does not heed entirely. Once chosen, always chosen. The gift must run its course.

    Saturday, August 06, 2011


    I was inspired by Paulo Coelho's book 'By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept' to consider the feminine aspect of God, the Shechina. For God has both the feminine and masculine aspects and in Him are they melded.

    It then occurred to me that in Genesis the following verse appears.

    27. And God created man in His image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. כז. וַיִּבְרָא אֱ־לֹהִים אֶת הָאָדָם בְּצַלְמוֹ בְּצֶלֶם אֱ־לֹהִים בָּרָא אֹתוֹ זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה בָּרָא אֹתָם:

    Rashi cites Midrash Agada that the first human was created as a hermaphrodite. Both the feminine and masculine aspects were in that first being.

    זכר ונקבה ברא אותם: ולהלן הוא אומר (בראשית ב כא) ויקח אחת מצלעותיו וגו', מדרש אגדה שבראו שני פרצופין בבריאה ראשונה ואחר כך חלקו. ופשוטו של מקרא, כאן הודיעך שנבראו שניהם בששי ולא פירש לך כיצד ברייתן ופירש לך במקום אחר:

    It then occurred to me that finally the words 'in the image of God' make sense to me. The first human was created in the image of God. Meaning, with both the feminine and masculine aspect as one united being. Hence as a hermaphrodite.

    However, God realized that what worked for Him did not work for the human. He noted:

    And the Lord God said, "It is not good that man is alone; I shall make him a helpmate opposite him." יח. וַיֹּאמֶר יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱ־לֹהִים לֹא טוֹב הֱיוֹת הָאָדָם לְבַדּוֹ אֶעֱשֶׂה לּוֹ עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֹ:

    God realized that what worked for Him did not work for man. God is in perfect union with his masculine and feminine attributes and aspects. But man was not able to sustain this existence. He was alone. Therefore God needed to make a helpmate for him who was k'negdo. Not part of his being any longer, but separated from him. And thus God seperated the woman from the man so that what had once been one creature was now two.

    In Chasidic tradition, the Shechina (as the feminine aspect of God) and the male aspect of God unite as one on the Sabbath. The Shechina is also identified as manifesting as the Sabbath Queen. As is well known, there is a special emphasis about the man and woman coming together in love on Friday eve. It occurred to me that perhaps this is why. When the male and female aspects unite, they return to what they originally were, God's image.

    It occurred to me this may be one of the reasons the Bible speaks so strongly against homosexuality and calls it an abomination. If man and woman as one unit were created in God's image and God Himself represents the union of the feminine and the masculine, the homosexual is choosing his own passions, desires or pleasures above that of returning to his original state as the image of God (joining with the feminine). This may be one of the reasons these actions are considered so displeasing to God.

    Note that when the Serpent tempts Eve, he presents her with the following argument:

    For God knows that on the day that you eat thereof, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like angels, knowing good and evil." ה. כִּי יֹדֵעַ אֱ־לֹהִים כִּי בְּיוֹם אֲכָלְכֶם מִמֶּנּוּ וְנִפְקְחוּ עֵינֵיכֶם וִהְיִיתֶם כֵּאלֹהִים יֹדְעֵי טוֹב וָרָע:

    The translation here says 'angels' but another translation would be 'gods.' The Serpent tells Eve that if she eats from the Tree of Life, she will be like god.

    What Eve does not understand is that she is not meant to be like God. At least not in the way the Serpent is suggesting. God saw that when he originally created man and woman in His exact image, as hermaphrodites, they were lonely. They could not stand that loneliness and thus he had to separate them. For them to be like God, to form His image once more, they must unite together in holiness, coming close to one another, sharing their souls and their bodies.

    Eating of the fruit is an act of distancing herself from God. According to Midrash, where the Serpent was possessed by the angel Samael and Eve slept with him, it's in fact the exact antithesis of being like God. If being like God is taking the male aspect into oneself and re-joining the two halves that were broken, a female can only mate with a male of her species. To mate with an angel, beast or a member of the same gender will not accomplish this. This is why the angels who mated with women to create the Nephilim were frowned upon. (I wrote a paper about the Nephilim for those curious to learn more. I can email it to you.)

    The statement about their creation is repeated in Chapter 5:

    Male and female He created them, and He blessed them, and He named them man (Adam) on the day they were created. ב. זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה בְּרָאָם וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתָם וַיִּקְרָא אֶת שְׁמָם אָדָם בְּיוֹם הִבָּרְאָם:

    The creature God created was originally named 'Man,' 'Adam,' from the earth. Then God seperated out the woman and the man named her 'Chava,' Mother of all Life, Eve. But as one unit, one flesh, we return to Adam. We encapsulate that image of God, binding the masculine and the feminine together. It is a form of redemption; perhaps even a reclamation. We have returned; we have reclaimed. We are now One.


    "And what does all this have to do with him?"

    "I've told you the heroic side of the story. But you don't know anything about the souls of these heroes."

    He paused.

    "The suffering," he picked up again. "At moments of transformation, martyrs are born. Before a person can follow his dream, others have to make sacrifices. They have to confront ridicule, persecution, and attempts to discredit what they are trying to do."

    "It was the church that burned the witches at the stake, Padre."

    "Right. And Rome threw the Christians to the lions. But those who died at the stake or in the sand of the arena rose quickly to eternal glory- they were better off.

    "Nowadays, warriors of the light confront something worse than the honorable death of the martyrs. They are consumed, bit by bit, by shame and humiliation. That's how it was with SAnit Teresa- who suffered for the rest of her life. That's how it was for Maria de Jesus, too. and for the happy children who saw Our Lady in Fatima, Portugal- well, Jacinta and Francisco died just a few months later; Lucia entered a convent from which she never emerged."

    "But that's not how it was for Bernadette."

    "Yes, it was. She had to live through prison, humiliation, and discredit. He must have described that to you. He must have told you the words of the visitation."

    "Some of them."

    "In the visitations at Lourdes, the p hrases uttered by Our Lady wouldn't fill half a page of a notebook, but one of the things the Virgin said clearly to the girl was 'I do not promise you happiness in this world. Why did she warn Bernadette? Because she knew the pain that awaited Bernadette if she accepted her mission."

    I looked at the sun, the snow, and the bare branches of the trees.

    "He is a revolutionary," he continued, sounding humble. "He has the power, and he converses with Our Lady. If he is able to concentrate his forces well, he can be one of the leaders in the spiritual transformation of the human race. This is a critical point in the history of the world.

    "But if he chooses this path, he is going to go through a great deal of suffering. His revelations have come to him before their time. I know the human soul well enough to know what he can expect."

    The padre turned to me and held me by the shoulders. "Please," he said. "Keep him from the suffering and tragedy that lie in store for him. He will not be able to survive them."

    "I understand your love for him, Padre."

    He shook his head. "No, no. You don't understand anything. You are still too young to know the evils of the world. At this point, you see yourself as a revolutionary too. You want to change the world with him, open new paths, see the story of your love for each other become legend- a story passed down through the generations. You still think that love can conquer all."

    "Well, can't it?"

    "Yes, it can. But it conquers at the right time- after the celestial battles have ended."

    "But I love him. I don't have to wait for the celestial battles to end for my love to win out."

    He gazed into the distance.

    "On the banks of the rivers of Babylon, we sat down and wept," he said, as if talking to himself. "On the willows there, we hung up our harps."

    "How sad," I answered.

    "Those are the first lines of one of the psalms. It tells of exile and of those who want to return to the promised land but cannot. And that exile is still going to last for a long time. What can I do to try to prevent the suffering of someone who wants to return to paradise before it is time to do so?"

    "Nothing, Padre. Absolutely nothing."

    ~By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept by Paulo Coelho, pages 151-155


    "I am willing. But they are my risks."

    I wanted to interrupt him, but he wasn't listening.

    "So yesterday, I asked a miracle of the Virgin," he continued. "I asked that She take away my gift."

    I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

    "I have a little money and all the experience that years of traveling have given me. We'll buy a house, I'll get a job, and I'll serve God as Saint Joseph did, with the humility of an anonymous person. I don't need miracles in my life anymore to keep the faith. I need you."

    My legs were growing weak, and I felt as if I might faint.

    "And just as I was asking that the Virgin take away my gift, I began to speak in tongues," hwe went on. "The tongues told me, '{Place your hands on the earth. Your gift will leave you and return to the Mother's breast."

    I was in a panic. "You didn't..."

    "Yes. I did as the inspiration of the Holy Spirit bade. The fog lifted, and the sun shone on the mountains. I felt that the Virgin understood- because She had also loved so greatly."

    "But She followed Her man! She accepted the path taken by Her son!"

    "We don't have Her strength, Pilar. My gift will be passed on to someone else- such gifts are never wasted."

    ~By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept by Paulo Coelho, pages 193-194

    Tuesday, August 02, 2011


    Does anyone happen to know if Judy Brown who wrote 'Hush' is the same person as Yudit Brown who writes for Aish?

    The writing styles remind me of each other. Thanks.