Friday, August 31, 2012


The only way to deal with a sting is to write about it.

I had volunteered to join a group of writers, helping rabbis with their High Holidays sermons.  The synagogue was some ways away, requiring freeway driving, which is hardly a personal strength.  All driving is gambling for me.  Freeway driving is  gambling at a higher speed.

The weekend before the event, I had asked Dr. M to drive me up there, so I could experience what was required.  I got it relatively easily, and we went out for ice cream.

On the day of the event, I took the route I had prepared for, but when I arrived at the exit where I was supposed to get off, I discovered it was closed for construction.  It then became necessary for me to improvise at sixty-five miles an hour, making me a danger to myself, other drivers, adjoining property, and our cars.

When I finally blundered my way to my destination, I jumped out of my car and hurried to the gathering place.  Which I could not find.  After ten minutes of erratic wandering, I commandeered a young synagogue employee, who offered to point me to my destination, but I insisted she take me there instead.   

I arrived just as they were starting.

The instructions I’d been e-mailed explained that, before working with the rabbis, each writer was to offer some comments on the subject of what they would do if they were asked to give a sermon on the High Holidays.  I was situated at the end of the table.  The half dozen other writers all spoke before me, extemporaneously, insightfully, and often movingly.

Somehow, I assumed we were supposed to actually write something. However, none of the other writers had.  I immediately felt like the character from the movie, I believe it was Start The Revolution Without Me, who showed up at a ball dressed as a chicken, while the other guests came attired in formalwear, his discombobulated disclaimer:

“I thought this was a costume ball.”

By comparison to the others, who spoke naturally and from their hearts, my written presentation appeared deliberate and contrived.  The reaction I received was entirely deserved.  (There may also have been some religious tone-deafness involved.  My faith-free perspective may have rubbed people the wrong way.)

Of the two rabbis I was assigned to work with, one was retired, and showed me a sermon he had delivered the year before, without explaining how I could help him with a sermon he did not intend to deliver again. 

The other rabbi brought in no written material, her main concern being whether she should open her sermon with a joke.  Though I did my best to listen, and respond according to my perception of their needs, I am doubtful my special gifts provided useful assistance to either of them.

Things did not work out as I’d expected, reminding me of what Chief Dan George said memorably in Little Big Man:

“Sometimes, the medicine works, and sometimes, it doesn’t.  Let’s get something to eat.”

Which is exactly what I did. 

Tomorrow, I am leaving for a week at this spa I go to in Mexico.  If I can crack the technological impediments, I will send stuff from there.  If I can't, or I get lazy, I will follow my regular regimen of naps, baths and hammock reclining.  In any case, I got a little ahead, so there'll still be something for you to read.  In either case, I am outta here. 

1 comment:

Ray O. Vack said...