Thursday, December 6, 2012

Finding Genius

DISCLAIMER: My apologies to the reader. I really don't have the motivation to refine this piece into any semblance of good writing— even at the level of my own low standards. So read this at your own risk! I am posting this with the sole intention of keeping these thoughts alive for my own future reference.*

We attended Michael Moore’s seminar Finding Genius in Your Life. It actually clarified a few things for me. Michael quoted Robert Bly at the end and encouraged us to write down our insights right away because we all have an inner Nixon that will erase the key parts of the tape. Ha!

Here is what I can access for now. More may come if and when I listen to the recording of the session.

One flash came when a woman I know a bit walked over at the break and essentially declared in so many words that my genius was to be a rabbi. Part of me would like to have denied it just as it has denied me the actual title of rabbi. A far deeper part of me was deeply moved just to hear her words. A part of me acknowledges and embraces the truth that I love Judaism, that I live it to some degree, that I continually study pieces of it that I find meaningful, and that as a rabbi in the broader sense—as a teacher—I lead others to live and love some of what I live and love in Judaism. Her words resonated within my gut. They began to bring tears to my eyes. In the context of the seminar she confirmed my genius—that piece of my spirit and my soul that is my gift to myself and others.

Later, in a one-on-one conversation with a fellow participant named Jim I reflected on that part of me that sang my song early in life—my art. Art is a fundamental piece of who I am. It has been speaking to me with a more insistent voice lately wondering when I will reclaim it or vice versa, when it will reclaim me.

Once I was asked by a “New Ager” at the Esalen Institute to describe myself in three words. I responded, “Artist, Teacher, Lover.”  I think I would amend that to describe my genius—Artist, Teacher, Jew. I must add quickly that that is very different than “Jewish Art Teacher!” Combining them that way makes each much smaller. I see the possibility of expanding each into its fullness—to experience the fullness of myself as an artist, the fullness of myself as a teacher, the fullness of myself as a Jew—and to bring these all together in different settings in varying proportions to reveal my fullness to myself and the world.

In my one-on-one with Jim I realized first of all that Michael’s premise for the exercise was a simple and powerful pedagogical tool. He saw that in a room of one hundred people not everyone was going to be able to voice his or her truth to him. (My hand was up all day and I was never called upon.) He also stated that there is a powerful difference between thinking about the issues that were coming up and speaking them. He was right. By voicing my observations to this complete stranger the words were given power (as they are, for me, by writing them now).

As I continued with Jim I observed that I had much more clarity about my genius than I might have been able to recognize before the seminar. Not only do I truly know that it resides in the arena bounded by art and Judaism and teaching, I can also take comfort in knowing that I have integrated all three of these into my life already and that I have engaged in important activities with them to continue along a path of growth in these areas (perhaps less so the art, but that is coming back with increasing awareness of late). 

Michael talked about the need to balance fundamental considerations of making a living with the spiritual/soul sphere. I think of the model of the shtetl craftsmen who plied their trades all day in order to go home and study Torah. I was also reminded in a dream last night of how my first job was a summer of commuting to NYC to pack crates with truck parts to send around the world. I used the proceeds of the entire summer to buy my $350 wardrobe to attend college in the Fall. That image alone could provide a personal model, a coping mechanism for continuing a few more years of work, as I save money not for a new wardrobe but for retirement. Moreover, there is a real possibility of feeding my soul at work as it had been fed up until the last year. I am hoping my new boss follows through with the idea of providing a better match between my skills, talents, and experience and the job responsibilities I have in 2013 (namely to develop and deliver training, rather than be limited to a few bureaucratic oversight functions as I was in 2012).

So I know what I need to do. I am on a path that integrates much of it into my life as it is now, and is positioning me to have an even fuller involvement in my “genius” as I head to my next career (Call it retirement if you want, I’m not sure that that is the correct terminology). One could easily argue that it is folly to defer full involvement in one’s genius until one has developed financial independence. On the other hand it seems very appropriate, now that I am on the precipice of such independence to complete creating that platform to have the freedom that “retirement” will allow, to do what I want when I want for the rest of my life. If I were doing nothing to advance my “Artist, Teacher, Jew”  capabilities, then I would be more concerned. But the fact is I am doing stuff now—leading services, chanting and meditations, writing, etc. I am preparing for greater leadership—DLTI, Kol Zimra, Hebrew 101, Spiritual Eldershipso that I will be poised to pull all of this together in an amalgam of art, music, prayer, journaling, spiritual eldership, teaching, facilitating. However many days I have left there will be much to be and do and have. I have all the tools and I am adding to them.

As we drove home I mentioned to Debbie that I was feeling—somewhat antithetical to what I perceive my basic nature to be—that more order in my day-to-day existence may be of great value. I would do well to heed the lessons I learned and taught as a Covey instructor—weekly planning, integrating aspects of my key life goals into every week, including daily “saw sharpening” of meditation, exercise. I would add to that weekly food planning—developing a clear set of repetitive meals that provide a foundation for nutrition and satiety and still allow enough variety to be stimulating and emotionally satisfying. Moreover, my dream this morning instructed me to avoid the backslide that would come from abandoning the elements of success that helped me lose 60 pounds this year. Lately there have been far too many “exceptions” and far too few normal days of maintaining a healthy focus on food planning, selection, portion control, and journaling. 

My birthday is Tuesday. Rather than using that as another excuse to binge, followed by the kids visit as another excuse to binge, followed by Chanukah, and Christmas and New Years and Tu b’shevat, and every other excuse in the world. Let me make Tuesday a model of the year to come. Let it build on my four months of strict control and the two so-so months that followed by being twelve months of consciousness, of weekly planning and attending meetings that reinforce daily weighing in and journaling that document hour by hour exercise of conscious eating. Is that over the top or is that the only way?

As I post this two days after my birthday — I am aware that I was partially successful in my intentions for that momentous day. I did eat rather moderately. I did not achieve all my goals, and I am willing to forgive myself for those small indiscretions. Baby steps. As Michael Moore said about finding one's genius if it were easy he could just throw a PowerPoint up on a screen and we'd have it. 


* I can hear the boo birds chirping, "What makes you think any of the rest of your swill is any better?"

1 comment:

  1. Dear Yesh,

    I am impressed at your introspection and your intention. When I get home (in January) it would be great, if you have the time, to get together and talk about this and other such pressing topics.

    Hugs to you from far away (Qatar).