Saturday, September 24, 2011

Out On A Limb, Again!

Another tale from the “Former, Anti-Semitic, Recovering Jewish American Princess

On occasion I am, painfully, reminded of the kinds of things that, originally, evoked my “former anti-Semitism.” In a few words I can summarize; Jewish, anti-gentile other-ing (i.e. blatantly excluding those not of the “tribe.”) 

I speak forthrightly here of my “former anti-Semitism.” I am both an American granted, by my constitutional rights, the right to freedom of speech and a 100% member of this tribe. Additionally, I have made sufficient amends to my tribe to have earned the right to, publicly, be my own kind of Jew! This is, after all, my tribal family.

Don’t let me, however, hear a cross word from you about Jews and those things that are Jewish, if it is not also your’s. Much less a speck of disrespect more than a current, negative emotion that you are intent on transforming to its highest plane, sooner rather than later. For myself, I am certain that I am only “naming” my view here in order to “claim” who I am without hiding behind another one of my outmoded masks. Then I will go forth, again, up to my next tier of finding the light inside the darkness of me. Feel free to do the same, if need be.

Here is my current story; another in my series of “Former Anti-Semitic Recovering Jewish American Princess” tales. On Tablet Magazine, tag line; “A new read on Jewish life,” which I love for its like-mindedness with my personal Jewish American values (or is that American Jewish), the following occurred this week.

A self-identified “shiksa” (non-Jewish woman), no older than twenty-five, published a bold and beautiful article of her adolescent into adulthood, near-hero worship of Jews and Jewish culture. For me, the article, “Counterlife” by Alice Gregory, was one of the most compelling pieces I have read. I wish I could express myself as well.

Perhaps Ms. Gregory’s article touched me so deeply because, first, I, too, grew up in California as a teenager, as did she. So I could easily “feel” the California energy of which she spoke. Secondly, like the young author, I have lived my entire adult life, not in NYC with its rampant Jewish population, but not far from it in the Washington, D.C. area, still a far cry from California. Thirdly, though I am 100% Jewish, like Ms. Gregory, I, also, have had massive identity issues that cross the lines between Jewish and gentile. Contrary to Ms. Gregory, however, when I left the home of my very observant Jewish family, I had, by choice, almost no friends who were Jewish. She had few that were gentile.

Unfortunately, this well-articulated author got trashed by too many of her commenting readers in response to her her offering. Instead of celebrating it, her critics tore her piece apart in a most condemnatory fashion; their censuring done by reproaching her for what I viewed as an honoring of our tribe and its members, in spite of their blemishes. How dare a shiksa take the liberty to love the Jews!

Such gross discourtesy; unsavory examples of Jews not welcoming “others” into our elite circle, Rather, her disapproving commentators made it a point to demonstrate just how arrogant and excluding Jews can be; in my opinion, an open door invitation to the very negativity that sparks divisiveness and attracts anti-Semitism. There is a cost to elitist comments such as these.

Where, as a group, we could have graciously received Ms. Gregory’s bold and beautiful article in the spirit in which I feel certain it was offered. Instead we turned her appreciation of our people, including our eccentricities, back on her with pettiness. By their comments, these readers illustrated Ms. Gregory’s well-made point.

“….. we—the goyim who aspire to some cursory definition of Jewishness—see you in a different way than you see yourselves.”

Were these petty comments representative of how modern-days Jews want to be viewed?

In so transparently presenting herself, as Alice Gregory did, she provided a gift to Jews and gentiles. We Jews need some honest input from those outside our tribal limits such as her’s. And, there is no reason we cannot, also, do with some added adoration, even from adolescent idealists. There are no limits to the assistance we all need to cross the barriers of whatever it is that separates us.

So be it! When non-Jews speak similarly about Jews and those things Jewish as did these disdainful commentators, I would be equally incensed. Such an absence of tribal dignity and manners is painful to witness.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Awe Is Such A Challenging Mountain To Climb

Washington, D.C. and Me (1961 – 2011)

January, 2009: Upon returning from South America, "The Study Of The Possible Human In The Possible Society Within The One Hundred Mile Radius Of The Washington, D.C. White House" came into being.   

I didn’t particularly enjoy my sojourn to South America in November and December, 2008. But it had been an all expenses paid trip at a point when I had nothing more pressing to do. My assignment had been to accompany a coaching client of mine to Ecuador while she attended to a personal matter. So I packed my bags and off I went, open to the experience.

Besides feeling wearied by the daily demands of my professional duties, I had little to show for the trip, upon my return, other than a mild case of Montezuma’s revenge and some brilliantly colored, indigenous crafted works. It had been an interesting passing of time. And, I had returned enlightened in a number of ways. Not the least being that the South Americans I had met were more than a bit curious as to the significance we Americans were attaching to the election of our first African American president.

As I had made a ritualized return to Washington, D.C. via Metro rail on the Friday following Obama’s election, I could not dismiss, out of hand, the impact this election had made on me. A surge of joy and hope had precipitated the pilgrimage. Long ago, on the heels of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., even a love of the city I had come to call home, could not engage my optimism about hanging out in D.C.. Certainly not enough to attract my former youthful anticipation.

Like many others who came to fear a trip into the district, after the riots, I grew accustomed to avoiding D.C. if I could. Part of the difficulty for those who, like myself, worked in Washington, was that avoidance was more easily said than done. I still had an office at 18th and K so I could not just up and avoid it. (See "Extended Biography" section at this link. I was not yet a psychotherapist but very much involved in the Washington, D.C. fast track life.) Yet many of us began to look to the Virginia and Maryland suburbs for our comings and goings. Over time, I believe, we did not even notice the change in our entertainment and local travel habits that evolved.

As Washington burned, amidst the riots after King’s assassination, I watched from my high rise apartment building near the Pentagon. At first I thought the smoky haze I was seeing only an uprising of flour from the Washington Flour Company in Georgetown just across the river. Of course, I was wrong. Washington was burning and with those riots so were the dreams of Camelot for which I had come here.

Thus I was not fool enough any longer to invest in ideals, particularly of politicians, without proof by actions. Though Obama’s election inspired me, I had been around the Washington game too long to attach much credence to the promised changes ahead. No Messiah was expected by me from the man. No Gandhi, Martin Luther King or even another JFK was anticipated. I had been there and done that. My innocence had been shattered by assassinations; Watergate the final act for me.

Still I am an optimist by nature. Though I thought Obama naïve, I was all about giving this upstart new president the best support I could muster. So, upon my return from South America, I set out to discover, by doing a study, how the other constituents within a one hundred mile radius of the White House might walk their walk, if we were truly about supporting Mr. Obama’s promises. I knew plenty of other folks who would do their utmost also. Still I had seen changes in administration come and go. I kind of figured I knew what to expect of the talkers.

I had, however, a lot of other priorities on my desk so the study sat on the shelf. Then in late July of this year, in the midst of the massive political polarization of the debt ceiling debates, it beckoned to me.

“Use me! Use me! the study called out to me from its place on my shelf. And, I listened, took heed and some action.

Now that little idea that came to me as I unpacked my belongings from my trip to Ecuador is off and running like a fast moving hurricane. Check it out. Keep pace with its progress as off it goes.

Where it will land nobody knows. However, knowing Washington politics, as I do, some of what we shall see should be fairly predictable. On the other hand, who could have foretold that which September 11, 2001 would bring us or the morning after when we Americans came together for a brief time.

After all, whoever said that climbing the Mountain of Awe was anything short of climbing Mt Everest and then some.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

911 As Seen Through A Waxed Paper Veil: A Personal Story Of Spiritual Clarity

For me September 11, 2001 is seen as if through a waxed paper veil. I was blind in the year 2001. But not “black blind.” “Blind” has many shades to it. A metaphor, if you think about it, for psychological and spiritual blindness as well as for actual physical impairment.

Sometimes what the blind person sees is “black blind.” Sometimes, as for me, blind allows in varying amounts of light. Notice, again, the metaphor.  How often do we “blind” ourselves to what is really going on, yet simultaneously “know” that we are not fully allowing ourselves to “see”? The “emperor has no clothes,” we say and are satisfied.

In blindness, I could see, at least enough to make out vague shapes. Occasionally, muted colors could be distinguished. (That is what I am seeing now in my recently blinded right eye.) “Blind people” know this distinction, making use of even the smallest bits of light to accomplish amazing feats for daily survival. Some have gone as far as to pass as “sighted,” obtaining employment, not otherwise granted to a blind person, and, on occasion, even to risk driving. One can be quite clever at doing whatever one must when survival is at stake.

I learned to walk on the mountain road near my home by being hyper vigilant; extraordinarily cautious and alert to the sounds of the infrequently approaching car. There are very occasional cars and trucks up here in the mountains. On weekends a burst, now and then, of a motorcycle brigade. But who cannot hear the oncoming sounds of an approaching Harley?

Motorcyclists, particularly, love a ride through here on a stolen autumn weekday or weekend. When you can “see” it, sometimes it is almost breathtaking where I live, especially when the leaves are turning. But, then, of course, I have my biases.

The most significant trick, I discovered after losing my eyesight, so as to continue being able to walk my beloved mountain road, was that I could make out the difference between the black top of the road and the various ground covers with my feet as well as through the haze that veiled my vision, if I was very careful. That is how I managed to continue my walks. And, that is how I “saw” 911 that day of those horrific terrorist attacks; “feeling” my way and “seeing” through a veil of haze like waxed paper.

Because I was blind at the time, the televised sight of the buildings of the World Trade Center crumbling was markedly indistinct for me. So I immediately responded to what was happening, spiritually. That is what I had become used to, unable to rely on my eyesight. As Helen Keller noted:

“The spiritual world offers no difficulty to one who is deaf and blind. Nearly everything in the natural world is as vague, as remote from my senses, as spiritual things seem to the minds of most people.”

Before I lost my eyesight I saw the world in my self determined way with the imperatives I had been reared to value; material success and survival. As I matured, I added psychological well being to the mix. However, although I was brought up in a traditional Jewish family, transitioning from Orthodox Judaism into Conservative as they moved from being Eastern European immigrants into twentieth century assimilation in America, my spirituality was my own creation. For the uninformed or misinformed, being “Jewish” is not necessarily about being spiritual. For me, as it turns out, “Jewish” is primarily about culture.

Thus, my spirituality had come upon me as a surprise on New Year’s Day, 1983, as I walked out of the movie “Gandhi.” Having just seen the story of this man’s life on the big screen had brought me, within hours, head first into my first out of body experience. However, even with that auspicious beginning, it took my losing my eyesight in 1998 to really get it that I was not the main “One” in charge of my destiny. Surrender comes to us with its various, challenging lessons. Losing my eyesight was, perhaps, my biggest test to date though, not by far, the only one.

Since I have regained my eyesight and then, finally, returned to work in 2006, learning how to navigate back and forth between the spiritual life I had developed in blindness and the physical plane has significantly tested me, again. I don’t know, yet, which plane tests me more. However on September 11, 2001, I had barely more than the spiritual. With the loss of one’s eyesight a major way of coping can be to narrow in one’s field of functioning. Certainly this is what I did. Unable to see physically and thus unable to drive or obtain alternative transportation, my mountainside home became my fortress.

In this narrowly defined physical world that I had been living in for more than three years on September 11, 2001, I saw the terrorist attacks on the towers of the World Trade Center, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon primarily through the perspective of a mystical visioning. While others watched the unfolding tragedy at Ground Zero and elsewhere around the country on television, I observed it through a lens of divine proclamation; the lens to the world as I had come to see it in blindness.

That was all I could see, beyond that hazy veil that separated me from the outer world outside my protected fortress.

As I viewed the horrifying scenes of 911, as soon as myself and my property manager of that time, Scott, were alerted by an urgent phone call from Scott’s mother, I “saw” that a message of Divine proportion had been sent to America. Not simply from Al Qaeda, as later it turned out to be, but from the grand Cosmic Intelligence of the world beyond our seeing. That message proclaimed that we Americans needed to pay attention to what the Final Authority on life had in mind for us Americans. We needed to surrender our control games to something higher, the great intelligence of the cosmos. Not our small minds. After all, had anyone of us put the stars in the sky?

Of course, I am far from the only one to proclaim 911 a wake up call to America. Yet from the view I have I am still called to wonder, too frequently, how well we have done with this curriculum of learning our lessons. Certainly, what I witnessed, behind the scenes and still as yet painfully unresolved in key areas, in our local, 2006 Jewish/Muslim controversy has definitely not been an “A” grade. And that was our midway point to today, five years ago. The movement in that local situation, back and forth between the spiritual plane and the physical, has a ways to go to really making the grade.

There is some serious “seeing” needed here, if we want our locale to be an authentic part of a country of healing, unity and respectful diversity as our bill of fare. But that is not all. Our survival is at stake!

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Man Who Believed In Evil

“Once I met a good man who believed in evil. He had learned a great deal about it in prison. He had figured out that everybody in the prison; mental health people included, was crazy and that if he wanted to retain his own sanity, he’d better cure somebody, fast! He was the prison psychiatrist at the Marion Federal Penitentiary back in the late ‘60s and his name was Martin G. Groder, M.D. “ 

I write this today, excerpted from one of my three unpublished books, written in the 1990s, “Surviving Addictions,” as almost ceaseless controversies emanate from our national political scene. Seemingly they are more generally pervasive today than they were when first I knew Marty and his theories changed the course of my life.

I met Marty in April, 1980. Soon after that he became my mentor, shaping the direction of my thinking about human functioning and society forever after. Understanding the nature of evil and how to transform that human darkness into light was the singularly, most important aspect of the many gifts I received from the man and his creative genius.

Last weekend when I began reflecting on the progress of our democracy, albeit sometimes so subtle as to be almost invisible, at least to the untrained eye, I found myself reflecting on my years with Groder and what I learned under his tutelage.

At a two day regional, pre-conference workshop of the International Transactional Transactional Analysis Association (ITAA) in 1980, Groder introduced participants to his theories on the direct, character similarity between convicts and high leadership people. Witness Bernard Madoff, Strauss-Kahn and most illustriously Richard Nixon.

Certainly, I was the participant most inspired. For the close to one dozen years I spent under Marty's clinical guidance and supervision (1980 – 1991), I devotedly followed his footsteps wherever they tread, picking his brain for every little nuance of his theories and treatment strategies.

Oh, how liberated was I by these socio-biologically based theories that lifted my still evolving theoretical foundations and clinical skill to high art.

Until 1991, Groder and Rosen (now Rosen-Jones) were a student-teacher team to be reckoned with, topping off our influence with my Random House contract to publish it all in its entirety. Three, still unpublished books on his theories and my expansion of them that became the Survivor Addiction Development theory (SAD), were written for Random House. Publication interrupted by my losing my eyesight thirteen years ago today.

It was Marty who professed, with certainty that --

“Washington is next only to Moscow as the world’s center of darkness.”

“You are wrong, said I, the student, now grown more sure of herself. Washington is the center of light.”

“Today, I believe we were both right; the nation’s capitol is a teeming cauldron where an ongoing battle is fought between the dark and the light, both publicly and behind the scenes, night and day. I know it well.” However, with certainty, I discovered where the light lies in the society surrounding the Washington, D.C. White House and its nearby environs.

Keep tuned to the New Horizons’ Possible Human, Possible Society Study so you can discover it, too. Take a fresh look at the Washington you are unlikely to discover, if all you rely on is the news media. I promise you that!