Some of the big changes I have been waiting for have begun to emerge and I hear the echoes of things that were said to me and things I have said to the children.
Flashes of memories from long ago and some from the not distant strike me. I see myself standing in a room with my son at various stages of his life talking to him about things he was going through and providing thoughts and guidance wherever it seemed appropriate.
I see him working on Bar Mitzvah material and finding his way through middle school and remind him that even Superman needed to learn how to fly.
“You never know how strong you are or can be if you don’t test your limits.”
Two days ago we revisited the conversation for the first time in an eternity. He understands and appreciates it now in ways he didn’t before.
Later he sees me preparing for a trip and tells me that I ‘ll feel better once it is over. I smile and he says the plane ride will be fine.
It is the fall of ’85 and I have just returned from Israel. Inside a classroom someone asks me if I saw Moses at the burning bush and I answer in Hebrew. He has no clue that I had to learn this particular verse from Exodus.
Not that it matters because he doesn’t understand what I said and has to trust that my translation of it is accurate.
Sometimes I have very vivid dreams that leave me wondering for a moment whether what I saw, felt and heard happened or if it was in my head.
This particular dream is graphic and makes me wonder if anyone else felt it because the intensity was so strong that I almost grab the phone to ask.
Instead I go dig into some old emails to see if some of what was discussed matches my memory.
It does and I ask myself if it’s just one of those things or if there is something more. Maybe I ought to pick up the phone or maybe I ought to write an email.
For a moment I wonder if the email will make sense and then I give myself my standard advice for storytelling.
“Every good story has a beginning, middle and end.”
Midstream of thought I hear the voice of one of my teachers, European accented English calling my name in Hebrew. “Yehoshua, tell me what Moshe said.”
He is referring to that same section of Exodus, but we have moved on from taking off our shoes on holy ground to humility.
|But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should take the children of Israel out of Egypt?”||י יֹּ֤אמֶר משֶׁה֙ אֶל־הָ֣אֱלֹהִ֔ים מִ֣י אָנֹ֔כִי כִּ֥י אֵלֵ֖ךְ אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה וְכִ֥י אוֹצִ֛יא אֶת־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מִמִּצְרָֽיִם|
“Who am I that I should answer.”
It is a teenager’s response but I am not the first teenager Dr. Singer has taught and he has faced much more challenging situations than I can present.
He’ll tell us that it is less important for us to believe everything and more important to think about the situation in the “who am I sense.”
At almost middle age I think about it differently than I did then. It is a reasonable question for anyone be they a believer, agnostic or atheist.
A couple people ask if I’ll have time to grab coffee, lunch or a drink and I say maybe. One tells me about some of the current things going on and we talk about potential career paths now and where things could lead.
Sometimes I wonder if I could take on some projects and positions that are a few levels beyond where I am at now.
One guy tells me he thinks he may be done because relationships just don’t seem to go as he hopes and I ask him why he would accept that.
“What would you do?”
“I’d probably jump in the fucking fire and take a shot. We only live once. Better to try and fail than fail to try.”
I hear a deep sigh and then he says I ought to think about the career the same way.
“No one knows what they are doing, they only pretend to.”
“I think some people do.”
“Ok, some might but so many of us just sort of fake it. Why can’t you. You deserve it as much as the next person.”
I say thank you and spend time considering options in a dark bedroom. Sometimes it makes sense to take the same approach as old Mo’ and say ‘who am I’ but not always.
Sometimes you have to advocate for yourself and be willing to take a risk.
The old emails provide an interesting story but they don’t follow my guidelines. They have a beginning and a middle but the end doesn’t really exist though others might disagree.
There is reasonable doubt and precedence for a different perspective.
Got to live our lives as best we can and be willing to make a mistake or two as well as try to rope the moon.
I do it not because I hear the voices of those who can’t any longer but because otherwise I would drown in an ocean of silence and that I cannot tolerate.
Better to to use whatever tools we can to find or blaze a path. There is a north star we can use to guide us or some other sense that serves as a compass.