opinion

Overcoming Oppressive Guilt

Guilt

The last couple of decades have not always been easy. I’ve got more than my fair share of trauma to speak of. And just when I thought I was starting to get a handle on things, physical pain started to become an all-consuming reality in my life.

But one of the biggest plagues that has harmed me over the years is guilt. The ever-pressing feeling that I’ve done things and made irreversible decisions that have and continue to cause myself and others harm.

Oppressive Guilt

And it isn’t easy to live with yourself when each and every day these oppressive feelings swarm into your mind. It isn’t easy when you cannot let yourself have a moment to breath without negativity creeping its way back to find whatever little crevice it could crawl its way into.

And when moments of happiness are marred by guilty feelings, you know it’s time to make some changes. You know it’s time to look deep into yourself and figure out if there’s anything that can be done to either fix the past, or at the very least move on from it.

Collateral Damage

And it would be so much easier if the past only hurt me.

My decisions along the way were mine. Only mine. If they harmed me or continue to cause me pain, so be it. But when the aftermath spills out and burns others in my life, especially those closest to me, sometimes the guilt is just unbearable.

Forgiving Myself

So I’m setting out with one of the more difficult tasks I’ve ever had to perform: Forgiving myself.

I don’t expect this to be a short and easy road, but it all begins with me putting one foot in front of the other.

The Past Lingers

One roadblock will inevitably be that the elements that caused me grief in the past are still around.

There is a Jewish teaching about someone who goes to a ritual bath to get purified while holding something that inherently causes impurity. They can immerse in the waters all day long, but every time they emerge, they are becoming impure once again.

Their Sisyphean task will never be complete.

And that is how I feel right now. I need to not only work hard to forgive myself for the errors I’ve made, but I need to work tirelessly to not allow things to enter my heart that will set me back. All that accomplishes is increasing the hurt exponentially, and the guilt comes pouring forward once again.

The Challenge of Self-Forgiveness

Why is it so hard for me to just look in the mirror and say, “You got this, Yitzchak. The past is the past. Let’s kick ass from here on out!” Why can’t I just let go and realize the blessings in my life far outweigh the challenges that have beaten me down along the way?

Why?

Because life is complicated. And the human spirit can only take so much before it is weakened to the point of submission.

No Excuses

I make no excuses. My failings are mine and mine alone. And I have by no means given up hope.

But I need to recognize the reality of the situation. No matter what I accomplish, no matter how good things can get, and no matter how much time has passed, there is one thing that still keeps kicking me down every single day of my life. And that is guilt.

Guilt marred my ability to be truly happy in the year before I moved back to Israel. How can I smile knowing full well that my children are an ocean away from me? How can I let myself even have even small moments of joy when I’ve made decisions that continue to cause grief to me and those closest to me?

Guilt Snaps Me Back

I sometimes see folk do a workout at the gym where they tie a resistance band around their waist and anchor it to a pillar or the like. Then they run forward. No matter how hard they push, ultimately the band will snap them back into place.

It looks like a fantastic exercise, but it’s a sad and unfortunate metaphor for the impact I believe guilt has on my life.

There is so much I wish to accomplish. And for certain I am not walking around without which to be proud. However, I don’t think I’ve accomplished a fraction of what I’m capable of. And I believe it’s guilt that’s holding me back.

Do I Deserve It?

Every time I move forward, every time I’m sure I’m going to get to some next stage in life, that exercise band just snaps me back into place. The feeling swarms me again that I’m not supposed to have great things. That somehow or other since people have had rough times because of the decisions I’ve made, there is an inherent limit on how much success and happiness I deserve.

Is any of this true? Is there a basis in reality for anything I’m feeling or experiencing?

Guilt is Poison

You might look at me with pity and tell me thoughts and feelings are silly or baseless. But they’re still there. They’re like a poison that seeps into my blood and crawls throughout my system whenever I feel like progress has been made.

And despite the philosophical knowledge that I can take all my guilt and let it go, when was the last time life were that simple? When was the last time anyone was able to take pervasive emotions and just cast them aside because on paper they don’t make sense.

And the guilt only makes the problems worse. The people who’ve suffered along the way, suffer more because of my guilt.

Fighting the Uphill Battle

I have an uphill battle ahead of me. I have so many years of being pulled in the wrong direction, that moving forward feels simply impossible.

However, the guilt can’t win. It doesn’t deserve to win.

I have all the tools in place to start fighting back. The next step is just to dive in and start learning how to forgive myself.

Today’s the first day of forever. And it’s going to be a good one.

It just has to be.

***

*Enjoying? Sign up for email updates and never miss a new post again!

*Enjoying my writing? Check out my eBooks!

Posted by jaffeworld in divorce, judaism, opinion, personal story, 0 comments

Three Amazing Eras of UFC

UFC

UFC’s Era of the Dominant Champion

When I began intensely watching the UFC several years ago, I started during what I like to think of as the Era of the Dominant Champion. The sport was loaded with individuals we thought of as borderline invincible. And we tuned in to see if there was anything that could ever stop them.

There were iconic figures like Anderson Silva, who would knockout fighters while toying with them in the ring like they were small children. And George St. Pierre, who many to this day think of as the greatest fighter to ever live.

And of course there was Ronda Rousey, who blasted her way through opponent after opponent in seconds. She was a trailblazer, and I’ll never forget the day her match was bumped up to the main event. I stood in the back of a sports bar and watched her maul some sorry Brazilian chick in 34 seconds. That day changed the face of Mixed Martial Arts and sports in general. People love basketball… but no one seems to care that women play basketball too… However, there was a three-hour wait to get seated at Buffalo Wild Wings that Saturday evening.

Air of Invincibility

There were others who didn’t necessarily deserve their air of invincibility, but it was there nonetheless. Who could forget when Cain Velasquez sent Brock Lesnar spinning out of control to the ground, humiliating that monster of a human being? And how do you not get excited when Mr. Wheaties himself, Anthony Pettis, runs up the side of the cage to deliver the most exciting kick in MMA history?

We tuned in to see these legends win in spectacular form, and we tuned in to see if there was anyone who could lay a finger on them.

UFC’s Trash Talk Era

But all the mighty fell. Some fell hard. Some decided to step away. Others couldn’t keep up with their own lifestyles, and their fall took place outside the ring.

While the unbeatables were getting defeated, other transitions were happening. The UFC was sold for billions of dollars. The way fighters presented themselves was quickly becoming as important as their talent in the ring. And a few key individuals discovered that if they can hop on a microphone and dazzle audiences with their voices, this had the potential of transforming their careers. And just as importantly, this could translate into massive financial gains for the fighters.

And thus the Era of Trash Talk began. Fighters would lay harsh verbal criticisms upon one another, and they’d get everyone’s attention. And we’d watch the fights more intrigued than ever before. It became like one gigantic testosterone-laden soap opera… and we couldn’t look away, not even for a second.

Problems with the Trash Talk Era

Now there were and are a few problems with this new era:

Some fans are purists. They don’t care for the theatrics. We choose to watch real athletes participate in true competition. If we wanted to watch pro-wrestling, then there is certainly plenty of that to watch as well.

Despite that many of us would like to believe otherwise, MMA is still up and coming. It is still worlds away from the popularity of sports like football and baseball. And it is arguably quite imperative that those running the show recognize that whereas all this drama is great for getting attention and quick, enormous paydays, for the long haul this might not be what’s best for the development of the sport.

Antithetical to Martial Arts

Others might inherently dislike the concept of trash talk. They might think it is antithetical to what martial arts is supposed to be. We all have that mental picture embedded in our minds of people bowing respectfully to one another before a match. Thus, watching two grown adults criticize one another on stage could be very uncomfortable for many of us. We thought we left all that garbage behind in high school.

Not to mention the fact that entertaining trash talk is a slippery slope. Before you know it, people are saying hurtful and offensive things absolutely no one wants to hear. It could stay playful and fun for only so long. Eventually the camel’s back will break, and after that, mayhem ensues.

Lousy Trash Talk

Finally, although some fighters truly dazzled audiences with their antics, others made and continue to make us squirm in our chairs. Their words are ridiculous or the fighter looks uncomfortable. Some feel like they’re reading a script or they’re just forcing a persona in order to get more attention and make more money.

And they might get attention. And they might generate ticket sales. But they are doing nothing positive for the image or longevity of the sport. Ultimately, they are just making the whole industry look silly. If you don’t have the microphone skills, don’t bother. Just do what you’re good at, and entertain us with your skills in the ring.

UFC’s Respect Era

A recent fight ushered in the current era: The Respect Era.

But it all happened on the coattails of one of the darkest moments in UFC history. A phenomenal fighter, Khabib Nurmagomedov, defended his title against the most famous and one of the most controversial fighters in the world, Conor McGregor. In the lead up to the fight, McGregor was relentless with his taunting, crossing lines repeatedly as he insulted everything from Khabib’s father to his religion.

And a stoic Khabib just looked on.

Until the dominant fight was over. An infuriated Khabib leaped out of the cage and got into an altercation with one of McGregor’s training partners. Members of Khabib’s team stormed the ring and attacked McGregor, and pandemonium broke loose. There was almost a terrible riot.

And everyone went home with an uneasy feeling in the pit of their stomach.

The Hug that Changed Everything

Fast forward to Khabib’s very next fight. After yet another dominant performance, Khabib once again launched himself into the crowd… and ran over to hug the president of the UFC.

His opponent, Dustin Poirier, is as nice as nice gets. After each of his fights, he sells his fight gear and donates the proceeds to charities. Shortly after the hug that changed everything, Khabib put on Poirier’s t-shirt and dedicated himself to selling the gear. Khabib ended up donating over a hundred thousand dollars to Poirier’s charity. And the UFC president decided to match the donation, as well.

High-Profile Respect

And thus high-profile kindness and respect pushed years of venomous trash talking to the side. We enjoyed the theatrics for a little while. It brought needed attention to the sport. But we’re ready to return to watching athletes doing what they do best.

The Respect Era is when we know that everyone in the ring is just doing their jobs. Those who excessively try to draw attention to themselves are mocked and shunned. And we can’t wait to see how these two incredible performers react after one of their hands are raised. Their characters and well-being are as important to us how much they’ve entertained us that evening.

***

*Enjoying? Sign up for email updates and never miss a new post again!

*Enjoying my writing? Check out my eBooks!

Posted by jaffeworld in Entertainment, opinion, 0 comments

Game of Thrones, the Hurt Still Lingers

Game of Thrones

Months ago I wrote a post about my disappointment in the way the 8th and final season of Game of Thrones was headed. It’s now long behind me, and I still find myself, for lack of a better way of phrasing it, hurt and angry.

Just a TV Show…

Let’s get a few things out of the way right off the bat. I am more than well aware that Game of Thrones is just a television show. The characters and storyline are quite fictional and it has no direct impact on anything in my or anyone’s lives.

Nevertheless, a show like this was a commitment. For a decade, many of us watched with excitement. I’ve never had a show that I needed to view right when it aired for fear of having the experience tainted. If you touched Facebook, YouTube, or even the news, you were likely to be shocked by what you’d find going in the lives of Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister.

Game of Thrones Nerds

I have a confession. I got so wrapped up in the craze that was Game of Thrones, I even got excited when Duolingo started offering High Valyrian as one of its language options. There I was, the king of Game of Thrones nerds, learning a fictional language for no purpose reason whatsoever. It was just another way to demonstrate my fervor and commitment.

And with each passing minute as season 8 progressed forward, I felt like the writers betrayed the audience. And as everything came to a close, one of the least satisfying endings in the history of television, I felt like a piece of my last several years was tossed into the waste basket.

Television Rarities

It’s a rare and beautiful thing when the artists who create a television series take their craft so seriously, they refuse to let things go in the middle. Everything starts off with a bang, capturing the viewers attention. With each episode you are drawn further into a mesmerizing plot, entranced by the brilliant character development.

But everything has the potential of getting stale. Boredom lurks around every corner. And it is the true artist who decides that their integrity is of far greater importance than their wallet.

Writers always have the option of having some episodes or even seasons that serve as fillers. They can bulk the series up so that there are more opportunities to grab some cash. Or they can drag the series out well past the point when it’s enjoyable to most audiences. In such situations, if the quality deteriorates, the writers might be forced to end the show prematurely. Or worse, the series could just get cancelled, leaving everyone wondering what would have happened.

Television and the Curse of Popularity

And then there’s the curse of popularity. What happens when your show’s greatness pulls in a large audience, one loaded with expectations for how a show is supposed to look? The true artist continues to create, regardless of the thoughts and opinions of the onlookers. And they might suffer because of it. Some viewers might not see the beauty of what the writers do. They will not understand and they will fall to the side. And, of course, this means the money won’t flow as readily as it once did.

So the option exists of catering to this now larger and more mainstream audience. The option exists of sticking to tried and true patterns that have succeeded in the past. They are void of creativity. But they work!

Television and the Curse of Patterns

I’ve noticed a pattern in some shows I’ve watched or attempted to watch. Ever seen a show where the police try and solve crimes with the help of a consultant? The consultant can have any number of skills, many of which make sense, like forensic science or lie detection. And they can range all the way to the absurd (mathematics, author, the Devil, etc). Some shows were amazing and original; others were just blah blah. But television producers keep producing them, because they work. They bring in audiences. They make money.

Breaking Bad: The King of Television

In fact, after years of dazzling myself with television entertainment, I can only think of one show that had the entire package. Breaking Bad was great from start to finish. There were no wasted seasons among the five. Arguably there may have been one throwaway episode along the way, but one episode in five full seasons is hardly something to complain about.

The quality never dipped. The plot was fascinating and unique. And the acting was superb. And Breaking Bad likely had the most complete, impressive, and intriguing character development in the history of television.

Five Seasons of Amazing

Five seasons is certainly a satisfying amount of a television. The writers, despite probably losing oodles of money by not doing so, could have gone longer. They could have unnecessarily stretched things out further. But they decided to cap everything before any of us had a chance to get bored or distracted. And to top everything off, they left us with a fantastic ending. All loose ends were neatly tied up. There was nothing left we needed to know or find out when Breaking Bad was no longer going to be a part of our lives.

Breaking Bad is easily one of my favorite television series of all time, perhaps even my favorite. But that favorite spot was slated to be quite taken over by the phenomenon we call Game of Thrones. Walter White had nothing on Joffrey Baratheon!

Game of Thrones, the Bigger they are…

But the bigger they are, the harder they fall. For certain there was already a slight waning in quality as Game of Thrones progressed toward its climax. But nothing was as dramatic as a final season that abruptly ended plots we had been following fervently for a decade. It was nothing short of painfully jarring to see events we had waited years for fall so far from the mark. We wanted the magic to which we had become accustomed to accompany us all the way until the end of the series. And instead we were given drivel. I believe the finale was the worst episode of the entire series.

Yeah, Game of Thrones was just a television show. It was just images on a screen. But there were expectations and excitement and years of commitment. And the greatest fall from grace in television history. It hurt. It made my stomach ache. And even if just a little, the hurt still lingers.

***

*Enjoying? Sign up for email updates and never miss a new post again!

*Enjoying my writing? Check out my eBooks!

Posted by jaffeworld in Entertainment, opinion, 0 comments

The Folly of Religious Coercion

religious coercion

There was a raging debate in Jerusalem a few months ago. One of the hottest new hangout spots is First Station. Not only is it loaded with restaurants and shops, but there are tons of activities all the time, and it’s generally got a great feel to it.

However, in a town loaded with wall-to-wall religious folk, it seemed inevitable that someone would have to poke their nose in and ruin everyone else’s fun. You see, Jerusalem is a city that pretty much stops running once a week. Most bars and restaurants are closed. Buses stop going. A huge portion of the city is observing Shabbat, so street traffic is radically reduced. And places that are jam packed the rest of the week, like the shuk, are ghost towns once Friday night rolls around.

Shabbat and First Station

But not First Station. I’ve walked past it many time on Shabbat to see half the restaurants going strong, and the wonderfully lively and friendly atmosphere continuing on through the seventh day as well. In fact, it seems like First Station is the one place left in the entire city that is still pumping on a Saturday afternoon.

But some people out there can’t sit idly back and let other people enjoy their time.

What’s Your Problem?

I’m not exactly sure what their motivation is. Three guesses: 1) They think it’s inappropriate to have such frivolities and Sabbath violations occurring in the holy city of Jerusalem, in a public and sanctioned manner. 2) It creates a ruckus, and disturbs the peace of their day. 3) They believe that if others are restricted in what they can do, they will ultimately make the decision to accept upon themselves the holy Sabbath day.

Regarding #1, Jerusalem is a diverse city. It is filled with non-religious Jews. It is loaded with non-Jews as well, not even considering the extremely popular and important tourist industry. And whether or not you like to accept it, those elements are essential for making Jerusalem more fun and interesting. Remove it, and all you have is a bunch of synagogues and old buildings.

As far as #2 is concerned, I have never noticed or heard anything from First Station any time other than when walking right in front of it. And when I’ve done so, it was my choice. There are plenty of ways to get from point A to point B. If it bothers you so much to watch other people having a good time in ways different from yours, choose a different path. It’s really that simple.

Religious Coercion is Not Effective

But it’s point #3 that I’m really here to address, a point that disturbs me to no end. Your silly obsession with religious coercion is not effective. If anything, it’s quite counterproductive. In the immortal words of Rabbi Berel Wein, “To date, no one has ever decided to observe Shabbat because someone threw a rock at their car.”

One of the most chilling moments I had in my career as a teacher was one morning during prayer services. As usual, the teachers’ jobs were to “police” the setting. We would be meandering around the room, telling students to stop talking, and insisting they pray. Sometimes things even got heated. You can imagine how inspiring it is, being forced to pray. Nothing brings a teenager closer to God than being yelled at for not praying correctly.

And one morning, as I mindlessly fulfilled my inane role, this thought crossed my mind: If I were brought up this way, I probably wouldn’t have ended up religious.

My Path of Inspiration

My path was one of inspiration, role models, education, and choices. The students at my school were just being told what they had to do. If many ran away screaming, I don’t blame them.

Fact is, religious coercion is and always has been a terrible idea. Even under the “best” circumstances, when the coercion is actually effective and someone continues with their religious practices, what is the end result? Mindless religious robots? Thoughtless beings who do what they do out of fear or habit? Coercion might, sometimes, produce someone who appears to be a follower of the religion. But their practice is likely to be shallow, with an undertone of resentment.

Religious Coercion vs. Choice

In order for someone to truly love what they do, there needs to be an element of choice. Any teacher can tell you, try and tell your students about almost any subject of interest to you, and you’ll get yawns and eye rolls. But if they ask it to you as a question, you may just have the full attention of your entire class.

And shouldn’t our faith be something so amazing we have confidence that others would choose it, with the right education and experiences? Doesn’t religious coercion send a subtle message that you’re not confident in what you do, that maybe you think your faith is flawed?

Religious Coercion and Resentment

The bottom line is, religious coercion does not work. The best it offers is a sad and weak connection to religiosity. But more often than not, it just builds resentment. It makes people angry.

If you want someone to see the world through your point of you, great. Be amazing, do incredible things, and let others choose of their own free will whether or not your lifestyle is right for them.

But stay out of other people’s business.

A Win for First Station

I observe Shabbat every week and I’ve been doing so for over two decades. I think it’s a beautiful thing and I love that it’s a part of my life. In addition, I believe everyone could benefit from having such a day in their lives. I thought this before cell phones were a thing… and now that people can’t stop staring at their little device, I think it so much more. Everyone needs to shut down every once in a while. Everyone needs to learn to communicate properly, to look another person in the eyes.

However, I was ecstatic when I found out First Station would remain open on Shabbat. Why? I was ecstatic because it was a moral victory for those of us who truly believe in freedom of choice. If you don’t want to observe Shabbat, that is your business and your business alone.

If you smoke in places you’re not allowed, or you drive overly aggressively, or you throw trash on the ground wherever you choose, I’m OK with you being pressured to leave my city. I don’t care if you’re religious or not.

Please Stay

But if you’re a decent person, please stay. The more of you the better. Follow your heart. It can lead to a whole lot of great places. Religious coercion will lead to the breaking of spirits and massive feelings of resentment. With absolutely no positive outcome, short of some ill-conceived notion of justice prevailing. But even when you’ve “won”, you’ve weakened our people and our nation. Thus everyone loses.

***

*Enjoying? Sign up for email updates and never miss a new post again!

*Enjoying my writing? Check out my eBooks!

Posted by jaffeworld in judaism, opinion, religion, 0 comments

Toward a Religious Truth

truth

My third book will be published in just a matter of weeks. This one’s called From Nothing to Confusion: My Religious Odyssey. It’s never been a better time to talk a bit about some serious religious topics. The first one I’d like to address is missionaries.

A Mormon Truth

First, a couple of stories. Way back when in, my Cornell days, we received a knock on the door one Shabbat afternoon. It was a couple of young Mormon girls who came to teach us some facts about the one true religion. The girls were polite and sweet from start to finish of their visit. And it was a delight to have them join us in our humble home.

However, at some point our pleasant conversation needed to come to an end. And it was fairly obvious when that moment came.

We inquired how they knew theirs was the one true religion. Like a couple of programmed bobble heads, they nodded enthusiastically and told us, “Because it’s written in the book.”

OK, not a great answer. Fine. But we pushed further, and questioned how they knew the book spoke of truth. The happy nodders exclaimed, “Because it’s written by the Prophet.”

Alright. We were finally inching toward the one-two punch that would have us moving to Utah the very next day. We wondered how they knew the Prophet was real. And we were told, “Because it’s written in the Book.”

Thus the circle was closed. And our delightful conversation had come to an end. I escorted our new friends to the door, and bid them a lovely and enjoyable afternoon of door knocks and theological rigor.

Ultimately, my vistors were harmless. If not wonderful guests. However, not everyone who knocks on the door is always so peaceful. Not everyone’s intentions are noble or praiseworthy.

A Washington Square Park Truth

I had another experience, early on in my days exploring Judaism, when I attended a yeshiva in Crown Heights for a couple of weeks. On Fridays we would head off to Washington Square Park for an exhilarating afternoon of finding Jewish males to put tefilin on.

The experience was always fun. And always meaningful. However, it’s New York. There’s always a surprise or two lurking behind every corner.

At one point I was accosted by a group. One of the ladies in the group, a young girl wearing large, dangling Star of David earrings, started chatting with me. During our small talk, I discovered that she was from some city in Middle of Nowhere, USA.

I got very excited. It’s one thing to be proud of being Jewish. It’s a whole other world to brazenly show off your love of our people way off in the schticks, in a place where the Jewish population is likely less than one percent.

We talked some more. In the conversation she mentioned the name of her college, which I thought had a curious title. I asked her what type of school it was, and she said, “It’s a theological seminary. I’m a Messianic Jew.”

An Isaiah 53 Truth

So, knowing what I know now, I would have realized the group was Messianic immediately, since the first words spoken by one of them to our crew was, “Have you read Isaiah 53?”

For the uninitiated, these are code words for: I’m a Christian missionary. I believe that everyone alive must believe what I believe. And I’m now about to pull all stops to aggressively try and convert you to my belief system.

And thus began (and concluded) my first exposure to a world I would later become all too familiar with. The world of the missionary. Robotic Christian conversion trolls, sent to all four corners of the world to persuade and argue and flatter their way to your heart. All in the hopes you will come to understand the one truth.

A Religious Truth

Now, I have a love of all religions (or at least all the ones I’ve studied and been exposed to). However, I cannot say the same for all religious practitioners.

I think it’s mandatory to call everyone on their nonsense, even if they’re hiding far behind walls of good intentions or righteousness. But there is a qualitative difference between these two groups I need to address.

The two Mormon girls may have not been ready for the task ahead of them. They weren’t masters of knowledge, supremely capable of dealing with challenging questions. I think some sincere person in a dusty room somewhere in Utah sent these girls out with zero training, hoping the simple folk of the world would see the truth. I bear them no ill will. And I wish them only luck in their journey.

However, the group that approached me in Washington State Park had an agenda. They were trained manipulators, willing to do whatever it takes to get others around them to see their point of view. This could include anything from using sources very out of context to straight up lying.

Present me with facts and information and I will passionately explore them and draw my own conclusions. Provide me with experiences and I will sincerely evaluate them. I will see if and how they could become a part of who I am. And it might be that ultimately I disagree with you. But I will always politely respect you.

Try and manipulate me, and you are nothing to me. I have zero tolerance for lies and bastardizations of the truth. You poorly represent your faith. In fact, you’re an embarrassment to both your religion, and to religious people in general.

Misusing Faith

And just so I’m clear: I do not discriminate in this regard. If someone misuses my faith to justify throwing rocks at a car on the Sabbath, or in any way deceives people so they conform to another’s way of practicing, their dishonesty disgusts me.

So we’re left with a bit of a problem. What’s truth and what’s fiction? Who speaks with us with positive intentions? Who is truly being intellectually honest with us, and who is bending the truth for their own gain, for their own agenda? We should all be so lucky to know at every turn.

***

*Enjoying? Sign up for email updates and never miss a new post again!

*Enjoying my writing? Check out my eBooks!

Posted by jaffeworld in judaism, opinion, religion, 0 comments

Five Uncomfortable Facts about Bullying

bullying

No matter what I do and no matter where I go, one awful concept seems to follow me around everywhere: Bullying. I’ve been the victim, I’ve been the perpetrator. I’ve helped the victim, and I’ve let the victim get chewed to pieces.

Certainly as an adult I have a refined perspective on the concept of bullying. However, this awful behavior still creeps into the picture wherever I go. With each year I understand the world just a drip more, and here are five facts of bullying I’ve come across along the way.

1) Bullies Rise from the Weakness of Others

The way I always explained bullying to my students was very simple, and these truths should let any bully know the sadness of their path. Bullies are weak and/or unimpressive people. But it is a human need to feel strong and noticed.

What do you do when you’re talented or capable? You naturally show off your ability just by being yourself. However, the bully doesn’t have any of that. They can’t impress the world with who they are. So they seek a target on whose shoulders they could stand. And by weakening their victim, the bully emerges on top of them, inherently feeling more powerful and superior.

We should all be blessed with the ability to win the adulation of those around us, not because of who we can harm, but because of who we are. No one should need to rise above others in order to shine.

2) Male Bullying vs Female Bullying

In Baltimore, my son attended a school with only male students. Bullying was fairly common, albeit very typical male-style bullying. Boys are aggressive. They hit. They choke. The scars are mainly physical. And the best way to deal with it is to stand up for yourself.

The following year my son found himself in a grade filled with mainly girls, hellbent on demonstrating to him that their style of bullying was superior. They could bring someone to tears with a mild glance. A few well-timed words, and they could have you begging for mercy.

And these wounds don’t heal with Bandaids. And they are far more difficult to point out or prove to the authorities. In the immortal words of Louis CK, “Boys… do damage to your house that you can measure in dollars, like a hurricane. Girls… leave scars in your psyche.”

The takeaway: Bullying that is non-physical is a) still bullying and b) potentially far more damaging than any punch or kick.

3) Bullying Exists at Every Age

Bullying is something we come to think of as a kid thing or a school thing. But it exists at every stage of our lives, just manifesting itself in different ways.

But it’s still bullying.

It’s still abhorrent behavior that we should keep an eye out for. We should stand up for those being tormented. And we should fight for justice in every place we see the mistreatment of others.

I’ve been bullied in the workplace, as I’m sure most people have. Sometimes it comes from those in positions of authority. However, very often it can come from just about anyone.

The rule is the same: If you can’t feel good about yourself because you’re talented and amazing, the tendency arises to try and feel good by forcefully placing others beneath you.

4) We All Do It

Many times I’ve asked my students if they’ve ever been bullied. Usually every student in the class will raise their hand. I’ll then ask who has ever bullied someone else. It might take a little longer, and the reactions might be a bit slower, but generally every hand will go up for that question as well.

It’s scary to think that something we all loathe so much can also be something we’ve engaged in. We’ve all hurt others. We’ve all caused somebody, somewhere to question their worth. There’s a person or people in the world who have shed tears because of our words and actions.

And now we’re adults. And we’re doing it all over again.

It is imperative that all thinking adults, anyone with a strong sense of character and morals, evaluate their everyday actions and activities. We should be able to look deeply at our interpersonal experiences and recognize when we’re bringing someone else down in order to artificially feel better about ourselves.

As adults, we tend to be able to justify what we do easier. And we can cast away our misdeeds as being necessary or light-hearted banter. And in some cases, it may be true. Firing a lousy employee is not bullying. And joking around with close friends is fairly likely to be innocent and harmless as well.

But we know better than that. There are lines we shouldn’t cross, and people for whom it wouldn’t take much to realize we’re causing harm. And we absolutely should never cause harm. No one should suffer unnecessarily as a result of our words or deeds. And if they are, we need to know we’re the cause, and kill the behavior immediately.

5) Bullying Can Easily Draw You In

It’s a sad reality, but even the gentlest and most well-meaning person can easily be pulled into bullying. The group starts teasing someone for whatever, and before you know it, you’re participating as well. After all, if everyone is involved, how bad can it be?

None of us are immune to this. Whether it’s poking fun at the new kid in school or teasing a co-worker about their mismatched socks, when the group starts in, it’s so easy to just slip into the mix. You might do this with your own obnoxious comments, or you might do it by laughing along with everyone else.

And you’re fairly likely to participate by not noticing when someone is being hurt, or by not doing your part to make things better.

We should all be blessed to recognize when we are acting as bullies, to be sensitive to the feelings of those around us, to have the strength to not get pulled into bullying situations, and the wherewithal to always stand up for what’s just and right.

***

*Enjoying? Sign up for email updates and never miss a new post again!

*Enjoying my writing? Check out my eBooks!

Posted by jaffeworld in opinion, 0 comments

42, Still Kickin’

42

Yup, I’m 42. The yearly bitter birthday post. I keep trying to be be younger… the years keep piling on.

Two years ago I got this blog started and felt awe and discomfort about turning 40. And now it’s two years later. I’m still going. Hopefully strong. And somehow or other I made it to 42. Yup, twice the age of being able to legally purchase liquor in the the Old Country. More than half my way to 80. Old enough that I can’t stand up without grunting. And certainly old enough, no matter how young I may look, that I can’t go to 20s/30s events without guilt and/or a few surprised reactions.

So, I’ve reached this coveted age of great wisdom. What are some giant takeaways I’ve gained at 42? What newfound knowledge has popped into my brain as yet another year has advanced me forward?

Let’s look at five:

1) Still Lessons to Learn

At each stage of my life, it seemed the life lessons would slow down. There was far less to be gained. I learned what I had to learn, and now just needed to put those lessons into practice. And coast from here on out.

And as usual, it turned out I was wrong. Quite wrong.

In my 42nd year I fell in love, got engaged, and got married. One could say it was quite a big year for me.

What’s crazy is how unexpected all of these things were for me. I entered the relationship, arrogantly stating that I have four children, and that’s plenty for me. I’d prefer not to add to the numbers. And before the relationship, I talked about my proud and happy single status.

And yet I told a story at my wedding when my fiancé and I were reading about how you know you are with the right person. One suggestion stated that you know you’re with the right person when you look at your partner and would be ecstatic if your children grew up like them.

We looked up at each other, and for that moment, everything was completely obvious to both of us.

In just this past year, my thoughts and opinions have shifted over and over again.

I can’t even imagine what the future holds.

2) Every Year, I’m Less and Less Defined by My Job

Many of us dread that moment. We’re meeting a brand new person, and the inevitable question rolls around: “So, what do you do?”

I can talk on and on about my wife and my kids. I can tell about my hobbies. My passion for health and fitness. My love of languages. And on and on.

But I can’t escape it. Eventually they’ll catch my clever diversion and ask what I do for a living.

Now, I’m by no means embarrassed by or ashamed of my job. It’s just that no matter what I do, it’s guaranteed to be a conversation killer.

“I do customer support for an email marketing company.”

Cue the crickets…

In any case, I used to be a teacher. It was very important to who I was, but also something I desperately needed to run away from. And like has happened so many times in my life, it feels like a distant part of my past. It’s just gone, like it never was.

Why? Because my job pays the bills. Hopefully. But that’s where it’s importance ends. I am made up of so much more than just my job. Sure, it’s a part of the puzzle, but merely a small part. My answer to their dreaded question isn’t flawed. It’s the question itself, and the underlying expectation behind the question that needs to be changed.

I am me, with all my 42 years of complexities. My job is just one of the many things I do.

3) How to Get Attention? It’s All About the Individual

Two years in a row I’ve participated in ALYN Hospital’s out-of-this-world skydiving fundraiser. And both years I slogged my way through weeks of grueling fundraising.

In two years, I raised nearly $6,000 for this incredible hospital. But I’ll be honest: I hated every minute of the fundraising. I don’t know if there’s anyone out there who enjoys asking others for money. I know I’d like to participate in a fundraiser each year. However, I’m not sure I can stomach this again.

I did learn an important lesson, however, albeit the exact reason behind the lesson is still unclear to me.

I posted weekly on Facebook and LinkedIn. And I posted in different public groups. Others posted on their Facebook pages as well. I even wrote a blog post about the fundraiser. In two years of fundraising, not a single donation ever came from a public post of any kind. Not one. 100% of the money came from people I reached out to directly.

No one listens to what’s said to the group. You want attention? It’s all about speaking directly to each and every individual.

4) Even Skydiving Can Become Routine

I also learned that routine is routine. Skydiving is a major thrill, certainly unlike any other I’ve experienced. And falling out of the sky from 14,000 feet is an objectively wild experience.

But even that makes me think: Been there, done that. What can I possibly tackle next?

I thrive on routine. I like knowing, at least generally, what my days will look like. However, I also need constant growth. Constant novelties that spice things up in my life.

And even the things that are amazing or thrilling, need to be topped all the time. There is absolutely nothing that cannot become routine.

5) I Was Wrong

You’re never too old to find out you have no idea what you are talking about. That’s a lesson I learn yearly.

I was wrong when I was 40 or 41. I will spend a whole lot of time wrong as a mighty 42-year-old.

And I expect to be wrong time and time again as many more years of my life pass on by.

The trick isn’t to never be wrong. That’ll never happen. The trick is to learn to not let it bother you, and to instead embrace your own mistakes. See them as jumping points for great change and improvement in your life.

***

So, here I am. 42. A whole spattering of young and old. With a lot of cynicism, combined with a whole heaping load of hope.

It’s going to be quite the year. I can feel it in my bones!

(I can feel a lot in my bones these days… )

***

*Enjoying? Sign up for email updates and never miss a new post again!

*Enjoying my writing? Check out my eBooks!

Posted by jaffeworld in opinion, 0 comments

Slave to Technology

Technology

Am I a slave to my possessions?

I’ve had a fear for a good deal of my life now. Addictions. Or harmful habits or reactions of any kinds.

For example, I fear having no control over my love of food. And eating way too much of it, way too quickly. And even though I stopped biting my fingernails several years ago, I still feel a pull toward them. All the time. I was afraid of bleeding, public speaking, and heights. So I started giving blood and speaking in front of an audience whenever I could. And, of course, I went skydiving a couple of times.

A New Terror

And now I face a new terror. A new burden. And I pay a lot of money in order to posses the burden.

Technology, and all of its wicked offspring.

Slaves to Technology

Years ago I went to a lecture meant to “prove” that we were slaves to technology more than technology was our servant. The lecturer spoke about the computer keyboard.

Why is the keyboard in this odd and seemingly random pattern? Well, it was originally created to be optimal for typewriters, and did a fantastic job preventing type bars (the nifty pieces that strike the paper and plop the letters there) from getting tangled with one another. (And yes, I needed to Google what they’re called.)

In comes the modern word processor, completely void of any of these problems. A perfect opportunity to revamp the keyboard! It can now be in alphabetical order. Or optimized for faster typing based on thorough research. Limitless options!

But people didn’t like it. They had already grown used to something else and were unwilling to embrace change.

And thus, we are essentially following where technologically leads us, rather than guiding technology where we wish for it to go.

Do I Answer the Door?

I had a big disagreement with a lot of folk way back when. We argued about a rarely talked about gem of an invention: The front door. A technology masterpiece, if there ever was one.

Imagine the scenario: It’s a relaxing Sunday, summer afternoon, somewhere in suburban America. And the family is all sitting around, quietly reading. Enjoying each other’s company. Suddenly someone knocks on the front door. But no one wishes to respond, let alone get up.

The debate: What is the obligation of the comfortable family at that moment, if any?

Others in the discussion maintained that their calm must be disturbed. Someone is required to minimally ask who is at the door. And if that ruins everyone’s beautiful time, so be it. An obligation is an obligation. They might add: What if it’s an emergency!? (Since, as we know, all 2019 emergencies are handled with a gentle knock on the door.)

It’s My Damn Door

My approach was… let’s say, drastically different. And still is. As far as I’m concerned, my house is my house, and my door is my door. And they both exist to serve me, and in exactly whichever way I choose.

So, even if I’m sitting back against my door doing nothing at all, I still have no obligations once the big knock comes. It will be no inconvenience to me whatsoever if I just turn around and open the door. My life is not being affected in the slightest, since I wasn’t doing anything at all. Nevertheless, I have no requirements at that moment. I am perfectly alright with not responding to the door simply because I do not want to.

The door serves me. Not the other way around! It does not get to cause me even a single moment of discomfort, unless I so choose.

It’s My Damn Phone

Enter the modern world and this debate gets to a whole new level. Ever had this experience? Someone calls you and you don’t pick up. They call again, maybe two more times. They text to see why you’re not picking up. Maybe they try a few people who they think might be nearby to see what’s going on.

Finally, you get out of the bathroom, or leave the movie theater, or whatever it was you were selfishly preoccupied with. And after all the intensity, you assume an emergency and call back… only to find out they were looking for the recipe for that chocolate cake you made last week.

Why do we have these possessions if they become obsessions and obligations rather than items that exist to serve us?

A Slave to My Phone

And trust me, I’m as guilty as the next person. Like most of you, I’ve had those moments where I was called out for looking at my cellphone in the middle of a live conversation with someone. I completely missed what they were saying to me because I got a new notification or I was distracted by another bunch of likes on my Facebook post.

And what happens when my phone is more important to me than the person sitting across from me? The world shatters. Interpersonal communication is replaced by dopey comatose-like monkeys staring at a few circuits.

I recall a few years ago poking fun at a group of students. They were all sitting around “hanging out with each other”. Yet not a single one of them was actually talking. Each one was engrossed with their phone, probably texting someone who was just down the hall. And they all thought I was weird for thinking the scenario was hysterical.

When to Break the Chains?

Many years ago I was told that a person should not open up a school if they wouldn’t have the strength to close it should it become necessary. What if they were forced to run the school contrary to their value system? What if the entire concept of the institution was undermined by others? The ethical choice and the choice with integrity would be to shut the place down rather than compromise on ones value system.

Perhaps one should never lift up a cellphone if they don’t have the strength to put it down when it stops serving the greater good.

Perhaps we should all reconsider what’s important to us in this world, and figure out whether the technology in our lives is serving us in accomplishing our goals. Or distracting us and making us servants to the objectively less important parts of our lives.

***

*Enjoying? Sign up for email updates and never miss a new post again!

*Enjoying my writing? Check out my eBooks!

Posted by jaffeworld in opinion, 0 comments

Peculiar Travel Suggestions

Peculiar Travel Suggestions

Sometimes being an adult can get quite frustrating. Life can lack the adventure and spontaneity that colored our youth. Or at least the amount of unplanned craziness we all expect to have when we’re younger.

Many years ago I was introduced to an author who would later become my favorite: Kurt Vonnegut. I was quickly attracted to his unique and entertaining style of writing. And I found concepts and ideas throughout his books becoming a part of who I was.

The Cursed Kurt Vonnegut

A great example is an idea in the book Hocus Pocus. The character spoke about his reason for never cursing. He believed it weakened the strength of his thoughts and opinions.

Now, I grew up a classic potty-mouthed New Yorker. But I also grew up wanting to make sure any point I make gets across as quickly and effectively as possible. So it was imperative I gave this idea some thought. I considered all the most famous quotes and speeches I had heard. And the people I knew who had the most influence on me and others around me.

And not a curse word to be found.

I took this to heart, stripped my vocabulary of the expletives, and watched as over time the words became somewhat repulsive to me. I also watched as the words became more powerful. Their infrequent use made them more intense when they were actually used.

Peculiar Travel Suggestions

Vonnegut’s influence on me had no bounds. There was one phrase from his incredible novel Cat’s Cradle that has had more impact on me than any other: “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.”

As you make your way through the twists and turns of life, every once in a while someone will suggest you do something you’ve never done before. You will have an opportunity to wander outside your comfort zone, and see things differently than yesterday.

Those moments aren’t just fun one-time breaks from your normal reality. They are the bread and butter of who you will later become! And so it has been for me, time and again. In my youth I was invited to a youth group meeting. It was something outside my realm. Something that I really did not understand or see the point of. But it was a peculiar travel suggestion, with potential galore for changing my life forever.

And it most certainly did!

That one decision was the starting point for a path I am still trekking down. For sure there have been other peculiar travel suggestions along the way. Many I’ve followed, and many have had their impact. The path hasn’t always been an easy one, but it certainly has always felt like there’s been some type of plan guiding the way.

Dancing Lessons from God

In more recent years I was invited to a friend’s home to hang out and play some games. I didn’t know my host very well, nor did I know any of the other guests. My instincts and inertia could have easily gotten the better of me. After all, it was exceedingly hot outside. I was better off just staying home, reading, and napping.

My host’s peculiar travel suggestion would be a key moment on the path eventually leading to our marriage.

And thus has been the pattern of my existence for as far back as I remember. When my days had too much of a pattern, and I was too rigid and unwilling to follow the ebbs and flow of life, or there were elements holding me back, little noteworthy happened.

And therefore when I told stories about myself, I noticed they were all old. Anything and everything that seemed interesting or noteworthy about me happened a long, long time ago.

In the Comfort Zone

And now here is where I stand. I find comfort in day-to-day routines. I like knowing what my day will look like and what’s coming up in the near future. Any break from my routine, even a small one, upsets my balance. Leaves me somewhat unnerved. That’s why they call it the “comfort zone”…

Yet at the same time there are changes that need to happen. There are improvements to myself as a person I so vehemently wish I could make happen. And if things continue on the same path they’ve been zooming down since I was a teenager, these changes won’t just happen on their own. Change happens when a peculiar travel suggestion enters my world, and I’m brave enough to follow the unknown path.

Shaking Things Up

And it seems this is the only true way meaning occurs in my life. It’s like a snow globe that settles into whatever it is, but the true beauty shines when things are shaken up.

But the shaking can’t happen by force. I can’t just shake my own snow globe or artificially insert my own peculiar travel suggestions. This disingenuous method of finding meaningful change is unlikely to produce any results.

Waiting for Peculiar Travel Suggestions

That’s not to say I have no control, nor that I lack an important role in inevitable and exciting changes that lay ahead. I must lay the foundation, and create the right atmosphere for change to naturally flow from what’s happening in my life.

There is so much I want to happen in the future, so many goals I wish to achieve. I want to see new levels of professional and financial success. I wake up daily yearning to return to levels of religiosity and Zionism I haven’t felt in what seems like ages. And I want joy in my days, the extent of which I could not have imagined.

I’m out there. God, I am wandering through life, each day awaiting Your peculiar travel suggestions. I patiently seek Your dancing lessons.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.

***

*Enjoying? Sign up for email updates and never miss a new post again!

*Enjoying my writing? Check out my eBooks!

Posted by jaffeworld in opinion, personal story, religion, 0 comments

My 100th Post: Why a Blog in 2019?

Blog

Blog? You write a blog? What year is this!?

This is my 100th blog post (including guest posts). I work on the blog a little bit every day of my life. But… some days I wonder why I bother.

To date, I haven’t earned a penny. In fact, it costs me to maintain the blog.

I’m not famous. It hasn’t put me into the limelight or tossed me in the way of some prestigious writing position.

But I keep at it. Week in and week out, nearly two years now. Consistently publishing at least one post every week.

And here I stand. This is my 100th post. And I have no plans to stop. I love it. It’s really fun for me. And I hope to keep it up for quite a long time to come.

It’s 2019 and I’m still blogging. Here are five reasons why:

1) Writing is a Muscle

The people of the world don’t know how to write anymore. Sadly, those among us who love style and grammar and just common decent awareness of the English language, we can’t shut off. Not for a minute.

Each and every day I’m literally sickened by the lazy writing I see or the blatant and heartbreaking lack of attention to detail.

And I pledge to never be that guy. I want my sentences to flow from one to the other. I don’t want to toss important punctuation and grammar rules into the trash can. I’m perfectly happy being the last American alive who knows how to spell words, and values that correct spelling as well.

But one thing is for sure: Keeping the writing skills alive won’t happen by accident.

I treat writing like a muscle. If left unused long enough, it will atrophy. I want to write every day of my life to prevent this vital muscle from withering away. The muscle needs to constantly be developed and refined, and hopefully through my daily exercise it will grow and sharpen to the height of its potential.

2) Blog as Written Catharsis

As any loyal reader knows, the last 41 years haven’t always been easy. I’ve done a great deal to try and survive the many hardships that have popped up along the way. Writing for me is both a way of processing my thoughts and feelings, as well as an emotional release in and of itself.

For certain, there are many pains that I cannot process through writing. And for sure plenty of pain for which I haven’t even scratched the surface. Nevertheless, pockets of difficulties I’ve had, I have managed to get through just because of this blog.

We all know that feeling of release when a pain slowly but surely dissipates. I’ve had that feeling a few times. Whether it be contemplating the complications of returning to Israel or closure at the end of a decade’s worth of work as a Jewish Educator, this blog has consistently given me great emotional catharsis.

This alone would be reason enough to keep on going.

3) Collecting My Thoughts

I’m not a liberal or a conservative. I have no political affiliation. And I begrudge (almost) no opinion out there. Nevertheless, I’m a thinker and I do have strong opinions.

I am a work in progress, constantly listening to what others have to say and trying to piece the world together. I make mistakes. A whole lot of them.

But the goal is and always will be to understand as much as humanly possible. And the single best way for me to collect my thoughts is by trying to write them down. If I can clearly and concisely get my thoughts into the written word, and I can answer a handful of questions about what I’ve said, competently and confidently, I have successfully added another piece to what I think, feel, and know. My mind is just a little sharper than it was before.

Clarity. I write, and that’s how I achieve clarity.

4) Me, the Minor Celebrity

There’s a cute little psychological effect that comes with sharing so much of yourself in such a public forum. It’s fun when someone quotes you or has a little bit of knowledge of what’s going on in your life or has a deep understanding of your thoughts and opinions.

Obviously I’m more than aware of my relatively minor influence in the vast world out there. No delusions of grandeur over here. Only the pleasure of knowing somebody out there might be listening. Somebody out there might have a care or concern for what I can add to the conversation. It’s enough to keep writing. It feels great.

It’s a funny world. The words “rich and famous” often get lumped together, and whereas I would love to be rich one day, I can certainly live quite happily without fame. I appreciate my privacy. I love it, in fact.

And in my heart I see no contradiction between my adoration of solitude and the joy of having my thoughts out there for the world to read. When I need or want to be private, it’s always there for me. And it’s always great.

5) Keep Hope Alive

Maybe it’s online youthful innocence. Or maybe hope is the greatest motivator the world has ever seen.

But I still keep waiting and watching. I still keep hoping that at some point things will “take off”. And that can mean all sorts of things. My blog could all of a sudden become the cash cow I never imagined. Or my blog could travel far and wide and it or some portion could end up influencing the lives of thousands of people.

All I know is, as long as I keep on plugging, the chance exists of some sort of magic occurring. And those chances end the moment I close my laptop and throw in the towel.

So I keep on writing.

See you in Post #200.

***

*Enjoying? Sign up for email updates and never miss a new post again!

*Enjoying my writing? Check out my eBooks!

Posted by jaffeworld in opinion, 1 comment