Friday, April 26, 2013

Going Fishing

My recreation has gotten a little thin.  Even when I escape for a short time, whether to the Lancaster Outlets a few weeks ago or the Yuengling Brewery last weekend, there are always a few deadline projects on my plate, whether Torah reading, AKSE Academy, a resident lecture or mandatory training for an IT upgrade at work.  Recreation has become an escape when it perhaps should be its own destination.  My two harmonicas lay idle.  My fishing rod still has its sales label attached after a year.

This weekend's weather report promises a pleasant outdoors on Sunday so I think it time to get to White Clay Creek State Park to try my hand at angling.  I have a state fishing license with trout stamp, as the creek is stocked by the state.  My intent is catch and release, though my negligible skill makes even that unlikely.  I bought some basic hooks and floats and lures at Walmart.  I have a vest with a lot of pockets and a hat and sunglasses and shoes that would be no worse off with a coating of mud.  My cell phone is charged and my beeper remains within range.  I bought a portable chair which has been in my trunk unused for a couple of years.  I'm amply equipped.  Have to remember to take the beer I bought last weekend out of the trunk as it is technically not allowed in the park.  And my next project, a very difficult and long aliyah for parshat Naso has been photocopied so that needed recreation remains less than absolutely recreation.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Filling Schedules

There is creative work and there is implementation.  There are students and there are doers.  You can probably get by with doers alone but certainly people and organizations would flounder if creative intent never became reality.  Without the thinkers and creators, mediocrity would prevail.

As I researched my recent presentation for this year's AKSE Academy on Synagogue Life Cycles I found a tension between people who want vibrant programming that is always in some form of evolution and people who get lulled into securing what they have now, acquiring the rewards of advancement for keeping programming predictable if uninspiring.  There is the predictability that the McDonald's developers understood a generation ago that atmosphere can be both portable and standardized.  Go to any USCJ congregation and the books are the same and the worship is the same but skill with which worship is presented varies a lot.

From my own congregation's perspective, there are a few constants.  Torah must get read, Haftarah chanted and at least one Ba-al Tefillah is needed each shabbos.  It is certainly much less anxiety generating to look at last year's schedule and reassign the person who has the experience.  With the education program there is no reason why the Rabbi's classes need to change at all for the duration of his career if the goal is to present its existence on the Web Site for marketing purposes.  There may very well be a benefit to adding or deleting options based on attendance or feedback or the teacher's assessment of what those in attendance got out of their attendance relative to what the potential might have been.

It takes a different frame of reference to acquire stewardship of the programming, to schect some sacred cows and experiment with things that people might find novel and maybe even attractive.  It is much harder to do that, to badger talent to bring them from the sidelines to the mainstream, to require people exert a little more effort to learn a new Haftarah that was not recycling of their Bar Mitzvah lessons from the year gimmel,  to replace an accounting of members who have come and gone with a coherent plan to make membership more attractive, to infuse a measure of imagination that can be implemented into unique experiences while still filling the mandatory schedules.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Gift to Myself

My birthday came and went unobtrusively.  While my office manager knows when it is, the first time they posted it on the monthly office calendar, I asked that my privacy be respected and it never appeared again.  It does on appear of my FB profile though much else about me does.  A birthday is something that just happens, not something reflecting effort or interest on my part.  My wife and kids conveyed their good wishes.  We had a special dinner, waited the time to eat milchig, then had a slice of birthday cake.  Cards from my wife, the state senator and the state representative.  Nothing that needed to be unwrapped.

The only gift came from myself.  I selected a suitable retirement date, one that I will not work past unless some extenuating circumstance requires me to stay on a short time later.  A countdown timer has been set.

This date falls well beyond the departure date of our current President, far enough in the future to allow me to engage in a project or two that I would have liked to have done in my professional capacity but never did.  But it is also near enough to view with realistic anticipation.  Needless to say, the vagaries of my health and the fortunes or whims of my employer could hasten that date considerably but not extend it.

This seemed like the right time,  I like my work.  I like the people that I work with and am grateful to the organization for welcoming me into their whirl.  So it is hardly an escape.  Rather I view it as an opportunity to be selective about the things that I wish to pursue and to be with my wife enough to maximize companionship but not so much as to become a pest.  The deadline also prods me to think beyond my next patient, the next lecture, the next exam, the next license renewal.  Being the doctor can become too much of identity, too consuming.  While I value the skill and experience that has been mine to acquire and hopefully transmit a portion of it to the next generation of physicians, it comes at the neglect of other efforts that also bring their measure of satisfaction.  What will I do when I no longer have to show up at work?  Hard to say. I toured one of the big outlet centers yesterday, looking at the nice designer clothing and business cases that I had no reason to consider buying.  I paid $11 for a fishing license.  I still have two harmonicas that I need to learn how to play.  And the medical equivalent of Uncle Tom's Cabin, the tome that brings reform to a professional system that could use some revision still has not been written.

Definitely a good gift, one that brings me purpose.