Thursday, December 25, 2014

Upcoming Initiatives

This week left me with three days off, not much scheduled other than a somewhat overdue doctor's visit.  Much of this blank canvas of time went into the semiannual project development that I engage in every June and December.  In recent sessions I've pick twelve, a couple easy or with deadlines that I must meet.  These get done.  The more elaborate multiple aspect initiatives generally do not go to completion but they still get a due measure of effort.  Last week I explored cyberspace to try to figure out why so little comes to fruition.  To a large extent it seems to be related to picking end points over which I have no control.  My goal of catching ten fish resulted in none.  But I do not make fish take the lure.  A better approach would have been to go fishing a certain number of times, make a modification for each unsuccessful venture, and try out a specified number of locations.  I probably have less control over my weight than I might imagine so losing ten pounds may not be under my control.  Exercising and modifying what I eat is very much under my discretion so this year's goals will get modified to specify the exercise expectations and the dietary modifications, allowing the weight itself to go wherever nature intends it under the circumstances I create.

My template has changed from one modified by Covey's 7 Habits many years ago to categories that come across as more specified.  So with two days left before the first Sunday weekly planning specimen of implementation, here's how it looks:

Travel:  Visit three different museums which I've not visited previously  in three different towns.

Personal:  Engage in a program of healthy eating

Long term Activity:  Develop a comprehensive retirement plan with pursuit of three activities that can be carried forth to my retirement years.

Mental:  Develop the premier Jewish iconoclast blog filled with external comments.

Home:  Declutter part of the house for 45 minutes every Sunday.

Financial:  Make a donation to a worthy Jewish cause on the 20th of every month and send each organization a note of appreciation for what they do.

Friends:  Write to two Jewish thinkers per month.

Family:  Attend my son's graduation.

Health:  Exercise 15 minutes three days a week.

Large Purchase:  Remodel the kitchen.

Community:  Set aside my religious participation in AKSE in favor of a beneficial non-religious project.

New Frontier:  Begin writing the book that ultimately makes me famous.

I color code my projects and the daily activities that enable their pursuit.  No professional projects to pursue for the first time in many years.

We'll see how these dozen proceed over the next few months.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Synagogue Consumerism

This week I began a book that I had been looking forward to purchasing from the moment the editor indicated to me that he was assembling it.  Hayim Herring's Keeping Faith in Rabbis came out a few weeks ago.  For a nominal sum and a little hassle with Kindle, I downloaded it and began reading the various essays, most written by Rabbis themselves but a few written by synagogue participants, a few not entirely happy with the experience, though none really feeling shut out the way I assess my own experience.  Most have suggestions for making participation a more active process and most are baalebatim themselves.  One essay by a Rabbi Shapiro divided the cadre of rabbis and the cadre of Jews into two clear categories each.  Rabbis could either be clerks or prophets, the Jewish public could either be passionate about their organizations or passionate about rejecting those organizations.  Most people, of course, fall somewhere between the two poles but clear divisions make analysis easier.  I think he is right, at least from my AKSE experience, that people just want to processed through Judaism, fed what previous sages have written for the current Rabbi to digest and impart, and deflect people who are either challengers or outliers.  Congregants can be managed like the Army with a few soldiers going AWOL but most buying into what the generals want with little challenge to authority.  Those congregants really just want to be part of the Army and if not overtly mistreated will remain on board, maybe even help perpetuate mediocrity.

I think that's a pretty decent summary of how organizational Judaism has matured in America, from its origins as an identifiable minority of people banding together to fulfill a common purpose where a certain amount of creativity was both needed and valuable to more of a self-perpetuating collection of people still trying to find purpose long after the original challenge has been resolved.  Certainly the sacred texts and commentaries are still studied and added to just as they have always been.  Now, more than any prior time, the thoughts of the giants are readily accessible, many acknowledge the comments sent their way by untitled peasants like myself and write back.  Even the most egregious control freaks, the Rabbinical Assembly, know that they cannot continue to shield themselves from a public that contains highly educated people used to reading primary sources and analysis and have modified some of their protections that have disenchanted some of their most capable Conservative laity.  But I still go to shul on a shabbos morning listening to relative fluff in the form of repetitive interAliyah comments, two minute factoids that can be looked up on the internet during the week and fed to a few dozen attendees who did not pursue anything Jewish on the internet that week.  Another essay in the book assesses the form of presentation amid the content of presentation.  People really can be processed through by their professionals, be they doctors putting the cap on medical setbacks or Rabbis telling somebody of lesser knowledge some of his or her knowledge, though without really advancing the recipient in a meaningful way.  Unless you want to be spending your career having roobs reach threshold, there has to be some serious content with its challenges and vulnerabilities.  Until that arrives in a more consistent way than I have experienced, Orthodoxy will continue to exert its growing monopoly on the most capable Jewish amateurs.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My Enneagram

 One of my FB friends, a retired special ed teacher, posted a summary of what preschool kids are like temperamentally.  I still am like that, impatient, inquisitive, challenging, sometimes impulsive.  When put to one or more of those online free enneagram tests my type comes up consistently as an Investigator or Explorer.  Now, these twelve innate personality types have a consistent distribution in the population but probably a skew in different subsets of the population.  My guess would be that the inmates at SuperMax have a different distribution than those appointed to the Federal Bench by the President, though both subpopulations have all twelve types of mindsets represented in some fashion.  And very diverse populations, such as the citizens of Delaware, would have the same distribution as in the larger population.

My own characteristics seem to serve me pretty well in my medical world, one where inquiry and maybe a little compulsivity have value, not as well in my Jewish world, or at least the organizational component of it, where independence and challenge are often regarded by those whose enneagrams mark them as Achievers as threats to stability more than as resources to progress or adaptation.  Innate Loyalists are more valued there, though it comes at a high price.  The Piper is probably being paid right now.

So while the venerable organizations with its Leaders and Loyalists have found themselves diminishing for some time, there remains a more amorphous outlet for reassembling those Explorers.  As far back as the 1970's, the first Jewish Catalog had chapters on Havurah movements, a counterculture of Jews with Isro hairdos forming their own minyanim.  Many were initially unwelcome by the synagogue leaders who regarded them as disruptive hippies, then invited back when they realized they needed people with bimah skills.  In a more updated fashion, we see a floundering United Synagogue reaching out to the defectors who left for cause, less concerned about populating the kehillot with the maximum number of tuchases but more concerned with restoring a better vibrancy to the experience of those who participate, making it more inviting to those who might want to participate.

My own congregation seems to lag behind on this, focusing more on dues paying numbers than on the talents that those members might bring.  Leaders and Loyalists and Peacemakers prevail.  The Explorers and Artists  and Challengers can be put on hold a while longer.