Thursday, November 6, 2014

malkah ascends the chariot

Someone called Malkah a mystic the other day. But I don't think so. Just because she romps around with letters of the Hebrew aleph-bet... Just because she's more comfortable in the cosmic... Just because she can't hold a pshat conversation, even about a movie like say Little Shop of Horrors (or a TV series like BSG)... Just because she sees people acting out letters of the Tetragrammaton and taking them on as archetypes... All that and more does not a mystic make.

Malkah once asked her mother, Mrs Tzaddik, what she had wanted for her when she grew up. It was a question Malkah had just never thought to ask before, but now was curious as hell. Ask it now or never. Mrs Tzaddik was not going to be long for this world.

"How could I have wanted anything for you?" Mrs Tzaddik told her, voice raised in operatic frenzy.  "You took drugs in the '60s!"

Ah. And there it was. No achievement was ever going to be good enough for Mrs Tzaddik, was it? Malkah took drugs in the '60s.  And actually, thereafter as well.

Malkah was calm about Mrs Tzaddik's outburst. As she was calm about just about everything. Equanimity was her primary practice.

She said, "Ma, everyone took drugs in the '60s." It was just a fact.

But Mrs Tzaddik was too steamed up in the tragedy of her own disappointment to hear it. And she didn't like facts.

I want to say "what happened in the '60s stays in the '60s" but you and I both know that's just not true. Berkeley in the '60s, and San Francisco in those days engaged a generation to see beyond the veil. And this was not just about pretty colors on the wall, or politics, or what the music really means. Malkah and her generation weren't just lying around reading Carlos Castaneda all day. They were also reading folks like Thomas Kuhn. The '60s were paradigm-shattering.

Now Malkah had been raised on storybook tales of how the Hebrew letters searched desperately for the Queen of Heaven, aka the Sabbath Bride, aka the Shekhinah, who had disappeared from the world. The letters were alive in those books when she was a child. And that didn't change. It was pure animism. She was raised with a living alphabet. Hebrew at her school was in the morning—vibrant, exciting, and alive. English was in the afternoons—dead as a door nail, just making words and nothing more. The English letters didn't run off trying to bring the Shekhinah back to Earth so that the world could be healed. They told baseball scores.

Something much later led her back to the tales of her childhood. The tales her father had told her. She needed to rethink them. Malkah discovered that these were no mere children's stories made up by imaginative children's authors. Instead, they were rooted in baudy ancient stories and serious medieval texts about the birth of God and the emergence of pre-biblical Creations. In other words, they were 'raw data,' and 'primary sources.'

And what those tales did was make Durkheim extremely dull. Durkheim, yes. But not Weber. Weber was all about charismatic figures rather than statistics.

Don't get me wrong.  LSD did not make Malkah religious or anything. God forbid. No. It just made her a better academic. It made her take those mystical texts seriously—as treatises on the miracles of grammar, ancient languages, and the formation of words.

Malkah became a better academic. She had fun with the material. And then she got out there and made something of herself. And Mrs Tzaddik was confused. Proud (sometimes), but grudgingly so. You can't possibly do well if you took drugs in the '60s.  Right?

So. On this election day, my vote's for Malkah's-no-mystic. She's just a product of her times. She seeks the whole above the particular. She privileges ancient tales over current events. And she loves the letters of the aleph-bet because they're still opening doors to the mysteries of Creation.

Along with Scientific American.

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