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From Say to Way

We must move!

I intend to join the Shalit family’s march tomorrow or the day after. A group of people marches on without saying exactly what action they expect to be taken. No one demands that “all prisoners should be released under any conditions whatsoever”. “Enough talk – the time for deeds has come” said the noble Noam Shalit. The situation in which Gilad Shalit is held captive for over four years, with no ability for movement, without obvious negotiations, and without anything really “going on” creates a tremendous impulse for some form of motion. To go out marching and reach Jerusalem. Shalit Shalit and no Shalit* (Shalit is also the Hebrew word for “leader”)… No apparent leader exists today who can actually “show the way”.

“for the earth is filled with opinions and information as the waters cover the sea” (a variation on Isaiah 11:9)

The events of the flotilla to Gaza were too a motion to shatter an existing stagnation. This incident on the seas is an example of a great embarrassment-of-way. The tidal wave of information and opinions came crashing on our heads. Throughout the events we relied on information from countless sources, including all parties involved in the action, watching it and reporting it, and every interpretative comment or news headline constantly shook our feelings and views from one extremity to the exact opposite. We’re wrong, right, right, right, wrong, wrong, right, wrong….. It seems like even people with solid views, from all segments of the ideological and political arcs, were filled with doubts and that cracks formed in the fortresses of their mind: Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys in this story? Who succeeded and who failed? Whose intentions were honorable and who acted out of viciousness? The entanglement of facts concerning peace activists who swore to die in their attempts to kill anyone who stands in their way, paint guns, illegal usage of credit cards and coriander seeds which weren’t allowed into Gaza. Complicated!

Can’t see the wood for the opinions

The magnificent ease of making every personal voice heard – a wondrous human trend supported by advanced technological and communicational environments – giving rise to a flood of opinions, information bits and messages which have shorter validity periods than the time it takes to formulate them. Every position and fact is sensitive to the conditions of a specific context, to the frequent changes in human knowledge of this context and to the perspective of the claim’s maker. Generally, the relative post-modern approach to the absolute truth automatically frees you from the need to be precise and concrete. You simply can’t see the wood for the opinions, and certainly not the road leading out of it. The forest and the road leading out of it are a story. In face of the flooding information we forget to use this vital and precious mean: “to view the whole story”. Evidently, the story is a slow-paced medium, requiring much more patience than exciting and addicting sound bites. But when we’re stuck it’s worth trying to find out: What’s the Story?

“My words were taken out of context, and that’s not the question we should be asking…”

Shmuel had a bad car accident involving a large truck.

Weeks later, in court, the trucking company’s fancy lawyer was questioning Shmuel.

“Didn’t you say, at the scene of the accident, ‘I’m fine,’?” asked the lawyer.

Shmuel responded, “Vell, I’ll tell you vat happened. I just put my dog Moishele, into the…”

“I didn’t ask for any details”, the lawyer interrupted. “Just answer the question.” Did you not say, at the scene of the accident, ‘I’m fine!’?”

Shmuel said, “Vell, I just got Moishele into the car and vas driving down the road….”

“The lawyer interrupted again and said, “Judge, I am trying to establish the fact that, at the scene of the accident, this man told the Highway Patrolman on the scene that he was just fine. Now several weeks after the accident he is trying to sue my client. I believe he is a fraud. Please tell him to simply answer the question.”

By this time, the Judge was fairly interested in Shmuel’s answer and said to the lawyer, “I’d like to hear what he has to say about his dog Moishele.”

Shmuel thanked the Judge and proceeded. “Vell, like I vas saying, I just loaded Moishele, my lovely hundteleh (dog), into the car and vas driving him down the highway when this huge semi-truck and trailer ran the stop sign and smacked my truck right in the side. I vas thrown into one ditch and Moishele vas thrown into the other. I vas hurting, real bad and didn’t want to move. However, I heard Moishele moaning and groaning. I knew he vas in terrible shape just by his groans.

Den a Highway Patrolman came along. He could hear Moishele moaning and groaning so he vent over to him.

After he looked at him, and saw vat terrible condition Moishele was in, he took out his gun and shoots him between the eyes. Den the Patrolman comes across the road, gun still in hand, looks at me and says, “How you feeling?”

“Nu, Judge, vat vould you say?”

(Many thanks to Nancy for sending me this)

The first step in the effort to be freed of need to consume opinion-based-thrills is to realize the context. Amazing paradoxical things can then be discovered!

In 25/05/10, Michael Handelzalts wrote an article in “Haaretz” under the title: “Off Record: When theater advertisements take the critic’s words out of context?”

“I wrote both short and long criticisms about a play (here in this section). Both were deadly. In the short criticism … I wrote that the play has “stuttering, and bad taste, and some kind of affection for garbage”. The long one had subtler comments, but it was certainly clear that I did not like the act. Very much. Very very much. And I was concerned by the fact that my opinion was outnumbered, and I dwelled on it, indeed writing in the short criticism the following (opening) sentence:

“I hardly know where to begin describing this evet: In the theatre hall … sat an audience and roared with pleased laughter, from watching three acts which I found to be somewhat between embarrassing, to sloppy, to nauseating”.

On the 18th, an ad was published in Haaretz’s “Arts & Leisure”, … stating they’re presenting … a never-ending comedy. Underneath was a box titled “Critical Acclaim” containing two quotes – one of which was: “In the hall … sat an audience and roared with pleased laughter…”, attributed to “Handelzalts, Haaretz”.

I have a vision!… Which may fit morning, noon or evening?

More and more I hear about politicians and members of parliament, who present opinions on the matters of the hour fitting one side of the political map, then change their views not only in face of upcoming elections, but also from one day to the next. The pace of events brings many people again and again to be grateful to the fact that the tongue lacks bones, and is therefore so flexible. Generally, we encounter more and more blurring of the classic separation to different political parties, when groups of politicians and public personalities belonging to opposite sides by their own declarations, cooperate in order to push forward certain agendas. I’ve also noticed the rising popularity of TV programs focusing on the expression of opinions, in which the dramatics of the debate are highly emphasized and the louder you voice your views – the better. The emphasis has changed from the essence and quality of what you’re saying to the way you express it. It was Moshe Sneh, I believe, who in notes to one of his own speeches wrote: “Weak argument. Raise voice here”. Maybe the shouting levels in the various debate arenas can testify for the lack of substance of the messages themselves, which hardly justify arguing over.

Never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining expertise. View life as a continuous learning experience.”

— Denis Waitley

In all aspects of life – the professional and educated opinion is losing its prestige and validity. Patients arrive to see the doctor after conducting organized searches on the internet, and challenge him with information he isn’t aware of yet. Health tips name new wonder foods or medicines on a daily basis, announce the discovery of a new responsible gene and astound us with controversial research conclusions (for example, that smoking can prevent Alzheimer). What happened to the times when people died just like the doctor predicted they would with his informed opinion, without him having to admit that the diagnosis was wrong from the start (one of the worst human crimes, if you ask me)? There’s a multitude of contradicting outlooks of the greatest experts on the economy and the stock markets – simultaneously foretelling both growth and crisis. The statistical truth is that eventually someone’s right (even a stopped watch tells the correct time twice a day), but usually there’s no guarantee to a successful prediction in the next upcoming crisis. Time and time again intelligence and espionage organizations, all-seeing and all-hearing, as well as academic internationally renowned experts, fail to predict political developments and crises around the globe.

And he who lives in a glass house…..

In a world in which everyone’s exposed, the saying about “the pot calling the kettle black” (or “If you spot it – you got it!”) has never been more valid. When you angrily attack who you think should be condemned to oblivion, the darkest and most hidden corners of your own being are too brought out to be examined under the bright media spotlights. No one can claim an absolute truth anymore. And regarding that event on the seas, in 2010, at last, we’ve almost been able to form a position and a public declaration concerning the Holocaust of the Armenian people, which took place in the years 1915-1918.

Eventually, everyone have their own views, right?

I must say I’m convinced, you know, that anyone who, say, claims anything is, like, kind’a like right?

Ok. We’re stuck. Now what?

Stuck. No story. There’re moments in life when you experience a stopping and a lack of motion. The heart continues beating, day follows night, but in the personal story’s sense – everything remains still. We fall off the bike that’s standing motionless, either as a result of being fed up with life’s routine (“just more of the same”), or of standing energy-less after having finally reached a long-desired peak. You understand that it’s time for a change and for hitting the road once more. You experience this sensation during guard-duty in the military, during long and tedious periods in your studies, in your office, in your personal relationships and in key moments in your life such as birth, midlife and death. I remember the last meaningful moment for me, when my father passed away six years ago. The feeling that I’ve seen all that’s to be seen and that life is basically “this” – no more, no less. It is then that I began the way of the “whole story”.

I have a feeling that in this situation of stillness and stuckness – existing in today’s national and worldwide social and public arenas, covered by a cacophony of opinions, info bits and chatters – there’s a big increase in the potential energy aspiring to be transformed into motion. Some of it might fall back to areas of crisis, confrontation and war. But there’s also a chance for new, better, directions. This is a time for skin-shedding. To shed by twisting our old protecting covers we’ve grown to be addicted to: “I tweet or shout therefore I am”, to get out and move in a new insecure space. The space of varying and personal stories’ network.

It’s best to start with the telling of the personal story, then to approach anyone whose affect on our lives is great and demand that he tell us his own. Not his opinions, not empty declarations about a glamorous future, and certainly not scares or threats: What is the story that you wish to tell us? What is the story that you owe us? It’s true that the situation’s complicated, that some information’s kept secret and that there’re many fears and many risks involved. It’s all true. And so – what is the road that you offer us to walk in? And what is your story concerning the important, main, fundamental matters of our lives – also about the case of Gilad Shalit, a strategic matter to the existence of our society here in this country? Because you and we just can’t sleep well at night unless we’ve done what should have been done to keep the power of mutual responsibility from falling apart. When we hear your story there’s a good chance we’ll be able to offer you lots of smart and creative ideas. And it’s important to keep in mind, generally, and even more so in specific cases such as this, that the philosophy of “Meanwhile the dog may die, the land owner may die or messiah may come” belongs to a generally smart culture (a wise person doesn’t enter situations that a smart person knows how to get out of), which might someday find itself, as it has before, being forcibly transported by trains to some unknown final destination, prematurely.

In his book “Story”, Robert McKee writes:

“The final cause for the decline of story runs very deep. Values, the positive/negative charges of life, are at the soul of our art. The writer shapes story around a perception of what’s worth living for, what’s worth dying for, what’s foolish to pursue, the meaning of justice, truth — the essential values. In decades past, writer and society more or less agreed on these questions, but more and more ours has become an age of moral and ethical cynicism, relativism and subjectivism — a great confusion of values. As the family disintegrates and sexual antagonisms arise, who, for example, feels he understands the nature of love? And how, if you do have a conviction, do you express it to an ever-more skeptical audience?”

This erosion of values has brought with it a corresponding erosion of story. Unlike writers in the past, we can assume nothing. First we must dig deeply into life to uncover new insights, new refinements of value and meaning, then create a story vehicle that expresses our interpretation to an increasingly agnostic world. No small Task. (page 17)

I feel it’s worth a shot. Even at home!

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