What are some of the hard things you've done recently? What are some hard things you haven't gotten to yet, but need to do?
The torah portion begins with Moshe describing to the people the rewards they'll receive for following in God's ways -- people and flocks will be fruitful, crops will be bountiful, none will be barren, there'll be no sickness or plagues, and they'll be victorious over the other nations. This is one of several places where the torah describes rewards for doing mitzvot. This is hard to understand, though, because the world doesn't work this way -- we do have people who want children and are barren, we do have sickness, crops aren't always bountiful, and so on. The good sometimes suffer and the wicked sometimes flourish. So how are we supposed to understand this?
(Spoiler warning: I don't have deep answers to this age-old problem. I have some thoughts.)
One approach we could take is to place it in context. Moshe is speaking to the Israelites at the end of their 40-year trek to the promised land. They're standing on the shore of the Yarden, about to cross over and conquer the land after this speech. Perhaps Moshe is speaking to these people in this time. There's even an ambiguously-placed "in the land that He will give you" (in 7:13), so maybe this promise isn't for everybody forever.
That's not very satisfying, though. The torah is supposed to be eternal, for us and not just for them.
Another approach was taken by the rabbis at least as early as the mishna (in Pirke Avot): Olam HaBa, the world to come. If we aren't rewarded in this world, Olam HaZeh, then we will be later. There are even mitzvot for which we get rewarded in both; we list some of them in eilu d'varim in the morning service. We should still focus on this world, not obsess about an afterlife like some other religions do, but an afterlife gives another opportunity for reward. I'm not sure how satisfying this is to most people, either.
I'd like to propose two additional dimensions to what the torah says about rewards, two additional axes to consider.
The first is communal versus individual actions and rewards. Sometimes the torah addresses us in the singular and sometimes in the plural. Some rewards, like bountiful crops, are clearly communal -- it's pretty hard for me to have a good harvest with rain in its proper season and so on while my immediate neighbor has the opposite. Some rewards could be individual, like health. Obligations, too, come in individual and communal varieties; we all have individual obligations in the mitzvot, but the whole community together has some too, like setting up courts, bringing communal offerings, and conducting wars in particular ways. And sometimes individual obligations can bring communal rewards -- there's a rabbinic tradition that if every Jew in the world were to keep (the same) Shabbat once, we'd get the moshiach. Quite aside from the individual rewards for keeping Shabbat -- you get Shabbat, a day of rest -- there can be a big communal reward.
When looking for rewards for our actions, therefore, we should look to both our individual and our communal benefits. Even if you're not feeling personally rewarded for following torah, maybe you're helping your whole community live in safety, health, and comfort. That counts, too.
The second dimension is the question of whom we do mitzvot for.
The Reform movement is not a halachic movement. Ok, technically we do say that the ethical mitzvot are binding and it's only the ritual ones that are optional, but those ethical mitzvot align pretty well with values we already have anyway like not stealing, being honest in business, caring for the poor, and many others. Among the others, we choose -- sometimes as a community and sometimes individually -- which mitzvot have meaning to us and we do those. Many of us find meaning in Shabbat, in communal worship like our morning minyan, in study, in many social-justice pursuits, and more.
If our progressive values and halacha conflict, however, we reinterpret (occasionally) or set aside (usually) halacha. By and large, we do the mitzvot that we do for ourselves, for the good feelings they produce and the values they align with.
When we do mitzvot for ourselves, maybe that good feeling that we get is the reward for doing the mitzvah. That's fair -- we're rewarded here and now, in Olam HaZeh, for doing mitzvot. Isn't that what we wanted?
So we tend to do mitzvot for ourselves, but there's an alternative. If we believe that torah is mi Sinai, from God, then we should do mitzvot not for ourselves but for God. Even the goofy ones, the ones we don't understand and don't find personal meaning in. (I struggle with this, to be clear.) I don't know too many people who find spiritual fulfillment in sha'atnez, the law against combining linen and wool, but it's something God cares about. Last week a friend and I were talking about kitniyot, the additional foods that Ashkenazim don't eat during Pesach even though they're not chametz, forbidden grains. (A bunch of other foods got implicated by association.) My friend is a thoughtful, intelligent person who wrestles with torah and seeks to understand; he's not one to just say "tell me what to do and I'll do it". He told me that some of these decisions about kitniyot are clearly wrong -- but nonetheless the halachic system that God gave us produced this result, so he follows it. For God, not for himself.
The name of our portion, Eikev, comes from the same root as Ya'akov, heel-grabber. I don't remember where I heard this idea, but perhaps this word is meant to remind us not to trample on mitzvot just because we think they're minor or goofy. Who's to say which ones God most cares about?
What's the reward for doing mitzvot for God and not for us? Is there a reward for putting up with ridiculous-seeming food restrictions for Pesach, for waving greenery around on Sukkot, for checking fiber contents on our clothing, for separating meat and milk dishes, and many other things? When we're not doing mitzvot for our own benefit the rewards can be less clear, but if we have faith that God gave us the torah at all, why shouldn't we also have faith that God will deliver on His promises in some way at some time?
When looking at rewards for torah, either individual or communal, perhaps we should have less focus on specific rewards for specific deeds. Instead, let us do right and trust God to respond.
Word Count: 137
Warnings: Choose Not to Warn
Fandom: Criminal Minds, Highlander
AU: What Worlds We Weave
Series: The Travel Collection
Characters: Penelope Garcia
She's waiting for them to come home; her husband of nearly fourty years is picking up the daughter they adopted early in their marriage at the airport for a trip home. When she's told there's been an accident, the officers mistake her for that now-dead daughter. She doesn't correct them, doesn't rage or scream or grieve until they're gone.
Nothing is there to hold her back, and she lets herself fall into the dark. Becomes someone her earlier self wouldn't recognize - someone that Matthew almost doesn't recognize when the FBI catches up with her. He does, though, in the end, and convinces those higher up she'd be better offered a job than in prison.
Now, she's glad he did, because she has the best Watcher and the best team ever, and something to hold onto once more.
Starting now, the Poetry Fishbowl is open! Today's theme is "anything goes." You can ask for whatever you want. Favorite settings, characters, storylines, themes, etc. are encouraged. You may also request things you've wanted that I haven't done yet. If you have been saving any prompts that haven't matched a theme yet, now is the time to post those.
I will be checking this page periodically throughout the day. When people make suggestions, I'll pick some and weave them together into a poem ... and then another ... and so on. I'm hoping to get a lot of ideas and a lot of poems.
Stuck for ideas? You can find prompts by ...
* seconding someone else's prompt, which makes it more likely to get written.
* reminding me of something we discussed previously regarding a character or storyline.
* picking something from the Bingo Generator prompt lists.
* browsing my Serial Poetry page or QUILTBAG list for inspiration.
* naming a favorite character, setting, or storyline you'd like to see more of.
* looking up fun things on TV Tropes.
* requesting a poetic form (tanka, sonnet, etc.)
* plugging a favorite topic into your search engine and choosing a picture that looks interesting.
What Is a Poetry Fishbowl?
Writing is usually considered a solitary pursuit. One exception to this is a fascinating exercise called a "fishbowl." This has various forms, but all of them basically involve some kind of writing in public, usually with interaction between author and audience. A famous example is Harlan Ellison's series of "stories under glass" in which he sits in a bookstore window and writes a new story based on an idea that someone gives him. Writing classes sometimes include a version where students watch each other write, often with students calling out suggestions which are chalked up on the blackboard for those writing to use as inspiration.
In this online version of a Poetry Fishbowl, I begin by setting a theme; today's theme is "anything goes." I invite people to suggest characters, settings, and other things relating to that theme. Then I use those prompts as inspiration for writing poems.
I'm practicing cyberfunded creativity. If you enjoy what I'm doing and want to see more of it, please feed the Bard. The following options are currently available:
1) Sponsor the Fishbowl -- Here is a PayPal button for donations. There is no specific requirement, but $1 is the minimum recommended size for PayPal transactions since they take a cut from every one. You can also donate via check or money order sent by postal mail. If you make a donation and tell me about it, I promise to use one of your prompts. Anonymous donations are perfectly welcome, just won't get that perk. General donations will be tallied, and at the end of the fishbowl I’ll post a list of eligible poems based on the total funding; then the audience can vote on which they want to see posted.
2) Swim, Fishie, Swim! -- A feature in conjunction with fishbowl sponsorship is this progress meter showing the amount donated.
3) Buy It Now! -- Gakked from various e-auction sites, this feature allows you to sponsor a specific poem. If you don't want to wait for some editor to buy and publish my poem so you can read it, well, now you don't have to. Sponsoring a poem means that I will immediately post it on my blog for everyone to see, with the name of the sponsor (or another dedicate) if you wish; plus you get a nonexclusive publication right, so you can post it on your own blog or elsewhere as long as you keep the credits intact. You'll need to tell me the title of the poem you want to sponsor. I'm basing the prices on length, and they're comparable to what I typically make selling poetry to magazines (semi-pro rates according to Duotrope's Digest).
0-10 lines: $5
11-25 lines: $10
26-40 lines: $15
41-60 lines: $20
Poems over 60 lines, or with very intricate structure, fall into custom pricing.
4) Commission a scrapbook page. I can render a chosen poem in hardcopy format, on colorful paper, using archival materials for background and any embellishments. This will be suitable for framing or for adding to a scrapbook. Commission details are here. See latest photos of sample scrapbooked poems: "Sample Scrapbooked Poems 1-24-11"
5) Spread the word. Echo or link to this post on your LiveJournal, other blog, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Digg, StumbleUpon, or any other social network. Useful Twitter hashtags include #poetryfishbowl and #promptcall. Encourage people to come here and participate in the fishbowl. If you have room for it, including your own prompt will give your readers an idea of what the prompts should look like; ideally, update later to include the thumbnail of the poem I write, and a link to the poem if it gets published. If there is at least one new prompter or donor, I will post an extra freebie poem.
1) I customarily post replies to prompt posts telling people which of their prompts I'm using, with a brief description of the resulting poem(s). If you want to know what's available, watch for those "thumbnails."
2) You don't have to pay me to see a poem based on a prompt that you gave me. I try to send copies of poems to people, mostly using the LJ message function. (Anonymous prompters will miss this perk unless you give me your eddress.) These are for-your-eyes-only, though, not for sharing.
3) Sponsors of the Poetry Fishbowl in general, or of specific poems, will gain access to an extra post in appreciation of their generosity. While you're on the Donors list, you can view all of the custom-locked posts in that category. Click the "donors" tag to read the archive of those. I've also posted a list of other donor perks there. I customarily leave donor names on the list for two months, so you'll get to see the perk-post from this month and next.
4) After the Poetry Fishbowl concludes, I will post a list of unsold poems and their prices, to make it easier for folks to see what they might want to sponsor.
Feed the Fish!
Now's your chance to participate in the creative process by posting ideas for me to write about. Today's theme is "anything goes." I'll be soliciting ideas for ... anything at all! Favorite characters, ideas for new ones, plot twists, stop-trope repairs, strange settings, whatever tickles your fancy. Now's the time to bring out all your cool ideas that haven't quite fit a previous prompt call. If you manage to recommend a form that I don't recognize, I will probably pounce on it and ask you for its rules. I do have two editions of Lewis Turco's The Book of Forms which covers most common and many obscure forms.
I'll post at least one of the fishbowl poems here so you-all can enjoy it. (Remember, you get an extra freebie poem if someone new posts a prompt or makes a donation.) The rest of the poems will go into my archive for magazine submission.
(The epigraph to The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin, who is the 2016 Hugo Award winner for The Fifth Season, sequel is The Obelisk Gate; The Stone Sky is the third book, a book I just got today and immediately started reading.)
(Edited for an error in series titles.)
( Info back here, which devolves into stream of consciousness squee and literary memories pretty quickly. )
I really, really sharding well hope I didn't just creep out that author...
Feeling well enough physically to go do things outside. Feeling better mentally after going outside.
A long walk and a quick bus ride.
Photographs of bunnies courtesy of https://kaberabbits.tumblr.com/.
A cool breeze. The weather generally relenting a bit.
Views of Mt. Hood from the slopes of Mt. Tabor.
An enormous fallen tree covered in moss and the saplings growing out of it.
Getting my brain to be a notch or two quieter by writing and walking.
Sitting in the sunshine surrounded by tall grass and listening to birds and squirrels.
Taking photographs of assorted trees and flowers.
My stuffed animal friend Bunbun that I have had since I was born. (Technically before. Bunbun was given to my mom at a baby shower while she was pregnant with me.)
I had to quit early because the mosquitoes were eating me alive. That was ten minutes ago and I still have pink imprints of my hand on my thighs. I can actually count the fingers on one. The other slap marks have mostly faded.
EDIT 8/14/17: I went back out and picked up a bucket of sticks from the house back toward the eastern edge, then dumped that in the firepit.
Unsold Poems from the August 1, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl
Poetry Fishbowl Report for August 1, 2017
Nudibranchs on YouTube
Moment of Silence: Glen Campbell
Poem: "Find Yourself in the Garden"
Poem: "A Series of Transitions"
Poem: "Big Brother and the Cyberbully"
Moment of Silence: Haruo Nakajima
Poem: "Look at Me with Fresh Eyes"
There will be a bonus fishbowl on Tuesday, August 15 with a theme of "anything goes." Check your notes for whatever you wanted to prompt that hasn't matched a theme. Check your worthy causes and special interests for stuff I haven't covered yet that you would like to request. If you don't have ideas waiting, you can review your favorites and just name a character, setting, or storyline that you'd like to see more of -- I can supply more details from elsewhere. And I hope to see you tomorrow!
Poetry in Microfunding:
"The Inner Transition" belongs to Polychrome Heroics: Berettaflies. Valor's Widow finds out what Stylet has in his backpack. "The Order of Their Stars" is now complete. Astin and V visit a sex shop. "The Higher a Monkey Climbs" belongs to Polychrome Heroics. Pips gets worried about Jules and drops by for a visit. "Two Foxes" belongs to Polychrome Heroics: Iron Horses. Kenzie hears that the Iron Horses are going after the gaybashers, and feels uneasy over his own reactions.
Weather has been variously cool or mild. We've gotten a lot of yardwork done! Currently blooming: dandelions, marigolds, petunias, lantana, million bells, snapdragons, zinnias, firecracker plant, white and red clover, morning glories, spiderwort, echinacea, blackberry lilies, Queen Anne's lace, frost asters, cup plant, black-eyed Susan, torenia, purple aster, rose campion, some yellow thing in the wildflower garden, butterfly milkweed, thistle. Yellow coneflowers and naked ladies are almost done.
Some of you might remember me talking about a 15,000-word novelette I was working on between wrapping up Terminal Alliance and starting on Terminal Uprising.
That novelette is called “Imprinted,” and it’s the next Magic ex Libris story.
It’s about Jeneta Aboderin, and it’s set roughly eight months after the events of Revisionary.
I haven’t set a publication date yet. There’s a bit of work left to get everything ready, and with Terminal Alliance coming out in November, I’m guessing it will be available in January or February.
I also haven’t set a price. $2.99 would be ideal, because that’s where ebook royalty rates jump from 35% to 70%. What do you think? Does $2.99 seem fair for a 15,000-word story, or should I bump it down to $1.99 and take the royalties hit?
Finally, as long as you’re here, what do you think of the not-quite-finalized cover?
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.