Design sustenance and community happens
by Jhos Singer
I just returned from a few days of canvassing in Reno for Get Out The Vote. It also happened to be my mom’s 16th yahrtzeit. My mom was a radical, lefty, anarchist, freedom fighter, troublemaker, hell raiser…and creampuff. One moment she was screaming, “Stick it to the man!!” and the next she was bursting into tears after reading a Hallmark Mother’s Day card. She loved paradoxes, and she would have delighted to see our bunch of mostly Jewish activists, clergy, artists, journalists, writers, and other involved citizens stumbling into Circus Circus. We tromped through the maze of slot machines, indoor smokers, and scantily clad poker dealers on our way to uphold the big Jewish teaching of tzedek tzedek tirdof/justice, justice shall you pursue.
Despite her often snarky and somewhat intimidating exterior, my mom was a master of gathering community. She knew how to throw a not-to-be-missed party, she hosted political learning sessions in her house, she championed up and coming artists, and had a knack for generating enthusiasm for obscure musicians. When she was dying people flew in from Japan, Sweden, Italy, and all around the US to give her one last kiss, share a final joke, or receive one more morsel of advice. Her memorial was attended by hundreds of people, most of whom had never met each other. Their commonality was that they all loved to bask in the honest, tough, loving, wise, and insanely fun universe that she created.
I will always miss her physical presence, but she instilled in me an inalienable sense of courage to simply be myself, trusting that everything else that I needed would follow. In essence, this is the core of my spiritual path—and why Judaism continues to be a source of great inspiration for me. Its founders were all flawed people who had the courage to live lives of spiritual integrity. Like an oasis in the desert, they generated a new spring of wisdom from which we still drink.
“You don’t design community—you design sustenance and community happens.“
—Michael Reynolds, founder of Earthship Biotechture
This Shabbes we read Parashat Noach. Noach is described as being “righteous in his generation” – a bit of a backhanded compliment given that the generation in question is described as being ubiquitously violent and corrupt. So, I guess my mom was a descendant of Noach’s countercultural example. Noach followed his truth, and for that, God singled him out. The ark he and his family built and boarded was designed to sustain community, and allow a new future to form and flourish. What sustained them? Responsibility, abundance, challenge, and many opportunities to be courageous and cooperative.
As the election looms and despite the fear mongering that drones on and on, let us enter this Shabbes with a deep desire to imagine, design, and live together in a sustainable world—just as our ancestors (of either the recent or ancient variety) did. Ken y’hi ratzon/may it be so!