These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

[Alumni Guest Post] this is how we go a-hunting

Posted on December 31, 2012 by The Director of Digital Media

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Olga Lempert (Year '06-'07) recently wrote this reflective piece 
on her blog:

Sometimes life can start seeming pretty lifeless, an automated performance of an oiled and synced robotic routine. When that happens, I have no choice but to set out looking for some new life to replenish my supply. I look everywhere.

Can my life be on the bottom of a coffee cup? I drink them all thoroughly, empty them, bottoms- them -up, making sure, a drop of vanilla milk for the sweetness and scent in which life certainly can be found.

Life may be hidden in the early morning hours, when it is still dark and nobody knows yet, nobody can see, nobody is there to sap out my liveliness, just the cold, pink sunrise and the bags of vegetables and bread tied to the doorknobs of yet-unopened restaurants.

It might be in the colorful identical dresses of the more exotic museum-goers, who stand around marveling, camera hands outstretched while we all self-importantly working-ant our way around them. In fact, my own camera hand holds some life of its own, and it is important when I am searching for life to take pictures of everything as clues to examine at leisure, trying to build up a true portrait of that life that I need to find.

Or perhaps my life is stretched on the line between the sun and the shade, such lines being hard and bright and few in the scorching summer; in the winter, might it be the same line, only going the other way, trying to catch some of those warming rays? Surprisingly, there is life to be found in fog. I open my eyes and open them again (the recipe for doing magic from I don’t remember which book) and step into the refreshing unknown, feeling more hopeful for it, because surely somewhere in all this invisibility there must be an untapped source of life for me.

My search continues on paper pages, handwriting crooked, atrophied in all these clickety-type years (I type faster than I write, but with more mistakes), hand surprised, following the pen-nib like a child follows its parent or teacher. Of course, my life could be between any two book pages, so I read feverishly, rifling through page after page on the bus, at night, at work, and there may be some life in my prided ability to read walking without ever hitting a lamppost.

Music has life, naturally, but keeps it mostly in the back room: the worried scattered notes of brass tucked behind a Klezmatics record, the bass weighing down Regina Spector’s high pitch, the sound of a singer taking a breath, the sudden hush between two songs when you look up and hear birds singing or buses rushing down the street or someone’s very good answer to who knows what question. There’s more life in humming than in singing proper sometimes, or singing in a group, melting into others’ voices, unsure whether the tune that is pouring into my throat is arriving from them or from within me.

Some of my life is stored securely in language: there will never be a shortage of life in the rivulets of English vocabulary, the delicate humor of verbs nouning and nouns verbed. Syntax is full of life and even puns are rife with it, or maybe rather the satisfaction of recognizing one. Synonyms and alliteration have me resuscitated, rejuvenated, revitalized, and alive anew.

The search for life is best done alone, in the privacy of my own mind, because being with other people is fueled with this scarce and valuable resource and demands much of it. Animals, however, have plenty of life and are usually willing to share, so working or playing with them helps in the struggle to refill the ever-emptying tank.

After a few days of such searching, hunting, scavenging for life and liveliness, I am ready to continue. I know, however, that this will not last forever, not even for long, and soon it will be time to search again.