Archive for December, 2008

Welcome to the Blogsphere: From Darkness

December 31, 2008

I’m interested in non-pharmaceutical, soul-based responses to depression.  There are a few programs integrating the science and spirit of mental health and a few projects here and there, mostly the spheres are far apart.  Welcome to Borei Hoshech “Who Creates Darkness.” (found via Jewschool). From the ABOUT section:

This blog explores the weekday morning prayers in light of the contributors’ personal experiences with depression and anxiety, complemented by an analysis of what traditional Jewish sources have to say.

In addition to exploring the intersection between tefillah [prayer] and depression, an important secondary goal of this blog is to create a virtual community around reflections on Jewish religious practice in general from the point of view of people who have experienced depression and other mental illnesses.

The blog’s title, “Borei Hoshech” or “בוֹרֵא חֹשֶׁךְ,” means “who creates darkness,” and comes from the first blessing before the morning Shema. The full blessing reads:

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Fasting and Caged Cats

December 31, 2008

Peter Leithart drops pithy, counter-intuitive  biblical readings regularly on his blog.  Living more ascetic now than normal, I’m appreciative of this take on the Bible and the Body.

For many throughout church history, fasting is bound up with hostility to matter and the body.  We refrain from bodily pleasures of food and drink to train our souls in disembodied life.

That’s not biblical.  The biblical fast, as Isaiah 58 puts it, is to share food with the hungry and clothing with the naked.  The true fast gives good things away to those who don’t have them.

Biblical fasting, then, assumes the goodness of material things, and the propriety of pleasure.  After all, if good and drink and clothing are evil, why would we want to share them?  Isaiah’s fast assumes that creation is so good that we want everyone to have a piece of it.

The reason members of the Church began to value fasting as renunciation of the body is beyond my scope. I am concerned how a text loses its initial vitality and how a text is revivied.  Isaiah 58 illustrates this process. See reason for cat image below.

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Catching Up with 2 Poetic Images From Daily Living

December 24, 2008

I’ve thought about updating here numerous times since I arrived in Fall Village, CT 10 days ago.  Alas, I’m rarely sitting down at my laptop when I’m not exhausted.  I find myself quite content amid a flurry of work and snow.  However, I must get two ideas out before they are lost.

On the train to NYC I found a large, carpeted floor space in the last car to rest my weary back. I took my usual three deep breaths and a lower back disc slipped back into alignment. For about 3 years I’ve been able (or had to) do this a few times a day.  When the alignment is sufficiently off, my low back experiences a painful constriction of motion until this “crack” occurs.  This restores motion and eases painful pressure.

Prone on the train, a constellation of aging, body deterioration, and the soul’s growth connected in my mind’s night sky. Twenty years of ‘adult’ responses to anxiety and stimuli erode the body.  My lower back pain demands reduction of built up tension.  Breathing deeper, as this crack requires, calms nerves. Aches of aging train the spirit to confront its repression and shadow preparing for the long dark night of adulthood. (more…)

Taxicab Confessions — DC (microeconomics)

December 11, 2008

As I buckled up the car slowly began its journey.  The driver told me to ignore the extra dollar visible on the meter.  The fee to cover higher fuel costs ended last Thursday and he hasn’t figured out how to unset that feature. (Meters are a novel thing in DC proper, by the way.  2 months old?)

Conversation started about the benefit of lower gas prices to taxi drivers.  Then the driver announced suggestively, “What I want to know is how the price went up so fast and then down again.” I blogged last May on the poor reporting, each explanation pointing to different cavern ignorance. “I’m not happy with the reporting. There’s no clear explanation of these price changes. One reason for the drop, though, is the slowdown of the US economy. Less demand.”

“So how do they actually set prices,” he inquired.

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“Nip the Buds of Expectation”

December 9, 2008

“Winter in the soul is by no means a comfortable season, and if it be upon thee just now it will be very painful to thee; but there is this comfort, namely, that the Lord makes it. He sends the sharp blasts of adversity to nip the buds of expectation: He scattereth the hoar-frost like ashes over the once verdant meadows of our joy: He casteth forth his ice like morsels freezing the streams of our delight. He does it all, He is the great Winter King, and rules in the realms of frost, and therefore thou canst not murmur. Losses, crosses, heaviness, sickness, poverty, and a thousand other ills, are of the Lord’s sending, and come to us with wise design.” Spurgen (more info)

A similar theme here:

By not getting
What you want you become who you
Are: time permitting

[Line separation in original.  I was told the meter is off with the line breaks, but works otherwise]