Tag Archives: the truth

Covering the Mirror.

 

The henna tinted haircut had become oily and matted. Clothes, twice worn, and I’d missed the shower in the a.m. It was nigh on 5:37, and the service was to begin at 6.

I looked a sight. Yet, the temple being a scant four minutes from the house, my heart told me that missing their open invitation would be the greater regret. Dabbing some under eye concealer, a bit of pink powder and a neutral lipstick, I fluffed what remained of the haircut, grabbed the short raincoat, and headed for State Street.

Turning left at the top of Cherry Street, my Pontiac soon joined a steady trough of traffic. Parking at the temple’s Jefferson Society lot was limited, and street options could extend north all the way down the hill if we didn’t get all the greens heading east. I wondered how many from as far away as Fairview had also accepted the invitation?

West of the stadium, cars were already lining the curb. But, two schoolbuses were also present, next to the academy. The stream of drivers was intended for their evening football game. My thymus relaxed, a little.

Reaching the temple, I was relieved to see a spot up from the Jefferson entrance. People were still walking from lot to front, and I joined them, hugging the mustard yellow rainjacket around my jeans to cut the wet chill. Sure enough, ladies were in mid calf skirts, men in dark dress, and then Jack, looking pensive, the news cam man who’d taken my one and only career black and white decades earlier. I resumed my customary cringe. Find a seat in the very back, slide in swiftly, say nothing. Stepping past the security guard and the packing, body armored special agent, I entered the foyer. There was Charles, standing at the door.

We greeted, me offering the self deprecating reference to shabby attire and he quick with the witty retort, something about God not caring and me hoping so. He, with his hearty, reassuring laugh.

My seat awaited, one of four in the far right rear row, two fellow Gentiles on either end. I sat beside Maria, who looked as Bavarian as if she’d just arrived from northern Minnesota.

The room was filling, rapidly. I recognized several, from various stages of my own history in our ageless community. The men, in their yarmulkes. A respected surgeon, in his, plus blue scrubs. An extremely tall gent, in his, ball of the hand curved over a carved walking stick. The current Erie County Executive. A former Mayor of Erie. At least two Mizrachi, with stronger noses in profile than hardly anyone saw anymore, likely never in a fashion rag. And, me, feeling every percentage of the Persian/Turk in my Ancestry.com DNA reveal.

I missed, quietly, Rabbi Len and Faith Lifshen, and their son, Moshe. This had been their temple, prior to the move south and Rabbi’s subsequent death. Turning to Maria I made mention of them, and pointed out the Ark of the Covenant glass encasement in the center of the altar. After my lengthy paragraph, she mentioned the Torah scrolls, me realizing that, yet again, I’d presumed the role of teacher rather than learner.

One of the last to enter was a short young woman, who chose the remaining seat beside me. She was the only female in a yarmulke within my sight line, and I hadn’t remembered ever seeing a woman wear one. Just as she became settled, removing her coat, around the aisle came a slender man who extended his open palm to the Gentile on the left end. He took the hand of each one of us in the back row, introducing himself and asking our names. He was the new Rabbi up from Pittsburgh, where he lived, to conduct the Shabbat Kaddish at Temple Brith Sholom.

This was my second Jewish service. At Yom Kippur, several musical colleagues and I had been invited to the other temple, across town, by another of us who, being a Jew, was slated to play the Kol Nidre on her flute. The rabbi that night was a woman, a guest from New York, and the remaining four vocal musicians and their pianist were all Gentiles but one.

The music at this Shabbat was all vocal. It was produced by the Rabbi, and his seasoned congregation.

After an earnest and warm welcome from, surprise! Doris, a retired teacher with whom I had worked nearly thirty years earlier, the rabbi explained in detail what we as the guests could expect from the service. He encouraged us to select a prayer book from the racks attached to the chairs in front of us. The prayer book pages were turned briskly, from rear to front, as the rabbi chanted in fluent Hebrew and the congregation sang along. I was reminded that, let alone a language strange to my tongue, unless I could see the notation my ability to retain a new melody was woeful. We sat, and stood; remained standing, and sat. Stood. Turned; bowed; sat, again. At each rise and return, a room filled with slightly damp athletic shoes squeaked, in chorus.

The Kaddish, Rabbi explained, was the congregational prayer, uttered in unison aloud. Some Shabbats were mourning Kaddish; this one would have two aspects, the first for private mourners and the second for the victims of the tragedy at Tree Of Life.

Just before the time had come to offer up the Kaddish, the Rabbi spoke in short sermon. He described the innumerable traditions which were the foundation of conservative Judaism. One point in particular spoke to me, as an aspect of mourning.

He said that Jews, by their nature and by their tradition, are open. They encourage emotional expression. Crying during mourning is a given. But, he also insisted, mourning was to be embodied. There would be no preparation of fine adornment; instead, Jews were to begin by eliminating bathing. They were to immerse themselves, entirely, in grief. And, to render this practice intently selfless, they were to cover all the mirrors in the house.

My eyes opened, wide. I looked at the Rabbi.

For that moment, and in the moments later, I stood in solidarity with God’s chosen people against both the recent horror and an entire epoch of vile hatred which had wrenched their global family. Soiled, unkempt; unclean, I was right there.

Out of body, present in spirit, I no longer saw myself.

Only Adonai.

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© 11/2/18    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.       littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Acquisitionist.

 

CHAPTER THIRTY SIX.

She wasn’t sure who had inserted the list of seven deadlies into the catholic penitential practice. Likely not an indulgent English King and surely not his God ( to whom all sins were created equal ), but regardless whence they’d come these were the generally recognized cardinal variety: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, rage, and sloth.

He’d conquered a couple of them.

To the observer, this one was never lazy. And, demonstrating rage being expressly forbidden in the unspoken code of professional conduct, if present, there were no witnesses. Likewise gluttony, as applied to the ingestion of substances; while inclined toward the fats of bacon and cheese, he’d never been seen packing it in.

But, the corporate organism had definitely found a host.

She’d been around long enough to remember life quite free of mendacious, monopolizing influence. There were still members of her family who rarely left home – home being the house, the homestead, the four walls and the rock garden out front of the furnished porch and the flowers and vegetables out back.

And, even those among her ilk who had escaped poverty on the most verdant side of old money could be found, after an elegant meal, reading an historical novel by a grand fire in the study, whose window overlooked a carefully cultivated rose garden, the latest recording of fine symphonic music filtering a rarified air punctuated only by perhaps the occasional waft of equally fine pipe tobacco.

Quite outside of such a truly removed scene, and squarely at the hub of all things prescient, he stood. Arms folded tightly against the chest, square head cocked, lips tightly closed and eyes lowered so as to feign genuine interest in his subject, not a native of these parts he resembled no one in the room, an aspect which drew an even greater degree of interest from those who clamored after social connection. He was the acquisitionist; one only stood near him if one had nothing to lose but one’s identity.

Does the wisdom of age render sin with greater clarity?

Turned out, she’d discovered the seven deadlies had been isolated by the Christian hermits – monks, living in Egypt. Perhaps solitude, and its accompanying reflective contemplation, rendered this clarity.  She only knew that the acquisitionist was never alone for very long. That which he’d been lusting after fed his envy, and his envy the greed which drove the grasping. As for that which he had managed to seize, the cloud of minions at his beck had seen to it that all who starved for a reason to feel important resounded the chorus of his affirmations at the altar of their own unwitting self sacrifice. It would take at least another decade before most of them would know the encroaching negation which floated along in his wake, waiting to lap up against their own saturated, wilting flesh.

Perhaps all that remained was pride. But, he’d feel enough of that for all the rest of them, put together.  In the end, they would be required simply to feel nothing.

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© 4/7/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo       All rights those of the author, whose insights these are, and whose name appears above this line. Go watch a movie. Thanks.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

The Truth.[ edited]

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Unheard of by the mainstream on any continent, the Plymouth Brethren were the collective, non-denominational Christian sect which held domain over the first twenty five years of my life. From infancy through the end of my university education I regularly heard, from their pulpit:

“We have The Truth.”

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But, of course, they didn’t.

They – their earliest Bible scholars hailing from Scotland and Ireland, establishing Assemblies in America by the late 1800s, enduring repeated schism through the 20th century, and continuing to splinter off across the threshold of the 21st –  just believed that they did.

And, this belief, once I realized that it was only a belief, set me on a quest which would become a theme, occupying my days for twenty five more years and beyond.

I’d embarked on my own, earnest search for the truth.

Only, this time, I would settle for nothing less.

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First, the intention was benign enough: just simply vow to always speak the truth. Seemed easy – never, knowingly, make a false statement, to anyone. I was confident that, were I to tell the truth, somehow nothing but the truth would return to me, in kind.

This confidence was uninformed.

As life took us all through various levels of schooling and gainful employ, it grew increasingly remarkable to me how frequently, and ably, those around me could toss off a lie.

My little brother, whom I genuinely loved, was particularly adept.

Too oblivious, and fearful, was I to realize that he had harnessed a tactic which, in many ways, was motivated by my own behavior; whenever he needed to assert himself in the eyes of both our parents and my [ then overshadowing ] presence, he’d pop another just as easily as a hen lays a hot one.

But, to my ears, the lies were both awe-inspiring and mildly frightening. I felt their power, the alternate reality they created, recognizing that all it took for that reality to take hold in our parents’ eyes was their trust in the veracity they had allegedly instilled in us. It would take years for me to realize that truth was a precious commodity, and that I was surrounded by imposters.

But, the fear of God had imbued me with a certain fortitude; I would honor the truth, all the more fervently.

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Few shared my passion.

Behavioral scientists had determined that those whose reality seemed hopeless would take to creating one in their own minds for solace. But, those who imposed theirs on others for personal gain were the real predators. Most had learned that trust was a vital prerequisite to contriving a convincing reality. Either these had been taught this by example, or some random experience had been brought to bear; whichever the case, trust was the liar’s first prey.

And, the liar succeeded by isolating the gullible, those whose trust, for whatever cause, was blindly automatic.

I was among their prime targets.

Initially, this made manifest in “the butt of the joke” which, of course, was yours truly.  Exploiting the trust of the gullible teaches that a lie can hurt, and I learned to feel its isolating pain.

Perhaps the memory of this pain dulled my resolve; admittedly, the time would come wherein my veracity would be tested.

The stage of life which presented the greatest challenge to my determined commitment to truth was young adulthood. A late bloomer by all standards, I was still living with my parents at age 25, following graduation from college. Once the opportunity arose to establish autonomy from them I moved out, while they were on vacation in Florida. My lifestyle, though hardly promiscuous by most standards, just prior to and following my leave taking I’d attempted to withhold from my family. This was my first venture into the realm of deceit.

And, because I had to justify this deceit in my own mind, rationale stepped up. Only one thing trumped full disclosure: the bonds of love. I needed my parents’ love, and that of my family; revealing everything about my life to them would have caused everyone involved pain, and created enmity, I decided.

Interestingly, now that I am older and fully autonomous, nothing about my life is hidden from anyone. There is no longer any motive for deceit.

(And, by way of history, my beloved brother cast off his childhood penchant in favor of a life as practical missionary. He has also, for 25 years, been the devoted husband to one wife, raised five boys, and repeatedly sacrificed his every personal desire in the service of his wife and family.)

Nevertheless, “bearing false witness” is the bane of both safe, and secure, existence. It renders a climate of suspicion, demands of its generation a degree of wariness that drains health, and obscures any possibility for mutual trust. A society of liars is, at best, one which renders its members in constant competition for power over the running story and the constituents in place to believe it.

All have known the discovery of a perpetrated lie. All know the stages of emotional response. And, all know the tenacious effects, long after the deed is done.

If I have a prayer at all, it is that humanity return to its earliest recognized truth, laying hold of and marketing its value to anyone who will hear. And, most of all, I pray for those with the courage to tell it.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  11/16/16     – All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your trustworthiness.

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