Friday, October 7, 2011

Yom Kippur

Tonight starts Yom Kippur and it feels really strange here, where I am now. It is the first time I am so isolated from any kind of Jewish community (other than over the internet). It is hard to remember, it is hard to make it different and meaningful... And it creates a lot of questions for myself: do I even care enough anymore?

Over the past few years I have been changing in my attitude toward religion in general and my own Jewish practice in particular. Coming out as lesbian opened doors to every kind of self-reflection. I was tired of lies, tired of living the way I thought I should have, instead of the way I believed was *my* way. I started to question everything, my motivations, my needs, my beliefs... Religion and devotion didn't stand a chance. I have had very old and strong roots in atheism and very rational, cold approach to religion. For years I tried to suffocate them as to fit in into what I thought I wanted. I really tried hard to be devoted orthodox Jewess, I took the whole package and didn't know there was another way. Now I am happily Jewish without the spirituality, ritual. I am not afraid to admit I feel disgusted with some aspects of our tradition, the same way I feel proud of other ones. Am I part of the modern "supermarket religion"? I pick and choose... except it's not exactly a religion anymore. Tradition? Belonging? Nationality? I don't know. Nationality probably not, as I don't really feel part of any nation. Maybe ethnicity? I guess that would be the best guess. I am still fascinated by the people being part of this rich tradition. The evolution of ideas, the social changes, the good and the bad. I love the craving for goodness, for social equality, struggles to achieve the most just society possible... they called it God and religion, for me it's more of a study in human nature and human socialization.

So what should I do with this day? Join in fast? I won't pray, as I don't think there is anything that listens. I could turn to the original meaning of the word "pray" in Hebrew, lehitpalel, which means self inspection, self-judgment... This is needed for every one, each person trying to live an honest life. We must check ourselves up once in a while... Not out of fear of punishment, but out of this ancient craving to reach goodness. I try to be an honest person, I am learning about my own prejudices, the stereotypes I still believe deep inside me, I don't trust my judgments and try to analyze them for possible biases. But I also know I don't do enough. Learning about today's Nobel Peace Prize reciepients I feel bad, that I dont' do more. Just understanding problems, thinking and learning about them is not enough, it's not a goal in itself, it's the means to reach something else. I try to do my part by educating others... but is it really enough? I hope I planted seads in my students that will help them question their own privilege, sensitize them to the inequality around them...

It's a new year, new beginning ... That's symbolism which probably speaks to everyone. It is quite fitting that my new company was established around Rosh Hashana. It is a new beginning for me... and I am terrified where it goes. I don't know if it succeeds, if I can support myself not to even mention my mother. I know nothing, I can only hope. But I won't pray, unless I take it with the humanistic approach: as an expression of personal hopes and wishes... If so, then I pray that my modest actions will join others in creating more equal, just and accepting world around us, one day at a time, one mind at a time.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What I have learned from watching Polish commercials

Not that they are that different to the American ones... I simply didn't know much about them, as I hardly ever watched any tv in the US. Now I am watching it a lot, mostly thanks to living with my Mom, who loves it and for whom it's the main (only?) source of entertainment.

I also never believed the world of advertisment to be on the frontier of the fight for gender equality or social education... it is though a nice mirror of the social expectations and the lower common ground with which the producers try to connect.


* Children and men have passions and hobbies, women just love to be with their families
* Mothers are the only ones who care for children's health. If men appear in medicine ads, it's as germs spreaders in need of the motherly care and help, along with their children.
* Beer is a male thing, and manhood is all about strength and machismo
* Poles are very prone to cold and flu, as well as digestive issues. They must be also concerned with thier figures (no surprise here). The cholesterol scare is also quite strong on this side of the pond... Miracle margarines and "healthy and safe" pills. *sigh*
* Polish mothers are supposed to be even more obsessed and terrified about every step of their children. The mass of children-oriented pills, candies and drinks that are supposed to pack the kids with immunity support, vitamins, and what not is quite impressive.
* Either the Poles are obsessed with, or are NOT obsessed enough according to the banks, with credits. The number of high-quality, star-packed, and really well-done ads about different kind of credits or saving options is astounding. The cellphone market must also be not saturated yet, another field with really good ads. This is the field in which I can see serious creativity, sense of humor and probably good money in the ads' production. I love the fashion for local cabaret* stars.
* Different kinds of milk snacks and sweets are more common to see in ads than chips or nachos and similar kind of stuff. And most of the ads seem to be done in Germany or other countries with just Polish dubbing...

* Polish "cabaret" (kabaret) is extremely popular, and it's kind of group stand up comedy.

Monday, October 3, 2011

and as usual, the feminists are responsible for everything.

I watched a morning talk show today, which by the way is really surprising to myself. The topic of their casual talk was why women like "bad boys". There was a psychologist, a writer and some other random people talking. One of the argued causes of this kind of behavior was lack of self appreciation and self worth in women. And how can you cure it? By hearing booty calls. I kid you not. One of these women said how great it was when she was in Italy and some guys called her "bella" and how great she felt, and that is needed for women to feel good. But it's impossible because the crazy feminsts cry "sexist!" "abuse!". It was actually a guy who basically said he would not whistle on a woman, and he refused behaving in that way, feeling a bit embarassed, as if he felt guilty for not treating women like a piece of meat!

So basically women to feel good about themselves still need men, and male gaze and sexual interest. I can't get this twisted logic. Having strong self worth is helpful in more situations than just getting into toxic relationships, but seriously, why still this kind of way of building it? And that was from some supposedly educated and sophisticated ladies.

so sad...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Is that a hypocrisy? Or just lack of sensitivity and thinking?

The Voice of Poland is a version of another similar program from the US (it might have a different origin, though). The idea is quite interesting - the judges are choosing singers while sitting with their backs to them, and as such judging their voices only. Great idea, and during a few rounds of the "search" step, there were only great, great vocals. But I had to cringe each time there were comments about the beauty of a singer. Like when someone didn't press the button to choose a particular contestant for his/her team, and after turning and seeing the woman he was complaining loudly what a pity it was because she was so pretty. So many times there were comments about the look, that even the singers tried sometimes to pull the conversation back to their vocal talents. It seems like the program's main idea, turned the attention even more to the looks, as a separate being, acknowledged, shown and flirted with all the time.

I still love the program, and the judges happen to be great musicians. I am looking forward to watching more episodes as teh quality of vocal abilities is amazing. But I hope I won't have to listen to more sexist comments, open flirting (with the contestants visibly uncomfortable at times) and innuendos. There is room for gentle flirting and honest complements about the looks, but without crossing the line.

well, it's been a while...

After a lot of changes, storms, travels and what not, I have decided to get back to my blog.
A short update: I am in Poland, living in my old childhood apartment and trying to find my way around here.

As of yesterday I am running my own, one-person company. I am scared, there is no way around it. I caught a basic English classes job, but very limited and more than part-time. My own company, I hope, will be the thing... I am scared where it goes. I hope to write books, translate them, write educational articles... I want to educate, bring something important, something that will be read. But for now, I am happy to do anything, I need money and I need it now... The shipping costs were more than twice what I thought, and I am running out of savings... But I am trying to be positive. That's all for an update, I hope to keep up with the blog a bit better than in the past :)