Bob Schwartz

Month: January, 2018

Grist for the Mill

Grist for the Mill

This mill does not live
By wheat alone
Barley spelt corn
Amaranth rice
Welcome and ground
Wherever whoever
Cultivates and harvests
This mill is for all
Who bake cook and eat
And might be hungry

©

Wakers and Woken

Wakers and Woken

No hand shakes my cover
No voice whispers or insists
Some are wakers
Some are woken
The birds sages
And morning remind me
Of the chaos and order
Awaiting beside my bed
Sleep over

©

Asked Whether He Can Read, Trump Holds Up a Bible

The Trump story floodgates are open, following today’s publication of Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. Those stories will be just as revealing as those in the book.

Today, Joe Scarborough writes about one of his experiences with Trump. Scarborough and his MSNBC cohost/girlfriend Mika Brzezinski were once supporters of Trump, until the reality of Trump came clear to them, with Trump then turning on them. Scarborough writes:

Mika Brzezinski and I had a tense meeting with Trump following what I considered to be a bumbling debate performance in September 2015. I asked the candidate a blunt question.

“Can you read?”

Awkward silence.

“I’m serious, Donald. Do you read?” I continued. “If someone wrote you a one-page paper on a policy, could you read it?”

Taken aback, Trump quietly responded that he could while holding up a Bible given to him by his mother. He then joked that he read it all the time.

The message here from Trump is typically vague and mysterious—and probably dishonest. Does he mean that since he reads the Bible all the time, he can and does read anything? Does he mean that since he reads the Bible, he doesn’t need to read anything else? Does he believe that just holding up the Bible will provide him protection from embarrassing questions? To return to a question addressed in Fire and Fury and asked in earnest by Scarborough, can and does Trump read?

“Roy Moores wife reveals their ‘Jewish attorney’ and he’s a Christian”

Here are excerpts of a report from AL.com in Alabama:

The wife of former U.S. Senate Republican nominee Roy Moore has revealed the identity of the Moores’ “Jewish attorney” she mentioned in a Dec. 11 speech….

“We read where we were against Jews – even calling us Nazis,” she wrote in an email to AL.com. “We have a Jewish lawyer working for us in our firm – Martin Wishnatsky. Judge hired him while Chief Justice, then I hired him at the Foundation.”

Wishnatsky, in an interview with AL.com, said he graduated from the law school at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., in 2012, was admitted to the Virginia Bar Association in October and interviewed with Moore after he was re-elected as chief justice in November 2012. Moore hired Wishnatsky and two other Liberty University School of Law graduates as full-time clerks in 2012, the first State Supreme Court clerks in the school’s history, according to a Liberty University press release.

Wishnatsky worked as a staff attorney at the Alabama Supreme Court from January 2013 until Moore was removed from office in 2016. Then he went to work as a staff attorney for the Foundation for Moral Law, which was founded by Roy Moore and where Kayla Moore works as president.

“I just moved down the street,” Wishnatsky said.

Wishnatsky, 73, said that he was born July 13, 1944, grew up in Asbury Park, N.J., attended Hebrew school at a Conservative synagogue and went through a bar mitzvah, but he considered his family secular, ethnic Jews, who were not very religious.

“My background is 100 percent Jewish,” he said. “My grandparents immigrated from Eastern Europe, and came through Ellis Island. My parents were born in Brooklyn during World War I. There were no manifestations of faith; we were Jewish, that’s why we went to synagogue and not a church. It was just an ethnic characteristic.”

 But Wishnatsky said he accepted Christ in his thirties. “I had an experience of the reality of God at 33,” Wishnatsky said. “I knew God was real but I wasn’t sure who he was.”

He became a Mormon first, then later became an evangelical Protestant Christian.

“I’m a Messianic Jew,” Wishnatsky said. “That’s the term they use for a Jewish person who has accepted Christ.”…

As for questions about whether an ethnic Jew who converts to Christianity is a Jew or a Christian, Wishnatsky replies:

“You’re both,” he said. “You’re a Jewish person that’s accepted Christ. Jesus was a Jew. Most Jews are not religious. That’s how I grew up. There are the Orthodox who are very serious about Judaism. It’s about whether you think God is real, and whether you’re accountable to him. It’s whether you take God seriously. It took me quite a few years to take God seriously.”

Wishnatsky appears to be intelligent, well-educated and sincerely faithful. He is also wrong in his conclusion that he is a Jew.

A tenet of classical Judaism is that a messiah will come. In modern times, many Jews have relinquished a belief in the coming of the messiah, while others believe that he will still be coming.

Some of the most dramatic moments in Jewish history are claims by individuals to be the promised messiah—Sabbatai Zvi in the 17th century, Jacob Frank in the 18th century, for example. All such claims were ultimately rejected by Judaism.

In one extraordinary case, a handful of Jews came to believe that a man named Jesus was the messiah. This handful was joined by a handful of non-Jews, and together that handful became billions.

Even with that Jesus phenomenon, however, Judaism never acknowledged that the messiah had yet come. The belief that Jesus is that messiah is antithetical to Judaism. Saying that you are a Jew does not make you a Jew, no matter how much in your heart you believe it. (There are also theological arguments to be made, particularly for Christians with certain trinitarian beliefs that do not fit Jewish monotheism, but that is another discussion for another day.)

I have had a fair amount of experience with messianic Jews, including a number in and around Alabama. Anyone who has read my writing knows of my respect for faith and the faithful. But respect for faith and the faith of others is not blind or mindless. Respectfully, Martin Wishnatsky may be a lot of things, but he is not a Jew. His saying so, and Mrs. Roy Moore vouching for him, won’t change that.

ABBA Saves the Day

So when you’re near me, darling, can’t you hear me, S.O.S.
The love you gave me, nothing else can save me, S.O.S.

Yeah, yeah, some things are messed up. But then ABBA’s Take a Chance came on the playlist. Things are still not all right, but for four minutes, it seemed like it.

Propulsive, like listening to a sleek Swedish train gliding down the tracks. Just try not moving your hips, no matter how spastic you think you look. Like Nick Lowe said in an album title, this is “Pure Pop for Now People.”

ABBA is my prescription for the day.

Transformation

I received a message from a friend who is a politician. A person of quality and bright prospects in an era of uncertain and sometimes shady and compromised politics. He wrote, “These are certainly interesting and potentially transformative times.”

That phrase “transformative times” stuck with me. As someone who writes so frequently about change, I know that I can also get mired in the seemingly static day-to-day messiness of our current public life (not to mention our private lives too). Opportunities for change and transformation abound, if we can see, hear and believe in them. Actually, change and transformation are the reality, like it or not.

By coincidence, this morning I came across a poem by Rilke about this very matter:

Earth, isn’t this what you want? To arise in us, invisible?
Is it not your dream, to enter us so wholly
there’s nothing left outside us to see?
What, if not transformation,
is your deepest purpose?
(The Ninth Duino Elegy)

So let us see, along with my friend, what we make of these transformative times.

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House

Veteran journalist Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House won’t be officially published until next week. Its revelations are already the biggest news story of the day, and will continue to be for a while. (Trump’s response to Steve Bannon’s incendiary quotes in the book is to say that after he fired Bannon, Bannon “lost his mind.”)

If you’d like to read extended excerpts before it is published, see New York Magazine. Plus, the magazine illustrations by Jeffrey Smith  are as extraordinarily dramatic as the content.

To Understand America 2018, Read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

We had the best education. We went to school every day. I only took the regular course. Reeling and Writhing to begin with. Then the different branches of Arithmetic—Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland now. Again if it’s been a while, and definitely now if for the first time.

Lewis Carroll (born Charles Dodgson, 1832-1898) was famously creative as a mathematician and logician. He wove puzzles and tortured logic all through his book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Puzzles and tortured logic seem likely to be a major component of America in 2018, as they were in 2017.

The leadership and the citizens of Wonderland are variously tyrannical, illogical, stupid, or just plain bizarre. Alice literally does not fit in. While she is only a child, she has more sense than everyone she meets combined.

If I had a news network like CNN, I’d interrupt the futile attempts to understand and explain what’s going on by having different news anchors read aloud one chapter from Alice in Wonderland every day. It would actually be more constructive—and more fun—than just listening to their trying to making sense of the nonsensical.

If Trump’s tweets were taken from Alice in Wonderland, would we know the difference? Would he?

Some Trump/Alice tweets:

We must have a trial. Really this morning I have nothing to do. With no jury or judge I’ll be Judge. I’ll be jury. I’ll try the whole cause and condemn you to death.

We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad. A dog growls when it’s angry and wags its tail when it’s pleased. Now I growl when I’m pleased and wag my tail when I’m angry. Therefore I’m mad.

Be what you would seem to be. Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.

You have no right to think. Just about as much right as pigs have to fly. I give you fair warning either you or your head must be off. Take your choice!

We had the best education. We went to school every day. I only took the regular course. Reeling and Writhing to begin with. Then the different branches of Arithmetic—Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.

Why Isn’t Popular Music Helping Save Us Again?

It may seem an exaggeration to say that popular music ever saved us. It moved us individually, socially, culturally, it inspired us. But did it ever really change things, change our direction?

It helped. America and most of the world were adrift after World War II. The culture of the 1930s and 1940s ran head on into the reality of a just-ended massive global war, the Holocaust, the atomic bomb, etc. Nobody asked popular music to evolve into a new soundtrack. It’s just that the old one seemed out of place, out of time, out of tune, like the piano player at a silent film.

We know what happened next. Music for a new world grew and took over. And when times were most challenging—civil rights and Vietnam for just a couple of examples—music was an anthemic driver. The music didn’t make new people, but new people needed their music. Protest. Psychedelic. Punk. Hip hop. On and on.

Now that we find ourselves in really strange times again, I am listening for a new soundtrack, waiting for it to make its move. Haven’t heard it yet. We do need inspiration, we do need motivation, we do need saving. Ask anyone who lived through some of the dynamic decades what the music meant to change and to them. Where is that music now?

Eve

Eve

Here it is yesterday
There it is tomorrow next year
Here it is winter
There it will be summer yesterday
An imaginary line spins
Centrifugating billions
Into celebration contemplation
Sleep quiet or restless
The sun laughs
The stars abide

©