Meanie

 

I wish she had been nicer. Her comments on my YouTube hurt. And, while I know her petulance made her look bad, it also still really really hurt my feelings.
 
Let me start with some background.
 
I am pretty fastidious about quoting my sources. It’s a rabbi thing.
 
You can see it all over my writing and in my talks.
 
I like to give credit. I don’t want you to think I’ve come up with a quote or a thought if it was someone else’s idea.
 
And, I promise it was T.S. Elliot and not I who said, “If you dislike someone the way they hold their spoon will offend us. But if we like the, then, they could drop a whole plate of food on your lap and you wouldn’t mind.”
 
However, when I first published a video entitled Dump Out, Comfort In, I forgot to quote the source from which my wisdom originated. I might imagine somewhat excusable seeing that I’m still a bit shaken from having watched Annie fall.
 
The author was livid. 
And rude.
 

“Brian, Brian, Brian. How desperately unethical to quote directly from an article that you read, by Dr. S… S… and B… G…, and not give proper attribution. I’m tempted to report your breach of morality to the board of rabbis. Although, I seriously doubt if you are properly ordained, a Shanda.” 

She was right. I was wrong.

 
But she didn’t need to be so mean.
 
I explained myself in the next comment.
 
She let it be known that she didn’t care.
 
I apologized again and told her I would remedy it within a day and that I was trying my best.
 
She wrote that if I really cared, I would have fixed it rather than tell her
that I was going to fix it.
 
It hurt.
But I suppose she was trying her best too.
 
I’ve not written a piece published by the New York Times and then witnessed someone else was passing it off as their own.
 
I don’t know what that feels like.
 
But I know what it feels like when I’m having a particularly bad day.
 
Maybe she had gotten into a fight or was drunk and looking for a fight. Maybe her daughter was found dead in a car Thursday morning. Maybe she had blisters on her back, couldn’t get a good night’s sleep, and was exhausted. Maybe she was fired.
 
I don’t know. 
I just know she didn’t need to be mean to me.
 
  
 

Rabbi

“Do you want to know why people are assholes?” I ask the circle of twelve or so campers on couches and chairs in front of me.

 

It’s Magic Camp. Morning meditation time. It’s the 40th anniversary of my first visit when I was 9.

 

We’re in the large, sunken first-floor living room of Radnor dormitory of Bryn Mawr college. Just outside of Philly. The whole campus looks like a magical movie set.

 

I do morning meditation for the early risers. It’s a freeform 30 minutes of interactive Rabbi Brian time. Sometimes we meditate, sometime I do live improv philosophy. It’s loose and lovely. It was in this setting that a younger counselor referred to my drops of knowledge as “wisdom biscuits.”

 

I ask — partly rhetorically and partly to keep them engaged — “So do you want to know why people are assholes?”

 

A few light nods.

Good enough for a little after seven in the morning.

 

I speak while uncapping my sharpie and beginning to write on a sheet of 8.5 x 11. I do both at the same time—a bit of a dramatic teaching device – forcing them to be curious as to what I’m about to write as I speak.

 

Stagecraft is important. (I went to Magic Camp after all.)

 

What I’m about to tell you might sound like the dumbest thing that you’ve heard me say.

 

It’s just two sentences.

 

Short sentences.

 

And they are both obvious.

Neither seems to answer the question why people are assholes.

 

But, after I explain it, you’ll understand these words from Shantideva.

 

I turn the clipboard so they can see the words.

 

Fire is hot.

The sky sometimes has clouds.

 

I pause.

I know from past deliveries of this that there is a disconnect.

I ramp back up, slowly at first.

 

Would any of you argue that fire is hot?

How about taking issue with the sky for clouds?

Of course, we don’t debate these things. Why? Because it’s in the nature of fire to be hot. It’s in the nature of the sky to sometimes have clouds.

 

Another pause before the finale:

Why are people assholes?

Because it’s in our nature.

 
 
 
 
 
 

From Shame

It’s in the nature of a brilliant New York Times published author to be

mean.
 
It’s in the nature of people to hurt and to disappoint.
 
That’s just what people do.
 
I know not to argue with fire for being hot.
I know not to argue with the sky for sometimes having clouds.
I took the video down and put it back up with the proper attribution to her.
 
And, I still highly recommend everyone learn about her advice about mourning: “Dump out, Comfort in” is brilliant.
 
So.
 
Why did I take the original video with her obnoxious comments down? It’s for the same reason I edited the above graphic so you don’t see her name?
 
Because for her that must have been a moment of shame. And, I am going to purposely not link her name with shame.
 
You know what? Because it’s also in the nature of people to be tremendously classy.
 
 
 
 
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What we are really saying

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My classroom. North Portland. September 2016. This week, I will meet five new sets of students. It’s my seventh year as a full-time high school math teacher. Today is our second day and the second day that I’m not doing any mathematics in the classroom. I’m hoping to...

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