I Don’t Give A Shit

Okay, so yesterday I heard some guy is going around saying I don’t give a shit. Ticked me off. I steamed over it. After all, who the hell is going to tell me I don’t give a shit? But he didn’t tell me. He said it to other folks. It just got back to me. And now I’m going have a trouble liking this guy. What a nuisance.

He seemed all right before. Didn’t know him well but wanted to. Chatted a few times. Got the impression we were simpatico, and I don’t get a hell of lot of that sense around where I live. Now, in retrospect, I guess those conversations were just politics. Okay. It’s a political world. I don’t give a shit.

Most likely I don’t give a shit about some of the same shit he gives a shit about. In the context of the universe of which he is the center, my attitude probably does come off as more general. Context, if not everything, is a lot. And there’s no accounting for universes. We all make what sense we can out of the world, and we only have our own feeble perceptual and cognitive powers by which to construct the conceits we live by. Sometimes, when I get a glimpse into one of those worlds, I’m glad there are so many others.

I don’t have a need to get along with everybody. I don’t trust people who do. But that doesn’t mean I want to do anything about them. I just take it into account. Instinctively. Beyond that, I don’t give a shit. There’s too much else to do.

I like walking with people. I like it when there’s wine and the gab is good and we’re walking and picking up stuff along the way to make a noise with. I like the improvised syncopation that happens, the joyful stumbles, the sounds of voices charged with merriment. I like the word “merriment.” But when the route is mapped and the drumbeat insistent, I prefer to slip out. I disdain neat rows. The irrefragably programmatic. The very idea of like-mindedness as the highest aspiration makes my sinuses ache.

I kind of like that “build it and they will come” concept. But when it’s married to blaming the ghosts who don’t arrive, it loses meaning. They don’t come because there is greater nourishment elsewhere, or because there is some other place in that moment where they must be to manifest more according to their own lights. That’s obvious. It ought to be respected.

So what do I give a shit about? I don’t know. I think as long as there is food in the world, everybody ought to eat. As long there’s medicine, everybody ought to have what they need. As long as there are people, everybody ought to have a friend and a lover with whom to make crazy love all the time. I think there is nothing sweeter than a kiss, and I want everyone to know what that can be, to judge for themselves. I believe the world has a lot of hardness in it, and we ought to make things easier for the next person when we can. We ought to help one another find and do what each of us loves to do because, in the end, at the heart of things, it makes all the difference. The quality of our sleep depends on it. Every morning, we leave pieces of our dreams on our pillows. These get into the air we breathe.

I believe one of the greatest gifts we can give one another, one that is within the reach of everyone to give, is encouragement. The most remarkable state of being is not to be inspired but to inspire. And I know the value of that from having been given inspiration. And whatever the temple, no matter how tempting it is to appoint oneself gatekeeper, it’s better to “Unscrew the locks from the doors! Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!”[i]

Oh, and yeah, everything is personal. Everything. That’s probably why I was still so ticked when I started typing this. I wish I wasn’t so hot-headed sometimes. After all, it’s pretty stupid to get all fired up by hearsay. But I’m smiling now. In another couple of days, I’ll forget why I was so bothered in the first place. Maybe that means I don’t give a shit.



When any of you have a spare moment…

…if you feel up to it, please let me know what we are doing in our classes that is meaningful or significant in the lives of those we are charged to serve. I’m wondering about creative writing. I’m wondering about English, and I’m thinking we should stop teaching it. We should stop speaking it and thinking in it. Writing? Forget about it. We should only teach dead languages. If we’re just setting our unsuspecting (?) charges up for the dim fluorescence of corporate cubbies, give ‘em dead languages. If we teach what we are—and you’ve gotten a gander at the general condition of the professoriate, newbies and the more decrepit alike—dead languages are the only way to go. In theory. You know? I’m just saying. For the rest, I propose the prophetic gibberish of apocalyptic visions injected right into student brains if only for the explosive flash of momentary wonder. I’ll go first. It’s good pedagogy.

I mean, I hear faculty and students talking. Sometimes they’re talking to me, talking right at me, third eye to third eye, and I’m nodding my head, I’m nodding and nodding, but I’m thinking, “What? What the hell? How the fuck does this conversation improve my Kung Fu?”




You know, everybody’s working. Just ain’t everbody getting paid. Eating dust and being broke is about the worst gig there is. That’s on the hours and benefits alone. And sure, it’s the scare of that gig that keeps you pinned to the job and folks who are sucking life out of you—though some of them can’t help it: a black hole does what a black hole does. But, man, there’s them other ones, the ones who say, “Well, if you don’t like it heeeeere, nobody’s forcing you to stay. It’s a free country.”  Ain’t that a kick in the ass? Thank you sir, may I have another.

Anyway, here’s my nomination for a new national anthem, the better pledge of allegiance, or a rosary prayer for the goddam god of get a fucking clue.

Work Song by Dan Reeder

Again and Brand New

When my son, Noah, turned 12, he and I began a journey together to the time when he would become a Bar Mitzvah . I wanted something for him other than what I had experienced. It was. For both us.

Over the following year we read together—history, poetry, philosophy, sacred texts, prayers, short stories and novels. We watched films, looked at art, and listened to music. We tried our hands at some. We talked about it all. Asked questions. He decided he wanted to read Torah in Hebrew, so we studied together and learned to piece the sounds into words, and we discussed those words and what they might mean for us. He wanted to chant, so we downloaded the signs for the tropes and listened to recordings of the sounds they represented. Then we put them together with the words of his Haftarah.

It was not an easy year. I was working two jobs to keep us afloat. He had his schoolwork and music and all the things a boy of 12 has to do to be a boy of 12. But we did it. We made the time for it, because it meant a lot to both of us to spend that time together, he and I, on this journey. We each kept a journal of it, of our thoughts and impressions and things we wanted to remember. He has his. Someday, he’ll have the one I made.

On his 13th birthday, we went to the beach. No rabbi. No synagogue. Just him, his mom, his sister, me, and a small group of friends to make our minyan. Noah wore the tallit I had worn when I became a Bar Mitzvah. I wore the tallit that belonged to my grandfather.

Noah chanted beautifully. Afterwards, he spoke what he had in his heart to say about our year together, what he felt he had learned, and what it all meant to him. It was something. Then he and I left the group for a stroll along the edge of the water. I told him how proud I was of him, of how I admired him and loved him. I thanked him for the best year of my life. He put his arms around me and said, “It doesn’t have to stop now, does it?” “Of course not,” I told him. And it hasn’t.

Two years from now, this weekend, my daughter, Kezia, will become a Bat Mitzvah. One year from now, we begin. Really, we’ve already begun.
Kezia Ari