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Original

Is there a difference between emulating, copying and imitating? We all do one form or another of this. Every time I hear “a ton” of something in a written or television piece, I cringe. This is an example of someone or many imitating a word usage that is far beyond cliché, all the way into trite.

But what happens if you wear something I like and I want some item of clothing that is similar? It seems to me that if I buy an article that is exactly the same, I am copying you. If I buy an item that is similar, I am emulating. And with the possibility that I am poking fun or criticizing (not necessarily your taste in clothing), I am imitating.

This is fun because I am so specific about the words I use. To many others, the words may be interchangeable. And sometimes, the differences between them get blurry, depending on the age and sophistication of people involved.

Very often, I hear “don’t copy me” in the classroom. It rarely means, don’t write what I just wrote as compared to don’t do what I just did. Kids often decide that they are saying or doing something special and unique. Anyone who attempts a similar action or speech pattern is committing the infraction of copying.

If we make the comparison larger in scope, civil disobedience is copied or imitated behavior, but not emulated. But let’s not forget that imitation is reputedly the highest form of flattery. Does that mean that if you riot in your city, I am flattering you by rioting in mine? I think not.

The proverbial bottom line is that the behavior is copied if I don’t like it (or it’s illegal in the form of plagiarism). If it’s flattering, you are emulating me. You may be complimenting my style or methods or something I cannot identify. If you are imitating me, my best guess is that it’s a form of compliment, as long as it’s not verbatim imitation, another word for theft.

Most likely, I’ll probably engage in more word dissections as time continues. In the interim, feel free to ask for assistance rather than copying (appropriating) what I do. Shalom.

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Freedom

No matter how hard I try to understand, it simply eludes me how many people have so much trouble with following instructions. Just now I was at a local large department store with signs prominently notifying shoppers that all who want to shop there need to wear masks.

Although I didn’t count them, I’m certain that I saw at least five or six adults who either didn’t comply when entering the store or they had removed them once they were inside. If you have the virus and sneeze in my vicinity, you may have infected me, in spite of the fact that I was wearing my mask. Likewise, if someone else had it and sneezed in your space, you could now have the virus.

Maybe you think that the virus is a hoax and the 100,000+ people in this country who have died from it were coincidences. Or maybe you are Superman who has a powerful, invisible resistance to disease.

Being a rioter during our recent civil unrests doesn’t make you less the idiots. Most of the peaceful protesters wore masks although there was no such thing as social distancing. But the looters who had nothing to do with protests were jammed together and literally exposing themselves to each other’s germs/viruses. Try as I may, I can’t feel very sorry for those who become ill. But as Forrest Gump so aptly stated, “Stupid is as stupid does.” Stupid takes on a brand new meaning when you stupidly endanger others.

Seeing signs that quarantine is un-American or unconstitutional verifies that those who believe it have no understanding either about America or its constitution. Yes, you have Constitutional rights to many liberties, none of which is hurting others. People much smarter than you or I have determined that public health is protected through quarantine and social distancing. If you are more worried about your Constitutional freedoms than you are about potentially infecting me, we are going to fight.

This is the land of the free and the home of the brave. Be free and brave enough to trust those who are smarter than you. Shalom.

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Fear

What is it about fear that makes it easy to describe when we’re young and less so as we become older? It may be the fact that children have no reluctance about saying whatever is on their minds. Adults learn to develop filters that prevent them from saying many things, especially those that represent any appearance of weakness.

The best way I can describe this is by using myself as an example. On the most basic level, I am seriously afraid of rodents. While I’m not entirely sure why this is true, mice and rats have always seemed to be sneaky, evil creatures to be avoided.

Beyond that, I am much more private about my fears and I think that the same is true of most adults. Some of us fear death while others see it as another, perhaps peaceful life chapter. In the same sense, some of us fear dependence upon others while some have confidence that either they will not arrive at dependency or that those closest to them will provide support in a manner that preserves dignity and respect.

Much of our willingness or unwillingness to discuss our fears depends on the person listening. We’re not going to tell our neighbors about our most private and sensitive thoughts as much as we do our spouses, children and best friends.

I believe that it benefits us and those closest to us to ponder both our fears and our most sincere hopes. For instance, I hope to return to Europe for a visit to some specific locations, especially in Italy. But I don’t spend my energy on being afraid that I won’t get there. Along the same lines, I fervently hope that my recently completed book will be published and then purchased by those who can best benefit from it. But I refuse to be afraid that its publication will not come to pass.

As I feel is the case with many negative expenditures of time, fear of anything doesn’t work toward anything positive or desirable. In the classroom, I comfort children who are afraid because consolation is what they need most. Adults with fears – redirect that effort to predicting positive occurrences. The more you plan for them, the less you need to fear that they won’t come to pass. Shalom.

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Pets

Those who enjoy the ownership of pets often comment that they are as much a part of the family as children. In fact, if you ask many of them, they will refer to cats, dogs and other pets as their babies.

Because I’m not an expert on the presence or absence of souls, I cannot attest to whether or not pets have souls. The only reason I mention this is because we know for certain that pets have feelings and are capable of showing remorse, sympathy or affection.

My daughter recently disclosed the comments of her local vet who is treating her mini donkey for some sort of disease. Apparently, the disease is serious enough to warrant a specialist, in addition to other veterinary care. But when my daughter expressed concern for the donkey, her vet responded, “He’s only a donkey.” Wow.

For those who want to suggest that donkeys have no particular purpose or justification, I would respond, “What household tasks does your Siamese, toucan or lizard perform?” This little guy whom we’ll call JJ, is a treasured member of the family and is treated accordingly.

If you are a vet inclined to suggest, “He’s only a donkey,” what animals justify your obvious elite status? And what good does JJ need to fulfill in this family other than being a sweet little critter who brings enjoyment to adults and kids in the family.

On my daughter’s behalf, I issue this objection to the cruelty imposed by the vet who dismisses JJ as well as the copious family members or acquaintances who might suggest that JJ is worthless because he doesn’t do any sort of job. Save your commentary. What do the rest of the animals tended by the vet contribute to the greater good?

We don’t know if JJ has a soul or not, just as we don’t know if he is able to sense an air of disregard delivered by the vet. So let’s treat our animals with kindness, regardless of size, species or social status. This is a sweet little guy who means quite a bit to a select few people who mean a great deal to me. Shalom.

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Witnesses

For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing. Simon Wiesenthal

Those who study or have studied the Holocaust are necessarily familiar with the name of Simon Wiesenthal. Born in the Ukraine, Wiesenthal survived four concentration camps, living long enough to be a Nazi hunter and writer. His legacy of focus, strength and determination is a powerful and inspirational one.

This quote is especially significant to me in its timelessness and enduring truth. In our times, many are quick to complain about any subject at all. It may be government, politicians, climate, crime, unemployment – you name it.

The identity of “evil” depends on whom you ask. If you’re a Republican, the Democrats are evil. If you’re a Democrat, the Republicans wear the evil tag. But my view is that the majority of the complainers simply observe evil and take no action to rid the world of its struggles and troubles. My position is not to complain about anything – whether I can solve it or not. And if I can make changes, I would much rather take some type of action to correct than waste the time with complaints.

Imagine this: We establish a barter system; for every 10 minutes of complaining, you are required to complete ten minutes of community service. Imagine all of life’s evils that could be minimized or eradicated.

Of course, we would need to rely on the honor system so as not to establish a tyrannical form of government. Otherwise, complaints that are normally an egregious waste of time and energy can be converted into positive results.

Being a bystander can’t compare to being an upstander – one who goes to battle of some kind for what is right. Watching evil occur is inexcusable. My best guess is that much of the evil we witness can be counteracted or eliminated by intervention. Imagine the world that would emerge. Shalom.

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If I didn’t write

What would I do if I didn’t write? The art or practice of writing assumes two things – one is that the writer has the skills and vocabulary to write. The second assumption is that someone or multiples of people want to read what is written.

And what if, for some or any reason, the writer can or will no longer write. One might reasonably ask about what happens to the thoughts, feelings, ideas and observations that were previously expressed by keyboard. In my case, I’ve been writing this or that for so long, I can’t imagine not doing it.

Maybe painters, potters, sculptors, composers, musicians, landscape artists and architects express all of those commodities within their proprietary art forms. As a non-participant in any of them, I can’t have a reliable opinion. And so, I continue to wonder.

Because I can’t draw, sculpt, landscape or create architecture, none of those are viable for me. There are many more people out there who don’t write than those who do, many of whom appear to lead normal or acceptable lives but that doesn’t provide me with an attractive alternative. At this point, I’m thinking that it’s a bit late in my life to pursue formal training in any of the arts (other than music, in which I am going to perform as long as my vocal cords will allow). That leaves me to find other forms of self-expression if I elect to discontinue writing.

What if I created a combination Lego/Scrabble game where I could attach words to puzzle pieces and create three-dimensional poetry? It sounds good but I would need to create hundreds of pieces or restrict myself to very few words. And I am still writing.

Then there is the option of a pseudonym. In this case, I write the work, create an author name and see how people respond to that person’s name and work. But there is a problem here as well. Whether the literature is loved, hated or ignored, I still retain ownership. And I am still writing.

And so, it seems likely that I’ll stick with what I know. That should include fans, non-fans and those who are absolutely indifferent. But I will have satisfied my muse and use the best outlet available to express what is in my mind and my soul. Shalom.

 

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Mind and heart

A book that I recently completed included a quote from an elderly man to his son. The suggestion was that the father was on his death bed and he was imparting words by which his son should live. To paraphrase, he said that you can be robbed of everything except what you have learned and what is in your heart. Since reading the statement, I have dedicated quite a bit of thought to its current relevance.

During our time that is limited and identified by a deadly virus, many have found themselves quite alone, physically and psychologically. It is tough to have no options to leave home except for essentials and emergencies. For those unfortunate enough to be affected by the virus, isolation, quarantine and hospitalization are all solitary journeys.

What enables us to prevail? My quotation suggests that it is what we possess in our hearts and minds. I am not sufficiently naive to believe that only the strength of conviction will enable survival. Many other factors come into play, including medical procedures, seriousness of the virus, underlying medical issues, etc. But I do believe with all my heart, soul and mind that we cannot and will not survive without wanting very badly to do so.

To those who might be inclined to underestimate themselves, I hope that you derive strength from the power of your mind and intellect over your emotions. Medicine cannot calibrate or compute those entities but they function entirely on your welfare.

No-one can rob you of who you are unless you encourage and permit it. Your knowledge is your private stock of immunity. And your heart, for yourself and for those you cherish, is more powerful than any medical treatment. If you want to maximize your opportunities to prevail, trust your mind and your heart. Shalom.

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Let’s walk

When you think about going for a walk, what image does that conjure for you? Does it seem like something that old folks do? If you were young and agile, you would be running, right? Another alternative is that you walk when you have nothing better to do. Race walkers and those who walk in competitive races might disagree with your interpretation but that is not my point here.

One of the habits that I have come to identify as a special courtesy is to invite someone to go for a walk. The first images that come to my mind are two managers, in different positions, who would invite me to go for a walk, generally without a specific reason to do so. Sometimes we would walk to get coffee, sometimes we would walk to have some privacy about a certain issue and sometimes it was simply to spend some time.

Here we are, some years later, and I know that one of those managers has died. The other fell out of my circle of friends and I haven’t spoken with him in a number of years. But I still have very positive memories of that walking time and the information or observations that we shared.

Today is as good a time as any to invite someone for a walk or take one for yourself. Most of the time, I think about subjects other than walking while I am doing so. If I’m not alone, it is typical to carry on some form of conversation. But neither is obligatory. It is perfectly fine to observe the plants and animals along the way, to see how others garden and simply to breathe air that hasn’t been circulating in your home for days or weeks or months.

It is absolutely irrelevant to me that we are quarantined as far as walks are concerned. If someone with whom you would like to walk is at another part of your city or town, you may or may not be able to enjoy that person’s company. But it’s almost as good to extend the invitation for whenever the quarantine is over.

Take a walk, clear your mind and your lungs and appreciate the fact that you can put one foot in front of the other. That is a pleasure I will always enjoy and hope that there will not be any time when I cannot. Shalom.

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Remembering

As the Coronavirus proceeds with its deadly path through the world, we are often advised of the many thousands of people whom it has taken in the process. It is easy to become accustomed to these numbers but I would suggest that we all spend a moment of our time reflecting about the people that these numbers represent.

Recently, I found a statement often used in Judaism to honor the memories of those who have passed but it’s something I believe to be apropos at this time. The statement is often used to honor the memories of rabbis or other religious leaders and reads as follows: May the memory of the righteous be for a blessing.

We don’t use the word “righteous” very often but I am thinking that it applies to many of those whom we have lost. The doctors, nurses, caregivers and other health care workers who have died are certainly righteous. The teachers, scientists, parents, retail workers and everyone else who has served others and died in the process can easily be considered righteous.

Let us not trivialize our losses by thinking of large numbers or categories. All those who have succumbed to an illness that no-one anticipated or could prevent are heroes in my opinion. They are often those who were attending to the needs of others, often without concern for their own safety and without the appropriate protection. The families that they have left behind will never forget or be able to replace their presence and it disrespects their memories to think only of the class of people to whom they belong.

A lesson that emerges is that of appreciation. If you haven’t recently appreciated those who have survived the disease or have been so fortunate to have avoided it so far, express your gratitude for the existence and influence of those people. Any day without mourning is a good day and we are blessed not to say goodbye to our loved ones. May the memory of all the righteous be for a blessing. Shalom.

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Enough is enough

Finishing something as formidable as a book, the book that I have described as the defining work of my life, is a process leaving me extremely ambivalent. On the one hand, I am confident that the story is told, the critical points have been made and I have adequately covered the book’s central meaning. The expression that occurs to me is one that I heard frequently as a child, “Enough is enough.” From the competing perspective, how many areas could I expand or improve? It is a certainty that the book will undergo two or three or more edits before it is published and that should sufficient.

Enough is enough is an intriguing concept for me, especially right now. Arguably, there are entities or actions that can reach the state of enough. These would include learning, giving, teaching, traveled, observed and saved. At this moment, however, I could make a good case for the fact that we can have enough of very few things.

Is there such a thing as too much kindness? How about tolerance, generosity, contemplation, worship, gratitude, patience and love? Is it possible to love too much? In other words, I’m of the opinion that the quality of “enoughness” is  very rarely seen and desired less than it is observed.

Some might believe that I have taught enough for one lifetime. To that I say a hearty “no,” primarily because I love the entire process. Almost daily, I get an indescribable opportunity to encourage a child to reach for the moon and accomplish much more than anyone thinks he or she can. Does my health determine when I’ve taught enough? My answer is only when it prevents me from walking around a classroom. On a daily basis I miss being with my students.

Likewise, can we garden to the point of enough? Watching plants of all varieties grow is a joy that should have no limits, other than those dictated by space or budget. We cherish our family members but that process will never be more than enough. The same is true for feeling good, supporting the causes in which we believe and in my case, writing.

As I remember, the occasions for which I heard “enough is enough” probably had to do with spending money, staying up past bedtime or some other mundane context. And so I recommend, don’t let the idea of enough keep you from doing what you love and what makes you happy. There will never be enough tomorrows for you to run out of options. Shalom.