Friday Night at 8: Heritage

Obligatory YouTube — The Harptones “OOH Wee Baby”:

I was reading NLinStPaul’s essay, Full-Blooded Americans and I read the linked article as well as the comments in the article, most of which agreed that heritage and culture and background were very important.

Reminded me of an old Jewish story from A Treasury of Jewish Folklore edited by Nathan Ausubel:

Usually the orthodox rabbis of Europe boasted distinguished rabbinical geneaologies, but Rabbi Yechiel of Ostrowce was an exception.  He was the son of a simple baker and he inherited some of the forthright qualities of a man of the people.

Once, when a number of rabbis had gathered at some festivity, each began to boast of his eminent rabbinical ancestors.  When Rabbi Yechiel’s turn came, he replied gravely, “In my family, I’m the first eminent ancestor.”

His colleagues were shocked by this piece of impudence, but said nothing.  Immediately after, the rabbis began to expound Torah.  Each one was asked to hold forth on a text culled from the sayings of one of his distinguished rabbinical ancestors.

One after another the rabbis delivered their learned dissertations.  At last it came time for Rabbi Yechiel to say something.  He arose and said, “My masters, my father was a baker.  He taught me that only fresh bread was appetizing and that I must avoid the stale.  This can also apply to learning.”

And with that Rabbi Yechiel sat down.

Last week I wrote about smashing idols.

Full-blooded Americans.  Aristocrats.  The Rich.  The Famous.  I guess here I would add “The Familiar.”

It sometimes happens that as we grow older, everthing seems to change so quickly and it can be very frightening.

So some of us decide to ignore all that and become sort of set in stone.

It is immensely comfortable to surround ourselves with familiar things and familiar thoughts and feelings.

I think that’s a rather formidable idol to smash.  Because although we all know the only thing you can count on in life is change, most of us don’t like change, and many of us fear it.

That’s ok, that’s understandable.

What causes problems, though, is when we make The Familiar our idol and anything that challenges The Familiar becomes something to fight against and destroy.

America is facing great changes.  Some of them are very scary indeed.  And some of the challenges we face are very new in our human history, given the level of technology and knowledge we have attained.

I won’t lie.  I’m not some brave heroine who is not afraid of the future.  I get very scared at times and downright terrified now and then.

But I do believe that if we’re going to solve the problems we now face, it’s far more important that the thinking we support be fresh and sensible than giving a higher value to the pedigree of who is doing the thinking.  It’s been said here and on other blogs many times … it’s the issues, not the personalities.

I am hoping that both in our political system and in our society, fresh voices come forth to be heard.  I’ve found a few in my prowling, but I’m looking for more and more.

Happy Friday to all.  In honor of The Familiar I shall post an another old doo-wop tune I happen to like … the Cookies singing “Don’t Say Nothing Bad (about my baby)” (the Cookies are also known for singing backup for Ray Charles as the Raelettes, if anyone is interested).


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  1. … nice for relaxing at the end of wage-slave week.

    Doo-wop — in the Cookies’ video, you see all the white kids dancing.

    Their parents weren’t thrilled with that dangerous rock and roll stuff (read: black music).

    The history of rock and roll is all about a “fresh” voice.

    And the young folks changed … I’m glad they did.

    • Alma on May 17, 2008 at 2:06 am

    I’m not into deep thinking tonight, I feel like shit.  

    I don’t fear cultural, or societal change, but I hate changes in something like programs, or appliances.  Just learn to use the suckers and they totally change it.

    • Robyn on May 17, 2008 at 2:07 am

    Wish I had sound…guess I’ll have to fire up Debbie’s Mac.

  2. Fear is a reflex!

    As soon as one asks “What am I truly afraid of?”….9 times out of ten it vanishes. The tenth time it defines what the fear actually is, and translates it into the …familiar… and enables us to act. Action and understanding are the antidotes to fear.

    After all, things really can’t get MUCH worse……can they?

    All we have to fear is…….

  3. In a strange way, sometimes I feel gratitude to my family in that they gave me such a huge dose of staleness, that my thirst for the challenge of the fresh has been almost unquenchable.

    I struggle at times to harness my boredom with the status quo. And I have to remind myself how much that can frighten people.

    And I also love your links. Hope folks will click through and get a dose of the richness.  

  4. we’re really left with the choice of whether to watch the changes from the sidelines, or help affect the change.  people’s fearful clinging to their long-helds, and their insistence that they can stop changes or at least forestall them…those are tragic wastes of mental energy.

    …and now that BOTH major political parties are ‘the party of change’…….heh 😉

    • geomoo on May 17, 2008 at 3:49 am

    • kj on May 17, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    is that the story behind Jacob the Baker?

    • kj on May 17, 2008 at 8:11 pm

    at myself for making flip comments in a diary with this depth.  😉

    i chafe against “Beginner’s Mind” and staying in the now, although that is where i make the decision to live most of the time.  i call it by all sorts of names, depending on the technique i’m using.  “primary process” is the one where i demand of myself to see grace in whatever is in front of my eyes.  i love the process, i love the result, but there is this thing inside, like the little engine that could, that keeps me stirred up to go, move, do, get somewhere.  this attribute, or whatever it is, drives my husband crazy.  he is very good at ‘now’ but he is also very good at going with the flow. i sort of just stop. it’s very difficult for me to go with the flow, probably because i’m trying to direct it to flow more efficiently.

    when we travel, i like to be the one that drives. control issues, obviously.   😉

    in writing, it’s the difference between being the writer who writes, typos, grammar mistakes mixed metaphors and all, and the editor who is trying to clean up the flow as it’s flowing.  Jeckle and Hyde.

    • kj on May 17, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    we used my mother’s good china every Sunday. in those days, dishes were washed by hand. i lived in fear of my sister’s warnings that i wasn’t careful enough and i was going to be the horrible child that broke a dish and ruined my mother’s “set.”  the minute i left home, i made a vow that i would:

    a) never own a “set” of anything

    b) not care one tiny bit if something precious broke

    good decisions, because i married someone who is almost as big a klutz as i am and together we’ve broken or chipped or dented every single item of any value that’s come into our lives.  (on this one count alone, i have stories! of spectacular moments of breakage!)

    i think this is nothing more than a preparation for change. “Everything dies, baby, that’s a fact.”

    I read Terry Tempest Williams’ book “Refuge” when it came out.  Highly recommend it.  When we die, we let go of everything.  Every thing, every one, every sense.  We’re all going to die. So living in the present is a way of dying all the time, and living eternity.  am okay with it.  again, it’s the flow thing i can’t quite master… or “let go” of.  flow scares me, although i find it exhilarating  😉

    • eeff on May 18, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    Comment on docudharma!

    jumping in is hard to do !

    doo-wops are cool

    I’ve heard Don’t say nothing a time or two, but the Harpoones are new

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