Monday, November 28, 2005

Jaded on Shidduchim

I know that everything happens in it's own time, but. I remember the last few months I was in yeshiva after letting the rabbis know I was going to law school, I waited every day hoping to hear from one of the rabbis that they found someone that they thought would be good for me. Usually, when a bochur (a rabbinical student) prepares to leave yeshiva, the rabbis set him up with a woman to marry so that he will not go out into the world of sex, drugs, and negative influences alone. I was saddened when the rabbis never set me up with anybody. Then, after my rabbi from home and his wife told me they have started the search, again for months and years while I was in law school, I waited every day, calling them every day hoping to hear good news that something (someone) has come up, but those times were few and far between.

Each time I was introduced to someone, there was something seriously wrong with them. Either they had a terminal disease, or they had emotional problems which would cause problems in the marriage. If they were somewhat normal, then they had expectations of me which I did not meet because I was either too religious or not religious enough. These were the issues.

Lately, I have been jaded by 1) the lack of women I've been meeting, and 2) the lack of quality of the women I have been introduced to when once every six or seven months they call me up to tell me that they have found the perfect girl for me.

I would say that most of all, I am lonely, and I am no longer buying the pitch that "if you are religious and you are a good person, G-d will set up a shidduch for you." I don't know if I believe that there are good quality women here in the religious world, and if so, I don't believe that I will be introduced to them. Therefore, I have lost my desire to date and to continue on this shidduch path. I am no longer expecting anything grand to come from these shidduchim, and if I am to find a wife, I fear that I will have to step on my rabbi and his wife who have been trying tirelessly to find a wife for me and I will have to find one on my own.

I do not plan on doing this until after I pass my bar, however. I feel that giving them five or six years of my youth is a significant amount of time, and as of now, I am no longer twenty-three years old, but now I am twenty-eight and nothing has happened when it comes to shidduchim. This is funny because the main reason I committed to becoming religious was because I believed that through being religious, I would be able to find a good wife.

I am feeling jaded, and I no longer believe this is true.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Father as the Child in the Family

I don't know who is the adult in my family -- me, or my father. I find myself telling him to turn down the volume of the television because the walls of my room are shaking. I find myself telling him to clean up after himself when he eats. I find myself telling him to put his things away so as not to mess up the house, but he continues to leave everything a mess.

I don't want this blog to be another father-bashing blog entry, but this is how I am feeling. Because of nights like tonight I ask myself whether I would prefer to live the unrestricted immature selfish and meaningless life my father lives, or the meaningful, yet depravitive live that a chassidic person devoid of fun and secular activities seemingly lives. I know these aren't the only choices and my facts aren't entirely correct, but I have a tendency to see truth as black and white rather than shades of grey.

Truth IS black and white, not greys. However, living fully in black and white is simply not practable and I simply will not survive in that world. My secular temptations and drives are far to strong to even contemplate that holy and purity of an existence. I am anything but a puritan. Plus, G-d DID create greys, did he not?

I took a bath tonight, and while I was sitting in the tub, I contemplated what kind of woman I'd want to marry. I've decided again on a modern-chassidic one. This is nothing new, but I am at the point where I want to stop kidding myself as to wanting a fully chassidish, religious girl. In my heart, I do want this, but the girls I have been introduced to so far have lacked the attributes that would make her compatible with me, namely they lack a spark of life, and the truly religious ones don't and can't relate to the temptings of even a kosher secular life. I am beginning to think that this kind of girl I am looking for -- a girl with a spark -- does not exist in the religious world, and that I don't belong fully frum in appearance either.

Anyway, my mood has changed in the last two days. I have gone from depression to anger. It is not a good thing to feel baseless anger, of course, but any change away from depression is a positive one. I called my father a "child" to his face this evening when he, walking around in his tidy whities, complained that 70 degrees in the house was too cold when it is around 30 degrees outside. He wanted to raise the heat, and when I told him instead to put something on and when he refused, I called him a child. This is after me telling him not to blast the television twice in a row. I'd also tell him that sitting twelve inches in front of the television is unhealthy, but I am not his father. I wish I had a father figure and not a fifty-seven year old child running practically naked around the house.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Kashrut in a Non-Kosher Home

My father has been kicking up the level of non-kosher food in the house to the point that I am beginning to get nervous about him using my utensils for his non-kosher foods and not telling me about it.

First it was the old non-kosher plates that began showing up in the house. Then the non-kosher food started showing up in the refrigerator. Then he started cooking non-cholov yisroel but kosher popcorn in the cholov-yisroel milchig microwave. Then he bought a steak with my brother and wanted to cook it in the kosher stove; I stopped him after an argument. Then he bought his own microwave and more non-kosher food has poured into the house to the point that I need to be checking hechures (kosher certification symbols) each time I pick something out of the refrigerator. Then my coffee cups began showing up in my sink without me using them. He promises me that only soy milk was used in them and not the milk he has in the refrigerator which I won't drink.

Most recently, tonight he wanted to use my can opener to open his cans of pork and beans. "What can be non-kosher about them?" he asked. When I told him that a can opener costs seventy-five cents and he could buy one at any store, he got his keys and just walked out of the house into the rain. I think he is going to buy a can opener.

Men's Chassidic Clothing

To the person who inspired this post, I thank you. While answering your questions, I also reminded myself of why it is important to dress in the ways that I was myself questioning. If you will forgive me for posting my answer to you on this blog -- I feel that it is important to share this with others like me and you who have questions about what Chassidic dress is required, what is not, what components are important, and what attention needs to be paid to the details when dressing, and why each piece of dress is important.

The karpota and belt are worn by a married guy, and I'm not yet married, so all I wear is the beard, the tzitzis, and the black suit with a white shirt -- this is on the days that I'm not wearing a colored shirt which chassidic people also wear, or jogging pants and a tee-shirt which you'll almost never find chassidic people wearing.

...There is no need for a black hat; a double head covering (i.e. yalmukah plus any covering, even a baseball cap) when you pray will suffice according to Kabbalah which is where the hat custom came from.

As for the gartel (the belt), some people just use a stretchy string to tie around their waste to hold down the tzitzis. According to kabbalah, this also serves to separate the bottom half of the body and its desires from the heart and the top half of the body. I don't do this, but when I am married, I will wear a gartel when I pray, which is the custom.

The karpota (long coat) serves no purpose except fashion as far as I know. There is a kabbalistic concept of wearing a silk robe, [and I don't know the reason for this], but karpotas are usually not silk, and some people wear a silk karpota under their regular karpota.

So as you see, the type of hat does not matter. The jacket is just a jacket as far as I'm aware and it serves no purpose except to look nice. The suit is just a regular suit, as one would find in any suit store -- no particular style for any of these things is halachically necessary, and as for kabbalistic reasons, which is what I think you are asking about, the important thing with a hat is to have the double head covering when you pray, even if you use a tissue under the yalmukah (don't let people see because it looks dumb) or a baseball cap over it.

If you want to get fancy, there is a concept in Chassidic thought of Chesed (kindness) and Gevurah (strength / stringency), where the right hand side is a manifestation of Chesed and the left hand side is a manifestation of Gevurah, therefore the right side should preempt the left side in almost whatever you do (i.e. put on shirts or jackets with the right arm first, and you put on pants, socks, and shoes with the right leg first. [You tie the left shoe first, but that is because the tefillin which one should put on every day during prayer is tied on the left side). Other than the tefillin exception, many people are careful to always eat with the right hand and to even look at people focusing through the right eye. This is extreme, but I am answering your question. In line with this, some people sew an extra button on the inside of their jacket so that they can close it with the right side over the left side, which is opposite from the way jackets are typically closed. There's a bit of extremist Chassidic philosophy for you -- but in some respects, for example putting on clothing with the right hand first, this is halacha (Jewish law) and so it should be followed. However, buttoning the right side over the left, looking through the right eye, holding things with the right hand are not requirements and are far beyond any requirement, custom, or law.

But more fundamentally, it is important to always wear the yalmukah (according to kabbalah, even in bed) before you start thinking about all the extra head coverings. It is most important (if you are not already doing so) to wear the tzitzis (according to kabbalah, to wear them all the time even at night, but don't designate the a pair of tzitzis a night garment or else they won't be kosher even during the day; just wear them into the night) before you start concerning yourself about the gartel (belt). It is more important to dress modestly in black and white (although there is NO jewish law requirement for this, it is purely kabbalistic and modest) before you start looking into karpotas or jackets. Any dark blue or black pants will suffice, and any button down white (or colored shirt) will suffice. Men typically wear a jacket (even any blazer or sweater will suffice) when praying. I hope I have answered your question.

Interestingly enough, by answering your question, I was reminded why we wear black and white. It is for kabbalistic reasons. I forgot this over the past few months while I've been ranting and raving about this dogma, I forgot that there is actually a good purpose for this. Being that in my world of law filled with attorneys and fashion-conscious people, I will continue to wear colored shirts from time to time, and I will continue to wear a tie from time to time (which kabbalistically one should not do because it separates the heart from the brain). However, now that I have remembered why chassidic people dress in black and white, I will feel more spiritual when I too dress in black in white, because I will be reminded of why people do so in the first place.

I thank you for this.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Fear of failure after failure after...

A bad mood suddenly came over me to the point that I had to write it down or just let it pass. It is 10pm, and I am starting to get tired, but what I wanted to communicate is the feeling that sometimes as a person nears the later years of his or her twenties, one looks back and sighs from the important accomplishments one has achieved in the last ten years. My story is not that supreme.

I feel that most of my life, I have been recovering from one shipwreck or another, whereas I would take on a task, work hard at it, and then through external factors, the task would fall apart and I would be left with a disaster on my hands.

In college, I spend four years working hard to get admitted to medical school to become a doctor. One day after years of effort, upon sending out my resume to all of the medical schools I applied to, I noticed that the school sent my transcript out to all the schools with an error so destructive that I had to withdraw all of my applications.

Then I worked a number of home-based businesses and multi-level marketing programs and I lost money on every one, even though I gave each one my best effort. On some, I even was successful in reaching the objectives set out for me by the company, and then the president of the company would run away with all of the money and not pay the commissions due, or he would dissolve the company and everyone involved would lose everything they invested into the business.

Then years later when I went back to school to become a doctor again after working for a few years, my plans were destroyed by external factors because it was at that time that I was beginning to become religious, and I learned that a Cohen (a descendant of the Jewish High Priests, sorry for the crude description) cannot be a doctor. No exceptions. I decided to stay in yeshiva instead and I became religious.

Additionally, there were many other factors in play at the same time, I was dating a girl who was religious, and I had no compunctions to drive over to visit her on Shabbos (Sabbath), because it meant nothing to me at the time because I did not yet know that I was obligated to be religious -- I thought it was just something nice to do and to be. For me, eating kosher was choosing to eat a dairy meal at a non-kosher restaurant. Before I became religious, the girl used to tell me that she couldn't consider a serious relationship with me because I wasn't religious. As I became religious, she broke up with me because according to her I became too religious.

Then I was hired by a mortgage bank who promised a high-five figure salary, but when I did exactly as they instructed and over a period of months I brought in the mortgages and built the mortgage business, the bank (my employer) decided to stop paying the salaries and started having "accounting errors" which deprived people -- myself included -- on their commissions, which amounted to thousands of dollars of salary that I needed to spend almost two years suing to recover only part of it. I continued to work despite the diminished commission status and the disputed amounts owed to me, and then September 11th, 2001 wiped out my business, which ultimately led me to go back to yeshiva for a few good years of my life.

There were many other occurrences, but I suppose the point is that I feel that most of my life has been spent trying to make something of myself, and most of my life has been a whole cholent (slew) of disasters and failures. I have not mentioned most of these stories because I fear that the stories I have already disclosed will certainly tell at least some of the readers from my circles who I am and my true identity, something I wish to keep secret so that I can continue to express myself candidly without fear of hurting people's feelings or needing to conform to someone else's idea of how things should be.

I often wonder if I had known that I would fail in so many areas of my life, would I have worked so hard to invest thousands of dollars in many businesses, would I have given thousands of dollars and thousands of hours of my life to various causes and to various employers, and would I have devoted my life to various ideologies that have failed me over the years?

My whole life has been one big search trying to find Truth, some comfort, and a little bit of peace. This journey has landed me today in my last year of law school, frum, single, and almost into my thirties. I wonder when these failings will stop, and when I will come home to a real life and home that I have built together with someone else, and when I can be able to say good bye to the fragmented painful existence of grinning and bearing one failure after another while I still give my all.

The question is whether I would have done everything I have done had I known that I would have failed over and over again. Then again, at least I can have pride that at least I went for something and I gave it everything I had and even though it failed me, I have the satisfaction that I never failed it, whatever endeavor "it" might have been during my past.

My only fear is that the cycle of failure will not stop and that I will never find a wife and that I will not find a job after law school and I will be a poor, sad, and lonely forty or fifty year old who didn't even live the broken life that his parents lived. At least they lived a family life by the time they were my age, whereas all that I've done is manage one failure after another, and all I do each day is fill it with subjects such as Patent Law, Secured Transactions, Constitutional Law, and bar review.

Finding a Modern Chassidic Girl

I had an intense conversation with my rabbi this Shabbos over the concept of being Modern Chassidic, although we didn't use those words, per se. I told him that it bothers me that some women might look down on me by the fact that I like to listen to secular music, or by the fact that I enjoy watching DVDs if I ever have the time to do so with my now ultra-busy schedule. Then to spark the conversation, I asked the rabbi if he himself would ever go to a smoky jazz club to listen to music and have drinks.

When he said he wouldn't personally go to such a place because he is more interested in other activities, he made sure to clarify that there are a lot of things that would not be violative of Jewish law, but nevertheless it would not proper for a Jew to partake in those activities. For example, it is not proper for a Jew to partake in activities where other people are getting drunk, hooking up, sweating and dancing on the dance floor, because there is a concept called modesty (tznius) where dancing in public would not be modest and thus it would violate Jewish law. On the other hand, going out to a jazz club where one would sit and listen to a performance would not violate Jewish law; however, he said it all depends on where I am holding.

Then when it comes to movies, he wanted to clarify to me that seeing a movie is an addiction -- a taiva, as they call it in Chassidic circles. However, there are Chassidic guys who both of us know and respect who enjoy a good movie. However, in truth, while it probably doesn't violate any Jewish laws to see a movie [depending on its content], seeing a movie is not something that a typical religious guy or girl will do.

However, again, he said it depends on where I am holding. There are many guys who while on an airplane will see a movie that is playing -- there are many Chassidic guys who both of us know who will see three or four movies on an airplane and their wives won't say anything. The rabbi explained that this is why it is important to marry a woman who is flexible and who understands that her husband just enjoys movies, or secular music, or dancing. He said the dancing, however, should preferably be done in private and not on a ballroom floor with other people around or in a sweaty club. However, again, it is all a question as to where I am holding.

Lastly, we came to the conclusion that it is probably a smarter idea for me to date a girl who is also relatively new to religion -- a baal teshuva -- so that she will be able to relate to my desire to see movies and to do secular things and not to judge me for my desire to do them. This was an interesting conclusion to our conversation. So, in order for me to be modern chassidic, I'll need a baal teshuva girl, because a "frum from birth" (religious from birth) girl might not be able to relate to my desire to see movies and this might cause miscommunications between us. This applies to many of the other topics I have been speaking about over the past few months.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Contemplating Being Modern-Chassidic.

It takes strength to find out who you are, and then it takes even more strength to fight everyone around you who wants you to be someone else, even if their intentions are good.

It's so strange for me that there are such strong forces in my circle of influence.

I've come to some kind of conclusion that I need to be more real about the kind of person I want to marry. I am feeling that it is difficult if not impossible to eliminate something that has been with someone their whole life. Three things that have always been with me are 1) movies, 2) music, and 3) mixed dancing. I am not necessarily attached to these things, but nevertheless, they are in my life and always have been. I am not sure I can enter into a world in which they are non-existent. I am open and enthusiastic about not having them in my house, but I am not so open to not having them in my life.

I must think about this deeper. I will contemplate my words over the coming weeks. Any feedback would be appreciated.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Faithful Night

Tonight was a somber night where many things that were unresolved were handled and taken care of. For one thing, I ended the shidduch. This was a very tough decision, but when there were so many issues that arose, I felt that it was better to carefully evaluate the situation and to make the decision as if I was making it for someone else. By doing this, the emotions that would normally have interfered with the choices at hand were taken out of the picture, and an objective decision was carefully made. I feel terrible for the girl, however there were more issues than I let on.

You'll notice that I also erased the blog entries about what happened on the shidduch dates because I felt that it revealed too much about the woman so that if she would stumble onto the blog, that she would certainly realize that she was reading about herself. I didn't want that. It wouldn't have been wise.

As for everything else, I hope you'll pardon me for not writing and not responding to some of your kind letters. This, along with the school work and the bar review is leaving me without energy and without much strength of mind to even think about what to talk about. I wish things turned out differently. I wish things could have worked out, but it just wasn't the right match. I wish I were the person I am meant to be, and it bothers me that I am not yet that person. I have been having problems keeping to my study schedule and this is bothering me, especially because my schedule between now and February requires much dedication and discipline. Religiously, I am also a mess. I've been keeping away from sin as much as I can, but I have been slacking on the positive commandments, namely prayer and Torah study. I am thankful that the Sabbath is coming right around the corner and it will be here tomorrow, so perhaps that will give me a chance to straighten my path and refocus my mindset, as I am going over to my rabbi for Shabbos.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Is there a dark side to religious life?

I often ask myself whether I really know what I am getting myself into by being in the religious world as a Lubavicher. Everything is all nice and dandy when I am practicing religion on my own because I follow the laws and I do what I am supposed to do and I abstain from things I am not supposed to do.

I also look to my rabbi and my friends who I believe live religious lives. Like me, they keep Shabbos (the Sabbath), they keep kosher, they pray when they're supposed to, they learn the Torah, they give charity, and everything else a Jew is supposed to do.

However, I've only learned Judaism from my Rabbi's point of view and the point of view of my Yeshiva (Rabbinical College). What if there is a deeper, but darker form of Judaism that lurks behind the scenes that I am not aware of?

For example, on a Shidduch date (a date between a guy and a girl made by a matchmaker), when speaking to my Rabbi's wife on what to do and not to do, she was VERY serious about not calling the girl by her name because it is not modest. She also had all these rules that I had to follow, such as picking her up at a location that is not filled with Jews so that people will not see her getting into a car with a man (even though it is permitted for the purpose of dating). It is sometimes also frowned upon for the man to hold the door for a woman, or for a man to do any of those things that a man customarily would do on a date. Plus, in some extreme cases, the girl will show ABSOLUTELY NO EMOTION on the date for the purpose of not opening up until she and the guy got more serious about each other.

So while I find these details and customs fascinating, I am also worried by them because I often ask myself what is there that I don't know? There are wacky religious people who get angry when you talk about something that is not G-d related. There are people who have very strict stringencies on various laws. There are people who don't dress like me, even though my dressing is professional and modest. Most of all, there are people who are so serious about G-d that it takes over their lives and that is all they do. I love G-d, but He has His place in the laws and in the prayers.

Then there are the Jewish laws, some which are so restricting that people customarily don't follow them. For example, one washes his or her hands in the morning after a night's sleep (neggelvasser) to remove the impurity of the night that according to Jewish law rests on a person when he sleeps. When he wakes up, the impurity leaves his body but rests in his extremities (hands, feet). That is why we wash our hands (and some customarily also wash their feet) in the morning with a pouring cup and a basin that is near the bed. In fact, we are not allowed to even walk a certain distance while we have this impurity on our hands. This is all fascinating. Yet some people take this to an extreme and actually wash their feet by the basin although most people today don't do so. Other people cover the water in the pouring glass with a small towel so that the spirit of impurity doesn't enter the water during the night and make it impure.

These are such things that I know about and I practice because I know about them. But I often wonder, "What DON'T I know? What am I missing?" I am happy to spend my life learning the intricacies of what to do and what not to do in life, but I fear more than anything that my wife [when I meet and marry her] will be more strict than me (even though a woman is supposed to follow the man's observances and customs) and that she will look down on me for being the simple Jew that I am.

I don't keep to a standard called "pas yisroel," because there is no bread where I live that has that standard of being kosher. I don't daven (pray) every day with a minyan (the required ten men). I don't always have time to learn Torah. And I do things that a fully religious person would never consider doing. For example, I've gone out to a dance club, or I've gone to operas and musicals (in violation of kol isha, not hearing a woman's voice sing), I read and enjoy secular books sometimes to the exclusion of religious books, and I feel no compunction when I go out to a jazz bar to listen to music. I am often in places a religious person wouldn't find himself, and I wonder whether my wife will look down on me for this.

So these are my thoughts.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

How to Vivify the Resume and Catch Someone's Attention

This is my first name in Chinese letters:

The problem is that it is listed as a female name. Any idea if the Chinese letters indicate that it's a female name?

My idea is to put my Chinese name on my resume that I send out to law firms, so that they can see that I have a connection to China. My goal is to specialize within the patent attorney field with regard to Chinese IP; specifically, to patent Chinese products here in the United States. I believe this will be my selling point over all the other dull resumes that will be my competition.

However, I don't yet have a Chinese name and for all I know, these chinese letters can mean "stupid American." So I must be careful what I put on there. I'd like to choose a name and have it done professionally. This one looks cheap.

Monday, November 07, 2005

"A Mood Apart," an artful description of manic depression.

In "A Mood Apart," by Peter Whybrow, M.D., the author describes what it is like when the mood goes awry. I'm quoting it below because I was moved by his words which were familiar to my experiences during the bad times.
We find ourselves stumbling in the management of a familiar existence. Nothing works as it should. Insomnia drains the day's supply of energy. Routine habits become a burden, future planning is neglected, thinking is slowed, and concentration scattered by intrusive memories. Through the looking glass of grief, one is reintroduced to oneself as a disorganized stranger, a person apart from the accustomed self...

The housekeeping functions of the brain -- the cycle of sleeping and waking, sexual behavior, eating and elimination -- are also disturbed, as chemical messengers lose their daily rhythm...

As emotional judgment fails, increasing commitments are made, often beyond resources and reality, but the cautioning concern of friends and family is swept aside or met with anger. The engaging, infectious humor is replaced by irritability and suspicion as mania enters full flower.

I'm tired from a long day of productive studying. I woke at 5am, and I'll be asleep by 10pm. It will be a long day tomorrow.

Light Sleeper

One more reason I don't like living with my father. He's a VERY light sleeper and anything I do wakes him up and messes with his sleep schedule. He gets very annoyed when I wake him up, so on days like today where I actually wake up early [this is a wonderful thing], I have to tiptoe around the house.

The problem is that I purchased a DVD player for the sole purpose of doing Tai Chi and yoga early in the mornings. I purchased the DVDs also and the yoga mat. I really want to start my routine in the morning with this, but it is not possible because my father will wake up. I can do this in my small cramped room, except that there is no space. Plus, I re-arranged our living room and moved the coffee table next to the couch and out of the way so that there would be space in front of the television to put a mat down to do yoga. Unfortunately, my dad will still wake up.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

A Close Teacher of Mine Died This Weekend

Someone close to me died; a professor I was very fond of. She always asked me to come visit her so that she can help me out with my studies. I helped her say the prayers on the Lulav and Esrog last year over Sukkos. This year nobody bought a Lulav and mine got injured because it got swung against a wall when I was helping someone say the beracha (blessing) over it, so with most of the holidays coinciding with Shabbos (the Sabbath), I didn't get a chance to stand in the Succah and help her bentch lulav (say the blessing over the lulav and esrog) like I did last year. I was thinking about it this year and it saddened me that I didn't get a chance to help her say the beracha because I remembered that she really enjoyed it and she spoke to me about it all year how much she was looking forward to it.

But this year she wasn't around and neither was I. I didn't think much of it, except that I noticed that someone had moved into her office. When I asked her about it, she said that it was just someone that works for her.

This past week, I heard that she was ill and that she was in the hospital; that she had been sick for the past few months and didn't want anyone to know about it. She even kept it a secret from her students, and the fact that she was in pain never showed on her face.

A friend of mine, the president of the Jewish organization on campus wrote an e-mail saying that she was sick, and that she "was" a good professor. I wrote back an e-mail joking with him and correcting his use of the word "was," pointing out his premature prediction. It was then -- this morning -- that I received the e-mail back from him telling me that he used "was" because she passed away.

I am very sad about this, but I am not crying because I know that she's in a good place. She was one of those people who you can tell just by being in their presence that they are truly good people. I actually don't know how to handle this -- usually when someone dies, it is someone I don't know and don't care about. When it has been someone closer to me, it has always been someone I knew and I spoke to, but never someone I felt a connection with. This time is different; I liked this person as a person, and I felt close with her when I would see her on campus. She was a very kind person and she had a warmth that anyone around her could feel.

As a prayer, I ask that G-d take good care of her. I know that she will be in my thoughts for some time.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Musical D'inspiration and Technical Mastery

Lastly in this three-part blog entry, I wanted to mention that I have been practicing the piano for some time now almost on a daily basis. For the first time, I picked up a real music score, and I was able to look at the chords and the notes on the page and I was able to play them correctly, albeit terribly slow. But the SUPER EXCITING thing is that I was able to play it measure by measure! This is a gigantic step for me because I am beginning to understand how chords work, especially when it comes to playing a piece of music with a melody!

In the past, I would taitch out the notes (meaning, note by note, I would write down what letter it would correspond to) and I would memorize the notes by playing them over and over again. What I was memorizing were the positions of my fingers, rather than what notes were on the page. Memorizing the note positions by playing them badly over and over until my unconscious mind caught on and learned [the song, the blues progression, or the latest technique] was how I got to be the blues player I am today. However, this sight playing is quite different, as are learning the actual chords and knowing whether I am playing a diminished or an augmented chord, or a seventh; in fact, I am noticing that while my blues playing is getting worse (meaning, I am losing the natural talent and creativity of my playing which is what made my playing so special), my sensitivity to the notes is getting heightened, which means that I will be learning new ways of playing which will make the playing sound that much better.

I am not worried about losing the natural creativity, because that will be there always and it will surface once my technical playing becomes unconscious.