Thursday, August 26, 2010

Trouble in Shangri-La

So I currently have a slight obsession with the album with the afformentioned titled by Stevie Nicks. The obsession is bordering on unhealthy but it's amazing. I recommend a listen.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Sparkle of a New Beginning

In general, I do not reflect on my Judaism or my beliefs in a more spiritual way.  I don't normally feel the need to, so this post will be out of the ordinary for me.  But this summer has been full of many wonderful and challenging experiences and I've been very emotive, self-aware and reflecting a lot, which is a bit new for me. So this post is dedicated to reflecting, choices and new beginnings.

I recently happened across something for the month preceding the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) entitled The Jewels of Elul.  

What is Elul? 

It is the Hebrew month leading up to the Jewish New Year. During this month, it is a time for self-reflection. A inventory of the year, some might say, so that you can spiritually cleanse your mind, heart & soul of the previous year and ask your sins to be forgiven before and on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippor). 

What are Elul's jewels? 

They are little email notifications from a diverse group of people that are coming into my inbox every day until Rosh Hashannah begins. These emails have made me think, reflect and have influenced me to make a choice to take action - in this case, write a blog piece featuring one of the "Jewels". This Jewel comes from the 11th day of Elul from a Hassidic rabbi and psychiatrist. He wrote a wonderful piece on the choice God made to create humankind and the choices people have been privilege to make because of God's decision to create humans with the potential to live with freedom, awareness and choice.

Happy Birthday, Humanity by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.
Contrary to the popular belief, Rosh Hashanah does not commemorate the creation of the world. Rather, it commemorates the sixth day of creation, the day Adam was created. It is of interest that in the creation of man, G-d said, “Let us create man?” Whose participation was G-d seeking? The Baal Shem Tov explained that both animals and angels were created in a state of completion. Angels do not grow at all, and although animals do grow, they do not voluntarily change themselves. The transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly or a tadpole to a frog is programmed in their genes. They do not voluntarily make this transformation and are powerless to stop it.

G-d now desired a different creature, not totally physical like an animal nor completely spiritual like an angel. Rather, this was to be a creature that comes into the world completely physical, but by one’s sheer effort develops spiritually. For this, G-d required man’s participation. It is as if G-d said, “I can create you completely spiritual, but then you will be just another angel. I will create you physical, but with the potential to become spiritual by your own effort.” G-d was seeking man’s participation in his own creation. Therefore, G-d said to man, “Let us make man. I will give you the potential, and you must develop it.” Thus, Rosh Hashanah is our beginning.

If we develop only intellectually, with technologic and even scientific advancements, but neglect our spiritual development, we will be self-centered hominoids, with just a higher intellect than chimpanzees. To do our part in creation, to be the true human beings that G-d intended, we must be masters over our physicality rather than slaves to it. Spiritual development enables us to give of ourselves to others. Angels were created spiritual. Man has the ability to achieve a status higher than angels, because his spirituality is the result of his own efforts.

So, as the month of Elul continues on, I am looking through a new lens to reflect with, a view that allows me to see and look forward to a new beginning for this new year, continue to make choices for myself and work to achieve my greatest potential. Maybe I'll even throw in some spiritual growth. L'chaim to the birth of humanity, choices and to a sweet and happy new year. 

Disclaimer: This blog post does not reflect this author's Jewish leanings, practices or affiliation.  It is a mere reflection on life with a Jewish theme.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Shopping Diplomacy

For those who love to travel and shop, now you can travel, shop, and provide free promotion for the fabulous and unique tzchotchkes you acquire while abroad. Today, from Daily Candy -- "a handpicked selection of all that's fun, fashionable, food related, and culturally stimulating in the city you’re fixated on (and all over the Web)" with a mainly female audience -- an email came to my inbox entitled, Think Global, Shop Local.

How could a PD nerd resist a gander, and then a blog post?

The email called to me:
"Your horoscope says you’re a consummate wanderer. And your Myers-Briggs personality type indicates you’ve got a talent for networking. Put both skills to use with the The Traveler’s Collection, a new site that sells artisan goods from all over the world and allows you to nominate vendors you’ve discovered while traveling for inclusion in its online shop."

You don't have to tell me twice. So for those travelers, public diplomats and shoppers, check it out and start a new field of PD, shopping diplomacy.

Shopping diplomacy: not quite nation branding, not quite cultural diplomacy, but the visitors takeaway and promotion of a place they visited. It's a foreigners perception of what represents a country they have traveled to and want to personally promote. It might not be what the people or the country view as their culture or brand and it might not even be from that country (sometimes you can't tell what's local and what's not). But it's promoting an image, a brand and a culture through the only truly global culture--consumerism. So be a part of the global culture, go shopping!

Monday, August 16, 2010

On Cities, Building Blocks and Rocks

Marco Polo describes a bridge, stone by stone.

"But which is the stone that supports the bridge?" Kublai Khan asks.

"The bridge is not supported by one stone or another, " Marco answers, "but by the line of the arch that they form."

Kublai Khan remains silent, reflecting. Then he ads: "Why do you speak to me of the stones? It is only the arch that matters to me."

Polo answers: "without stones there is no arch." - Invisible Cities

Friday, August 6, 2010

We do it out of LOVE

For the American Jewish community that struggles with Israel, identity and being heartbroken over a seemingly intractable conflict. To question is to support and make better. This is an important piece to read. An excerpt from Bronfman's HuffPost Piece is below. I encourage everyone to read it in its entirety. 

But what would a "better Israel" actually look like? First, it has to be noted that the American Jewish community will only support a liberal and democratic Israel. These are not just slogans, and as I wrote earlier this week; they need to be backed up by the right policies and the right kind of political system. Maintaining control indefinitely over millions of Palestinians will inevitably lead to a demographic nightmare and cannot be sustained if Israel is to remain true to its founding principles.

Making this point publicly should not be controversial. The notion that as a Jew, one has to take the position of "my Israel, right or wrong," is deeply problematic. I would rather have the right kind of Israel. Moreover, calling anyone who criticizes certain Israeli policies a "self-hating Jew" is simply alienating and divisive.
In my frequent discussions with prominent Israeli and Jewish Diaspora leaders, we regularly air our own frustrations with the Jewish state's current direction, while at the same time also appreciating the country's many positive attributes. I am sure that these same types of conversations are repeated in synagogues and Jewish community centers and college Hillels all across the Diaspora. The beauty of Judaism is that it demands we ask questions, especially of ourselves.

Indeed, there is really no better sign that we care deeply and profoundly about Israel - otherwise, we would not spend our days working on its behalf, giving money, thinking about its future, or simply following events half a world away. We do it out of love.