Cooking Up a Storm

There’s “men’s work” (real or imagined).

There’s “women’s’ work” (ditto).

And then there’s cooking.

What I mean is that I don’t even know where cooking is “supposed” to be filed within this (either intrinsic or culturally imposed – depending on who you ask) set of tasks and occupations.

Growing up in the mid 20th century, it was simple. My mother always cooked and my father never did.

Except, that is, when we grilled. Then Dad magically donned the chef’s cap and Mom hung back with her books and crossword puzzles.

Maybe cooking indoors is women’s work and outdoors is men’s?

The same gender ambiguity plagued the TV chefs of my generation. Julia Child was the undisputed grand dame of the culinary court, yet the dashing Galloping Gourmet was a vocal second on the local small screen. (And even Julia would regale us with her trips to France’s great kitchens to consult with the male doyens who ruled them.)

Maybe turning to the heimishe world would give some clearer insight, as it often does. Frum magazines’ cooking sections are clearly ensconced in the  “ezras nashim.” And looking back, there’s no doubt there that it was our alter-bubbies – and not our alter-zaidies – who were “at home on the range.”

Yet if we look back at their alter-alter-alter zaidies – the Avos – the picture suddenly looks different.

It was Avraham who cooked for his disguised angelic guests (with the help of his son Yishmael), and it was Yaakov who stirred the famous pot of “red lentils” that Esau sold his birthright for.

True, Sarah was baking the bread for the aforementioned angels (maybe cooking is men’s work, baking is women’s?), and Rivka cooked the stew that Yaakov served to Yitzchak for his blessing – but then again, that was only to take the place of the food that Yitzchak had asked his son, Esau, to cook for him.

Confusing – totally.

You could ask: me who cares? And maybe the answer for most is, who does?

But having spent most of my professional life as a cook, it feels important for me to know if I’d merely drifted into my natural male role (if there is one), or had I ungraciously usurped rightful female territory (ditto)?

At home, this issue has been no small conundrum as well.

Maybe cooking simply is and has always been both men’s and women’s work – a truly gender-neutral endeavor (and thus either ahead of its time, or the exception that proves the rule – depending who you ask)?

Maybe as such, cooking is the great unifier, not only between the genders themselves, but amongst those with different outlooks as to what (if anything) gender roles should be?

Maybe cooking is the key to defuse the great kulturkampf engulfing our age!

Or…maybe it’s time for me to stop writing and go make myself something to eat.

 

The Genesis Principles – A Man’s Spiritual Guide to a Great Marriage

If you were the perfect man, and your marriage was the perfect marriage, what would it look like?

Food for thought, and fantasy maybe. But this question – and its answer –is really much, much more.

That’s because we actually have a picture of that marriage, passed down through the millennia and waiting for us to tap into its wisdom to make our own marriage just as great.

The Torah book of Genesis tells us of the first man – Adam. He was formed directly by God and was the perfect prototype.

His marriage to Eve (Chava in Hebrew), the first and archetypal woman, is recorded in Genesis not only historically and allegorically, but to give you and me a paradigm of what it truly means to be a man, the nature of a woman, and the secrets of a sublime, successful marriage.

I’d like to briefly share a number of these secrets – these ‘Genesis Principles’ (or GP’s), based on the Torah and its Talmudic and mystical commentaries* that clearly illustrate the essential characteristics of a man, and how that knowledge can bring him true peace, happiness, and satisfaction in his relationship with his wife.

GP#1  TWO ARE REALLY ONE

The key to the entire program is to realize that a man and his wife, while appearing to be two separate, independent beings, are in essence a unit – two halves of a whole.

This is hinted to in the verse in the Torah that says: “…male and female, He created them.” (Gen. 1, 27)

Rashi, the classic Torah commentator, cites a Midrash that the first human was originally created androgynous, being both fully male and female, and at a later stage was separated into two discrete beings of different genders.

Only then did they later come together, reuniting as man and wife.

This process, a single being divided into two ostensibly autonomous halves and then reuniting, was not merely a one-time phenomenon.

Every married couple is actually one soul divided between two bodies, yet connected at a higher unseen point. That means that one partner is able to influence the other not only a conscious level, but on a deeper spiritual plane, which then manifests itself in day-to-day life.

Understanding how this subliminal spiritual influence works and accessing its power is a key to a happy and successful marriage. Our second ‘Genesis Principle’ shows us how…

GP#2  THE SPIRIT MOVES HER

The real-time subliminal soul connection between a man and his wife is hinted to in the Torah verse: “And G-d said; ‘It is not good for man to be alone; I will make for him an Ezer K’negdo’”. (Gen. 2:18)

Those last two Hebrew words, ‘Ezer K’negdo’ can be translated as a ‘confronting supporter’.

Rashi, citing a Talmudic teaching on the verse (Yevamos 63a), explains this mysterious term: “If the man is worthy, she will be his supporter; if he’s unworthy, she will confrontationally battle against him.”

Therefore, we see that the way a wife treats her husband is actually a subliminal reaction to and function of his worthiness.

When the Torah refers to worthiness, it means spiritual worthiness. This means that if a man chooses to sincerely behave in a spiritually worthy way, as defined by the Torah, his wife will be his pleasant and admiring ‘supporter’. Conversely, if he chooses to behave unworthily, she will become confrontational and put him down.

It’s important to note that this dynamic takes effect subliminally on the spiritual plane. The wife needn’t be consciously aware of her husband’s worthy or unworthy behavior, and she herself is often unaware what’s influencing her to adopt one mood or the other. Therefore, if the husband wants to change the dynamic for the better, he needn’t (nor will it help to) criticize, complain, or retaliate, but rather simply increase his spiritual worthiness.

So we see that the tenor of the relationship is entirely in the husband’s hands. This is tremendously empowering – and a tremendous responsibility.

But how can we say that this awesome spiritual power/responsibility is really in the husband’s hands? Our third ‘Genesis Principle’ will make it clear…

GP#3   HE’S GOT HER WHOLE WORLD IN HIS HANDS

After the unfortunate fruit-eating incident in the Garden of Eden, God told Eve that from then on: “… to your husband will be your yearning and he will rule you.” (Gen. 3:16)

This concept of ‘ruling’ applies to ruling a wife’s emotions and self-esteem. An essential part of a man’s spiritual worthiness or the opposite is measured by how he treats his wife. The Torah places supreme priority on interpersonal relations, and the closer the relationship is the greater its spiritual import. As we see, a husband is his wife’s ‘yearning’. She subliminally craves to be beloved and esteemed in his eyes. If he adopts the spiritually worthy path of treating her that way, she will be happy and content, and therefore respond as a ‘supporter’. If he fails to do so, his spiritual unworthiness will earn him a ‘combatant’.

Even if how a husband treats his wife determines his spiritual worthiness and the dynamic of his marriage, how can we know how to give her what she needs? ‘Genesis Principle’ number four tells us how…

GP#4   TO GIVE IS TO LIVE

Later in the Genesis narrative, we’re told: “And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and gave birth…” (Gen. 4:1)

The procreation process is based upon a man giving his portion of the potential child to the woman, who in turn receives it. There’s a basic axiom in Jewish mysticism that the physical world and all of its processes reflects a spiritual counterpart.

So if on the physical plane, in man’s defining interaction with his wife, he gives and she receives, this implies that the same dynamic is meant to exist in the higher emotional and spiritual realms.

When a husband focuses on unconditionally giving to his wife – physically, emotionally, and financially –  he’s in line with his male spiritual essence and thus ‘worthy’. But if he’s focused on what she is or isn’t giving to him on any of these levels, he’s effectively usurped a female spiritual role, which is unworthy of a man.

Maybe it’s a man’s spiritual role to give. But what does giving mean? Our next set of ‘Genesis Principles’ gives the answer…

GP#5   SHE’S NUMBER ONE

What is a man’s primary relationship? Where should his primary loyalty lie?

The Torah answers this: “…A man shall leave his father and his mother, and unite with his wife as one…” (Gen. 2:24)

Honoring and being close to one’s parents is a major spiritual value. Yet the Torah hints to us that a man’s relationship with his wife takes precedence even to this.

When a man relates to and treats his wife as if she’s the most important person in his life, bar none – even his parents, children, or boss – he gives her an inestimable gift, fulfills her subliminal yearning to be cherished by him above all others, and his worthiness flourishes. If he fails to do this, his spiritual unworthiness will produce its predictable results.

GP#6   IT’S NOT HER PROBLEM

Life has its challenges. A man out on the stormy sea of the marketplace trying to forge a career can come to feel wave-battered and barracuda-bit. Or maybe he’s an idealist, who’d rather to devote his life to some lofty cause than the mundane matter of earning a living. It’s tempting to share his burden with his wife. Urge her to chip in to make ends meet – or maybe even take on the lion’s share of the load.

It might sound like a good idea, if the Torah hadn’t already told us it isn’t.

“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread…” (Gen. 3:19) is what G-d specifically told Adam and not Eve. Rashi tells us that a man will have to work hard for his livelihood. It’s the husband’s responsibility to make a living and not his wife’s.

Sure, some wives voluntarily chip in, which is great, but a man should never even hint that it’s expected or desired by him. He shouldn’t even speak to her of his stresses and concerns in this area. Share it with a friend, or better, with God. Livelihood a man’s burden and to be a man is to bear (at least in the presence of his wife) it with quiet, cheerful dignity.

All of this may be great, but what if she messes up? Isn’t it up to us to set her straight? Our final, and perhaps most important ‘Genesis Principle’ gives us the key.

GP#7   ZIPPER YOUR LIP

There was never a bigger mistake in the history of the world than the one Eve made at the dawn of creation, compelling Adam to eat the forbidden fruit. Jewish mystical sources tell us that every pain and sorrow suffered in the world since then was rooted in this humongous cosmic mess-up.

If ever a husband had the right to let his wife have it, it was Adam after this.

The Torah recounts his choice words about her right after G-d had cursed him with a life of hard work and then death. He called her…are you ready for this? “…the mother of all life.” (Gen. 3:20)

He praised her! Although her blunder had caused all death and suffering, including, eventually their own, he spoke nicely to her and tried to make her feel good!

Nothing a man’s wife could possibly do or say could even come to the toenail of such an error. And there’s nothing that can ever spiritually justify a man criticizing his wife in the least. As we said, if he wants her to improve, there’s only one surefire, simple (but not easy) way to make it happen.

He should improve himself!

Each of these ‘Genesis Principles’ is a world unto itself, and the sample that I’ve offered here only skims the surface. I hope to elaborate in the future, and would be happy to meet with any man ready to retain or return his marriage to the ‘Garden of Eden’.

 

(*There are numerous authentic explanations of the Torah. It could well be that there are divergent explanations from those that I present here. I make no claim to being an accomplished Torah scholar, therefore please view the sources I cite not as ‘proofs’ per se of any absolute way of viewing things, but rather hints that serve to illustrate what I and numerous other men have found to be a uniquely effective and satisfying approach to a peaceful and happy marriage.)

My Psychic Nose Job

It was happening again.

Again I’d found myself in a group social setting and again was suffering from Overunder Syndrome (OUS).

For those of you unfamiliar with this condition (and for those of you who are, but in undiagnosed form), I’ll explain.

Whenever necessity or circumstance sequesters me together for any appreciable length of time with a group of acquaintances or semi-acquaintances, I begin to go on an involuntary conceptual elevator ride.

At times, the ‘elevator’ stops at one or more floors above my assembled compatriots, a vantage point from which I am able to clearly perceive my obvious superiority to them. (This is the ‘over’ phase of the syndrome.)

Other times (and to be honest, most often), the elevator goes down, leaving me looking up at them from a lower floor of inferiority. (The ‘under’ phase.)

Thus, I’m able to peer down at my peers, or peer up at them.  However, there is one floor at which my elevator virtually never stops – that is, the very floor upon which they and I stand together as equals. Which itself subsequently equals a constant sense of existential isolation.

Or as I once heard it rather colorfully put by a fellow sufferer: ‘People like us are incapable of just being another bozo on the bus. We’re always apart from – never a part of.’

While I have a long-term plan of action to gradually put my elevator (opposite of) joyriding to rest, I needed to find a way to level off on the spot, as I was going to be spending the next 48 hours with this cast of characters and had to find a way to effectively and comfortably exist.

Then the spiritual verity struck me – the outer reflects the inner.

Just as physically, we were all essentially the same – comprised of the same group of body parts, so too were we all essentially psychically the same.  (This happened to be an all-male group, so the analogy was all the closer, but it could still, in essence, be applied in a mixed gender setting as well.)

Sure, each individual had his variants; some taller, older, younger, heavier, etc., but (barring unfortunate birth circumstances or injuries) we all had two arms, two legs, ears, elbows, eyebrows, etc., etc., and – the part I chose to focus on – a nose.

For some reason, I took great comfort shooting glances around me, and duly noting that each of my erstwhile superiors/inferiors sported noses in the middle of their faces – just as did I.

Our common proboscises became a symbol to me of our essential physical camaraderie, which then blossomed into a palpable sense of our underlying psychic and spiritual kinship, and parity.

While it’s true that ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that just as no two individual’s faces are the same, neither are their personalities; nevertheless, each human face has much more in common with every other than does it differ.

I won’t say the event was a glass-smooth one for me; there erupted occasional hills and valleys of perceptual inveracity. However, all and all, I was able to live serenely in my skin – which for an OUS sufferer is next to miraculous.

And all because I was lucky enough to stop the elevator by getting my nose caught between its doors.

TEN DAYS OF…

People won’t admit it, but there are a lot of folks who relate to the demands and intensity of the High Holiday season and the Ten Days of Repentance as a little bit of yearly Gehinom (purgatory/hell).

And, in a way, they’re (um…we’re) right.

I’ll explain.

The Jewish concept of Gehinom is very interesting. It’s not punitive in a retributive sense. Rather, it’s the ultimate in corrective rehabilitation.

Our spiritual essences – our souls – come down into this physical world the sake of accomplishing the specific things we need to accomplish to fully enjoy and appreciate the even higher spiritual world to which we will be transitioning upon death.

The essence of this task is character improvement.

But people, being people, tend to get distracted from their task, and sometimes do things that not only don’t prepare the soul for its ‘afterlife’, but rather further occludes it by developing and fostering character flaws.

By way of analogy, think of a scuba diver who’s readying for a trip to the Great Barrier Coral Reef – arguably the most magnificent undersea spectacle known to man. To maximize his viewing pleasure, he’s ordered a professional, high optic quality, prescription diving mask. Before he dives, he plans to improve it further still by treating it with a special anti-smudge and antifogging cream.

Only problem is, that he got distracted, and by mistake pulled the wrong bottle out of his accessory kit and instead rubbed the mask’s lens with the gunky petroleum jelly he uses to keep from chafing under his diving suit. Ugh!!!

Time for an arduous, annoying clean up.

That’s where Gehinom comes in.

Gehinom is the place that un-smudges the soul. And yes, it’s an arduous, annoying and quite unpleasant cleaning process.

Fortunately, there’s a terrific loophole. Instead of leaving this lifetime with decades of accumulated crud that’s going to need a jackhammer to remove, we are given an annual maintenance overhaul to wipe away the relatively light soul smudges and not-yet-set stains of the past twelve months.

That overhaul period is the High Holiday season and the Ten Days Repentance.

We cleanse ourselves – and save ourselves a big headache later – via the demands and intensity of the season’s inner and outer spiritual obligations.

Arduous? Maybe. Annoying? Somewhat. But this yearly ‘mini-Gehinom’ clean up is a much better deal than the real thing.

Another interesting thing about Gehinom is that it is said that the essential cleansing there consists of the shame experienced when all of one’s character defects are clearly and openly exposed, void of all the comforting rationalizations, justifications, and delusions that we all uphold to deny them.

I’ve consistently found one of the disconcerting aspects of not only the teshuva (yearly clean up) process, but of the existential spiritual climate of this part of the year is the annual revelation that I’m not quite the character-developed person I imagine myself to be.

Unfailingly, the intense ‘spiritual searchlight’ of the times lets (read: makes) me see all those ego-based cobwebs, rough edges, and shortcomings that just seem to stay comfortably beneath the radar the rest of the year.

Another yearly ‘mini-Gehinom’ experience, if you will.

So, yeah. This time of year can feel a little like Gehinom. But a little of it now – as opposed to a lot later – is still a ‘Gehinom’ of a good deal.

Depth-Perception: The Foundation of Therapy

Imagine someone who is missing 3-D visual depth perception (and even its concept). He sees everything in flat two dimensions. To him, things closer are simply larger, and if something closer blocks something behind it, he perceives it as if part of the posterior object doesn’t exist.

Nevertheless, he’s a brilliant man, with a genius-level IQ and prodigious powers of expression.

So he formulates and espouses a scintillating logical and self-consistent worldview to explain reality as he perceives it – why a hand can sometimes dwarf a skyscraper, or why said building, after being ‘cut into pieces’ by interposing giant fingers, is still able to survive intact, etc.

His wife, who in no way shares her husband’s intellect or erudition waits until he draws a breath in the midst of his dissertation, shakes her head, and says: “No honey, I just waved my hand in front of you to try to get your attention and it blocked your view for a second, that’s all.

Which member of the couple is the wiser?

Not smarter, not more gifted, but wiser – in possession of a truer understanding of the reality in front of them?

Judaism says that the ‘foundation of wisdom’ is the awareness of the spiritual dimension of reality underlying and influencing all of life’s situations and phenomena.

Without this awareness, it is impossible to truly and contextually understand anything that one sees or experiences.

By whatever means one may explain or understand it, no matter how sophisticated his reasoning, no matter how penetrating his analysis…

…he has yet to even step foot over the threshold of true wisdom.

For he’s missing the foundational fact upon which all genuine perception depends.

This deficiency is especially keenly felt in the ‘helping professions’.

A car mechanic, though lacking a spiritual perspective of the engine in front of him (and there is one), will almost surely be able to repair it based on his physical knowhow alone. Not much ‘depth perception’ required there.

A well-trained physician will also likely be able to render effective medical treatment despite his obliviousness to the spiritual dimension. Yet, as all disease has a spiritual root, I would venture that the doctor who takes this fact into consideration will likely be more effective in the long run than one who doesn’t, assuming all else is equal in their technical proficiency, etc.

Yet for those who seek to heal the psyche, the emotions – the ‘soul’ – this awareness is crucial.

Those who endeavor to address inner angst, to curb self-destructive, addictive behavior (which primary-source 12-Step literature describes as a ‘spiritual malady’), to repair relationships, particularly within marriage with its overarching spiritual dynamic, who fail to not only acknowledge, but to understand the workings of the spiritual dimension and incorporate this understanding into their therapeutic guidance, are bound not only not to heal – but to harm.

Missing the ‘depth perception’ of the spiritual dimension, inevitably certain factors which appear to be small will actually be large – and vice versa. Crucial pieces that are merely blocked off by ‘closer’ surface issues will appear to simply not exist.

That is not to say such therapists aren’t intelligent – they may be brilliant.

Not to say they aren’t necessarily caring and sincere.

But they are (or, at least their treatment is) missing the ‘foundation of wisdom’, and it is the wisdom of spiritual ‘depth perception’ more than anything else, which is needed to heal the soul.

KITCHEN RENOVATIONS

It was ‘cook’s weekend off’. We’d been having a lot of Shabbos guests lately, including one of our married kids, who moved in together with his family into our three-room (plus machsan) apartment, while fording that ubiquitous Israeli stream between when a new apartment was supposed to be ready and when it will actually be ready to move into.

But this Shabbos they were away at the mechutanim; and apart from the two of us empty-nesters, our sole guest was a friend of my wife’s and I decided to take it easy.

I made a small, parve cholent for three. Bought – for the first time in modern history – premade dips from the local Oneg Shabbos takeout shop (after all, it wasn’t worth whipping up my own for such a small quantity, and besides, maybe by tasting someone else’s cooking I’d get some ideas, I rationalized).

I simply mayonnaise-broiled a small piece of salmon fillet we had in the freezer, salvaged from the big board of it I’d cooked up the week before (I’m a compulsive saver-for-a-rainy-day), and even bought my chickens pre-cut which, for a guy who routinely butchers birds bought whole, was a rare indulgence.

It was approaching midday erev Shabbos, and I was feeling the forthcoming day of rest leisurely floating in – when a quick flurry of phone and email requests had us suddenly hosting three additional families for Shabbos lunch.

Our guest policy is to never say no, unless it’s utterly impossible, and this was merely implausible; so what was the question?

I felt my adrenalin begin to flow (at my age, it flows, it doesn’t pump) and glancing at my watch, I dashed to the local supermarket, hoping I’d make it before closing time.

Mentally reviewing our roster of newfound guests, I realized that one of the families coming would be deeply disappointed with meatless cholent. But what was I supposed to do with the stuff I’d already made? It wouldn’t freeze well for another Shabbos, and no one in my brood is a weekday cholent eater in the best of times.

So, as any good homeowner does when things get tight – I decided to renovate.

I bought some pre-cubed cholent meat (perhaps in a wistful attempt to maintain my long-gone minimalist Shabbos cooking theme) and a bag of largish potatoes. I’d simply simmer the meat and cubed potatoes together in a big pot, with a little wine, salt, and garlic added to the water. Then when the meat was soft, I’d gracefully fold in the contents of the smaller pot of thick and saucy, bean-based parve cholent, and then bake the whole thing (pot-baked cholent versus the on-the-flame type is an entirely different experience – trust me).

Additionally, to complement (and stretch) the small but pricey package of corned beef for three I’d got at the takeout the night before, I bought a pack of “white and red” (as they call sliced turkey breast and salami, respectively, here) to plate in tri-colored spirals, and a big bag of pre-shredded cabbage to make coleslaw.

For fish, I whipped up a big, gluten-free (as per the requirements of some of our new guests and, officially, me) batch of my famous oven-fried tuna patties.  And I watered (read: vodka’d) down the half-bottle of homemade chocolate-peanut butter schnapps, as I realized there were now some serious post-fish l’chaim lovers in the crowd.

True, I was a little peaked at the night meal from my last-minute flurry and our erstwhile solo guest was a bit bemused by the next day’s unanticipated ‘cast of thousands’, but, as far as I know, nobody went away hungry that Shabbos afternoon and the only thing off from my ‘cook’s weekend off’ was the timing.

APOLOGY

I would like to personally apologize to all of you who have liked, commented and shared on my posts over the last couple of years (!).

I am a very lo-tech fellow and I hadn’t realized it, but because of a technical glitch, I’d simply never received them until just now, neither to approve nor reply. I guess my lack of response was a good chance for you to ‘judge favorably’, although I don’t relish being such an exemplar. I am HOPING (not promising) that from now on I will indeed be able to see comments as they come and respond appropriately. So please forgive me – I wasn’t being snobby … just oblivious.

 

The Addict’s Dilemma (or Cinderella Booted from the Ball)

I don’t know if Cinderella (or her creator) was an addict, but there are enough similarities between her story and the typical addict’s to make me seriously wonder.

I once heard an alcoholic describe his addiction like this: When he drank, he said, “I get tall and good-looking instead of short and fat; the people around me who were all looking disdainfully at me just a minute ago are suddenly attracted to me and interested in whatever I have to say. My surroundings, which are usually washed-out and gray, become vibrant, colorful, and alive.”

I don’t know of any fairy godmother that could do better with her magic wand than that. And I don’t know why someone like that – a (self-perceived) shy, ugly, ennui-imprisoned, social outcast – would ever want to give up drinking if it provided almost instant miraculous relief.

Because, you see, an alcoholic’s problem isn’t alcohol.
A drug addict’s problem isn’t drugs.
A compulsive eater’s problem isn’t food.
And a gambling addict’s problem isn’t gambling.
In fact, in no addiction is the substance or behavior the addict’s problem.

They are his or her SOLUTION.

Someone who drinks (or uses drugs, etc., etc.) because they find it fun, cool, or exciting, even if they do (and overdo) it often, may be substance ABUSERS, but they are NOT ADDICTS.

If the stakes get high enough, if the consequences get bad enough, they can, and generally will, stop and go on to live essentially normal, contented lives without it.

NOT so for the addict.

The addict uses because life without it is just too painful to bear, and if forced to stop, life without it can eventually become too uncomfortable to continue.

How can this be?

How can alcohol/drugs/food/porn, or what-have-you take such a grip over someone that they literally can’t live without it?

Because these things do something, not TO the addict but FOR them, that they don’t do for the rest of us.

Without it, they feel trapped in the life of a scorned and slaving Cinderella, tied to a fetid mop and bucket while everyone else is going to and having a ball.

Using or acting out (each in various ways, according to the particular addict’s physical and psychic nature), relieves, anesthetizes, or outshouts a chronic acute emotional, existential discomfort and/or dissatisfaction with life that non-addicts either don’t feel, or feel at a level low enough that their default coping tools easily overcome it.

By engaging in their addictive substance or activity, they too are swept away in a horse-drawn carriage to the grand ball of life – and may even become its belle. (This too, is something non-addicts don’t experience.)

This ‘CINDERELLA EFFECT’, as I call it, is a common thread – although with different manifestations – to virtually all addictions.

Of course, the problem is that the Cinderella Effect is only temporary, and the addict soon feels ‘the clock strike midnight’ and gets booted from the ball and flung back down to his unbearable old self. So, he drinks (uses, etc.) more and more, desperately trying to recapture that sweet spot like a drowning man grasping at straws, but almost always misses the mark and overdoes it, with all the self-and-other destructive consequences along the way.

Yet the addict’s no fool. He realizes what it’s doing to him and vows never to do it again.

This may work for a while. But eventually, inevitably, his somber, sober, Cinderella existence becomes just too much to bear, especially as he knows – from EXPERIENCE – that salvation is only a drink or two (etc.) away.

Then the fairy godmother comes knocking and he doesn’t say no.  This time it will be different, he’ll rationalize (= rational lies). This time I won’t lose control.

And the vicious cycle begins yet again. The addict can’t reliably STOP ONCE THEY START, and can’t reliably STOP FROM STARTING – and there’s no way out.

At least until Cinderella discovers that she’s really a princess – and always has been.

That’s where spirituality, and the 12 Steps of recovery come in…

FAKE NEWS – FACT OR FANTASY?

The terms ‘fake news’ and ‘fake news media’ have themselves been very in the news as of late.

A gamut of major media outlets have understandably taken uber-umbrage at these terms and all that they imply. Recently 100 or more of them coordinated an effort to editorialize, in the strongest terms, against what they see as a dangerous top-down trend toward censorship, suppression, and ultimately totalitarianism.

It’s a message that easily resonates. Haven’t we always been taught that a free press is the lynchpin of democracy?  That the people have the right to know?

The very term ‘fake news’ seems a bald and blatant untruth. Does the president really expect us to believe that when it is reported that he’s in London or Helsinki, he is actually not?

As I thought about this issue, though, it occurred to me that a large part of the problem – as it so often is – is a miscommunication, a definition of terms.

The term ‘news’, as I’ve always understood it, represents data, raw facts, unembellished with opinion or intent to influence the audience’s reaction to them.

To deem such a worthwhile and ‘pareve’ endeavor as ‘fake’ or somehow antagonist to the people’s best interest would be ludicrous.  What can possibly be wrong with laying out the facts of national and world events at people’s feet to allow them to craft the informed opinions necessary to be an effective part of the polis?

Therefore, I believe the president’s claim to actually be that a large percentage of reporting that bills itself as ‘news’ in the classical sense that I refer to above, is actually not. But rather it is in fact editorial.

While it may construct itself upon a foundation of objective facts, the way these are then interpreted, emphasized or de-emphasized shifts the report squarely into the realm of op-ed.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with expressing an opinion, and using all the tools at your disposal to bring others to your way of thinking. And this is something that I’m am sure that our opinionated president also agrees.

However, to pass the above off as objective ‘news’ is indeed disingenuous, or less polysyllabically put – fake.

This, I believe is the president’s actual assertion, and one with which few honest minds could argue.

The Mystic’s Lament

…great truths do not interest the multitudes,
and now that the world
is in such confusion,
even though I know the Path,
how can I guide?
I know I cannot succeed
and that trying to force results
I shall merely add to the confusion.
Isn’t it better to give up and
stop striving?

But then, if I do not strive,
who will?

– Chuang-Tzu (medieval Chinese mystic)