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A panther wouldn’t know what scruples mean August 14, 2006

Posted by Keren Fite in Impermanence, Lebanon War 2006.
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This is the first war I undergo as a mother, and motherhood makes all the difference. The juncture in which the commitment to my children’s well-being encounters the rockets that endanger their lives is the place where I care only for myself and my own. When the sirens wail and the rockets fall I’m willing to kill those who endanger my children’s lives.

In “Vietnam” Vislava Shimborska suggests that a mother is indifferent to politics, knowing only her children, ignoring everything else:

“Woman, what’s your name?” “I don’t know.”
“How old are you? Where are you from?” “I don’t know.”
“Why did you dig that burrow?” “I don’t know.”
“How long have you been hiding?” “I don’t know.”
“Why did you bite my finger?” “I don’t know.”
“Don’t you know that we won’t hurt you?” “I don’t know.”
“Whose side are you on?” “I don’t know.”
“This is war, you’ve got to choose.” “I don’t know.”
“Does your village still exist?” “I don’t know.”
“Are those your children?” “Yes.”

However, indifference breads evil. Sometimes you have to choose sides in order to ensure your children’s survival in the broadest sense of the word. Taking this newly discovered murderous instinct to its end might mean that my six-year-old son will have to go to war in the not-so-far future in order to protect a new generation of Israeli children.

In “In Praise of Feeling Bad about Yourself” Shimborska writes:

The buzzard never says it is to blame.
The panther wouldn’t know what scruples mean.
When the piranha strikes, it feels no shame.
If snakes had hands, they’d claim their hands were clean.
A jackal doesn’t understand remorse.
Lions and lice don’t waver in their course.
Why should they, when they know they’re right?
Though hearts of killer whales may weigh a ton,
in every other way they’re light.
On this third planet of the sun
among the signs of bestiality
a clear conscience is Number One.

I do not wish to be an unscrupulous panther. And yet, I do not wish to live under constant threats of rockets. Uncompromising statements such as “the solution to this conflict is the destruction of Israel” make me wonder whether peaceful ideals should be put aside while the war is raging. Dead people with clear conscience do not sign peace agreements.

I have no clear solution to offer. I write to explore the meaning and implication of this complex situation in which nobody is an entirely free agent, yet no-one is an absolute victim.

[Both poems were translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanaugh]

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Roses August 5, 2006

Posted by Keren Fite in Daily Blessings.
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The roses in my garden are blooming under significant-other’s tender care. One-year-old comes to the flowers. She reaches out to tear the petals. I tell her: “no, love, not with your hands, with your nose… like this… smell”. I bend over towards the flowers, kneeling next to her, taking a deep breath. I smell three roses: white, blood-red and pink-orange. She is all smiles… laughing, she buries her little nose and face in the colorful petals… smelling noisily… happily… The sun is bright… the flowers seem shiny… I wonder whether white roses smell differently than blood-red or pink-orange…

When I get up, I notice a rose still nestling in the coolness of the shadows… not yet touched by the sun… it is sprinkled with due… kitsch image, only this one is real… round drops of moisture frozen on the petals… is this rose ‘real’?… I dare not touch it… the surreal spell might be broken…

The next day, I bid the rose good morning… the petals are burned by the sun… brownish at the edge… curling towards their death… Other roses are covered with due… the name of the grey-pink roses comes to mind: “rose-ashes”…

Tonight, as I rock one-year-old into sleep, my baby cuddles in my arms all warm and tender… she babbles sweet baby words that join into a melody… when I take her to bed a thought comes floating: is happiness a question? Happiness is.

[Originally written in August 2003]

What if the gate remains closed? July 25, 2006

Posted by Keren Fite in Reflections.
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There’s this myth: in search for a teacher, a community, you sit by a gate for three days and three nights… then, when all hopes and dreams have died, when only waiting remains, you are invited in to join teacher and sangha, to walk a path, no longer on your own…

But, what if the gate remains closed? What if the road stretches before you, barren and lonely?

Then, the world is your playground… no longer attached to fear and wishes, you are free to roam the earth, to touch the sky… loneliness is but a state of mind…

Where Are You? August 5, 2005

Posted by Keren Fite in Daily Blessings.
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Took the kids from kindergarten. Three-year-old insisted we should go to the swings. Five-year-old wanted to go to his friend. I needed to get to the post-office before closing time to mail a letter, and pay a long overdue bill.
“How have I fallen? Where has my peace of mind gone to?”, the voices of silent horror shrieked in me.
“YOUR peace of mind?!”, the clown awoke in appalled jest.
“Where are you now? Right Now?”, asked the tender voice of mindfulness.

Talked to the kids. Explained necessities. Hugged and kissed… got some ice-cream to soften the trip to the post-office.

Letter mailed, bill paid, we made our choice of dinner at the mall. Among the hustle and bustle of people talking, shouting, laughing, shopping, I found a haven in the bounty of my noodles plate… the sheer joy of quenching hunger and thirst. Peace in the midst of the loud palace of mammon.

Sometimes my stomach gets the better of me.

Pilgrimage to Montreal August 5, 2005

Posted by Keren Fite in Conferences.
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I will be presenting a paper at 2005 NASSR. Now that I’ve got my t’s crossed and my i’s dotted – namely, the paper is all done and ready – I can sit back and read for purely recreational and self-improvement purposes 🙂

“modern conference resembles the pilgrimage of medieval Christendom in that it allows the participants to indulge themselves in all the pleasures and diversions of travel while appearing to be austerely bent on self-improvement” (David Lodge, Small World).

De Profundis August 1, 2005

Posted by Keren Fite in Emptiness.
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I woke up with the wish-I-was-gone mood. Sat on my meditation cushion and breathed. Just sitting. Just breathing.
This yearning to crawl into a dark place and vanish, should I look into it? Observe its subtle movements? Isn’t it dangerous? Might I not drown? Lose myself within this dark profundity?
An image came. I was diving in a dark ocean. Endless darkness… empty space all around me. There was a light someplace below. I swam towards it. While swimming, I suddenly noticed I’m well equipped with a diving suit, an air balloon, a mask. Why should you worry? I asked.
Suddenly, it was not so important to reach the light, to come out of the dark depth. There was beauty in the free-floating, empty space.

Eat When Eating July 27, 2005

Posted by Keren Fite in Reflections.
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This morning I made a point of eating when eating. Not eat and read, not eat and watch TV. Just plain eating.

I sat. I ate. My thoughts took me someplace else.
“Oh well”, I thought, “There’s always the next meal to try again”.
A new place of comfort.

Sweet Ripeness July 20, 2005

Posted by Keren Fite in Reflections.
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The figs in my garden are starting to ripen, filling the air with their honey-scented bounty… the fig tree has finally grown strong enough to face the harsh wind, and has become a place of cool shadowy shelter in the heat of summer… I see the figs maturing slowly, from hard immature bright-green to the soft round sweetness of opulent green-violet… the infinite play of light and shadow under the branches of the tree, the soft wind that moves green leaves along with green fruits ask for quiet observation… you cannot come to the tree hungry for its sweetness, you need to walk softly amidst the buzz of bees and hornets, to become acquainted with the ripe fruit you are about to pick and swallow, to sense with gratefulness the intimacy of giving and receiving…

Beginning July 19, 2005

Posted by Keren Fite in Reflections.
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This is my journey through meditation. Those who might see progress are invited to rethink the linear paradigm of progression. Is the acorn less perfect than the oak?

Whenever the spectator points out her words of criticism I will kindly ask her to reread Walden, “Solitude”: “I only know myself as a human entity; the scene, so to speak, of thoughts and affections; and am sensible of a certain doubleness by which I can stand as remote from myself as from another. However intense my experience, I am conscious of the presence and criticism of a part of me, which, as it were, is not a part of me, but spectator, sharing no experience, but taking note of it; and that is no more I than it is you”.

Read me! April 5, 2005

Posted by Keren Fite in Reading.
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Like the artists who wrote them, books try to turn their potential readers from indifferent observers to active participants, to reinvent themselves from silent words into lively beings.