Divine Neutrality, Blog. Science, Philosophy

Luftmensch

October 15th, 2014

elfiWest Los Angeles in early July of 1977.

I find myself caught in the force field of a magnetic man. His name is Arthur Doctor. A Jew. Born in Russia – in Vladivostok – but raised in Detroit. Sixty-two years old. Moderate height. Chunky. Pocked and wrinkled face, long flowing white hair – not quite shoulder length – sparkling blue eyes and a friendly smiling face. Somewhat nervous appearing and fidgety. Speaks with a heavy east coast, New York accent. Something like a Garment District Jew who left the garment district many years ago to live in California.

In Yiddish, Luft means air and Mensch means person. The expression, Luftmensch, comes from the small Jewish ghetto towns – Shtetels – of late nineteenth century Eastern Europe. A Luftmensch was a person without perceivable employment status who would leave his wife and children at home each morning and disappear onto the road and into the marketplaces. To buy a little here and to sell a little there, until, out of the Luft, comes enough profit to feed his family and to survive another day. Arthur Doctor was a Shtetel Luftmensch operating in Los Angeles.

Arthur had no family, and his profits exceeded survival needs, but he actually did live by taking advantage of whatever the day brought him. Not only had I seen him do this many times, but I knew his lifestyle because one such day brought me to him. Less than two months after I met him I found myself with the keys to his apartment, the keys to his post office box and to all of his automobiles – four of them, all carefully recycled. I was taking care of his affairs while he pursued an undertaking in Europe! He had put $20,000 into my hands with no legal hold on the funds. His psychological hold was strong.
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Need

August 4th, 2014

val6

Charming downtown Santa Cruz consists of just one street five blocks in length. Shops, restaurants and outdoor cafés border this attractive tree lined avenue. Street musicians abound as do beggars and near-beggars, those offering something in exchange for a contribution to their open coffer.

One of them stood in a building alcove bordering the sidewalk. Visibly out of the way. He was in his fifties wearing the uniform of the destitute; dark fabric, rumpled and soiled street clothes. And he held a fan of ink drawings against his chest. They were not very appealing; primitive geometric forms on post sized white cards. Offerings to attract benefactions.

I had just left Lulu’s coffee shop to walk homeward along the avenue. Entering the stream of strolling citizens I noticed this putative artist in the alcove. I approached him and reached in my pocket saying that I’d like to make a contribution without taking one of his drawings just now. He smilingly accepted the proposition. And I gave him a dollar.

Seeing this, his friend, standing not far off, declared that he too could use some money. “I need a cup of coffee,” said he. So I reached in my pocket and gave him a dollar.

Among the passersby was a cheeky middle aged lady out for a downtown promenade with her husband. She witnessed the affair and, thinking it an amusing scene, called out to all present, “Here’s someone giving money away”. And then, facing me, said, “How about some for me?”

I turned toward her, reached in my pocket and said, “Sure,” offering her a dollar, too. At that turn of events her playfulness evaporated. She backed away refusing the offering saying, “No, I don’t need it.”

“I guess only those who need it accept money on the street,” I said.

“I don’t think so,” she sang out as she sailed off out of conversation’s way. Her tone of voice conveyed more conviction in the matter than did her choice of words. Her tone said, “I’m sure it’s not so”.

I liked the playfulness of that lady who was bold enough to openly ask for money from someone who appeared to be giving it out to everybody on the street. She, not being in need, was too embarrassed to accept a dollar publically from a stranger. But, for those accepting donations, need had outstripped their pride.

She was convinced that those people didn’t need what they were asking for. But what she verbally denied, with her own actions she demonstrated to be true. She wouldn’t acknowledge that those who accept money donations are in need. In need enough to put aside their pride. Not needing the dollar, she couldn’t put her’s aside to accept it.

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Sunshine

July 8th, 2014

The Worrisome Business Of Logical Consistency

child

Sunshine Every Day

The year was perhaps 1938. I was 7 years old then, living in a New York City apartment with my mother, my father and my baby sister. The location was a plebian building with the august address of 35 Hamilton Place in Washington Heights. The upper west side of  Manhattan. Bordering Harlem. We lived on the third floor – apartment 303, I think.

The apartment was small. I shared a bedroom with my three year old sister. Her name was Faith but, because I called her Sistie, so did the world.

In this room I would go into a reverie with my toys. Building blocks. Model cars. My favorites were small, caste metal airplane replicas. The airplane body was perhaps three inches long. Pinned between my fingers, and held aloft at eye level above the apartment floor, wings outspread, it moved majestically through the air. A purring engine sound passed my lips as I guided the airplane on its path. But my eyes saw no guiding fingers. The fingers were invisible to me. For me the airplane was soaring unaided through clouds, miles above the ground. And as I watched it from outside, I was also inside the airplane experiencing the thrill of flying. The plenipotency of God is in the mind of a child.

My mother came into the room. “Why are you playing inside on such a beautiful day? It’s a sunny day. Why don’t you play outside in the sunshine?” she said.

Hearing this, I saw no element of reason in her words. Isn’t there sunshine most days? There would be sunshine days aplenty for going outside. That was my opinion.

I hadn’t taken much notice of the quality of days. If it rained, that too was a sunshine day – and especially if it snowed.

But my mother well knew the quality of days.



The Worrisome Business of Logical Consistency

One day at the age of four I was home with my mother. She was doing chores.

I complained that she should play with me. She explained that washing our clothes, cooking our food, shopping for our needs – the things that had to be done so that I could play all day – did not just happen by themselves; they needed her to do them. She wasn’t able to play with me all the time. She couldn’t be in two places at once.

I saw the logic. But I preferred not to know it. I turned away – angry that she should burden me with the worrisome business of rational consistency, angry that she should place such a burden on my shoulders as the logic of reality.

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