Sunday, March 15, 2009

Just Dance

Here's the thing: if you are going to say something bad about someone, just say it to her face. No one wants to here that you don't like her from her best friend's camp friend's cousin's coach's little sister. It's not flattering.

If you don't like my hair, hate my singing, or just think I suck, honestly, just tell me directly to my face. (None of this would be true, obviously, as I have awesome style, amazing talents, and I'm a spectacular person...)

If you're going to tell everyone but myself that I'm in madly love with you, yet lack the courage to tell me to my face, do you really think it's true? Do you think that by spreading these oh so false rumors you're making yourself look good, making me like you more, making the world a better place? We're going to say no on this one.

If you think it's a great idea to tell all your closest and most distant friends that I have secret orgy parties for the prettiest girls I know, you're probably wrong. Creative, yes, intuitive, not so much. True, I frequently have the most beautiful girls in the world sleep in my basement; Why? you may ask, because they are my closest and dearest friends, is that allowed? Again, I'm going to say, si, oui, ja-- who doesn't love a good slumber party?

The thing about gossip is that you can only handle it for so long. There's only so much to say. Whether it's deeply honest, exaggerated, or completely false, it gets a bit old, a bit tedious, a bit too relentless. And if it's not true, why are you even saying it? Will people like you more? Maybe temporarily. Will you get something out of it? Most likely not. Are you making someone else feel good, smile, laugh? Tearing someone else apart doesn't make you any better, any stronger, any wiser.

I'm not trying to pledge my innocence. I, too, have been guilty of copious amounts of gossip and overly embellished girlish chitchat. I may have said a thing or two about your nails, your driving skills, your ideas.

Suddenly I’ve become more conscious of what I say and to whom I say it. If I really don’t like something, think something’s wrong, I’ll tell you. I look back to my middle school days and remember the novel thrill of starting rumors, just for the creativity factor and maybe a little bit for the popularity.

But we’re not thirteen anymore. Making up stories, talking badly about other people just for the sake of conversation is ridiculous, unnecessary, and unacceptably rude. How little are you doing with your life that you cannot manage to talk about yourself, about the other people in the conversation, and not have to bring in a third party? How bored are you with your life that you feel the need to make up stories about others, make everyone else believe they’re true, and just sit there and giggle.

And how weak are you that after creating these fantastical embellishments on reality you lack any courage to mention them to the protagonist of your delightful anecdotes?

In Judaism, we have a concept called לשון הרע “Lashon hara,” literally meaning “evil tongue.” As the most serious of sins, we are advised to fight against it, never gossiping, slandering, or disrespecting any human being. Jewish or not, this human value exists within all of us—who are we helping by creating malevolent words, cluttering our thoughts and speech with them when we should progress onto greater concepts and improvements in the world?

It’s time to start telling the truth, enjoying our own lives without creating misnomers about others. In order to better ourselves, better society, better the world, we need more concern with real problems and real people rather than this slanderous gossip in which we frequently feel the need to engage. What if every time we opened our mouths to say something disrespectful about someone else we twisted our words around, praised this person, or just changed the topic of conversation completely?

And truthfully, if you have something to say about me, I’d prefer you just say it to me.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ode to a Song

There are things I question everyday. There are things I forget about. There are things that annoy me but I just let them go. There are things that drive me crazy and I try my best not to let my own crazy lash back out at them.

A few weeks ago my grandparents took me to the symphony (bringing the average age of the audience down by almost eighty years.) At the beginning of the concert, the orchestra started playing the National Anthem and almost the entire audience rose. White haired men and women with canes, walkers, and even wheelchairs stood in their best posture, and started proudly singing along, hands over their hearts, belting out the lyrics as loudly as possible. The voices blended together in a complete cacophony: after spending my entire life in choir, I am pretty sure I have never heard a more jumbled, unbeautiful rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner.”

But I was taken aback. I glanced around the room as I observed all these individuals joyfully joining together in song, wishing I could be as carefree and happy as all the senior citizens surrounding me. I felt sentimental and pretty gushy about the whole ordeal (in Yiddish we call it Ferklempt—that is the only way to describe it) and questioned the event for the next three hours of the performance.

I’m not really sure why the song was so meaningful to me, perhaps because it was just so unexpected or maybe because it was a Sunday afternoon, and I was functioning on little to no sleep. But the unity, the passion, the excitement in this hodgepodge of people really struck me.

And it made me question our harmony as a people. Why are we always fighting, always trying to take away another person’s rights, always telling someone she’s wrong, always hating, always angry? Why can’t we just stand up and sing, sing anything, and let everyone be happy?

There’s something about music that will do that. It can be the words or the melody or the rhythm, but music makes you feel things, it connects us all together.

I live through music. It brings back memories, evokes emotions, inspires me for the future. I have playlists for sleeping, driving, baking, waking up, remembering, studying, dancing, singing, smiling, crying, writing—you name it, I’m prepared.

I love soundtracks: movies, television, plays. I love remembering the performance, the drama, the feeling I had while watching, and regaining that feeling through the music.

There are so many things that I question everyday; so many things to which I will never find the answers. And even though I know the solutions are distant, I allow the music to lead me to new ideas, new thoughts; inspire me to think originally, inspire myself, to be more creative and live life more fully.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Capitally Positive

I was recently on a flight home when I heard the all too familiar, all too bothersome, less than portentous announcement: “Please turn off your electronic devices to prepare for landing.” Usually, my irrational fears of water landings or impromptu curbside deplaning would cause me to properly stow my iPod beneath the seat and call it a day.

However, Tuesday night was not one of those occasions. As I peacefully hummed along with Rufus Wainwright, I resisted the urge to hold down the pause button but rather cranked up the volume, leaned my head back, and shut my eyes to avoid any vexation from the flight attendant.

As I rested back against the horrifically contaminated, somewhat sticky vinyl seat, I felt a certain sense of contentment. Perhaps it was only the mere three hours of sleep I had the night before. Perhaps it was the ridiculous amount of chocolate peanut butter I had loaded onto my travel sandwich. Or maybe it was just my exhaustion from spending the last fifteen hours on my feet.

Whatever it was, wherever it came from, I realized that at that moment nothing else mattered. That I could rest at ease, listen to the music pulsate through my head, and not worry about what was going to happen. I knew I had done my good for the world that day, that I had made my contribution, and it was enough for then.

I’m not going to deny being Type A. My clothes are organized in order of color, my calendar is meticulously structured, I nominate myself Captain of Everything, I have a thing about matching bras and underwear…

Quite honestly, it’s so rare that I can actually lie back and relax, truly relax and not clutter my mind with other qualms, that I forgot what it felt like.

Earlier that morning, I had set foot in the White House for the first time; later I ate lunch in the U.S. House of Representatives, followed by hours of lobbying and discussions and topped off by watching a speech in the Senate. All the while, I was focused on bettering the world: persuading congresspeople to vote for the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, encourage the development of renewable energy sources, protect the world from Iran, diminish worldwide anti-Semitism, and so much more. Each issue was so important to me, so personally relevant and meaningful to the whole of society, that with each word I spoke to each individual I felt like I was personally bettering the myself, the country, the world.

And we’ll see if anything I said actually made a difference. But in the meantime, I newly awakened to the fact that my life is important, relevant, necessary.

I didn’t keep my iPod on because of a death wish, I had no intention of causing the plane to crash. I didn’t keep listening to Rufus to hear a few more words, as I know every lyric by heart.

I continued listening because my contentment would not let me have any other care in the world than my personal happiness at that moment. I felt so proud that I had helped the world that day, and realized there is no reason I should not feel that way every day of my life. So from now on I vow to live each day of my life to help someone, make something better, improve the world.

And as I leave my computer to go tuck myself into bed (and maybe even catch the last few minutes of Rachel Maddow) I ask myself: what did I do today?

I made someone smile.