Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Anatomy of A College Party: An Alarming Display

Last week, I went with my friend to my first (and probably last) party of the semester.Let me preface this by saying, this is not written to judge anyone around me or deny the fact that alcohol and party culture very much exist at my school. Additionally, I have been to quite a few of these frat parties due to the fact that I rushed first semester.

We walk in; my friend greets me (a brother in the fraternity that occupies the house we are walking into). As he hugs me, I can smell the alcohol on his breath. We walk downstairs and run straight into the bar. We politely decline the drink offers that pelt us from every which way. Walking to the back of the three room basement, I first remark that this is most certainly a fire hazard, and then we settle in, watching a few girls play beer pong. It is almost miraculous to me how excited full grown women can get about ping pong balls bouncing into beer cups. But then I look down to the hands that aren't throwing the balls, and I notice the drinks these girls are actually drinking.

At this point, it is 10:30 PM; the night is just getting started. We walk out it the main room of the party where the music is blaring so loudly that the house itself is shaking. We observe people jumping up and down and grinding on one another. It all just seems a bit germy to me. I like to keep touching to people who's names I will remember the next morning. As I watch them, I am reminded of one of John Green's quotes about college, "sometimes it seems like there's only two kinds of college students these days, those who binge drink with alarming frequency, and those who define themselves primarily in opposition to that binge drinking." Now my question was just why? I don't want to judge people, but what is the point. Oh right, the point is to forget about your problems. But how the heck did this start? I mean, I know that people have been having parties since the beginning of time. After all, hundreds of the artifacts that we have from Ancient Rome were used to mix wine in. Honestly, I'm still wondering why as I watch people leave Shabbat Dinner to go to parties.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Lovesong for "This is Water": The Two Literary Pieces That Never Fail To Keep Me Grounded

In my English class when I was a senior in High School, we read many things, but the two that have stuck with me are David Foster Wallace's brilliant commencement address: This is Water, and T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. There is many things that I love about these pieces, and if you would excuse my unapologetic enthusiasm, I would like to share them with you.

Let's start with This is Water. First of all, I am a college student, and as an overcommitted, anxious and hyper organized college student, I often fail to look at the big picture. Let me give you an example(I promise, i'll get to This Is Water in a minute): Tomorrow, I have five classes in a row, two club meetings and a club fair to attend, and at some point, I need to do my homework for the aforementioned classes. This is one day of my life. Looking at the big picture is not something that I was considering on Sunday afternoon when I color coded my schedule in my planner. Now we come to "this is water." I highly recommend that you read/listen to the whole speech, but if you don't want to do that, here's a quick summary: we don't pay attention to what we've always known, our so called default setting, and the purpose of a liberal arts education is to help us learn how to think. I think I've mentioned some of these concepts in a previous blog post, but bear with me. I could spend every moment of tomorrow cursing my teachers for assigning me ridiculous amounts of homework or feeling guilty for committing to too many things, or I could actually think about how lucky I am to have the problem of having too much to do, and I could think about the fact that my peers are probably just as rushed in the line for Einstein's as I am.

The second thing from "This is Water" that has always struck me is this line: "Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship." As someone who wants to devote her life to religion, I find this comforting.  By focusing on the bigger picture, I am able to let my religion help me. We need to make conscious choices of what we worship. Instead of worshiping money and celebrity and success, we should worship gratitude and compassion and if you prefer, God. If we worship material things, there will never be enough to satisfy ourselves. The issue is that, as Wallace says, these are often the easier things to attain because they seem more achievable and concrete.

At the end of the day, the real impact of "This is Water" for me is a reminder to be conscious. To be conscious of my environment, conscious of how I think, and conscious that everyone around me is as stuck in their "default setting" as I am. It appears that this blog post is already too long, so you'll have to wait until next week to hear about my obsession with this poem. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

And That's What Comes From Mixed Dancing: What can we learn from Fiddler on the Roof?

I've probably seen Fiddler on the Roof at least ten times between the movie and various school and community productions, but last night I had a very different reaction to the play. Not because the production was better, which it was, but because I suddenly was hit with greater meaning to this familiar musical.

The first thing that struck me was the need for change, both in Anatevka and in our own lives. Each of Tevye's daughters come to him and ask him to let them marry the men that they love, and Tevye begins by calling it "unheard of" and "insane." While these traditions and views may seem archaic, it is much harder for to look at our world and see what needs changing. This is obviously small, but it reminded me of John Green's explanation as to why we still have pennies. We like things that are familiar even if they seem illogical to an outsider. There is also a component of gender roles present in this very same example. Here, we no longer have arranged marriages, but women are still paid substantially less than men and almost 25% of women will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. Mixed dancing isn't a problem in american society.  The injustices we live with may be "comfortable" ones, that doesn't make them less unjust.

The second thing that struck me was the conflict between assimilation and tradition. In the play, there is an "us" and "them" mentality between the Russians and the Jews in Anatevka. While this has to do with the need for change, this one seemed more applicable to the Jewish community. After all, the cornerstone of the Reform Jewish movement is to be both a part of one's country and a Jew at the same time, and I think we've done a pretty good job at that. I would never say that tradition is bad, otherwise I would have no future job and be a total hypocrite. Tradition is important to me; I think that's why I love Fiddler so much, because it shows my traditions (aka how many Jews do you see in art, Transparent is the only other one that I can think of).  But I do think that our traditions need to evolve with the times. I'm not exactly sure what that looks like, but I'm open to all suggestions.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The In-Between Space: What is home?

I spent a lot of this winter in an in-between space. I am no longer a high schooler, but I have a lot of friends who are in high school. I no longer live in my childhood home, but I am currently sleeping in the room that I slept in for my whole childhood. In between Christmas and New Years (yes, I know I'm jewish).

This all got me thinking about what I think of as home. Surely my house in Illinois is still a little bit of a home. But so is my dorm room at school. And so is my synagogue. And so is my camp. I chose to have a lot of "homes away from home" as a child. Is it the people who make a place your home? That could certainly be true about most of them. But I'm not entirely sure. Why is it that my synagogue felt the most like home? Could it be because it was the only place where I wasn't stuck in the "in-between space"? My relationship with the people and the place of the synagogue is evolving for sure, but it will always be my home no matter how far away I end up.

Maybe the uncomfortability of the in-between space is good for us. Maybe it teaches us when to move on and emphasizes our need to grow. But once and and while, it's nice to just come home.