A lie is more powerful than the truth, if needed

When someone is desperate, they will cling to a lie with the religious fervor of a martyred saint.   The lie, you see, is their rock and their foundation.  Without it, they are humiliated.  The lie protects their good name, their true intentions, their very value as human beings.  The lie becomes essential to their integrity and they will defend it as though their life depends on it.

Take the example of a woman married to a criminal.  She has been shocked and angered over and over by his criminal acts and the lies he told her to conceal them from her.  It is humiliating to her that he has never acknowledged being wrong — every “crime” he ever did was for her sake —  or asked for her forgiveness, even when his crimes, and the lies surrounding them, destroyed her dreams at the moment they were about to come true.  

Think about this scenario for a second.  If she ever said aloud what I just wrote above, how could she live with herself?  She couldn’t.  So… the lie!  It’s not her husband, it’s her fucking brother the self-righteous, unforgiving prick who is judging and torturing her entire family, always a threat to blow the lid off decades of carefully guarded shame.   He can’t keep anything secret, his mouth is an open faucet, he doesn’t care who he hurts with his pernicious moral uprightness.   He self-righteously hides behind “truth” when all he wants is to hurt people and feel virtuous being a sadistic piece of shit.

How do the sister and brother retain a relationship in this hostile situation?  They talk about books, movies, a little celebrity gossip, dogs, some commiserating about the political cesspool we are all bobbing in, their health.  Everything else, everything personal and important, is off the table.  The lie that her brother is a liar remains undisturbed. 

The brother tolerates this the best he can, which often is not very well.  His name is assassinated, since he is a threat to the children if he starts fucking blabbing and telling his precious “truth” to the kids.  The kids must be kept away from a destructive agenda-driven fuck like that. 

On the other hand, the brother must remain eternally patient, hopeful and generous.  If he ever shows frustration, or, god forbid, anger, he has shown his hand, proved the case against him and that’s the ballgame, ladies and gentlemen.

And so it goes.  You could say that a lie, if desperately needed, is more powerful than the truth.

Making amends

Making amends is trying to fix something that’s broken. If a guest’s bone gets broken, as a result of you accidentally placing a stumbling block in a place that resulted in a fall and broken bone, making amends might be contritely driving the person to the hospital to have the broken bone treated. It might be helping the person while they are hindered by the broken bone. It should include assuring the person that you will do your very best to make sure never to put a dangerous obstacle where they can trip over it and get hurt.

It doesn’t seem to me that making amends with somebody you have hurt is all that hard. Unless you consider that you must take responsibility for the pain you caused, which makes you vulnerable, which puts you at risk of being rejected by the person you are trying to make amends with. Making yourself vulnerable is the price of trying to make amends. It is also the price of meaningful friendship.

I understand it may seem a fearful price to some, but it is hard for me to understand how to retain a facade of friendship with a person who is incapable of acknowledging the pain they cause. Fake friendship with people I can no longer trust is not for me.

It is particularly hard to do during this time of year when we Jews are instructed to make amends, to speak the truth, to move beyond lies that people tell to make themselves feel righteous, instead of ashamed, when they are wrong and continue to act badly.

I understand that some people are weak, damaged and desperate to be right at any cost. If the cost is my friendship, so be it, I suppose. As long as they refrain from assassinating my good name among mutual friends. The inability to behave with emotional maturity confers no right to kill.

כל עכבה לטובה

Every pause is for the best.

This was written on a pocket-sized card in a small meticulous hand by the paternal grandfather of an old friend of mine. He’d write down these aphorisms to remind himself of things that he wanted to remember.

One thing was this phrase. If you are upset and thinking about doing something decisive, a bit more delay is rarely a bad idea. If you are thinking of doing something that will hurt somebody, and you hesitate, that little mercy is a good in itself.

I suppose it’s a good thing to remind yourself of once in awhile, if you don’t know what to do, if you’re in turmoil, if you feel hurt, in a tight spot, it’s not a bad idea to hesitate rather than take an action or say words that you might not be able to take back.

What you can tolerate will depend

We have different thresholds for what kind of treatment we can tolerate from others. One person’s tough, challenging, funny wise-ass is another person’s humorless abuser sometimes. It all depends on our personality, our experience, our other relationships and what we feel comfortable with.

To some people periodic displays of intense anger are fine, providing the person quickly calms down and becomes reasonable. It’s not hard to understand or identify with anger, we are all subject to it from time to time. We are able to tolerate different levels, displays and durations of anger, depending on the circumstances and our tolerances.

Pirkey Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers, is found in the back of many Jewish prayer books like the ones that are usually at the Bar and Bat Mitzvahs I’ve been forced to sit through over the years. So as the congregation is rising and being seated, (please rise, please be seated, please rise), and praying in unison, I am scanning Ethics of the Fathers, the whole short book is in there, after all of the prayer services. I used to read Pirkey Avot looking for little bits of eternal wisdom from ancient times. There’s one about anger I’ve been greatly influenced by. It describes the four kinds of temperaments with a beautiful, clean logic.

There are four kinds of temperaments when it comes to anger and peace.

One type of person is quick to anger but quick to be pacified. His loss is offset by his gain.

Another type is slow to anger but slow to be pacified. His virtue is offset by his deficit.

Another type is slow to anger and quick to forgive. This is a virtuous person.

The fourth temperament is quick to anger and slow to forgive. This type is evil.

I always thought the Father’s (whoever the hell they were) laid that out profoundly and indisputably. My cousin Eli was quick to anger, and I made him angry many times. But because he loved me he was also very quick to be placated and we would soon move on from the thing he was so angry about a minute before. It was a beautiful thing about our relationship.

My mother had the same kind of relationship with him before I did. She would fight with Eli hour after hour, day after day and when they said goodbye they hugged and kissed and had big smiles on their faces and couldn’t wait to do it all again soon. That’s a beautiful thing.

If Eli didn’t like you he had no qualms about making a face, turning away and closing a door on you, or, if needed, making a great display of his purple faced anger, which was terrifying to see. As a young man he had no hesitation to punch somebody in the face if it came to it.

But in spite of his fierceness, and his face would be as threatening as the face of a leaping jaguar, his teeth ready to bite, foam on his lips, his face purple and his white hair trembling on top of his head, neither my mother nor later I ever backed down from his terrifying displays of dominance.

We would say “come on Eli, you have to be honest, if your daughter said that to you you would be pretty pissed off too.” And Eli would rage a bit more, give a few last groans and cries and flashes of teeth, but then he would say “fine, but I have to tell you what happened after that” and he’d continue intil the next fight.

After a few fights it was time to go get dinner, take a long time-out, to talk about other things, eat and have coffee in peace and drive back to his place. Only once we were settled comfortably back in our chairs would we resume the fights, which would sometimes go on until late in the night. Every time I left Eli we hugged and kissed and agreed to talk soon and make plans for the next time.

Eli didn’t have that kind of relationship with any of his estranged children or grandchildren. Or really anybody besides my mother, that I knew of. I certainly didn’t have that relationship with my father or mother, I mean we fought all the time but there was none of that hugging and kissing and laughing at the end of it. I guess I was lucky to know somebody like Eli, who could be infuriating, and furious, but was at the same time very easy to get along with.

Strange are the blessings and curses of this life.

A happy, healthy, sweet 5783

The first day of 5783, the new Jewish year, dawns after a night of plentiful rain.   The garden is looking very lush after its long, refreshing drink.  Tomorrow we join a group of old friends for lunch and a walk to the river to symbolically throw away our sins, our bad thoughts, our hurtful deeds, the times we gave in to our baser impulses.  Thoughts percolate in my head as every year at this time, maybe more so today than most years.

Today is the first of the Ten Days of Repentance, a traditional time of introspection for Jews, a period when we are supposed to make amends, let go of hurt and anger and repay debts.  In my experience, few people have much use for introspection.  It’s not hard to understand why.  It makes people feel like shit to spend too much time thinking about their real motivations, confronting the demons that make them act with (justifiable) brutality toward others.  We would rather feel right, just and loving than wrong, unfair and punitive.  If you think I’m wrong, unfair and punitive I’ll show you who’s fucking wrong, unfair and punitive!

Some people pray at this time of year.  I’m with Ricky Gervais on this: pray, by all means, it’s fine, but do not cancel the chemotherapy.  Prayer is between you and God, if you have that kind of relationship, have a deep, prayerful talk with your Maker.  Not for me, though.  Prayer does nothing for me.  If I talk to God at all it’s as an equal, made in the All-Merciful’s image, as we all are.

The arrogance of humans can be seen in a hundred variations, in every direction.  If you are ashamed, crush whoever makes you feel ashamed.  If you have hurt somebody, it’s their fucking fault for being an asshole.  If you are caught in a criminal act, blame others, wail about being persecuted by ruthlessly unfair enemies.  

Religion can ordain certain actions, but it cannot cause a greater truth to enter the heart unless people allow it to.  We surrender our own will to a higher will and feel righteous doing so, some of us.  Others try to live a life of fairness, expecting no more of others than we ourselves are capable of.  Then we will have a war, where both sides fervently believe God has our backs during the righteous slaughter.  Pathetic earthlings.

Best to you all for a happy, healthy, sweet 5783.  May it be much better, in every way, than 5782.

Jared Kushner, boy genius

Asked, on his book promotion tour (the self-serving tome is apparently a bestseller on Amazon) whether his father-in-law had won the 2020 election, graceful Jared did this brilliantly original dance (as reported in today’s NY Times, link at bottom):

“I think that there’s different words,” Mr. Kushner told the talk show host Megyn Kelly during a friendly interview on SiriusXM. He added, “I think there’s a whole bunch of different approaches that different people have taken, and different theories.”

Pressed to say whether Mr. Trump lost, Mr. Kushner demurred. “I believe it was a very sloppy election,” he said. “I think that there’s a lot of issues that I think if litigated differently may have had different insights into them.”

Clearly, it was not the election itself, it was the failure to properly litigate the election, that is, the failure to offer any proof of fraud in any court of law that made the real difference into insights that determine what you call it: sloppy, a steal, a mistake, a fuck up, a mirror image of me, myself and the outsized ambitions apertunant thereto.

The Times book reviewer gushed:

“Breaking History” is an earnest and soulless — Kushner looks like a mannequin, and he writes like one — and peculiarly selective appraisal of Donald J. Trump’s term in office. Kushner almost entirely ignores the chaos, the alienation of allies, the breaking of laws and norms, the flirtations with dictators, the comprehensive loss of America’s moral leadership, and so on, ad infinitum, to speak about his boyish tinkering (the “mechanic”) with issues he was interested in.

This book is like a tour of a once majestic 18th-century wooden house, now burned to its foundations, that focuses solely on, and rejoices in, what’s left amid the ashes: the two singed bathtubs, the gravel driveway and the mailbox. Kushner’s fealty to Trump remains absolute. Reading this book reminded me of watching a cat lick a dog’s eye goo.

link to full review at [1]

On Wednesday, when asked on Fox News if Mr. Trump made a mistake in taking classified documents with him to Mar-a-Lago after leaving office, Mr. Kushner stepped carefully.

“President Trump, he governed in a very peculiar way,” he said. “When he had his documents, I’m assuming he did what he thought was appropriate.”

Mr. Kushner has condemned the F.B.I.’s search of Mar-a-Lago, saying on Tuesday, “It just seems like what they keep doing is breaking norms in their attempt to try to get him.”

His father-in-law has been touting his book as a MUST READ. He’s giving it away as a promotion to those who make a certain sized donation to his omnibus Defend the Innocent Trump from unfair partisan persecution PAC fund.

The friendly venues have mostly spared Mr. Kushner tough questions about Mr. Trump’s role during the Jan. 6 attack. His interviewers have also steered clear of asking about how Mr. Kushner secured a $2 billion investment from a fund led by the Saudi crown prince, whom he defends in his book as a reformer on certain topics.

source [below]

Go, Jared.

Go fuck yourself.

Promoting His Memoir, Kushner Offers Tortured Defenses of Trump https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/27/us/politics/jared-kushner-trump-book.html?unlocked_article_code=AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACEIPuonUktbfqYhkQFUZBCbIRp8_qRmHmfnE2_s-j2XzIG2WVC1CyekPRpSa5kLVIKBkYNh13yieQJUJFo4Tc8FI770VOV1xGU7vq4GYmZ8BLmJsotLjA2lm1NfBDbtgtGK1MTH8eOsnmfixtUzbPjO9C6GOgiYxNU0y98seAFKg3HICwq_AE_ckmYUtmKd8We0pAGsIdyKIvPL3ChRhO9vgbRrU6AQ-W-gxSiiE1JfHqOpGKFMOfAqAGHBv4m8868deMMcUPcv_LB0hfcn9gNYBG22cXFQG6Nxq4PA225KPu8U

[1] Jared Kushner’s ‘Breaking History’ Is a Soulless and Very Selective Memoir https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/17/books/review-breaking-history-jared-kushner.html?unlocked_article_code=AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACEIPuonUktbfqYhkQFUaBCbfWt8ktVqciObOzaN5jGXzJSuUTzkHz-UOH4-a6gLPbLBua54wwi-bQtJbdr8zQfg4hsluA3tQcSj66J2VhMZCZCwvtYO4Wm5x08LBUb1ioWOvMTHlIqIinODh-hiPOmj1UaHZ1HZwdls185EyZkjqjSJTvtrNG-Nw09V92_4zVNstFXpbOn7877S_AA5-Od6GchjW9gE9PupaUjzTltKZgKkSJEQQURmVCSMivhtvrY9UK9gVP63gLh4_ecGYgr0ZD2dgKInBFIROvEs9zUnYURc6upaakNAx

Storyline # 9

Four old friends share a vacation house for a few days. For reasons none of them understand, tensions continue to escalate. Each one unwittingly plays a part in this rising stress. By the third or fourth night, one, feeling provoked by another, reacts in fury. Later, another will lash out in anger.

People under stress get mad from time to time, especially among people they love, who, being safest, are easiest to take anger out on, which sometimes just happens. Hurt feelings heal, hopefully quickly but certainly over time, given patience, kindness and communication.

Injuries to esteem can be traumatic, especially if familiar from earlier life and prolonged. Their pain can threaten, even kill, old precious relationships.

Friends in the grave are no different from friends who are alive and of whom we no longer speak, their righteous hurt become intolerable to us. Except that it’s mainly the other living ones we sometimes can’t forgive.

Story time

There are many ways to describe the same situation, multiple stories are possible for every set of events. The  moral of each story is wildly different as are the heroes, villains and innocent bystanders. This is common in our smash-mouth politics, as we see everyday. 

It’s not that anything wrong was done (note the beautifully passive voice) in accidentally removing sensitive, automatically declassified national defense documents from their secure location, not by us, though those evil, partisan zealots on the other side are totally out of control, weaponizing everything, including illegally using laws and so-called legal procedures, clumsily planting fake evidence and willing to lie and do all manner of evil in an attempt to embarrass, dominate and win, because they’re sick and dangerous traitors who need to be hanging from lamp posts.   

Clearly there are other, much different, ways to lay out the facts and details and explain the cause and effect in this story. The main thing, in our litigious culture, beyond even accuracy, is that the story is emotionally compelling.

Bill Barr was found by a judge to have lacked candor in his representations to the court about a DOJ memo written in response to the Mueller Report.  He was found the other day, by a panel of appellate judges, to have been untruthful in asserting that the memo (on how to communicate to the public that Mueller had exonerated Trump for a crime Mueller said he could neither charge Trump with nor exonerate him for) was privileged because it discussed deliberations over whether to charge the former president with a crime or not.  Mueller and Barr relied on the same OLC memo that said a sitting president may not be charged with a crime, so there was no deliberation over whether to charge him in that memo.  Barr was lying, as Mueller suggested in his strongly worded letter about Barr’s misleading spin on the report, complaining that Barr had mischaracterized his findings.  Barr kept Mueller’s immediately written letter to himself for months, while claiming under oath that he had no inkling of what Bob thought of his characterization of the report.   

In another way of telling the story Barr was himself simply telling a story, it was puffery, a lawyer’s poetic license to spin the story to best suit his client’s needs. Those who share Barr’s worldview feel that Barr had every right, in the face of such, vicious, relentless enemies, to do everything that he did to help the leader he was rightfully protecting.

This is the society we are currently living in.   We don’t need to look at politics for more examples of wildly divergent, irreconcilable accounts of an occurrence people lived through together.   A blow up between old friends that nobody understood the reasons for will be described in incompatibly different stories.  In one, the four all played parts in the escalating tensions, discomfort, eruptions of anger and the sickening aftermath.  In another, three were pretty much the victims of one, a dangerous, sadistic and unforgiving person who nobody could even speak to without fear of being tortured.  In another, the blame for the accidental horrors was fairly evenly spread between three, while the fourth was largely blameless.   Another way of telling it was that once their respective traumatic childhood wounds were reopened, all bets were off, it was a zero sum war of survival, each against all.   The story then became one of alliances, who believed what and, in the end, whose story would become the final narrative in their little social circle.

One story lets the narrator completely off the hook, in fact, makes them the sympathetic victim and defender of a fellow victim, and they themselves will tell it calmly, yet passionately, to persuade friends of the truth of it.  In another story, the worst injury described will be completely absent from the first account.  Things one person remembers being said, things that shocked her, are not recalled by another person, the one who allegedly said it, though a third person does recall it, although not exactly as the first one said.

In one story the only way out is through a process of reconciliation, involving a painful but necessary conversation conducted in the safety of old friendship and extending the benefit of the doubt all around.  In another story the only solution, the only way to avoid reliving the devilishly painful details, is agreeing to forget the regrettable things ever happened and carrying on as if they didn’t, even though it means, unfortunately, tacitly tolerating the intolerable sadism of the stubbornly unforgiving one who tortured everybody and demanded they comply with a twisted version of events.

And on and on.   If the goal is peace, and restoration of what was lost, and that goal is shared, there seemingly should be a way out.   There is not always a way out, because, while we all consistently do the best we can, sometimes the best we can do is not good enough for somebody else.  If judged not good enough someone’s best can become the seed of a new story, and that failure of character is the reason we can never fix this broken, once beautiful, rare and cherished thing. 

At least we now know who to blame.

“I don’t know how to do this…”

You know what my father said to me before he died? And I mean right before he died, it might have been the last thing he said. He goes “I don’t know how to do this” and I said “it’s okay, dad, nobody knows how to do it” and a short time later he was just quiet and I saw that he wasn’t breathing. I closed his eyes with two fingers of my right hand and took the oxygen tube out of his nostrils.

I understand now that I said the right thing, what he needed to hear in that moment. “Nobody knows how” was a reassuring touch, but the words he needed to hear were “it’s okay, dad” they released him to go in peace. As he did a moment later, as gently as you can imagine.

Two excellent rules about life to consider

From my friend’s therapist, Dr. John House.

12. A lesson is repeated until it is learned.  A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it.  When you have learned it, you can then go on to the next lesson.

13. People always do the best they can.  If they are doing poorly, it is because they have not learned the lessons that will enable them to do better.