Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Don't Rue the Day! Delete It!

I wish I could turn back time.  Not so I can kill historical evil doers, or be the first person on the moon, or any overblown junk like that.  I'd like to turn the clocks and calendars back to the first day I ever thought it was a good idea to check the box that said,

"Yes! Please Email Me Daily Your Most Helpful Insights and Stuff!"

I'd like to go back to that day, and maybe put out my own eyeballs. Or cut off some fingers, or something.

As I ponder my life, and current state of affairs, I'm coming to the conclusion that email newsletters are, in substantial part, to blame for most of my messes.  My email is the gateway to everything in my life.  Everything that I have to do, everyone I'd like to be in touch with; everyone I'd prefer to avoid; events I hope to attend; appointments I wish I didn't have to attend; events I really wanted to attend, but which I forgot about until I found the email three months after the fact; reminders of items to buy; bills for items I wish I never bought.

My professional life, as it does for many of us I assume, has revolved around email.  I believe, that for many of us - regardless of our job, trade, calling, or profession - receiving, reading, looking for, and responding to emails is probably the most pressing thing we do during the day.  And we spend all day doing it, regardless of whatever other pesky tasks we have on our list, such as "working," "supervising," "managing," "creating," "implementing," "caring," or what have you.

To the extent that many of us have become veritable slaves to our own bloated inboxes. we can thank those helpful daily reminders and informative newsletters for ensuring that we will never be on time for anything.  There was a time when I would literally do a "spit take" if someone told me that he or she had four-digits-worth of emails in his or her inbox.  A recent informal survey I conducted (meaning I just asked some people I know), revealed that having literally thousands of unread - UNREAD - emails in one's box is no longer unusual.  That's in addition to the many more thousands of read (or at least opened) emails that we can't get to immediately, and therefore we've saved them for that ubiquitous opportunity, succinctly known as "later," for when we will summarily handle all the email at once.  Now that I think about it, I'm wondering where "later" fits in with the other great benchmarks of future time including, "The Rapture," "The End of Days," and "my retirement party." It's important, because, depending on the exact day of these things, respectively, I may never actually need to process my email, and won't care to waste my time on it. But I digress.

Most of my email (I think) is comprised of these auto-generated things I so nonchalantly agreed to receive at some point in the past.  When I was arrogant, and thought I could actually handle things. And there it began - the descent into email-centered chaos - where my entire life's work, professional standing, all my relationship statuses, and my general worth as a human being came down to the answers to these questions:

1) Did I get the email?
2) Did I reply to the email?
3) Do have any recollection whatsoever of what the email said, or how I replied?

Well, long story short, I don't know if I got the email.  I can't find it.  But I really like these shoes that are 20% off!  Unfortunately, today is my LAST CHANCE ever to own these shoes (or any shoes - looks like they'll be discontinuing shoes after 11:59 p.m. EST), and today is not my day to buy shoes; at least not in this time zone  - later it might be different; I have to wait for the email with my verification code.

The bottom line is that email is a tremendous source of stress, pressure, work, and failure - unfortunately - for so many of us.  Simply because there is far too much of it.  This, of course, is not a new story.  Efficiency experts, tech people, business analysts, random people have been expressing this for years.  And I imagine that some people have gotten very good at managing their email, while many, perhaps, have abandoned it altogether for other forms of communication (if that's even possible). I'm one of those saps who abandoned email addresses, most that I never even used but once or three times perhaps, in an attempt to get a foothold on the slippery slope.  I've probably won several Nigerian lotteries, and don't even know just how rich I am, on account of the fact that I don't even remember some email accounts I've set up over the years, and never used.  So I can't find the boxes to check them or discontinue them.  You can't discontinue something you have no idea you ever started.

But today is a new day.  A day for bulk deletion of things.  Newsletters I never really wanted, and about which I will finally admit: "I will never read this thing!"

Because I still believe in email.  And I'm still arrogant enough to believe I can handle things - including, but not limited to, email.  So I shall reclaim email as a viable and effective method of interpersonal communication.  But I need to tidy my boxes a bit, first.

In honor of this new day, I'd like to share this little chuckle.  This I captured directly from a filtered list of a particular newsletter (the title is not important - I'm not trying to pick on any persons here). I've been saving these emails for later forever.  But I'd never actually read any of the subject lines before.

What would an I.Q. of 500 or 1000 look like? I wonder! I'm guessing the answer to that compelling question is not reflected in the subject lines that follow it.  I could be wrong.  In any event, now that I have read a few of these, I am feeling much better about bulk deletion as a way of life.

I will be, however, saving one of the newsletters.  I want to know more about Gordon Ramsey's true personality.  I've often wondered about it.  Is he as testy as he seems? Does he hate the contestants on his show? Would I enjoy working for Mr. Ramsey? Maybe as a low-level sous chopper to the Lead Sous Chef and Vice President of Creative Crudités, on account of that's probably all I'd be qualified to do in the kitchen of a chef of Mr. Ramsey's stature.

You see, I think I would enjoy working with Chef Ramsey.  Because I think he's actually a super nice guy.  I believe that he gets all yelly in the kitchen of his show because he loves food and cares about chefs making good food for the people who will eat it; and so he gets a little passionate when people in whom he has faith can't seem to rise up to where he thinks they can be.  And I'll bet it's hard on him, and sometimes he ends a day shoving pasta in his face while drinking red wine and crying to the resonating sounds of Placido Domingo, just because his soul hurts. That's just what I imagine, anyway. I think chefs love people.  Because you can't care that much about the quality of life-sustaining food that you're preparing for other people's enjoyment, as your life's passion, unless you love people enough to want to bring enjoyment to them - people who you may never meet.  That's a good guy, I think.

But anyway, as you know, I digress.  So, carry on - and I hope you all enjoy a deliriously delightful day of wild deletions!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

That's Punny, Jew Don't Look Finnish

Hey, Guys. I'm back.  I hope I haven't kept you waiting too long.  I had some things I had to take care of.

So, awhile back, I wrote this post in which I promised a later post on why I embraced a Protestant faith after I had been raised as a Jew.  Although I knew why, it's taken me a couple, two, tree, four years to articulate my reasoning.  So, here it is, in as tight of a nutshell as this squirrel chaser can muster.

In all my years of Jewish education, my teachers, though well meaning as they were, were unable to help me to understand what it is to be a Jew - what it means to "believe in One God."  And I was never one who could successfully accomplish something without understanding why I was doing it.

  • What I did learn, with my young-child's mind, however, was that we "did not believe in Jesus." 
  • We were supposed to "remember when we were slaves in Egypt," although I had never even been to Egypt.  (Though, I watched The Ten Commandments every year - best movie ever!)
  • We were taught to remember the destruction of the Second Temple.  The only temple I knew as a child was the brick building in my home town.  It looked pretty solid to me.  So I didn't know what they were talking about.
  • Our Holy Days were somber, and scary to me as a child.  My Christian friends enjoyed and looked forward to their holidays.
  • We prayed in Hebrew.  I loved the chanting - the music - but I didn't understand the words.  I can still remember them, but only recently - four decades later - did I learn anything about their meaning.

When I was older - in college - Jews spoke of the Holocaust.  Now this was something I could relate to, as my father was a Holocaust survivor.  He wanted to me be Jewish, have Jewish friends, marry a Jewish man.  I wanted all those things because I wanted to make my father happy.

As it turned out, I couldn't succeed in those ways, exactly.  I tried to be Jewish.  But Jewish students who were full-blood, born, and raised as Jews, said I wasn't really Jewish.  Though my blood was was the same blood that flowed into the Danube at the hand of the Nazi's, it wasn't Jewish enough for the Jews who worshiped freely and obliviously near the shore of Lake Erie.

I was told time and time again, that I didn't look Jewish.  I don't, granted. Not in the stereotypical sense.  But having it pointed out, with a scrunchy eye, hurt my feelings.  Because I was always able to see the Jew in the faces of those who didn't even know their families had Jewish origins.

Conversations around the Hillel House I visited a few times centered on trips to Israel (which I'd never gotten to experience), the great shopping "back home" in New Year, a place I'd never been, the lack of any decent Chinese food (an opinion with which I begged to differ, but was ignored),

When I tried to talk with fellow students about God, they talked over and around my head.  The punch line tended to involve me not being Jewish enough.

Once, I tried to strike up a conversation with the rabbi, in my typical introverted awkward way; apparently, I said the wrong thing, and he abruptly waved me off and said to come see him on another day.

I didn't bother.  I didn't know why I should. I still hadn't gotten an answer to my question of  what Jews believe.  And he was kind of mean to me.

Years later, after my father passed away, I sought out God again.  I read the New Testament for the first time, scratching my head as to why I wouldn't want to believe in Jesus.  Jesus seemed to have a pretty good head on his shoulders.  Plus he was Jewish.

I remembered the very first time I'd ever been in a church - with my very first best friend - and I remembered how pleasant it was.  The Sunday School teacher was nice to me and praised my picture of God (I drew a rainbow).  It was the first time I ever had graham crackers and milk.  It was awesome. And I thought of my friend and her family - Christians who always accepted and loved me and my family.  So I decided to seek out a church like theirs, and found my way to the United Church of Christ.

In my UCC congregation, we read the Bible in English. We sang hymns that I remembered as Jewish prayers.  My pastors spoke lovingly about the Jewish Jesus and the Jewish history and culture of Jesus's time, which helped to put the Bible into context for me so that it made excellent sense.  We didn't read the Bible "literally," but for truth.  And my church sisters and brother take the poetic interpretation of the Bible very seriously.  They live it.  They welcomed me.  They were interested in hearing about Judaism.  And most had never been to Israel or thought anything of the fact that I hadn't either.  They didn't say I didn't look Jewish. They didn't seem to care what I looked like. They just took me at my word.  And I regret deeply that my word wasn't very good.  But I still believe in their words: that God's love is endless, and that to believe in God means to love and care for one another, and to forgive.  So that's what I've been busy doing: learning to love and care and forgive - myself and others.

Ironically, it is in becoming a Christian that I have felt more proudly Jewish than ever before.  It's why I'm a Jewdi for Jesus.

Oy, once again I went longer than I planned to.  Sorry about that. I guess this is about the smallest nutshell a big nut like myself can manage.