Jerusalem and the unspoken systems in our lives

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Since we got back from Jerusalem last month, my wife has told me about changes the city produced in her worldview.

She had two meetings that affected her. One was with my friend in East Jerusalem, a Palestinian intellectual whom she has gotten close to. His suffering, and the suffering of his family under occupation, were palpable to her in a way that all the newspaper articles in the world are not. I heard her talking about him on the phone yesterday. “You see the little indignities that get inflicted all the time. It’s really upsetting.”

The other people she met were Catholic pilgrims who took us through the stations of the cross. One was a religion professor, another a hermit. My wife was moved by the way they’ve built their lives on values that Jesus instructed.

My wife understands my work on this site in a way that she didn’t before; and she feels committed to it. Readers should know that her work has supported this site financially, and she feels good about that. The meetings in Jerusalem have also made her step back from her own issues. She showed me an email she wrote to the two Catholic ladies.

I have been thinking about your question about “how is my work  changing.” The answer is a bit of a jumble but goes something like  this.  I grew up in a small snooty town that was guided by values of  society and money although no one would ever admit that.  (In fact,  they would be shocked to hear me say that.)  I settled in New York  which was much more open and exciting but ultimately everyone is careerist  – you have to be because it is very dog eat dog.  Phil and I then went  upstate to get away from that but my work still very much involves New York  and that whole deal of where are you working, who are you writing for and  why isn’t your byline larger, etc. etc.

I hadn’t really thought about these unspoken systems until I got to Israel and Palestine. Two things then happened.  First, I saw people whose lives were really hard and they managed to live with true dignity and generosity of  spirit. The idea of making my life hard for my own ego lost its appeal.  At the same time, I met you all and saw that there was another way of living in the world. There is a Bob Dylan song called  “Gotta Serve Somebody.”  I don’t  know if everyone realizes  that.  But you get a choice.

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