Preface // Yaël Talks

Man is confronted with the frightening conflict of being a prisoner of nature, yet being free in his thoughts; being part of nature, and yet to be as it were a freak of nature; being neither here nor there. Human self-awareness has made man a stranger in the world, separate, lonely, and frightened. He is forced to overcome this horror [….] to find new forms of relating himself to the world to enable him to feel at home.” -Ehrich Fromm

Without taking too much time to preface, please offer me the delight of providing a short introduction.

I can be quite the hypocritical Luddite,—believing that life must have been better before the advent of the internet and digital communication, because effort, and intention,somehow imbue everything with a greater, intrinsic meaning. But, if the Luddite is one who shuns new technology, than this title surely doesn’t apply to me—I am writing a freaking blog. (Not that blogging is considered a new technology nowadays), but you get the point.

On effort and intention. This blog is my attempt to bridge the gap between the daily choices that define my cultural and technological existence—an existence of superficial and perfunctory choices, and my soul, that has higher aspirations, and yearns for transcendence.

Rolling eyes, okay Yaël, take it easy, how about intellectual stimulation and deeper social interactions;that’s a worthy and achievable goal, and not too lofty.

There’s a scene from Chaim Potok’s, The Chosen, that lingers in the back of my mind: when Danny runs away to the library, to read in secret. What kind of danger is involved in allowing a child the freedom to roam a library? Obviously, in this case, Danny’s interests in psychology pose a direct threat to his family’s Hasidic traditions. Do we realize how what we read, watch, or listen to influence our ways of thinking, or seeing the world? Is that even possible nowadays, to be scrupulous about what kind of information we are exposed to, when we are accosted by such an endless stream?

Taking a further step back, I think about why we read, and why we write. And perhaps the 21st century, our age of digital excess,  has altered or influenced how we relate and engage in these two processes?

Why do I write? I write to find myself. Why do I read? To escape myself.

This dialectic is a fundamental part of my existence–this game of hide-and-seek alleviates some of the pressures of the mundane. It is a binary that also works in reverse: Fiction writers do a good job of escaping their lives through the creation of alter-egos, through characters that are not constrained by the limits of the “real” world; and I read fiction and non-fiction, to learn something about the human condition, and how they cope, or view the particulars of their life circumstances.

But day in and day out, I feel like both my writing and my reading are not wholly fulfilling these needs.

My daily writing consists of requisite text messages to my mother, and stiff, prosaic emails to potential employers or colleagues. I am not finding myself, rather, forcing my language into pre-fabricated sentences of social convention, or letting auto-predict dictate what I will type next.

And my reading, what do I read these days? I can waste hours on twitter; wading through an endless stream of simultaneously amusing and depressing guffaws politicians committed in the past twenty-four hours, or statistics, news flashes, or events happening all around the globe. I read to feel connected to this world, and yes, it is a miracle that from my desk in Washington D.C. I am able to keep up with what’s going on millions of miles away in a Kurdish village north of Mosul.

So maybe I want a bit more, back to the idea of transcendence—where is the escape—or the self-discovery?

I repeat, I am not a luddite: thanks to technology, I can collaborate with one of my best friends who is over 5,000 miles away.

This blog is a place where I will attempt to escape the increasingly depressing news cycle, and make sense of ideas that I am exposed to, thanks to the Newton Public Library (shout out to my sister, who dutifully pays the plethora of fines for my overdue books) and the bountiful second-hand book stores of Tel Aviv, Paris, D.C. and Boston, that I have the luxury to peruse on a regular basis.

If this blog can bring you some inspiration, or comfort, or knowledge, or enjoyment, then I will feel I’ve done something truly worthy with (a few) of the hours I labor behind this computer screen.

I mentioned that we want to hear from you, and I really do. Did you read a book you think I’d like? Do you have ideas for how to make this place more exciting? Please share– My email is ycmizrahi@gmail.com.

 

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