Saturday

get off my promised land

hi! i'm back. and what adventures i've been having!

i've had no adventures.

since i finished thief 2, i thought maybe i should do some actual writing and critique the entire trilogy. i think i still might. maybe after i finish deus ex 2 and roll it all into one, since the story is kind of entwined. but then i'd have to go through the entire looking glass games back catalogue, so i think i'll just stick to thief. doing 'proper' writing was always part of the plan on here, as well as stuff that's only interesting to you lot.

my brother's written something about his experiences of school - sorry, shul - on his blog, and it's brought back a wealth of memories of my own times at wilbraham road synagogue. as i haven't written for a couple of weeks, i thought i'd do something special and recount as much as i could remember.

notes on words used: synagogue is the building, and is actually a greek word, not hebrew or yiddish (so i don't know why it's so widely used in the community). shul is the yiddish word for the same thing. chaeda (please try to pronounce the 'ch' right) the equivelent of sunday school, where you learn about religion, traditions, and festivals.

i remember...

often, in the early days, we'd forget our yamulkes, and have to borrow a paper one from the rabbi.

i learnt two words of hebrew in my entire time there - 'abba' which means father, and the word for mountain, which until i tried to remember it now, i was sure i still remembered. quite why these were the two words i'd learn i don't know, and what it implies for the education system i will leave unsaid.

other than daniel my brother, i remember two brothers who we would count as friends. i think one had a gameboy.

i remember of a bunch of idiotic dick children who liked to start dancing round the room singing and shouting in the middle of a lesson from the teacher. most of these boys attended 'very good' schools, and one, michael filson, came up in conversation years later with a guy called will. i met will through playing wfrp with matt. he was telling us about the bullying of a child who shall remain nameless, at manchester grammar (a posh boys school), which attained notoriety throughout the manchester school community, as he was held to the floor by his class mates who tried to force some gob stoppers and a chair leg into his anus. when i asked who the comedian was who had tried to hold his cheeks open, will replied 'michael filson'. i couldn't believe that i'd sat in the same classroom, and had stared daggers at, this person. when i went to durham, i remember ben green (or someone) telling me that somehow he knew micheal too, and he was at a different college - what was the posh one on the bailey that everyone hated? fortunately i never met him.

strangely, i didn't seem to be hated. after danny had left, i spent most of my break periods reading 'white dwarf' (this can't be right. that mag was monthly, and we attended schul probably weekly [i do recall a time when we weren't going so often/regularly]) or chatting to adam cohen. adam ended up at cheadle hulme school with me, and was the only person from chaeda i invited to my bar mitzvah. the other children were a little confused. why didn't they get invited? because, as i've already explained, they were idiot dick children. maybe not directly to me, but i remember the treatment they gave the other quiet kids in the class. they were horrible, and worse, they seemed to believe all this bullshit that we were being fed. they were the cool kids, and this was an environment were being a cool kid meant being good at being jewish. isn't that crazy/sick?

i'd often be told by the cantor that 'white dwarf' was not appropriate to read in shul and i should read something jewish instead.

whenever we were allowed to play board games, i remember i always lost. i must admit, during my childhood, i was always a bad loser. i'm sorry to anyone who i may have upset with a tantrum or a competitive edge. i don't remember doing anything like that there, though; i just found it funny that i'd always lose at games of complete chance. these were games like snakes and ladders, things were there was no choice involved, let alone skill. you might as well have just rolled at the begining to see who won and saved the time.
i remember being easily influenced in the early years, and spelling god 'g-d' in r.e. lessons at junior school. the teacher there saw fit to 'correct' my spelling. it was not that i had 'discovered' religion, it was simply what i had been told to do. this tickles me when i think about it now; 'god' isn't even the name of the hebrew god, so what are they worried about?

once i told a teacher that i didn't believe in god. she got very cross and replied with what, i realised years later when i was a little more mature, was a frankly laughable attempt to prove the existence of a creator - the spilled ink argument - but at that moment i couldn't think of a comeback. was she so poorly educated that she thought this stood up to any kind of rational analysis? or was she just trying to stall a young child (i can only have been about nine) with an unconvincing argument for just long enough for blind faith to take hold? if the second, i think that's child abuse. she was trying to make me stupid so i would believe in their god and go to their church. isn't that disappointing?

my bar mitvah was a farce. i only learned a fraction of the text required, the intro, and not the actual segment of the torah that is supposed to show that the boy has become a man. but it still counted.

i remember standing next to danny to sing the hymns in hebrew at the end of the morning. we couldn't read the words, let alone understand what they meant, so we'd just hum along, sing something else, or just nothing at all.

upon leaving shul, i would sometimes complain to my grandma that i wasn't even jewish. her repsonse would either be 'you're jewish enough for the nazis' or 'you're jewish when you go here' (in the second case, i wish i had replied: 'fine, i just won't go!'). going to services at synagogue was a case of bringing books - terry pratchett for dan, something lighter for me, and standing up and sitting down at the same time as everyone else, while looking up to the gallery where the women had to sit every five minutes, to see if we could spot our mum, and hoping that she was saying we could go home. can you imagine going through all that shit? christian children don't have to learn how to wear tallasim, or that leather strap/head box combination (no, i can't remember what it was called. i could look it up, but it won't change the fact that i forgot. i remember you had to wrap the strap around your arm seven times, to represent seven somethings. i don't know what). and we did all this to not upset our grandma, a woman who i've seen tucking into a bacon sandwich, saying 'well, it's too late for me anyway'. actually this point really works in our favour. when we had to daven in shul or read sections of the prayer book, we had no idea what we were meant to do, hoping no-one was watching us to closely and would see that we were miming and improvising.

many of these memories may be corrupt.

our mother shell explained to me that she decided to send us to chaeda at a very difficult time for her, all things considered. she wanted to let us find out for ourselves, she said, and even indicated to me recently that learning to hate the religion may have been part of the plan (but given our age, she must have a lot of confidence in us to think that we would 'make our own minds up', which fortunately we did. but i am suspicious of someone who sits a child in front of some propaganda, saying 'they can make their own minds up', while not providing the counter argument. fortunately we had our agnostic/atheist father, who when asked about god would say 'we are just here. enjoy it'). but to me it seems a political act - to appease her mother, she had passed the buck to her children, so at least she could be seen to be trying to do the right thing, while we were free to reject it if we wanted to - a win-win situation in the 'appeasing grandma' game. i don't think it was the wrong thing to do. maybe the experiance has made me ferverantly anti-religion - which i consider to be a healthy opinion, because it is an opinion drawn from empirical evidence. so i don't know. it was certainly a drag, but i can't say whether i would have preferred not to have been forced to have gone, because i'm afraid of the unknown.

danny was writing primarily about the kaddish recital for our grandmother, and also our mother. i have only this to say about it:
many of my friends know my views and feelings on death; i am not a grieving person.
saying kaddish will not make me miss the dead more, it will just be a inconvient hassle; and what kind of legacy is that to leave your children?

i once wrote a lyric, "if i die tomorrow, i hope i ruin your weekend". this was meant to be a misanthropic, snyde, and vain remark; but obviously it's how some people feel. personally, i think we should give our mother the new orleans-style funeral i believe she actually wants, rather than the jewish one she thinks she should have. i will mourn her death exactly as much as is appropriate given our relationship; she has had my whole life to make me miss her (this sounds cold, but i am choosing it to sound so for convienience). to command me to mourn for a certain amount of time - a minimum, no less (as well as a maximum) - is, as my brother says, offensive. as if i won't mourn her appropriately to our relationship. it is a tautology that i will, and that she will get what she deserves. i've made this point very clumsily but can you forgive me for doing so at the end of this essay? i hope you can see the humour and emotion in it. i just mean that, if you have a special relationship with someone, you will mourn them greatly, and so forth.

those seeking more information about judaism should look here.
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