Posted by Marcus J Freed
The drive out of Los Angeles is a culture shock. Huge billboards continually reinforce that everything you thought was right about your life is wrong. The massive signs reinforce the need for botox, facelifts, wrinkle smoothing and breast enhancements. There’s only one conclusion to be drawn; it is bad to grow old.
So much for my coming birthday this sunday. It’s a surprise that nobody has remade the classic film Logan’s Run, a science fiction fantasy where people are routinely killed as they reach their thirtieth birthday, by a society that hates ageing. One man called Logan has the job of rounding up people who are getting ‘old’ until he suddenly realises he’s got a major problem on his hands; he’s 29. His solution is to go on the run.
Big hoardings on the side of freeways are still something of a culture shock to the Englishman abroad. It was only last year that the House of Lords held a legislative debate after some local traders had the audacity to erect billboards next to the M1 motorway. Advertisements aside, the other thing is true of cultures throughout the west; you are supposed to stay young forever or there’s clearly something wrong with you.
One of the peculiarities of the Los Angeles acting scene is something that’s almost unheard of in London, although probably not for much longer. All of the headshot photographers offer a retouching service with the ability to photoshop your eye bags and worry lines, in case, God forbid, the casting directors think that you are actually human. As a natural by product of the relentless advertising campaigns, I jumped at the chance when having my first headshots done, although my photographer wasn’t actually that good with the photoshop programme and he initially changed my skin tone so it looked like I’d just risen from the grave and was auditioning for a remake of ‘Thriller’.
On your birthday it never helps to compare yourself to other people who were born in the same year. So as for the fellow babies of 1974 who include Jimmy Fallon, Kate Moss, Christian Bale, Robbie Williams, Alanis Morrisette, Leonardo DiCaprio and Hilary Swank, I say bah humbug.
My friend Aaron Freeman is Afro-American by birth, a comedian by trade, a Jew by choice, and relentlessly happy. On asking how he is, his reply will invariably be ‘it’s the best day of my life so far. Every day above ground is a good one’. Whether or not he really means it, I don’t mind. He says it with such conviction that I believe him 100%. As the years roll on and I see more and more people being returned to the earth, people who are younger, less fortunate or simply the recipient of bad luck, I appreciate every day I get to see the sunshine. And in Los Angeles that really means every day. God is good to the people of Southern California (well, barring the bankrupt economy, a totally inadequate public transport system and the huge hardships facing underfunded communal organisations).
The day isn’t over yet. Last week I was at the Stax Museum in Memphis where soul music was born and some legendary music was recorded. My tour guide was the local Rabbi, Micah Greenstein, who is possibly the most influential clergyman in the Bible-belt city. He pointed out that some of the locals had reached great heights before the age of 40. When Dr Martin Luther King was assassinated, there were four “civil rights giants” in the room. The ages of the others were 33, 34 and 35, while Dr King was killed at the age of 39. Only one of the four, Rev. Dr. Samuel “Billy” Kyles, is still alive. He takes groups on tours of the National Civil Rights Museum and Rabbi Micah related to me how Kyles makes his presentation. “We were a youth movement. We were all under 40 in that room and we changed the world,” so the only question I have for you kids is, “What will you do to change the world BEFORE you turn 40?”
I think of a family friend Nicola Blake who tragically passed away last month at the tender age of 33. Her deeply kind and thoughtful nature leaves a lasting legacy in the world for her son, husband, parents and sister.
The Jewish community’s super-achievers included the great Rav Nachman of Breslov (gone at 38), while the big wide world also included Bruce Lee (32), Harry Chapin (38) and a host of rock n’ rollers – Jimi Hendrix (27), Jim Morrison (27), Kurt Cobain (27), Richie Valens (17), Eddie Cochran (21) and Buddy Holly (22). Bye bye, Miss American Pie.
With this coming birthday, the pressure really is on. The fact that I’m turning 36 has a deeper Kabbalistic significance. 18 is the number associated with life because the Hebrew letters spell the word Chai (Hebrew for ‘life’), so 36 is a double-portion of vivacity. It’s also the age that the Baal Shem Tov began revealing his mystical teachings and started the spread of Hasidic wisdom that completely transformed the Jewish world as we know it.
Not only that, but I’m also way behind the programme according to Kabbalah. As we were taught in yeshiva, for the unmarried Jewish male, it’s just one big world of inadequacy; “he who has no wife is not a man, for Scripture teaches that God created them male and female and called their name Adam” (Zohar, Genesis 55b). The Talmud comments that “he who remains unmarried impairs the divine name” (Yevamot 63b) which isn’t exactly a great recommendation for staying single and playing the field. As one rabbi said to me last weekend, “there’s only one Hugh Hefner. I’m really sorry but he’s just not a viable role model. Marcus, get married already”. There was never this sort of pressure from my teachers at acting college or yoga teacher training, but they were never into using the great educational tool of guilt.
Birthdays and New Years are a good opportunity for asking the question: what sort of legacy do I want to have? England is still fairly obsessed with the legacy of Princess Diana z”l, who died at 36 and left an image that has kept the British media with adequate material for the subsequent 13 years. Just as they were beginning to run dry, quite inconveniently, it turns out that Princess William’s fiancée is going to be wearing Diana’s engagement ring. This is virtually a second coming. Nobody has mentioned the Oedipal implications, so I won’t either. But I do plan to hold a sequence of Royal Wedding parties here in Los Angeles, so watch this space.
What about if you don’t reach your greatest achievements by the age of 40? It’s ok. The great Rabbi Akiva didn’t even start learning the hebrew alphabet until the start of his fifth decade, and the forefather Abraham wasn’t actually a father until 86. George Bernard Shaw achieved the Nobel Prize at the age of 69 and the late great George Burns was still performing, and smoking cigars, until shortly before his death at 99. There’s more than just hope for us; the majority of people don’t reach their peak until middle age. Just don’t tell the admen.
This is all well and good but I’d better run, otherwise I’m going to be late for my birthday lunch with the plastic surgeon.
Marcus is the creator of Bibliyoga and teaches a weekly yoga class in Los Angeles – book online at www.jconnectla.com. You can receive your free weekly Kosher Sutra by visiting www.bibliyoga.com. He is the artist-in-residence for JConnectLA and Jewlicious Festivals and the president of the Jewish Yoga Network & Yoga Mosaic USA.
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December 12, 2010 | 2:52 pm
Posted by Marcus J Freed
Kosher Sutra: “the spirit of their father Jacob revived” (Gen 46:28)
Soul Solution: Banish fear, revive spirits.
Posture: Extended Child’s pose.
Benefit: Reduce Anxiety.
A challenging aspect of human life is that we all experience fear at some point. Many people hide it well. Although it changes over the years from a child’s terror of the monster in the closet, fear can still reside in our hearts. Whether it is financial worries, social concerns or fear of death itself, few people are completely immune.
Our Kosher Sutra is from the narrative when Jacob discovers that his son Joseph is alive (‘Od Yosef Chai’). He instantly resolves to reunite with his son and whilst he is on the journey, Jacob is catapulted into a night time state of prophecy where God tells him not to fear. Jacob is scared for his family and people, that they will never escape the new country to which they are headed. When the Jacob-Joseph reunion finally takes place, the exhausted parent says “I can die now”.
We utilise the tools of yoga to revive our spirits and banish fear. Child’s pose is a great asana (posture) for slowing the body’s flight-or-fight system, for releasing melatonin into the system and reducing anxiety. Standing poses help lift our spirits and strengthen our resolve.
Jacob was fearful for his legacy and was only willing to let go when he knew that his favourite son was safe. That was the point when his ruach, his breath or spirit, was renewed with a powerful force. We have within each of us to find the peace, strength and faith to overcome our fears. When fear is truly overcome, we can sleep without worrying about the monster under the bed and live the life we are meant to lead.
EXTENDED CHILD’S POSE - How to do it.
Sink onto your knees and place them hip with apart, sit on your heels, stretch your hands out in front of your with your arms lengthened, and place your forehead on the ground.
You can make the posture more comfortable by placing a cushion or pillow above your heels (ie to sit on), and placing a folded blanket beneath your forehead.
Marcus is the creator of Bibliyoga and President of Yoga Mosaic USA & the Jewish Yoga Network, for Jewish yoga teachers and practitioners. He is teaching weekly yoga classes in Los Angeles, on Wednesdays at 8am-9am and 7.30pm-8.45pm. To book and reserve a place for the ‘Yoga of Kabbalah’ classes, click here: http://www.jconnectla.com/2010/12/unleash-your-inner-power-yoga-of-kabbalah/
December 3, 2010 | 11:21 am
Posted by Marcus J Freed
Kosher Sutra: “Pharoah dreamed he was standing by the Nile” (Gen 41:1)
Soul Solution: Find balance, spread your light.
Posture: Splits preparation.
Body Benefit: Flexibility in legs.
Do you ever have one of those weeks when everything gets busy at once? It never rains but it pours, three buses come along at once and it’s almost impossible to get the balance. The week can seem to be good or bad, but it’s always certainly one of extremes.
Pharoah is a man of extremes. He has the ability to grant life or death, his word is law and he was elevated to the status of a deity. In the dream that he related to Joseph, Pharaoh was standing by the River Nile, which was considered to be another Egyptian god. His dreams were extreme: seven fat cows, seven thin cows, healthy corn and thinning corn. Joseph had arrived to get the balance.
Our yoga practice is destined to bring balance to the body. We become aware of the way we are standing and whether we are balancing evenly on our feet during standing postures. We bring attention to the shape of our body and whether we’ve struck a healthy line in our eating and exercise habits. As we focus on the alignment of our hips, torso and shoulders we can bring healing to physical pains that would otherwise recur throughout our life.
Pharoah sees only the physical aspects of the world which is why his dreams are rooted in agriculture and animals, and he stands by a river that is the symbol of physical wealth in Egypt. Joseph’s dreams begin in the fields but raise to the stars because he had a strong spiritual alignment which supported him through difficult times. Our Bibliyoga practice is intended to heal our body and our soul, to bring healing and balance through our physique by continually remembering that we are more than just our body. Yoga means ‘yoking’ and we are using this method as a tool for yoking or connecting with God.
Stand tall, dream big and be well.
Splits Post (Hanumanasana) - HOW TO DO IT
We’ll focus on preparation for the splits rather than the full posture as such. In Sanksrit it’s known as Monkey Pose, but we’ll just get into the first stage of the pose as seen in the photo (although you don’t have to dress as the Lloyd-Webber version of Pharaoh).
i. Begin by resting on your knees.
ii. Step your left foot forward and straighten your leg.
iii. Ensure that your hips are evenly facing forwards (ie so in the photo, I’d need to bring the right hip further forwards.
iv. Inhale and as you exhale, extend your torso over your straight left leg. You’ll feel a stretch on the underside of your left leg as you stretch the hamstring, thighs and glutes.
v. If you are comfortable there, sit your buttocks on your right foot and fold forwards. This is called ‘Mahamudra’ or ‘The Great Seal.
vi. Practice this whole sequence on both sides, and then if you are comfortable, experiment with moving into full splits. Or just repeat stages i)-iv).
This weekend Marcus is teaching and performing in Memphis, Tennessee. To receive your free weekly Kosher Sutra and to discover more about the combination of Jewish wisdom with dynamic yoga, check out www.bibliyoga.com. Watch the Chanukah Yoga Warrior Video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khhTceCYX54.
November 25, 2010 | 10:32 am
Posted by Marcus J Freed
Kosher Sutra: “Go and see how your brothers are doing” (Gen 37:8)
Soul Solution: Inner peace and banish depression
Posture: Pigeon Posture
Body Benefit: Opens hips and back
Every day brings new teachings. I learned today that once a year the leader of the free world, the President of the United States of America, spares the life of a turkey. It’s all part of the Thanksgiving festival and although Queen Elizabeth II would never try a similar process because of the sardonic reprisals of the British tabloids (regardless that we don’t have the death penalty), Thanksgiving is taken very seriously over here in the US. People even update their facebook status during the lead-up, listing daily things for which they are giving thanks.
Our Kosher Sutra is the instruction given by Jacob to his son Joseph. The latter has previously upset his brothers after he gave a bad report about their behaviour, and is being given a second chance to see the good in them. The siblings were further upset when they heard about Joseph’s famous dreams of his ultimate leadership and he is now being invited to revisit them and make amends.
We can read the whole passage from an internal, metaphorical perspective. How often do we cause depression through telling ourselves negative stories? We have the ability to bring ourselves to a state of being disheartened when we bring negative reports into our mind, about how our body is behaving, about what we should be achieving, about how we could have acted in a certain situation.
The Yoga Sutras discusses a principle called Santosha which translates as ‘contentment’*. Rather than criticising our body during a yoga practice or reinforcing negative thoughts, they suggested that we can cultivate an attitude of contentment in order to achieve satisfaction and ‘unexcelled happiness’.
Jacob tells Joseph to see the ‘shalom’ of their brothers, to literally see the goodness or the rightness of their work. According to the Radomsker Rebbe, Joseph is being encouraged to return to the scene of the crime and focus on their positive aspects rather than their negative aspects. He is being told to see the good and to talk about it. The Rebbe connects this with a Kosher Sutra in Proverbs 34:12 and understands it as ‘who’s the person who has a great life? The one who loves their days and sees the good’**.
We can begin our Bibliyoga practice by giving thanks for all of our limbs that are working. Count our blessings, one by one. There’s a lot to give thanks for. Today’s posture is Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana). I was going to suggest Peacock Pose but it’s a fairly advanced one. There isn’t a Turkey Pose, to the best of my knowledge. The instructions for pigeon are below, but if you’re too full from eating Turkey, then you are officially pardoned. At least for today; it’s the least I can do.
*Yoga Sutras II:42
**Huge thanks to my teacher, Rabbi Dovid Ebner who related this teaching which comes via Reb Elimelech of Lizensk.
PIGEON POSE - HOW TO DO IT
i. Begin on all fours and bring your right ankle so that it is behind your left wrist. Then push your right knee against your right wrist.
ii. Straighten your left leg behind you and slowly bring your right hip towards the ground.
iii. With one hand on either side of you, raise your sternum.
Variation: Place a cushion below your bent knee to soften the posture and reduce the stretch.
Advanced: Bend the left knee and take hold of your left foot with your left hand. Raise your right arm in the air and reach towards your left foot.
Benefits: Opens the hip flexors, lengthens the groins and hamstrings, improves flexibility in the back and opens the chest.
November 23, 2010 | 12:59 pm
Posted by Marcus J Freed
Kosher Sutra: ‘And Yacov arrived safely’ (Gen 33:18)
Soul Solution: Total healing, body and soul
Posture: Bound-angle pose
Body Benefit: Strengthen hips & preparation for childbirth
We’ve all heard that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, but it’s not usually much fun to hear that when you’re writhing with pain. There is certainly some truth in the phrase because we can all get stronger when we recover from injuries, but that doesn’t mean that old war wounds don’t still ache from time to time.
There is a beautiful image, or so I thought, of Jacob who walks away after he’s spent the night wrestling with an angel. He’s uplifted, inspired, had his name upgraded to Israel – ‘the one who struggles with God and man and overcomes’, but despite his spiritual enlightenment, he still carries a bit of pain and walks with a limp.
Yoga can be transformational although the physical-spiritual encounter that takes place on a yoga mat can cause injuries for many people. At some point or another plenty of serious yogis will push themselves too far, allowing their ego to overcome their breathing and causing themselves an injury. The bad news is that this hurts at the time but the good news is that a good practice and a great teacher can help you heal from many physical pains so that you become stronger than ever.
Jacob walking with a limp is poetic but it isn’t pretty, and there’s nothing beautiful about an exquisite, spiritually-induced pain. If we read a little further we see that his true graduation to become the man called Israel, a Luke-Skywalker-becomes-Jedi-sort-of-moment, only happens when he has healed various relationships. Things improve with his father-in-law and his estranged brother, and when he meets his sibling Esau, he ‘arrived safely’. The Hebrew word is ‘Shalem’, meaning complete or whole, and Rashi explains that Jacob/Israel was completely healed with regards to his body, his emotional pains, his financial difficulties.
Be strong, be healed, be happy.
In Peace, Shabbat Shalom,
HOW TO DO BOUND ANGLE/COBBLER POSTURE (BADDHAKONASANA)
i. Sit comfortably on the floor and bring your feet together so that the soles of your feet are touching one another.
ii. Take hold of either sides of your feet and draw your heels towards your groin.
iii. Open your feet to either side so that just the outside edges of your feet (i.e. on the floor) are touching.
iv. Lift your sternum upwards so that your chest is open and look directly ahead of you.
November 15, 2010 | 1:00 pm
Posted by Marcus J Freed
These days we are all seasoned travellers. We don’t need to listen to basic aircraft announcements because we’ve heard it all before, and even if we haven’t, how hard can it be to escape from an aeroplane that has landed on water? Several thoughtful airlines have relieved staff of the routine where they are habitually ignored by the entire passenger body, by providing a video that never gets offended when completely ignored.
There’s something about the male DNA that means many of us don’t like to read instructions or take instructions but would rather figure it out for ourselves. While that’s all well and good when it comes to working out how to use a remote control, and the biggest potential liability is that we won’t be able to record Top Gear, it’s more of a problem when it comes to health.
There are all kinds of health instructions that are fired at us. Check your cholesterol. Keep your heart healthy. If your family has a history of heart disease, see your doctor. If you’re feeling a strange twinge, see your doctor. If you’re suffering from shortness of breath, see your doctor. Exercise. Cut down on red meat. Don’t step on cracks in the pavement.
It’s easier for many men to ignore these sorts of instructions. Fortunately, nature has created a failsafe mechanism; the Jewish woman. When my father was short of breath a couple of years ago, my clever sister Lauren said, ‘either you organise a doctor’s appointment or I will.’ He did, got a heart check and within days was under the surgeon’s knife for an emergency double heart bypass. Just in time. With the help of superb doctors, he bounced back to full health. Thank you, Lauren.
There are few things more scary than seeing a parent in a state of weakness, especially in hospital.
My mother joked that the doctors must have implanted a second heart because since the operation she could feel a strong pulsing heartbeat lower down in his chest. Except you’re not supposed to feel a heartbeat in the centre of your chest. Apparently that’s a potential indicator of an aneurysm on the aorta, when the main artery leaving the heart is expanding. If it expands too much, and bursts like an over-filled balloon, it’s game over. Some call it the ‘silent killer’. Fortunately, the doctors caught this in time.
I found myself back in the same position of helpless viewer, with daily skype video calls to his hospital room from 3000 miles away. It’s hard being away at times like this, so I jumped on a plane and am writing from London. The Biblical commandment to ‘honour thy father and mother’ has now been upgraded because you even get Airmiles in the process.
Every family has its difficulties, many have things a lot worse, and everybody’s pain is different. But that doesn’t make it easy to watch a parent who is weakened by illness.
My Dad’s most recent challenge was a bout of anaemia that led to the need for a blood infusion and iron tablets. While he was hooked up to the blood bags, which felt strangely appropriate for Halloween, we watched the film ‘Iron Man 2’. Inspiration is everywhere.
I love my Dad. There was always a mystique of awe as I was growing up and watching him perform at certain events. He’d usually be on stage at most community functions, as MC for school fairs, host for quiz suppers, or performing the songs from his former days as a professional folk musician. As an apparently shy 10-year-old I would ask the question ‘wow. That looks fun. Can I ever do that stuff?’ 15 years later, performing in front of 3000 people, I heard the universe gently answer ‘yes! Why not? That’s why I gave you this teacher’.
Nobody likes to be told instructions and it’s easy to ignore our health. We’re busy people. We’ve got emails to check. Get your heart checked, listen to those twinges. In the UK there are a bunch of free health checks on the National Health Service - free cholesterol checks, ultrasound for aneurysms, diabetes tests and free bowel cancer test packs in the post. While you’re at it, if you’re a man between 20-40 then make sure you’re on the ball for testicular cancer checks.
We all have challenging family issues at one time or other but it’s comforting to know that we can at least take some actions to reduce the problems before they happen. May all of your loved ones be granted a refuah shlemah – a complete healing for the body and soul.
November 2, 2010 | 2:01 am
Posted by Marcus J Freed
She looked me in the eyes and smiled sweetly. The attentive gaze of her deep chestnut-brown eyes showed that she was giving her full attention. In a soft, charming tone she then uttered words that touched me deeply; ‘Marcus, I have absolutely no idea what you’ve been saying for the last five minutes’.
This wasn’t the first time. George Bernard Shaw may have said that we are two countries separated by a common language. At times it feels like the UK and the USA are two separate planets. After all, the status on my visa does say that I’m an alien, even if it is ‘an alien of extraordinary abilities’. Unfortunately it seems that these abilities do not always include being understood when I am speaking English. This could be a problem as I’m living here to take a crack at teaching and acting, in my native language.
The native’s colloquial language is a whole new form of English. A fellow ex-pat refers to the Californian vernacular as ‘Lower English’ as if we have travelled some way from the shires and are lost in the swamps on the long road to Mordor. Indeed, my home county of Hertfordshire is a long way away and when faced with the question ‘where are you from originally?’, I plump for a lazy ‘London’ rather than try to explain the geographical location of my hometown Watford. Occasionally I’ll be faced with a particularly ignorant ‘what, London Ontario?’. No, darling, I explain. But we did used to own the place.
The Americans think we are arrogant, whereas the English don’t really care. I’ve been curing homesickness by slowly devouring Sarah Lyall’s book ‘The Anglo Files – A field guide to the English’ where she identifies the British quality of false modesty. Rather than shout about our successes, we are experts in bragging about our failures, but we still have the mentality that we run the world.
Daily, I’m referred to as a ‘Brit’. Not the technically correct ‘Briton’, or the preferable ‘English’, or even ‘Englishman’, but Brit. The word that Jews use to refer to a circumcision ceremony. Yes, it’s incredibly annoying, but that’s only the beginning.
Living in America is a huge priviledge but takes some linguistic adjustment. There are certain words that it’s easier to let go of, substituting ‘loo’ for ‘bathroom’ even though there are no baths, ‘bin’ for ‘garbage can’ and ‘rubbish’ for ‘trash’. I’m still quixotically hanging on to the old words and repeat them until I’m understood, in a possibly unnecessary expenditure of energy. The most frustrating is asking for liquid refreshment in a restaurant, being faced with a repeated ‘what?’ when I ask for water. On the fifth attempt I take a deep breath, put on a standard American accent and shout ‘WHA-DERRRRR’ before receiving a smile and a jug. Sorry, a pitcher.
The adjectival famine that is as prevalent as LA’s natural water shortage. Rather than describing something as superb, engaging, enlightening, uplifting or another hundred alternatives, there is the ubiquitous ‘awesome’. It feels as if somebody has just ripped out all of the pages from the dictionary to save time. This is the Diet Coke of English, and there are dead poets rolling in their tombs beneath Westminster Abbey.
Californian has forgotten how to say ‘you’re welcome’. On hearing the words thank you, many of the locals will respond with an ‘uh-huh’, ‘mm-hmmm’, ‘sure’, ‘for sure’ or ‘no problem’. To the refined English ear, this is nothing less than receiving an aggressive v-sign (the British sign-language for ‘go forth and procreate’), not that that would mean anything over here. Why use two fingers when one is quicker?
People also yawn in public without covering their mouth and when I explained to a student that ‘young ladies in Europe cover their mouths when yawning’, the response was ‘I’m not a young lady and I’m not from Europe’. Most confusing of all, these rules of etiquette that are drummed into the British at an early age, even extend to the dinner plate. On preparing to clear up the dishes at the end of a meal I waited patiently for people to place their knives and forks side by side. I waited and waited but nothing happened. Another European custom, it seems, that was thrown out with the rest of the adjectives.
Most shockingly of all, everybody thinks I have an accent and I’m treated to poor imitations on a daily basis. With the rounded, rhotic ‘r’ that characterises standard American speech, I have to hear the irritating ‘Mahhhh-carrrrrrrrs’ sung by self-satisfied natives who have all the dialectical accuracy of Dick Van Dyke. My standard response to these pathetic faux English impressions is ‘Good Mahwning May-ree Paw-peens’ but even that insult is too subtle for some. Maybe they’ll understand it when the classic London musical is covered on an episode of ‘Glee’.
There are a thousand ways to describe the varied joy of life in the US, but why resort to tiresome linguistic richness or savouring the delicately nuanced details when I can use the catch-all? It’s awesome.
There’s a word that everyone understands.
Marcus J Freed
October 21, 2010 | 6:08 pm
Posted by Marcus J Freed
Marcus is eating a tuna sandwich. Marcus has arrived at LAX. Marcus is bored. Fascinating stuff, right? Wrong. In which case, why are millions of people writing this sort of tosh every single day?
How about this: Marcus is getting a partial lobotomy from a blind surgeon. Marcus is receiving his 350th tattoo. Marcus is parachuting from an Israeli fighter jet whilst dressed as an 18th Century housemaid.
Such is the stuff of facebook status updates, tweets and other cyber musings. Twitter allows you 140 characters to do it and facebook gives you a bit more space. The problem is that people often don’t quite realise exactly what they are broadcasting.
‘Tuna sandwich’ updates are the first issue. Not a problem as such, but it pushes blandness to the limits and tests everyone’s boredom threshold. Whilst I’m thrilled that you’re alive are happily functioning once again after last night’s curry, but I don’t need to know these minor details. Thank you, but no thanks.
Then there are the emotionally-revealing updates, jam-packed with TMI; ‘Ezmerelda is depressed with her life’. Depression deserves love, attention and compassion. But does sharing it with your 1,254 online facebook “friends “ really serve a therapeutic purpose?
Regardless of how you view Marc Zuckerberg, his vision for Facebook has had a massive impact on people’s lives. Although he isn’t portrayed in a sympathetic light in Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant screenplay for The Social Network, Zuckerberg has succeeded in getting more people to connect on a more frequent basis.
The real dilemma which troubles me is thus; how to clear my next one-line broadcast out of my mind. Last week I was floating on my surfboard just off the Santa Monica, almost breathless as the sunset over Malibu, admiring the beautiful reddening sunset hues light up the sky, as the last rays of sun bounced off the sea and caused a few clouds to have a scarlet hue at their base. A flock of pelicans glided above the surface of the water in perfect formation, their long beaks barely skimming the now-turbulent waves before they rose in graceful unison. While this happened, all I could think was “how am I going to condense all of this into a status update?’.
Herein lies the rub. Rather than experiencing life in the moment, many of us are focused on how we are going to share the moment. Like the holidaymaker who spends an entire vacation behind the lens of the video camera rather than being immersed in the moment, we can separate ourselves to the point of abstraction so that all we are completely separated from the moment.
If you’ve ever been stuck in a social situation where you are with another friend, or even a group, and all of them are texting, g-chatting or emailing, it gets fairly tiring pretty quickly. Maybe I need to update my conversational skills or maybe we’re heading into a communications black hole.
Of course there are some positive benefits. Tweeters sending messages from oppressive regimes, giving news about rapidly unfolding natural disasters, or sending warnings to void war-torn trouble spots.
We have to be very careful what we broadcast, and we need to be aware of it. Ultimately it’s all a form of narrative and we are telling a specific story, including some details and omitting others. Tuna sandwich or partial lobotomy, these broadcasts can stay online for a long time and come back to haunt us. The ancient words of Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi have become truer than ever: “know these three things and you’ll avoid trouble. Be aware of what’s above you – an eye that sees, an ear that hears, and all of your actions are written in a book”.
Tweet with care.
Marcus recently moved to LA from the rainy isle of Great Britain. He’ll be updating his blog once a fortnight, but if you can’t wait that long to get More Marcus, go to www.bibliyoga.com to receive his free weekly Kosher Sutra column. If that’s still not enough, come along to his weekly body-soul yoga classes in Beverly Hills that you can book through www.jconnectla.com. What, you still want more? So offer him your daughter in marriage and then you won’t be able to get rid of him.