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October 20th, 2012


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08:56 pm - Reactions to Awesomeness
Another synagogue experience.

I came into the synagogue just a bit before the sermon this week.  The Rabbi got up to speak, and begins his talk by asking "Does anyone here speak Solresol?  Even know what it is?"  I'm already on my feet; had to wave a bit and even speak up, since I was way in the back.  He describes Solresol, what it is, why it was invented it, the fact that it's hardly heard of now.  "Does anyone here speak Volapuk?" he asks (not Volapük, his pronunciation was bad).  Once again, I stand and wave.  He speaks about Volapük and it history, and finishes up asking "Does anyone here speak Láadan?" (more Ladán, but I knew what he meant.)  And sure enough, there's me again.  In describing Láadan, he remarks that its inventor (Suzette Hayden Elgin) has been known to grouse at her language's obscurity in the face of the popularity of the "hyper-male" Klingon language.  I don't say it out loud, only to the people near me: "I speak that too."  That's actually comparatively well-known (the language and the fact that I speak it, around my synagogue.)

The discussion of conlangs in the sermon was inspired by the fact that today's Torah reading included the Tower of Babel story, and he wanted to speak of that, and of the "Generation of Separation," the generation of people involved, who merited being dispersed by God all over the world.

Meanwhile, though, after the services, I'm getting approached by friends and strangers alike; "how do you know all those languages?"  I talk to some folks about them, even recount my line about how Volapük is the Laura Bridgman of auxiliary languages (maybe I'll explain that in a comment).  Even find myself telling someone, "Yes, I speak or at least know all of those.  I speak Welsh too, and others.  I can show you how to tie a Turks Head knot.  I invented an origami mezuzah.  Here [I was actually holding one!] is a bencher I've been working on.  I drew one of the fonts I used in it.  I can recognize another dozen or so common fonts on sight.  I really do all these things."  All in one person, and there was more I hadn't touched on.  There's so much depth in each of these topics, too, so much to know, so much to cover—and so much more that I know, personally, even in my sometimes cursory studies of these things, than most people. 

The weird part is how experiences like this make me feel.  I'm not sure I can explain it well, and not sure I should, here, even if I could.  It makes me feel... weird.  Maybe partly guilty or presumptuous: How do I deserve to be this awesome?  And if I know all this stuff, why am I not writing it down, teaching it, making something useful out of all of it?  And how much longer can I expect to stay this awesome?  (For that matter, is it really awesome?  Am I justified in feeling like it is?)  I was too wound up to stay after walking home; I turned around and went back outside to walk around for a while, maybe run into some other people from services (it happened).

All in all, an... experience, I guess.  I guess it's a strange thing for the other people to recount to co-workers... it's even weirder from the inside.  That's a whole different discussion, though.

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[User Picture]
From:thnidu
Date:October 22nd, 2012 04:13 am (UTC)
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My congregation's Shabbat service was something special yesterday: dedication of our Sefer Torah! And the brand-new Ark that some of the congregants are making. It's there and in use now, but there's a lot more to do on it-- polish, ornamentation, ...

I believe the scroll had been officially "on loan" from another congregation till we could afford to buy it: our cong. is only about 10 years old. A couple in the congregation went to their families to raise money, so both their families were sitting with them yesterday. The couple had an aliyah and read a drash they'd written about the Babylonian tower that would reach the sky and "make a name for us" versus the pastoral, wandering Hebrews' way of living with the natural world. The rabbi thanked the Weissberg and Skolnick families.

And I had a sudden inspiration for an insta-drash:

"We thank the Weissberg and Skolnick families for this Sefer Torah. "Weissberg" is German for 'white mountain': not the ziggurat, but Mount Sinai, which sent forth the light of Torah, which the Skolnicks -- the scholars -- have interpreted for us through the ages."

Googling translate:skolnik I now am told that but I still think it was a good improvisation.

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