Monday, January 22, 2018

new wineskins

As I was wandering through Tel Aviv, with Carol, my friend's mother, and a revolutionary feminist, I was in search of a new ring. Knowing I needed some emblem of the fresh chapter I was opening.

We wandered up and down the shuk in the old city of Yaffo, examining different displays of jewelry, shop owners bantering with both of us. Carol dished ripostes right back at them, I smirked quietly and knowingly, Carol covering for my vulnerable status as a gullible foreigner by doing all the speaking, and translating her wit into English in response to my whispered What did he say?s as we walked away from the booth.

As you comb through markets, you begin to recognize consistently mass-produced pieces. There are always the same five mezuzahs, or the same three amulets against the evil eye, the same rings also filled the jewelry counters.

I am in the Duncan Student Center and I am shocked by how different it feels. But it is a blessing to be in a space that is fresh and new, that contains no memories, except ones of now. On a campus which can feel somewhat haunted and burdened by so many memories from many old chapters of life, it's delightful and refreshing to find somewhere actually New.

I do not make the official ribbon-cutting ceremony, but I bless it with benedictions of my own. A friend buys me coffee, and we find, Goldilocks-like, the exact right chairs to sit and study in in the graduate student lounge, basking in the abundant sunlight from the ample windows. These ordinary blessings are just as much ritual as when five of us stand in candlelight, and sprinkle salt with simple prayers in my apartment in the post-party calm lit by the Netflix fire-log, a belated house-blessing that consecrates an apartment already bursting with memories.

I begrudgingly admit this new student union is actually a crossroads, as it brings me conveniently in contact with friends whose own spheres are far from the theology building, yet surprisingly close to here. We comment on the architecture, we let the feeling of a new space and a new semester seep into our posture and our conversation. With the suddenness of stop signs in the fog, something new's begun.

At the very end of the market day, after a disappointing but not pathetic lose in a game of chess, Carol and I stumble upon the very street she had been intending to show me all along: the street of artisans. In contrast to the mass-produced bric-a-brac of the shuk, here is a street full of intricate, sturdily-made hand crafts. The sun is beginning to wane, the fresh blue of the Mediterranean sky fading into crepuscular periwinkle. As the artisans roll up their wares, and take down their stands, we find a stand full of elegantly designed glass jewelry.

When you find the Right Thing, it tends to leap out at you all at once. Sometimes, it takes you a while to catch up to it, you have to weigh it in your hand, grow used to it's appearance on your finger, adjust your eyes to its unique look. But when you find the Right Thing (or at least the Right Ring), I think you perceive it before you know it. This is an argument from aesthetics, based solely on an unarticulated idea of "fittingness," but most of the most convincing arguments I have found rest at least part of their weight on the phrase: "isn't it fitting?"

Upon consulting her chart, she informs me: This color represents new beginnings, sealing my instinctual attachment to the piece. Thus, once its maker twists it slightly so that it slips snugly onto my finger, the ring both is fitting and fits.
I stare at the ring on my finger all evening, like a newly engaged woman, entranced by the ring, but more so what the ring represents: something new beginning, a promise of a change still in the future, but drawing closer, and a determined step forward towards someone and something concrete, a permanent form of the future that molds us to itself and bursts open our previous images of our self.

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