Tag Archives: religion

The Blarg No. 77: Jason Keil (plus a mini talk w/Dan Hull)

I had two conversations this weekend that made me think about religion. Specifically my personal relationship with religion, which, to be perfectly honest, isn’t that great.

One, with poet Katie Manning, made me consider religion and religious imagery as it appears in my writing, which is not often, but it does. That conversation will go up soon. The other conversation was with friend and neighbor Dan Hull, a short one that you can hear at the beginning of this edition of the show.

Dan has a film premiering on May 25th at The Newton called Bad Buddhist, and he invited me over to watch it with him. A recording of a fantastic one man show he staged at Space 55 a few years ago, the film mines veins of love, ritual, imperfection, and man’s inhumanity to man. Serious stuff, but it’s very funny as well, and the Buddhist lens through which everything is filtered serves to somehow make the film universally relatable in its specificity. The Buddhist rituals that Dan incorporates into the show connected me to memories of donning a yarmulke and saying the prayers as a kid. The ritual and the language of that came back to me instantly, and in Hebrew, too, and it’s easily been 20 years since I participated in anything remotely Jewish from a spiritual standpoint. Cultural and social Jewishness is inescapably ingrained in my personality makeup, but I was surprised, especially as a non-spiritual person, to find myself sort of missing the ritual, and it went a long way towards explaining a lot of my need for organization and routine. It’s something I’m going to have to really think about for a while, which I believe speaks directly to how powerful the film is. You should go see it on the 25th at 7 PM. If you can’t make it to the screening, visit the Bad Buddhist website and contact Dan for the Vimeo link.

Surprisingly, this weaves perfectly into my conversation with writer Jason Keil. Jason is a frequent contributor to The New Times, as well as other publications, and I highly recommend checking out his work. I connected with Jason via Twitter, and it did not take long for us to connect on a primally nerdy level. Jason is the sort of person that I can talk to endlessly about pop culture, so it was really hard to keep this conversation on the rails—which I swear I try to do despite all the evidence to the contrary. In addition to all the shared interests, Jason is just a really amazingly nice guy, and he’s so genuinely enthusiastic and in awe of the fact that he gets to do something he loves and is passionate about and in some way contribute to the pop culture fabric, that I want as many people to read his work and support him as possible. Check out Jason’s website, and be sure to follow all of his social media accounts.

One last quick note, a little bit of business, Hoot N Waddle is officially open for manuscript submissions. We’re currently accepting Poetry, Fiction, and Creative Non-Fiction. You can visit the Hoot N Waddle site, or go directly to our Submittable page to read our guidelines.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 77 – Jason Keil (plus a mini talk w/Dan Hull)

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The Blarg No. 47: Leah Newsom Part 1

I am not a man of faith. While raised in a Jewish household, religion was never something that I took to—I just can’t subscribe to a belief in a higher power. There was a time when I would have described myself as an atheist, but I feel that atheism requires a conviction and certainty in the non-existence of anything outside of the empirical world that I lack. Also, most of the atheists I know are assholes and just as insufferable as any religious fundamentalist. I am much more willing to admit that there is a lot going on that I don’t know and can’t explain than atheism typically allows for. I suppose that would make me an agnostic. When it comes to life, I believe that we’re born, we die, and all we have any modicum of control over is what takes place between those two markers.

Where am I going with this? Well, I live in a neighborhood that has a large concentration of Orthodox Jews. For some reason, Orthodox Jews make me nervous—they always have. When I’m around them, I feel terrible for not being more Jewish, as though my being a bad Jew is letting them down; their conviction makes me question my lack of faith, and this in turn leaves me feeling uncomfortable in their presence.

This Saturday, I was out running—it’s part of my normal routine. On my Saturday run, I am used to passing or weaving around Orthodox Jews on their way somewhere. It’s the Sabbath, and while I don’t know all the things Orthodox Jews don’t do on the Sabbath (check the logic of that if you feel inclined, it’s flawless), I know they don’t drive, they don’t exchange money, and they don’t touch anything that has to do with electricity. Anyway, I’m on 12th street, not far from home, and I don’t think anything of the two people in yarmulkes, a man and a boy, coming towards me, but then the man flags me down. He apologizes for stopping me, but it’s the Sabbath, and they’re not allowed to touch a light switch, and there is a ceiling fan in their home that is on too high—it’s shaking and causing some concern, would I mind coming into their home and adjusting it so that it stops rattling?

I don’t hesitate. Of course I would do this for them. I want to convey that I am a Jew, I understand the custom, but I’m also a bad Jew, I don’t subscribe to any of it, and please don’t judge me. I couldn’t do it. I simply walked with the man and his son into their home, apologized for all the sweat, adjusted the fan, they thanked me, and I left. This seems like a nothing of an occurrence, an odd, barely noticeable jump-cut in life’s progression, but it meant a lot to me. I felt I’d done something good, a small mitzvah. Whatever.

I had a nice long chat with Leah Newsom, so here is another part one of two. I’ve known Leah for years, but I didn’t know know her, so we talked about it all—coasters, tissue, Myspace, family, religion, writing, the MFA life, travel, tattoos, deep stuff. Leah is a co-founder and editor of Spilled Milk, an online literary journal focusing on ultra-short form—”a highly caffeinated alternative to mindlessly scrolling your infinite, mundane newsfeeds.”

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 47 – Leah Newsom Pt. 1

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