The older I get, the more my palate changes, widens, deepens. This past summer, the Wo and I went to Plaza III for happy hour (he had gift cards, woo!) and I decided to try a Manhattan. I’ve never been much of a bourbon drinker, but I determined I liked it, and this past weekend, decided to make one at home. It’s very simple, a classic beverage – 2 parts bourbon, 1 part sweet vermouth, dash of bitters and a maraschino cherry. Stir, serve over ice, enjoy. I dug through our liquor cabinet, because I knew we had vermouth (but it turned out to be dry vermouth) and I discovered a bottle of bitters. My only association with them was that at some point in time, 10+ years ago, I used them in something and HATED them. I unscrewed the top, sniffed, and determined they smelled rather appealing. I used Makers Mark 46, and it was a nice adult beverage, the kind you sip and savor.
What I want to write about isn’t so much about booze, or beverages, or even palates, but how we evolve and change and sometimes completely reverse our thinking on things. And the fact that what I want to say is going to be read by some as that of a bitter, uncharitable person. Truly not how I would describe myself, but I know that whenever you run perpendicular to people who are committed to doing SOMETHING or believing SOMETHING, those who don’t agree become easier to dismiss when we put negative labels on them.
In the wake of the shootings in CT, the knitting community sprang into action. Groups were formed, for knitted (and crocheted!) items must be sent to the children. The families. Hell, let’s send things to the whole town, everyone who was touched by the tragedy. And the former YES LET US KNIT FOR THEM in me showed up absent. No. I don’t want to knit a toy for the child who shut their eyes as they were led past the bodies of their classmates. That will not fix this, and no matter how much love and tears I pour into a project like that, in the end, that process is for me. Not them. And we all are trying to find our way, I get it, and what happened was horrible, mind-boggling, devastating. We seek answers and comfort in the familiar and in service. But I kept finding my brain wandering back to something I’d learned about the Jewish faith years ago, the notion that the highest form of tzedakah (charity) is a gift that is given with no knowledge of the donor, in such a way that does not denigrate the recipient. In other words, anonymous.
And that led me to another branch on the thought tree, and that is the concept of anonymity and its ever-dwindling presence. In the days of social media and Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, we are encouraged to share the most mundane of thoughts, rewarded in our Skinner-box with the clicks of “Likes” and comments, how many people will like my picture? And I don’t think there’s anything categorically wrong with it, we are human beings who desire connection, no matter how many electronic devices we own, we still crave the most basic togetherness, to be monkeys in the tree tops, grooming and petting each other, looking for fleas. The internet lets us have something parallel, in a non-touching cyberspace, where we can find more like-minded folk, hobbies and politics and interests uniting faces that would have lived entire lives without knowing each other fifty years ago.
So what do all these random thoughts mean? I’m not sure. I don’t mean to tear down the well-intended, because 15 years ago, that would have been me in spades, leaping into some sort of action that would soothe my raw heart. But in my head and heart, I now find myself uncomfortable, unwilling to participate. And certainly, what is a blog if not an indulgence in one’s own narcissism, the idea that the words I string together are worth someone else’s time to read? That somehow I might change someone or improve their world with my humor or musings? If anything, this is more of a self-observation, that over time we can change how we express ourselves, how we choose to process things. And our experiences, too. I participated in a big afghan donation project several years back, only to learn later that the blankets were received more with a shrug and a “hm, ok,” than an outpouring of appreciation for the effort that had gone into every stitch. We project our love of our craft onto others, and expect (or at least hope) they will cry with delight and admiration that we took the time to make this for them, because we know how much went into the item. The love in every loop, the skills honed over the years to create something beautiful and unique. Some people? Really just drive around the parking lot, with the windows down and the system up & just don’t give a fuck, to paraphrase Eminem.
In the end, I return to the tzedakah, and ask you to consider what charity means to you. What it means to you in the middle of the night, when you are alone in your head, there’s nobody watching, there’s no internet access, no “like” or “agree” buttons. And then do what you need to do, because some of these nights have been very cold and dark of late.