Servant of the Secret Fire

Random thoughts on books and life in the reality-based community

My Photo
Location: New York, United States

The name I've chosen comes from "Lord of the Rings," when Gandalf faces down the Balrog in the Mines of Moria. My Hebrew name is Esther (which is related to the word for "hidden" or "secret") Serafina (which means "burning"). This seems appropriate because although I don't usually put myself forward, I do care very passionately about a lot of things. Maybe through these blogs I can share some of these passions, as well as less weighty ideas and opinions, with others.

Monday, October 09, 2006


On Rosh Hashanah the rabbi listed 13 middot, or qualities that he thought were important to cultivate. On the whole it didn’t really speak to me, so here is my list of qualities that I would like to aim for. The asterisks are for the ones that I think need particular work.

1. Chesed (kindness, compassion, also not being judgmental, snarky –  or at least so quick to be)*
2. Patience (with people, things, and circumstances)*
3. Public involvement (more than just signing Internet petitions –  I feel like I’ve been particularly bad on this over the past year or two)*
4. Use of my talents (even if all I’m going to do is keep a blog, I have to do some actual original writing, not just post excerpts from other people’s thoughts).
5. Financial responsibility*
6. Generosity (more on the selfishness front – if I am going to spend money, spend more on worthy causes, less on myself).
7. Taking care of my body, which is, after all, supposed to be a temple of God, even if it’s St. Paul who says that (getting more exercise, eating better)
8. Respect for others
9. Hope – (Over the past year I feel like I’ve fallen into the kind of “quiet desperation” that Thoreau talks about – try to think less about my own mortality, and living in the moment more)
10. Humility
11. Honesty, both with myself and with others, although always with due regard for the feelings of others.
12. Orderliness (I’ve been saying for most of my life that I need to get organized)*
13. Humor

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Stories that have received short shrift in the "all Foley, all the time" atmosphere

Yes, I know – the man is beneath contempt, it's about sex (with underage subordinates, yet) and unbelievable Republican hypocrisy on "family values," and Democrats should be shouting it from the rooftops, but these stories are at least as important and probably far more so.

The end of habeas corpus (see earlier posts). This detainee bill is a devastating blow to everything we stand for as a country, as well as a huge gift (with a big bow on it) to bin Laden.

From 10/3: 8 G.I.’s Die in Baghdad, Most in a Day Since ’05

700 Iraqi Policemen Under Investigation For "Possible Complicity" With Death Squads...

Shooting of 10 girls, 5 of whom have died, in Lancaster, PA Amish school This may be the least important one, in the larger scheme of things, but to me it is the saddest. I can also have nothing but awe and respect for the Amish community, which could give lessons to many Muslims, Christians and yes, even Jews - in forgiveness.

Mark (how appropriate) 9:42

"And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.

This applies even when they’re 16 or 17, especially if you’re a 50-something congressman who’s in a position of authority over them.