A Jewish-Hindu connection, by Jeffrey Stanley, 7/23/13. Washington Post “On Faith” section. Talk about a crazy commute. After a spiritual encounter, a stranger and I spent the next 90 minutes discussing the nature of the universe.
Not so long ago after nearly 25 years as a hidebound New Yorker I moved to Philadelphia for my wife Pia’s career needs, inadvertently becoming part of a popular regional migration known to urban statisticians as the 6th borough phenomenon. She’s Indian-American and we’re raising our child in a bilingual home. I’m a writer and professor. She’s a scientist by day and an Indian classical dance professional by night. Religiously we are at best agnostic but culturally we are Hindus, and will identify ourselves as such when pressed, like on the hospital intake form the first time we took our baby in for a routine doctor’s visit.
This identification sits well with me. Despite growing up Nazarene in the Bible Belt I had long ago developed an affinity for Hindu philosophy—ever since I’d come across a used copy of the Bhagavad Gita at a flea market in high school and realized how similar it was to the New Testament. I still remember the perplexed look on my Sunday school teacher’s face the morning I brought the Gita to church. I had marked the sections that reminded me of Christ’s words in the Sermon on the Mount with an orange highlighter and asked him why Hindus were all going to Hell and we Christians weren’t. Suffice it say I quit going to church not long after that. Christianity just wasn’t speaking to me. When I met my wife-to-be years later while canoeing in Brooklyn’s fetid Gowanus Canal I fell in easily with her cultural worldview. We were a match made in moksha.
Imagine my surprise when, on a recent Friday afternoon while returning to Philly on a crowded New Jersey Transit train out of Manhattan’s Penn Station I came face to face with the power of YHWH. Continue reading “My Way or the Yahweh”
I urge you to hit the Harlem Book Fair this Saturday 7/21/12 at the Schomburg Center, 515 Malcolm X Boulevard (aka Lenox Avenue, aka 6th Avenue) at 135th Street. Very easily accessible on the 2 or 3 express train to 135th right outside the Schomburg’s door. Why are you going? So you can stop by the booth of acclaimed folk artist and my very good friend Lisa Cain.
I urge you to hit the Harlem Book Fair this Saturday 7/21/12 at the Schomburg Center, 515 Malcolm X Boulevard (aka Lenox Avenue, aka 6th Avenue) at 135th Street. Very easily accessible on the 2 or 3 express train to 135th right outside the Schomburg’s door.
Why are you going? So you can stop by the booth of acclaimed folk artist and my very good friend Lisa Cain. If you were ever in my Harlem home you saw a painting from her “Juke Joint” series hanging in my living room.
Lisa’s not only a folk artist, she’s a neuroscientist. Yep, one of the only black female neuroscientists in the US (not to mention a former Miss Jackson State University) and we’re talking Deep South here, people.
She’s a true outsider artist. In fact she and I first became friends at one of my favorite annual events, the Outsider Art Fair in New York City, about 6 or 7 years ago. Actually we met while sharing a Super Shuttle van from LaGuardia Airport while en route to the fair, and we’ve become close friends over the years.
As she explained it to me, Lisa tends to paint images from her childhood and that of her parents and grandparents growing up in rural Mississippi. What you’re getting in her paintings are snapshots of rural social life and religious events. Do not expect images of pain and suffering. Do expect whimsical scenes of survival, hope and jubilation.
My 8-week summer course for adults, Playwriting I: The Fundamentals at NYU School of Continuing & Professional Studies begins on Tuesday 6/5. This noncredit, ungraded, evening lecture and writing workshop covers the exact same dramatic writing and theatre history content I teach to matriculated undergrad students in my similar 3-credit, full semester courses at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and Drexel University Westphal College of Media Arts & Design in Philadelphia, only it’s much more affordable. You will write a lot, you will learn a lot, you will have fun. Learn more and enroll.