you are a gorgeous bag of mostly water


I don’t handle complements well, not knowing what to think or feel when I receive them. I should just feel grateful and return to cultivating a humble equanimity I tell myself. What am I doing anyways? I like feeling productive and useful and also like to do my thing and what feels good and right, honoring cultural authenticity without sacrificing individual or creative integrity. On the contrary, I feel culture serves us when we are creatively and intellectually activated. So long as no being is harmed, it is all good. But I also like being reminded that I and others already have value even when we are unproductive. Even the terms “value” and “productive” feel, upon examination, to undermine a genuine sense of appreciation — well, self-appreciation, anyways, since they reduce being and creating to functions of commerce. I don’t want to be party to that sort of reduction. I’d rather keep the thought ready-at-hand, that being creative and listening to others and thinking thoughts and processing and articulating for self and other are really nice things to do when being alive and human or perhaps just being alive and non-solipsistic.

But I do appreciate acknowledgment. It goes back to when I was a college radio DJ mixing ambient/electronic music in late night/early morning slots and finding myself both wondrous at the amazing sounds I was helping to convey into the aether and horribly lonely not knowing if anyone was hearing them. When anyone called into the station, they would inevitably feel like I did, like they had appreciated something special and rare and so I must be some kind of soul-mate having helped shepherd it through the void to their ears. “This is the music I’ve been waiting to hear all my life” was a sample that the Orb employed earnestly and it resonated for me. I was just so happy to pass that feeling along.

So when I stumbled across an unread message in reddit this week, I again didn’t know what to think or feel. But I want to save it since I do fall into sadness now and again, and maybe it will remind me that I was helpful and that’s a good and redemptive feeling to ground oneself when otherwise adrift. Here’s the message:

“Oh my G-d – I didn’t realize until revisiting this post that you’re the guy who founded the Open Siddur Project!!! Thank you so, so, so much. I wouldn’t know how to be a Jew if not for you – I’m not sure I’d even want to be. You’re an incredible inspiration whose work has immensely changed my life and I mean that in the most sincere sense!!! Thank you thank you thank you.”

I can’t really even process what this person just said to me, but when at some future point I let it sink in, I hope I will appreciate what I was for this person such that they wrote that.

The context for this, I think, was that someone had found a transcription of mine of an 18th century prayer and was using it for their historico-religious roleplaying. I like making transcriptions and translations of primary sources, since familiar historical narratives are almost always actually complicated and interesting and what is familiar is often some terrible simplification. I’ve loved learning with and spotlighting primary sources since I learned in AP History that history is constructed from evidence pieced together by researchers determining their relative value and connection within the story of what happened. This is true also for how people tell the stories of themselves to themselves and of the things important to them, worldviews and interactions with others. So here is the context for the nice comment as I found it, after first seeing links from the reddit board show up in Open Siddur’s wordpress visitor log. (The discussion is around roleplaying in an end-time America with a made-up nationalist religion called ‘Americanism.’ That I hope will explain the otherwise confusing remark by one MongoosePirate, “When I play them, I usually keep some Jews and Christians around as vassals, for ‘old times sake’ lol.”)

For more on the meme posted displaying the text, “You are a gorgeous bag of mostly water,” find the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Home Soil” (season one, episode eighteen).


About Aharon N. Varady

Aharon's Omphalos is the hobbit hole of Aharon Varady, founding director of the Open Siddur Project. He is a community planner and environmental educator working to improve stewardship of the Public Domain, be it the physical and natural commons of urban park systems or the creative and cultural commons of libraries and museums. His advocacy for open-source strategies in the Jewish community has been written about in the Atlantic Magazine, the Yiddish Forverts, Tablet, and Haaretz. He is particularly interested in pedagogies for advancing ecological wisdom, developing creative and emotional intelligence, and realizing effective theurgical praxes. He welcomes your comments, personal messages, and kind words. If you find his work helpful to your own or you'd simply like to support him, please consider donating via his Patreon account.

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