Hard to believe, we''ve come to the final installment of this blog. I''m shaking as I type the words. Throughout the last month, people have sent me suggestions for a closing title. Among my favorites are "53," "Coda Corn," "A Blog Dies," and "I Was Just Kidding; None of it Was Really True." I’ll explain, down below, the meaning of my choice. For now, though, join me in this final, slightly longer-than-usual edition of “52.”
At this moment, I feel multiple, conflicting emotions, including nostalgia, anticipation, pride, and humility, to name just a few. I''m overflowing with gratitude for the numerous individuals who, each week, have helped me to actualize this blog. I’m grateful to God for blessing me with a year of fulfillment despite my superstitious assumption that, because of my father’s early demise, I might not survive. And I’m truly thankful to you who have “stuck with me” as readers, as well as to you who’ve just joined us. Whether you’ve quarreled with me, supported me, or read in silent curiosity and contemplation, I send you my appreciation for having let me enter your lives. And, I''d be remiss without a special shout-out to the scores and scores of readers we seem to accumulate every week from Canada. (WHAT''S WRONG WITH YOU GUYS?!)
This blog that we''ve come to call "52" began quite extemporaneously. At the start, I was afraid of the intimidating amount of work, but I felt even more fearful of the regret that I’d surely have to live with had I given in to laziness or cowardice. Then in late October of 2012, I was interviewed on an Israeli radio show about an article that I published in the Hebrew press. Before I knew it, I heard myself telling the broadcaster -- and the public -- that this blog would launch in five days!
Quickly, then, I began to string my fuzzy thoughts together. First, hazy recollections of my dad. Then, vivid memories about fights with cousins. Strong opinions about hats, contused knees, bruised egos, etc. There were plenty of embarrassing realizations and no shortage of unfinished sentences for editing. And although we covered many topics, much subject matter that I’d like to explore (money, integrity, mobile phones, the benefit of the doubt, reasoning with a fortiori techniques) will have to wait for future projects.
The experience of writing this blog has contained both highs and lows. Highlights include, for example, an invitation to submit an Op-Ed to the St. Louis Post Dispatch. The request grew from a few remarks that I scribbled in these pages before Stan Musial''s death. I’ve had opportunities, also, to learn about myself. I realize now that I think well of several qualities that some people disdain, including dependence, and capitulation.
Low points in this blog experience center on sleepless Sunday nights as Monday deadlines have approached -- my personal version of that old commercial featuring the zombie-eyed baker exclaiming, "Time to make the donuts, the donuts, the donuts…" I''ll also confess that I was stung by the fact that nobody invited me to do a concert despite my repeated hinting (read: nagging), at the bottom of each posting. But even though -- so far -- folks haven''t been knocking down the door for my services as a guitarist, I am still optimistic that someone will issue such an invitation during the ensuing six days before the blog is formally taken down.
My premise in this “52” blog has been that, by investing even relatively small amounts of time to confront our mortality, seek awareness, and engage in self-disclosure, each of us can gain opportunities for personal growth. No subject matter has the power of death to focus and enable us to attain self-awareness and self-disclosure.
Self-awareness serves as a way for us to identify personal values. Our values are important not necessarily because they’re inherently good or bad but because they are ours. As some might say today, we "own" them. It’s important to be self-aware so that we can behave in ways that align with our values.
Self-disclosure is a process that can threaten to undo us but can subsequently transform us. Especially for a private person, learning through self-disclosure can be painful, but the personal growth that can result tends to make the experience highly valuable and positive.
Eventually, self-awareness can lead to self-acceptance. In the Western world, growing up, most of us devote considerable amounts of time to learning tolerance as a function of gender, race, religion, and other differences. On our crowded planet, it’s imperative that we all find ways to accept each other. Then at some point, we face a new task: we must learn to accept ourselves. Self-awareness and self-disclosure are intrinsic to self-acceptance as well as to acceptance of differences in others.
Now as our year comes to a close, reviewing some of our “52” themes may help to identify points or problems that gnaw. If you reflect further on some of our topics, you may wonder, where do you stand? Are you comfortable with your position or would you like to change? Is change, in the area possible or simply a phantasmagoric construct? Sometimes we choose to continue suffering rather than to repair our shortcomings. Often, however, the outcome of repair – and sometimes even the process -- is worth the effort to pursue.
During the past month, I’ve been touched by the number of people who’ve asked me to continue blogging on a weekly basis after our “52” journey ends. To them, in my most compassionate tone, I say, "Not happening!!!" I’m reclaiming my Sunday nights! At least most of them.
As for the others, if I may, two shameless plugs: First, there’s a possibility that I may further tune up the blog posts and re-format them as a book. My working title could be, off the top of my head, "Think Like You''ll Die…Because You Will." Whether a book would be of interest, perhaps you’ll let me know. More immediately, I’ve gratefully accepted an invitation to post a new blog on the Jerusalem Post website, on the first Monday of each month. We’ll call it "Dr. Hope." Our goal will be to share thoughts about hope as a virtue that every human being deserves to cherish. I’m excited about the new adventure. I hope you’ll meet me there starting next week!
Finally, as promised, I’ll explain today''s title. Each week, I’ve closed this “52” blog with the word “Shalom.” The term attracts a lot of attention yet somehow, not enough attention. The word has many connotations. “Shalom” means both hello and good-bye. It means peace. It’s a special name for G-d. (Please G-d, may we experience peace soon!) Those with a deep understanding of the Hebrew language will know that “shalom” implies, also, "being whole."
My ultimate wish for those who have emerged from this odyssey of 52 is that we will feel whole – in other words, that we will feel at peace with ourselves. I was interested to learn that the topic which received the most clicks was the post on perfectionism. There are lots of things to be said about Shalom. Maybe the most enduring message is to be at peace and to be whole with your own imperfections. If not that, then at least with the imperfections of others.
I could ramble on, as I sometimes have, but I need to save my energy. There''s a birthday party taking place in the next room. Someone’s calling me to blow out fifty-three candles. Come join me--if not next door, then next week!
Shalom from the holy city of Jerusalem,