Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Descendants of Lilith

I've found the majority of my classes to be thought-provoking lately, but SOC 258: Women in Jewish Culture is especially wonderful in that it simultaneously makes me want to yell in frustration (especially regarding the passages which suggest subordination of women (coughTheGenesisAppleStorycough)) and also to laugh so hard that I cry. In our most recent class period the professor began exclaiming a bit about Leah hiring Jacob for mandrakes in a Genesis (chapter 30, verses 14-18) story. I can't exactly express exactly why (unfortunately this feels like a "you had to be there" type of story) it was so funny, but I nearly could not contain myself. Examining the Bible from a feminist perspective and with a bit of humor is the silliest/best way to spend my Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

In addition to the discussion of mandrakes on Thursday, we also talked about the second creation story - that which references Lilith. Yes! There are two! The first:
"So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27).

And then the second:
"So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man" (Genesis 2:21-22).

As one could imagine, the idea of woman being created from man could be used to suggest subordination; aka, women as being created in a less-than-equal-manner. However, as my professor suggested, Adam, whose name comes from the Hebrew word adamah, ground, is more or less made from dirt. Tsk tsk, because if the woman had been made from dirt, likely the Biblical interpretation would have covered concepts such as women, overall, as dirty.

At this point in time, I'm making a disgruntled face, because women as dirty is certainly expressed in other ways, such as the inability for women and men to touch during & following menstrual cycles (until the women have been cleaned at the mikveh, the ritual bath) and giving birth (impure for longer if you give birth to a female!). But the disgruntled expression won't remain on my face for long, because I've already previously expressed many feelings regarding women as subordinate in Jewish culture; I'll move right along.

Anyway. To explain places where the Bible may be (for lack of a better word) lacking, folks will write Midrash to try to fill in the gaps/explain why things appear the way that they do. Ben Sira wrote a Midrash examining the creation story passages, particularly regarding the first. It is suggested that God messes up the first time when he creates man and woman as equal, so he banishes the first woman (!), Lilith, who reacts less than favorably by patriarchal standards. Following her banishment, he tries again (thus, the second creation story of Eve being made from Adam's rib). But! Going back to Ben Sira's Midrash, Lilith must be punished. Her punishment? That one hundred of her descendants will die each day.

It's an interesting story, and although generally known and embraced (despite the connotation of Lilith as a demon) within the feminist Jewish community (there is a magazine catered towards Jewish women called Lilith Magazine) there is surprisingly little Midrash regarding anything further; mainly, the descendants of Lilith. Who are the descendants of Lilith? Could it be surmised that one hundred of the people who die daily are, in fact, the children of Lilith (this being said from someone who doesn't interpret the Bible as truth, so my suggestions are more of a somewhat silly supposition of metaphor, or something)?

I wonder if I could work in something regarding the descendants of Lilith into my capstone/independent study for my Jewish Studies concentration, especially considering the main topic of study for the paper is death. Once again, I'll stress how neat it feels when my classes overlap a bit.

A brief google search of "the descendants of Lilith" revealed that someone else has already taken my idea for that phrase to be utilized as a totally awesome band name. Bummer.

Today, for SOC 258, I'm planning to begin looking through a book called Four Centuries of Jewish Women's Spirituality: A Sourcebook in order to find a research topic; the proposal isn't due until March 1st, but I don't really want to read about research methods for PSYC 201 right now (I'm sorry, Lab in Social Psyc, but you're just not nearly as interesting as feminism or death).

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday, Movies, and Breakfast Cereal

Currently I'm half-watching 'Pickup on South Street' with SCRN 120 - my first screening of the semester! For those unaware of what I'm referring to, I lead a double life as a student and also a student projectionist; I project films for screen studies courses at Clark (it's a really neat job, especially because I love films, even more so when I can sit alone in the booth and laugh at the things that, in general, only I find really funny (most things)).

This past weekend was the Official First Weekend Back at Clark (capitalized to stress importance). The CPB clubs (Student Activities Board, Pub Entertainment Committee, Speakers Forum, and the Clark U. Film Society) successfully hosted a "Casino Night" in Higgins University Center. We showed 'Ocean's Eleven' in the cafeteria, had card games in Tilton Hall, and improv performances (by the Clark Peapod Squad) in the Grind. Overall it appeared to be well-attended and full of fun things.

I didn't have any classes today, so I spent some time in the Goddard Library reading for Women in Society (PSYC 249). I definitely have a heavier workload this semester, especially regarding reading, but thus far I have found everything to be interesting. Earlier I was reading a lot about gender roles socially ingrained, and potential ways in which these have become cross-culturally applied (likely a biological basis, as a general beginning?). Super interesting, though I'm only about three-quarters through the article.

Once I'm done projecting in Razzo Hall (easily misinterpreted, if you're fond of Freudian terms), I'll be meeting up with the other (current) co-president of CUFS, in order to discuss some last minute details. I'm officially being phased out as a co-president! During last night's meeting we held elections, and soon my duties will be passed on. This only ascertains for me the inevitability of the Great Big Impending Graduation of 2012.

Soon 'Pickup on South Street' will end, and I'll be left to wander the booth, fiddling with the projector and sound and lights. I hope everyone has had a lovely Monday! Cheerio.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Speed Dating, Class Updates, and Crying in the Library

So you may be wondering - do they do speed dating at Clark University?

They may, actually. My old roommate mentioned to me that Dodd Hall is doing a speed-dating-type-of-meet-and-greet-event in order to encourage neighbors to meet each other.

Comparable to the Dodd event, my experience with speed dating wasn't actually speed dating. However, my 9am Lab in Social Psychology did engage in a speed date set-up, where we rotated in lines and spoke to our classmates for two minutes at a time in order to decide who would work well together in research project groups. Needless to say, there was plenty of giggling and "what are we supposed to talk about, again?" before things like, the areas of psychology we are interested in, were actually discussed.

I can think of very few ways I'd rather spend a significant chunk of my 9am course, than getting to know my classmates via (almost) speed dating.

Beyond my nearly-speed-dating-experience, classes have remained pleasant! I've officially had two of each of my three courses (Lab in Social Psychology, Women in Society, Women in Jewish Culture) and I was able to meet with Prof. Fox yesterday in order to discuss plans for the independent study/Jewish Studies capstone I'll be working on with him. So far we've begun drafting a reading list, including books by Earl Grollman and Anne Brener. We will also be examining texts from the Bible and Midrash - to start with, likely I'll be examining Psalms and the Book of Job (as a reminder, I will be looking at the dying process as a whole, likely with a focus on how folks cope).

A great thing about my college experience so far is that everything seems to be rather interconnected - integration of topics seems to be key in making things relevant to the individual. In my own life, I maintain interest in learning about gender, sexuality, religion, spirituality, death. It is especially exciting to me when these concepts intersect, and I can combine multiple of my interests. But sometimes these intersections can feel overwhelming. Today, in Women in Society, we were discussing the importance of including examinations of class, race, gender, ethnicity, & society in our discussions. But there are so many things to pay attention to! How do I manage to pay attention to all of these important social structures that shape peoples' experiences and lives? It's nearly overwhelming, all of these significant factors, because it's not just about women, it's also about all of these unique social structures that play an important role in distributing power and privilege. But it's simultaneously wonderful. I have so many different viewpoints from which to examine subjects of significance, and I'm so grateful to be taking classes where aspects are considered and people are aware of their own biases & privileges, and my classmates are open and willing to be a part of discussions.

Earlier today, on the third floor of Goddard Library, I sat in a chair and (dutifully) did my homework. Following which, I opened up The Fault in Our Stars, a novel by John Green. And, somewhere around chapter twenty-one, began to cry uncontrollably, startling a student near me who was working on his laptop. The book is about living and dying with cancer, and other things, like love. Overall, very lovely and wonderful, but quite sad.

Two things about this experience made me happy (although I do apologize to the student I startled):
1. Goddard Library is a wonderful place to read/spend time, and I am mildly upset that I only recently discovered that I love to spend time there (I must make up for three and a half inexplicable years without the library by spending a lot of time there this semester) and
2. that even things seemingly unrelated to course work can have thoughts from my classes applied to them. This may sound a bit common-sense-like, but it always pleases me to realize that I can interpret any type of media and use it to further ponder things that are of significance to me. Like, in this case, death/dying, and coping. And, I suppose, things like love.

And that's all for now! I'm off to read more, or watch 'Six Feet Under', or possibly get started on next week's homework. I hope that everyone has a lovely weekend!

And here's a link to some poetry about cats, because I like both poetry and cats.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ladies, Jews, and Research Review

Hello! Happy New Year! Merry Christmas! Happy Chanukah!

It's a brand new semester at Clark University. Incidentally, my last semester. Ever. Well, of undergrad.


Can you tell that I'm So Excited?

Anyway! The semester has started out smoothly. I moved back into my house (23 Maywood - the 'Wellness House') on Sunday afternoon, and settled in/caught up with friends & housemates. On Tuesday I attended three of my classes, all of which were wonderful. This semester's theme seems to be one of mainly Jews, coping (with death/dying/illness), and ladies. Three of my favorite things by far. As a reminder, these are my courses:

1. Lab in Social Psychology (PSYC 201), which fulfills my lab/research requirement for my psych major
2. Women in Society (PSYC 249), which fulfills my first seminar requirement for my psych major
3. Women and Jewish Culture (SOC 258), which sounds interesting and is taught by a professor I really like
4. An independent study regarding Biblical and midrash passages relating to illness, death, and dying (with Prof. E. Fox), which fulfills the capstone requirement for my Jewish studies concentration

I'm super pumped to spend my final semester thinking about/studying topics that are of interest to me - mainly: women & gender, Jewish culture (and the intersection between gender and religion), and ways in which folks cope with illness, death, & dying. The lab in social psychology will be a nice continuation from my psych capstone last semester (which covered the same topic), in addition to a review of the research process.

Recently one of my friends introduced me to the television show 'Six Feet Under', which is about a family-owned funeral home. I've frequently considered aspects of the death process (illness, dying, or death) to likely be a part of my future career (why? You may ask, which is a great question. And a succinct answer would be: to lend meaning to life and to care for folks when they need it the most), but lately I have been pondering the question of death versus dying; specifically for myself, would I feel more comfortable working with folks while they're in the process of dying, or after they've died?

Last semester I went on a field trip to a funeral home with one of my classes, and found myself overall upset by the sight of a corpse beneath a sheet, with just the toes peeking out. For a while, this made me wonder if death was something I could spend time with in a professional setting while still maintaining comfort.

It's still a difficult topic to ponder, and I haven't yet reached any conclusions, but I do hope that experience (internship, perhaps) would help me to decide what exactly it is that I'd like to do with my life.

Returning to thoughts regarding courses! I'm also anticipating that it'll also be a great semester because I'm working with two of my favorite professors - Prof. Fox and Prof. Tenenbaum - in addition to two new (to me) professors who seem intelligent, approachable, and generally just great. Prof. Curtin is teaching the lab in social psychology, and Prof. Falmagne is teaching 'Women in Society'.

So, overall, should be a pleasant semester!

And now I'm off to do reading. Hooray! Homework.