Not merely because Henry James said there were but four rules of life— be kind be kind be kind be kind—but because it's good for the soul, and, what's more, for others, it may be that kindness is our best audition for a worthier world, and, despite the vagueness and uncertainty of its recompense, a bird may yet wander into a bush before our very houses, gratitude may not manifest itself in deeds entirely equal to our own, still there's weather arriving from every direction, the feasts of famine and feasts of plenty may yet prove to be one, so why not allow the little sacrificial squinches and squigulas to prevail? Why not inundate the particular world with minute particulars? Dust's certainly all our fate, so why not make it the happiest possible dust, a detritus of blessedness? Surely the hedgehog, furling and unfurling into its spiked little ball, knows something that, with gentle touch and unthreatening tone, can inure to our benefit, surely the wicked witches of our childhood have died and, from where they are buried, a great kindness has eclipsed their misdeeds. Yes, of course, in the end so much comes down to privilege and its various penumbras, but too much of our unruly animus has already been wasted on reprisals, too much of the unblessed air is filled with smoke from undignified fires. Oh friends, take whatever kindness you can find and be profligate in its expenditure: It will not drain your limited resources, I assure you, it will not leave you vulnerable and unfurled, with only your sweet little claws to defend yourselves, and your wet little noses, and your eyes to the ground, and your little feet.
Michael Blumenthal - 1949-
for Isaac Bashevis Singer The melancholy of Chopin and cruel breathing folds back your sheets, and you rise like lightly leavened bread, like all the old, arthritic Jews left in the world, from your Sabbatical sleep. You rise and wipe the crusted blood from your doorpost, kiss the angled mezuzah, and are grateful you have again been spared the pestilence and the lice, the hailstones and the fissuring earth, the ambiguous knife of Abraham. You go to the window, and through the Jew-eyes of this life you watch children stomp their booted feet against the sidewalk, grandmothers and grandfathers sew yellow stars onto their lapels and wrap their hungry bones in the long phylacteries. It is 1979, you know it, but you have slept like a Jew. And dreamt like a Jew. And the dreams of all the persecuted Jews (the Jews chased by the Assyrians and the Babylonians, the Jews converted by the Egyptians and the Romans and the Hari Krishnas, the Jews baked like strudel and refined into lampshades by the resourceful Germans) swim like fresh sperm into the ovaries of your sleep, and you wake, pregnant and nauseous with Jew and with history and with your ambivalent God. And then you go to the table, and (though you never believed God could enter through your mouth) you eat like a Jew, you feel the milk that does not want to sleep with the meat, and the meat that does not want to sleep with the milk, and you feel the stones of some vague guilt, the stones of immer Morgen, Morgen of the anxious bridegroom, Doom, and the reluctant bride, Joy, turn in your stomach like the ballast of some Hassidic boat that refuses to sail on the Sabbath. And it is always the Sabbath. And then you go to your bed, and you make love to your wife like a Jew, with your desperate tongue and your mutilated penis and your envy of womanhood grown so large you are the best lover in the world, better than Robert Redford and all the goyische skiers, better than the Black athletes with their beautiful, round buttocks that turn like greased bearings in your wife's Jew-hating dreams.