Thursday, July 31, 2008

"We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand." - Randy Pausch

At the risk of sounding overly inspirational with the quotations that I often use in the title....too's my blog. I believe in these inspirational sound bites. I believe that we can always learn something from every situation which falls our way. I do not view the world through rose colored glasses. Far from it. My family and the few friends that I have claim that I am one of the most cynical people in the world.

My wife is in Israel studying at a women's seminary in Jerusalem for the summer. A few days ago she attended a shiur by a rav who shall remain nameless. At the end of the class, she introduced herself. She told the rabbi that during this past year, her daughter was a student of the rabbi's wife. She went on to tell him about the class which his wife taught in which she opened up a discussion about homosexuality. This was done without any guidance or structure, but as a free discussion. Coming from their sheltered Orthodox Jewish backgrounds, these eighteen year olds proceeded to bash homosexuals.

This class was held in the first two weeks after the girls arrived in Israel. It had also just been two weeks since our daughter found out that her older brother is gay. My daughter was terribly distraught over this turn of events and she had promised her brother that she would not yet share what she knew about him with anyone. She had no one to talk to and no one to turn to.

After hearing the story, the rabbi responded that it is a shame about these gay guys. He continued to tell her that most of them go off the derekh because they are gay. She responded by saying that homosexuals have no choice in what they are, just as the rabbi could not become gay if he so chose.

What she wanted to say to him was that they leave the religion because of people like you and your wife.

I would have used a few more expletives.

To explain the quote in the title. Randy Pausch was born in 1960 and he died on July 25, 2008 from pancreatic cancer. He taught virtual reality (VR) at Carnegie Mellon University and he gave his last lecture in September 2007. I first heard about him a few months ago. I was moved by his positive outlook in spite of the fact that he was given less than a year to live.

His final lecture was titled "The Last Lecture". He opened the lecture by stating that his father taught him that when there is an elephant in the room you should confront it.

Nice segue "nopeanuts". Right? I've been thinking about what you wrote about my son's peers and our peers who are afraid to approach us. I don't think they are waiting to take their cues from us. That is overly optimistic. They just don't know what to do with themselves. Homosexuality, especially in the Orthodox Jewish world, is taboo, just like depression and cancer was, a few generations ago. Wife abuse does not happen in the Orthodox Jewish community either.

Randy Pausch said that the elephant should be confronted. We have been telling our friends on a one by one basis. It is an emotionally trying experience each time, for us as well as for the listener. For those people who don't know what to do with themselves when they are around us, I have no answer. That blanket email outing our son provided the information, provided the truth. But as Jack Nicholson shouted in A Few Good Men, "You can't handle the truth!"

I watched Randy Pausch's last lecture on YouTube the other day. I will take my cues from how he lived his life and the legacy he has tried to pass on to his children. He used a few more phrases in the lecture which I would like to use now and at a later date.

He said that 'brick walls are there for a reason. They let us prove how badly we want things." The Orthodox Jewish LGBT community is being shut out by a high security brick wall. One day that wall will be breached.

Randy Pausch also recommended "Not to bail. The best gold is at the bottom of barrels of crap."

Don't allow people, such as the rav and his wife, to say whether you have or do not have a place in the community. It is not their place to say so. Maybe the brick wall is there for a reason. It gives you the opportunity to show your dedication to what you believe in.

Saul David

PS. Google "The Last Lecture".

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