Josh (desh) wrote,

I had so much I wanted to say about this reunion. And now I'm home, and I'm not quite drawing a blank, but it's not really there anymore. Ilana's presence makes me a poet, or at least a writer. And now she's gone and it's a struggle for me to try to get it back. But here I go, trying to have my thoughts come out like toothpaste.

But it was an incredible weekend. To be so blessed with so many amazing people. People who can actually express themselves, say what they're thinking and feeling. People who have things to say. People who see the beauty in the world and the connections between seemingly unrelated things, when other people might not be able to notice, or might be too busy. Above all, people who communicate with music.

I was telling someone that I don't really get poetry. I appreciate people who like it, but it doesn't usually work for me. But I get music. It just makes sense to me. Wordless niggunim, melodies. Different ways to sing Jewish prayers and psalms and lines. English folk songs. And it was such an enchanting experience to be around people who were less impatient than I, who could just sit and sing whenever the urge strikes anyone. Music is contagious, and it got all of us all weekend. As we knew it would.

I can't even explain it. I can describe the situation, but without the memory, it's nothing. On shabbat evening, after dinner, a bunch of people sitting on the floor in a circle. "Tzur Mishelo", a traditional song, and one of my favorites. My favorite melody to it, which I've only heard a couple times before and haven't had a good group to sing it with since I learned it. Singing the chorus over and over, getting more into the beat. And then, in an instant, Hannah started singing "lo yisa goy", my favorite words of peace, over the other song. And it fit perfectly, the rhythm and harmony resonating and shaking everyone's souls. We kept going with the pair of songs for who knows how long. 20 minutes? With everyone just singing the words to either, or just "yai dai dai"ing along. And I couldn't help but close my eyes and almost cry. Because it Just. Made. Sense.

In a change of pace, a bunch of us went to Rocky Horror on Saturday night. And we discovered how to scare Rocky people. We were singing niggunim the whole walk there. We were waiting in line and singing "I have a million nightingales" when some security guy came up to us and started berating us in typical Rocky fashion. And we were rather out of place. So as soon as he left, we started up again. The transition was wonderful. We walked back humming "oseh shalom" with "atzei zeitim omdim", instead of "science fiction double feature". And it felt like a strange sort of victory.

It's not just music. These are the people that I met at a place that stood out for me because everyone just has a burning desire to learn. And even though this particular reunion didn't have any formal learning, you could still sense that yearning in everyone. Sarah talking about her school as a "secular yeshivah" and it suddenly making sense to everyone else. Morry's struggle with deciding whether to go to an actual conservative yeshivah during his semester off. People in every corner debating the future of our group, or of Jews, or of the world. Or all three at once. Intermarriage. College majors. The problems with the various religious movements in Judaism. We don't even need something to do. Just song and discussions can keep us occupied forever.

And the people! Everyone's goal this weekend seemed to be to try to catch up with people you missed too much, or to meet people you didn't know very well, one at a time. Since I'm rather new, I was mainly in the latter category. And I really got to know a couple of the people who I didn't have a chance to before. "We've known each other forever; we just never met each other before." I don't know where all these people came from, but to have so many amazing ones in the same place just spoils me. I never really met Elizabeth before, and now I already have a third reason to visit Brown as many times as I can this year. Abby, who understands me better than anyone else I've only met twice in my life. And who I could just go up to and tell this to, and have it be fully appreciated.

One remarkable thing about how we all interact is how physical we all are, yet how nonsexual it somehow all feels. We're always holding hands, hugging, or just lying on top of one another. I think it just helps our connection with each other. We're so close physically, intellectually, emotionally. On top of all that, it's almost as if a lustful thought would be inappropriate.

Which is one of the ways this wasn't quite a perfect weekend. I can look at this group of people and see six people right off the top of my head who I would sooner date than anyone I know from anywhere else. Yet it's weird for me to think that probably no one else is thinking the same thing. In spite of everything, there's something of a missed connection there with me. Also, I think I'm slightly more of a cynic, or at least a pragmatist, than most everyone else. After a day of people saying "I feel" and referring to the "space" they're in, it can get a bit old. But all I need is a little music break, or a short walk, or a trip to Rocky Horror, and I'm back and talking like the rest of them again.

In all, I was a little disappointed, but only because I royally failed at absorbing the mantra that I had leading up to the week: "Lower your expectations". It was really an amazing time; it just didn't stand up to when I met everyone in August, which I still unapologetically describe as the best week of my life. But damn, I was right along with everyone else in the car ride home, discussing fantastical plans of all of us living together one day. I think I feel spoiled now, but to be around people every day who have such an amazing passion for life, I'd never be able to leave.

I've run out of things I can verbalize coherently, and not a moment too soon, it seems. But I haven't come close to capturing everything. I didn't even mention the praying. Hallel. Hallelujah. Seudah Shlishit, the third meal of Shabbat, musically leading right into havdalah, the end of Shabbat. Scotland The Brave. Everything about Julia. And Charley. And so on. My biggest regret is that pictures can't capture it all and can't get any of Shabbat, these words don't come close to doing anything justice, and the memory will start to fade far too soon. There's no way to capture any of it, and I'll just have to wait until next time.

and we will fight for our right to be free
and we will build our own society
and we will sing, we will sing, we will sing
our own song, our own song

and we express our right to be free
and we will sing in perfect harmony
and we will sing, we will sing, we will sing
our own song, our own song
shee dam bam-ba-da-da dee dum bum....

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