It is almost the Jewish New Year, and I almost care.
As the year begins, I can almost decide how I feel about work / family balance, about excellence and ambition vs. the heart of the work, about money and security, about close suburban community life, about a religious structure, and about what it all has to do with a God I almost feel.
I am almost looking forward to stepping into a synagogue tomorrow for the first time in about a year, which almost sounds impossible to my own ears.
As does the fact that this is the first thing I’ve written outside of work in many months, which definitely, not almost, makes me feel worse.
The actor Jason Biggs, last seen (apropos Rosh Hashana foods) being intimate with an apple pie, has come back to our screens as the fiancé of an upper middle-class convict in Jenji Kohan’s Orange is the New Black. His character, a writer, becomes obsessed by the practice of “edging”. In terms I can discuss in public, edging is the transcendent space of the almost. But you can read more here if you are over 18 and not related to me by blood.
I, less literally than Biggs, think almost is underrated, because wholeness, certainty, and serenity bore me to tears. I feel almost like this is a lazy approach, and almost like it is brave.I feel like there is a lot of energy in almost, and also a lot to mourn.
The world, too, is rife with the almost, for better and worse.
We are almost at war with Syria, which is almost finally seen by the world as a truly very, very bad regime.
We are almost committed to peace at any outrageous cost (and the world Jewish community almost cares, while the world community at large almost certainly does not.) We almost definitely have no idea what peace means since we have never known it, and yet we really do believe it can be almost achieved.
I almost love, unreasonably, the Jewish People and the Jewish state, and I am almost always surprised by how this does and does not conflict with my professed humanism, which is almost sincere. I can almost believe that Israel’s rabbinic woes – the conversion crisis and the status of women most notable among them – are solvable in my lifetime, and that the rifts in our society can almost, one day, heal.
Local politics in a sleepy backwater can be almost interesting, and friends can be almost enemies and then almost friends again in just under three weeks’ time. We are almost afraid of polio because some of the population almost has plumbing – and others almost respect first world medical conventions.
I can almost identify, in the daily, not annual, soul search, (also – almost sincere) which hardened pieces of myself ought to be expunged, and which are positive markers of “leaning in” and growing up. Which I am almost ready to do. I have almost come to terms with being responsible for another human life, and then several, for half of my time on earth. I am actually OK with my oldest child almost going into the IDF as a combat soldier, and when he does go, I will be almost OK, since sleeping and eating are overrated too.
We are obsessed as a culture with very public almost-sex and almost-death, which are most certainly, and not almost, related. We are almost horrified by this. We almost believe ourselves when we talk about the inside of a person being the most important thing, and I am almost a feminist, except I love Robin Thicke, who most certainly won’t mind if I objectify him, and I don’t mind when bus drivers honk.
Our entertainment is almost real, and our relationships are as well. We almost believe what is reported and experienced as reality, and it interests us almost as much as the entertainment. We are almost horrified by this, too. We are almost convinced by self-posted digital pictures.
I almost resigned myself to spending the day in the kitchen to prove it can all be done last minute despite what they said, a plan which was almost derailed by the oven shorting out just after noon. I almost forgot that the thing I learned this year is that there is no strength like icy calm and tactical precision, at exactly the moments when you are almost completely sure you will lose it.
But I didn’t forget. And I am almost proud of myself.
Happy New Year, from the existential edge.
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