The opinions expressed in previous entries may or may not express the current opinion of the author.

Friday, February 15, 2013


Recently I watched the movie The Horse Boy, which is a really cool movie about a little autistic boy whose parents (as one does) take him on a trek in search of healing to the Reindeer People in Outer Mongolia. It's a whole saga, and worth watching, and it's available on Netflix Instant Watch if you're interested.

The part I'm talking about, however, involves an episode where the father wants his son to continue their journey on horseback, and the little boy, who normally loves riding, has a tantrum and won't stop until they let him ride in the van instead.

The father is naturally disappointed and resists letting the boy have his way. The father is attached to his vision of the trip proceeding idyllically with the little boy sitting on the horse in front of him. He realizes finally that it is he himself who is being stubborn and resistant; he must give up his attachment to his plan and actually listen to the child.

This, I would say, is obedience.

When I'm on my way home and the "Battery Not Charging" light comes on, and my mechanic on the phone says it's only a matter of time until the car stops working, I initially decide to try and make it to an important appointment and deal with the car later. Then I wake up, cancel the appointment and take the car to my mechanic. That is obedience.

When the horse I'm trimming says, "Enough on this leg - time to move to the next," and I hold on, wanting to just get it finished. That is disobedience.

When I have a pleasant little revery involving my child being good at sports and she resists signing up for next season, and I realize that it's my dream and not hers and let her quit. That is obedience.

Obedience is not what we think it is.

I should add that later on in the movie, they come to a point in the journey where the van cannot continue because of the terrain. The father convinces his son to ride on the horse. At this juncture, there was a real need for the boy to do so, whereas earlier on there had not.


This morning, I was browsing through Chabad.org, my favorite website, and came upon this recent lecture.


This lecture affirms what I was talking about in my post of yesterday. Now is not the time to dwell on externalities but to delve deep inside and look for the source within, which can transform, rather than merely curate, the world outside.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Not by Bread Alone

This morning - I suppose it was this morning, but it could have been any time or any day - I was lying in bed, looking out of the window at the mountain, gathering my thoughts for the day. Perhaps I began a prayer - began to ask for things I need, or for things needed by friends and family members.

And then - I don't know - I saw a bird in a tree and suddenly thought: how paltry are the things I ask for, how meager, how mere.

Health, work, financial security, safe traveling, the success of projects, all kinds of things - all important things, but really, is that the best I can ask for? What does the world really hold in store for us? What are we looking for, what do we expect, what do we hope for?

Suddenly everything I was concerned with seemed so utilitarian and pragmatic.

Judaism holds that the mitzvot - the commandments and laws - are not to be thought of as useful or as accomplishing any purpose. They are to be performed because their performance gives God pleasure. Is this a clue as to how we should view the world? That the useful things, the necessary things are all well and good, but that the really important things have no utility.

I think of horses, of George - George, whose flesh and blood and stature make him ideal for carrying or pulling things or people. And Einstein, whose arms and legs no doubt would have made him a serviceable (if absent-minded) street sweeper.

And although the Enlightenment brought us many benefits for which we're grateful, we have almost imperceptibly slipped into something which is sometimes called The Mechanistic World View. Which isn't an inaccurate view, because that would be easy to disprove. But a misleading world view, which tempts us to believe that the entire universe is made up of utilitarian relationships, of cause and effect, of things necessary for other things, a world in which all mitzvot are performed for the sake of the usefulness thereof, and therefore are not mitzvot at all.

Yes, I want the safety of those I love. But should I stop after I've asked for that? Or should I ask for more love?

Do I want a horse who will carry me securely down the road, or do I want a horse who will reveal to me the goodness of God which is inside creation? I need to ask for more.
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?  ... For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6: 31-33)

George is a Genius

George is very capable of communicating. However, he does it in such a diffuse and sometimes distant manner, that I don't always notice what he's saying, or even that he's saying anything at all.

Bridget comes barreling over - she pushes me, prods me, sticks her nose in my face, slams her butt into my side to ask for scratches, tries to copy what I'm doing, and generally is like an enthusiastic, bumptious kid, who wants to talk and ask questions and get involved in everything.

George on the other hand - for example - comes toward me indirectly, passing to one side, makes no face-to-face contact, and stops with me in the general vicinity of his hindquarters, careful not to touch me. If I fail to take the hint, he turns around and looks at the spot  he wants to have scratched.

Today, he came over for a little scratching, but he wasn't really into it. He kept leaving and going to stand by a lone capped t-post, the remains of a manege I used to have. As he stood there, looking utterly woebegone, he would bite his legs and paw at the ground.

I thought to myself, "What in the world is the matter with George?"

I guessed he was frustrated because he wanted to go across the drive to the other field where there was a little green grass, and I'd already made it clear that this wasn't happening today. I decided that despite the piles of hay I'd put on the ground for his dining pleasure, George was just sad that there was no green grass in his field and his frustration was getting the better of him.

Later on, I was with the horses in a different part of the field, near an open gate which leads between two pastures. I noticed a stray piece of fence wire hanging down and wrapped it out of harm's way around the fence.

George went over and took the piece of wire in his mouth. If Bridget did that, it would be because she'd seen me wrap the wire and wanted to try to copy me. Not George. I offered him the end of the wire to see if he wanted to investigate it. No. He stuck his head over the fence. He stepped away, and right next to the gate post, he started pecking and pawing the ground and biting his legs again.

And then I understood. He's talking to me about fencing. That was the whole point of standing by the t-post, and then mouthing the fence wire, and then pawing beside the gatepost. Even though this particular piece of fencing and this open gate divides the two pastures he's currently living in, he's using the fencing here to make a point: He is frustrated by the fencing that is keeping him from the green grass.

It was getting late, but I wanted to do something for him and asked him to follow me across the field, where I exited and found a meager patch of green grass growing in a corner of the yard. I plucked the short grass and in the growing darkness gave George tiny handfuls of green through the fence. It wasn't much, but I hope at least he realized that I finally understood what he was talking about.

The complexity of his communication astounds me.

It's interesting that this happened today, because I've just been realizing that it's a long time since I tried to tap into George's special talents and gifts. Earlier today, I was trying to tell him that I was sorry about that, and perhaps looking for a word from him.

In my selfish way, of course, I now see I was hoping for something for me. Whereas right now, George has his own needs as a priority. Yet he perhaps sensed that I was listening again, and he talked to me.

Listening is hard. Hearing is even harder.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

On the Spectrum?

A while ago I came to the conclusion that George was autistic.

Is there such a thing as an autistic horse? So I googled.

Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so: I learned about Benny the Autistic Horse, who belongs to Missy Wryn.

Yup, I really think he is.