Friday, July 11, 2008

Naked Ambition

I have been writing the blog for about nine months now, posting about 75 times. I hoped from the start to build its readership without any institutional affiliation--to approach this space with moral seriousness and see what happens. But the truth is, I don't really know what's happened. Standard blogging tools tell me that the blog has drawn something over 6000 "absolute unique visitors" during the past 6 weeks (and I confess that I love the idea of visitors being absolutely unique). But numbers can spike as a result of one especially widely read post, and the tools are rather impersonal.

So if you feel a certain loyalty to the blog, or would like to share an idea, I'd love to hear from you. You may write to a special purpose email address, b1@bernardavishai.info (no hyperlink, alas; you must cut-and-paste). I'll interpret a blank email as a word of encouragement. And if you have not already done so, might this be a time to recommend the blog to someone you feel would appreciate it? (Subscription options are to the right.)

Meanwhile, I'm going to take off a week or so and swim as much as possible in the appropriately named Pleasant Lake. As a beach present, here is my favorite poem from Yehuda Amichai's glorious Open Closed Open. (The translation is by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld.)

Whoever puts on a tallis when he was young will never forget;
Taking it out of the soft velvet bag, opening the folded shawl,
Spreading it out, kissing the length of the neckband (embroidered
or trimmed in gold.) Then swinging it in a great swoop overhead
like a sky, a wedding canopy, a parachute. And then winding it
around his head as in hide-and-seek, wrapping
his whole body in it, close and slow, snuggling into it like the cocoon of a butterfly, then opening would-be wings to fly.
And why is the tallis striped and not checkered black-and-white
like a chessboard? Because squares are finite and hopeless.
Stripes come from infinity and to infinity they go
like airport runways where angels land and take off.
Whoever has put on a tallis will never forget.
When he comes out of a swimming pool or the sea,
he wraps himself in a large towel, spreads it out again
over his head, and again snuggles into it close and slow,
still shivering a little, and he laughs and blesses.