Friday, July 20, 2007

Sunday July 20

Bathing in C.I. with
my friends.


I wonder how some
people can enjoy real
happiness, no matter
how rich they are, if they
do not devote a part of
their lives to help other
human beings.

All humans are alike
and when death calls them
forth poor and rich alike
and they have to stand the
same suffering of death

Also I cannot conceive the
idea of some people being real
happy without a having a sense of under-
standing for classical music
which appeals to the very soul,
and other arts.


Matt's Notes

I'm trying to imagine why Papa's trip to Coney Island or what other recent events triggered this meditation on the nature of happiness. Certainly yesterday's celebration of the new Torah at the Sniatyner Synagogue reminded Papa of his father, a religious teacher who schooled his students in the sacred, spiritual joys of altruism. Papa had also, on more than one occasion, looked upon large groups of happy people -- in the movies, on the streets, during previous visits to Coney Island -- and found himself wondering what, exactly, they were so pleased about.

Perhaps this day's record crowd of 600,000 Sunday celebrants at Coney, so many of them smiling and laughing and frivolously splashing about, boggled Papa's mind or clashed with the serious thoughts running through it from the previous day. Even his friends (and here I'm thinking of the rakish Rothblum) might have demonstrated too little seriousness and disturbed Papa's mood. I wonder, too, if Papa was additionally frustrated with himself for not just relaxing and enjoying his day at the beach, making him feel even more self-absorbed detached.1

Regardless of what triggered it, I sort of like the strident, idealistic tone of this entry. It's almost like the protestation of an undergraduate activist ("Dude, how can you sit there and eat cotton candy when people out there need help?") especially since it switches subjects so suddenly from Death, the great equalizer, to a complaint about peoples' taste in music ("Dude, if you don't like this record you just don't get it.")

I don't mean to say Papa's feelings weren't genuine, though. He maintained his devotion to idealistic pursuits -- Zionism, the labor movement -- long after most youthful enthusiasts put aside such things. He would, in fact, retire as a shop steward after a lifetime of union activism. I'm sure being a union rep in the garment industry wasn't a storybook job, but I expect, whatever it entailed, he was happy to have devoted "at least a part of" his life "to help other human beings," just as he had intended back in 1924.


1 - My own experience, most recently the office party I went to the other night, is interfering heavily here, I think.



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