I've been nominated for a Liebster award. This is a meme, a cross between a chain letter and an award given by bloggers to bloggers; it's meant to be given to an up-and-coming blogger who has fewer than 200 followers. (The word "Liebster" comes from German and means "favorite" or "beloved.") I appreciate the nomination, though I'm not entirely sure I qualify; near as I can tell I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 2000 subscribers, and I'm not sure that after nine years I can call this blog "up-and-coming" anymore! That said, I appreciate the spirit of the nomination -- and I'm happy to answer Rev Allyson's questions, because they're fun. Here's what she asked:
1. What role does religion play in your life?
Judaism informs pretty much everything I do. I see the world through the lenses of Torah and Jewish texts, I measure and sanctify time in Jewish ways, I connect with God through Jewish tools. Oh, and I'm blessed to be able to serve the local Jewish community as a congregational rabbi, so religion plays into how I earn my daily bread, too.
2. What's your favorite television show, and why?
There's some great television storytelling out there, so this is a bit of a tough one, but I think I'm going to go with Friday Night Lights. Amazing storytelling, characters who feel real, a terrific depiction of mature married life, and a long, slow build over the course of five seasons. It's also a beautiful look at smalltown life (both the positives and the negatives thereof), and the cinematography is stunning and often makes me nostalgic about my own Texas childhood (though my own childhood didn't involve really any football at all.)
3. What was your favorite subject in high school?
It was a toss-up between Biology, Latin, and English. I had terrific teachers in all three subjects. I was certain I was going to major in one of those three once I got to college. But then I took my first religion course, with the inimitable Thandeka, and that changed my life.
4. Coffee, tea, or other? Why?
Coffee and tea, please! I like them both.
5. What is your favorite ethnic food?
I have to choose just one? I'm a huge fan of Ethiopian -- though it's not something we can get around here, and we've never learned to make injera, alas, so we've never explored cooking Ethiopian on our own. But I've pretty much never met a cuisine I didn't like. We cook a lot of Tex-Mex and Indian and Thai in our house.
6. Have you ever baked bread from scratch? Why or why not?
Oh, goodness, yes! There was a period of time when I used to bake challah every Friday before Shabbat. I don't do it anymore (both because I work on Fridays now, and because my friend the baker at the A Frame bakery makes such delicious challah) but I do love baking bread. Lately I've been falling in love with baking sourdough. A dear friend gave me a North Adams sourdough starter, and I've been baking with it very happily when I can make the time.
7. Why do you blog?
Writing is part of my spiritual practice, and sharing that writing with the world encourages me away from solipsism and into conversation/community. I like sharing the things I love -- Torah, poetry, theology -- and blogging offers me a way to do that.
8. Is Doctor Who a silly show or a deep commentary on the world today?
Can't it be both? It can certainly be silly (especially in some of its earlier incarnations), but I think it also offers a window into some big questions: what does it mean to be human? If we could travel through time, what would we want to see, and what might we wish we could change? Is it our technology which makes us great, or our ability to think and feel and love? I admire the Doctor's relentless curiosity and his love of humanity.
9. What's your opinion of social media in general (Twitter, FaceBook, G+, etc)?
They're useful tools for connecting and communicating, though they're also terrific procrastinatory devices. (And the difference -- whether I experience them as ways of connecting, or as ways of distracting myself -- is entirely in me, not in the social media platforms themselves.) I find that I enjoy connecting with people through those various media, but I've also learned that I'm happier when I'm also engaging with people in more in-depth ways, which often means through long essays / blog posts instead of or in addition to the short stuff.
10. If price were no object, what would you want for your birthday?
Travel! There's nowhere in the world I wouldn't enjoy visiting. I'd particularly love to visit Turkey, where I have never been (I hear beautiful things about Istanbul.) I'd love to see more of Africa -- I've only ever been to Ghana, where Ethan used to live, and I really want to see more of that vast and amazing continent. I'd love to go to Japan someday, particularly Hokkaido.
And it would be grand to be able to travel to visit far-flung friends on the west coast of the US, too. I've never been to Portland, Oregon, and would love to go there someday. I have a good friend who's now serving as a rabbi in Bozeman, Montana; I drove through Montana in 1996 on a cross-country jaunt but haven't been back since, and I'd love to find a way to get back to big sky country.
11. Where do you read the news? Why?
And sometimes I spend time at the BBC, which offers a different perspective than I tend to see in American papers. I also try to at least skim Global Voices Online for reminders of the many stories and issues and ideas unfolding elsewhere in the world.
Now I'm meant to identify eleven other small-readership blogs and nominate them, and ask eleven questions for those bloggers to answer. (Or, in some versions of the meme, it's seven bloggers / blogs / questions.) I'm going to do something slightly different, though -- consider it a modification of the original meme. Here are five questions. If you have a blog and you want to answer these questions, please consider yourself nominated! Answer the questions in your space, and then drop a comment here to let me know you've done so.
1. What's your favorite book?
2. With what fictional character do you most identify?
3. If you could throw a dinner party and invite five people, real or fictional, from any moment in human history, who would you invite?
4. What's your favorite place to pray / meditate / engage in spiritual practice?
5. What's something you're hoping for in 2013?