Ganeinu School Kangyingcun Village, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China February 2006
Aaron and schoolmates at the Ganeinu school frolicking in the snow. He doesn’t look much like a four-year old, but he was.
The times at Ganeinu were happy for Aaron and happy for us. Morah Dini and all of her morayim made Aaron’s pre-school and kindergarten a magnificent mix of Judaism, Hebrew, Chinese, and secular learning.
It had been a long day. The drive into the city had drained all of us, and even the bear was tired.
The kid spent the afternoon squeezing the last juice out of his summer, thumbs flying across the iPhone as he lay jacked into his virtual life. The spouse stared at the ceiling, comfortably drowsing and wondering whether to trust me with dinner or just do it herself. And I meditated on the balcony in the fading sunlight, awash in the echoing rhythm of the traffic on the boulevard whooshing like blood through the city’s carotid artery, whispering Teslas, whining buses, roaring trucks, and growling Ferraris.
And yet I could not rest. Because as I looked across the vale below to the hillside a mile opposite, the great dignified temples of higher learning at the university set against the brown hills that reflected the setting sun, I thought of Rome. And then I thought of a parched land, in the shadow of the Hindu Kush, whence came legions of men who knew me not yet resented me, hated me for what I was and how I lived.
I felt the wind shift a few degrees from the East. I thought of tyrants, of Taliban, of climate change, of terror, of pestilence, of Anti-semites. I thought of a culture of waste and decadence and Kim Kardashian and Real Housewives and three-truck households and of a tide of anger and hatred that was rising ten thousand times faster an higher than glacier-melt sea levels.
I wasn’t sure if I was having a premonition, or if it was just the fatigue. I looked back at my family and told myself to quiet, to enjoy the moment. The storm is coming, I thought. Cherish the sunlight.
Some years ago, after diving on a wreck in the Philippines and getting her first glimpse of cephalopods in the wild, my wife was writing about her experience and she spelled “cuttlefish” as “cuddlefish.”
When I pointed out her error, she smiled and said, “well, it’s an honest mistake. With all those arms, what fish could possibly cuddle better?”
Eighteen years later and I can’t think of a reason she’s wrong. Clearly, the spelling needs to be changed.
NB: is calling a cuttlefish’s appendages “arms” too anthro-normative? Would love a ruling from the anti-Speciesism crowd. I would never want to offend: as a scuba diver I prefer cordial relations with our cephalopod friends.