Friday, August 31, 2007

The Sleeper Has Awakened: Introduction

I will miss the sea, but a person needs new experiences. Without them it is almost as if something sleeps within us and very seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken!”
Dune by Frank Herbert

Can a person overcome the weaker elements of their own personality? Is it possible to overcome great odds and retain the basic elements of humanity? These are questions that I faced throughout my life as I tried to face difficult situations. In some situations I failed and those failures led to major problems in my life. Yet, I believe that even with our faults our struggles can become like a refining fire, and it is in this struggle we can often find out who we really are.

I recently became a fan of Joss Wheadon's Firefly series after seeing the movie Serenity. In one episode called War Stories, there is a discussion about a fake Chinese ruler named Shan Yu. In this discussion Shan Yu was purported to be a warrior poet who wrote volumes about torture and the limits of human endurance. A saying of Shan Yu was quoted as the following.

“Live with a man 40 years. Share his house and meals speak on every subject. Then tie him up and hold him over the volcano’s edge and on that day you will finally meet the man.”

Some of us are defined by the tragedies of our lives. The hurt, the pain, and the loss shapes us and molds us in ways that are often hard to define. We sometimes don't even recognize these things within ourselves unless we spend time in reflection on who we are and who we are becoming. When we are not focused on the mirrors of our lives it often becomes hard to see the person within us, and we may become prone to ignore the realities that exist within us.

It is important for people to understand that we can either be a victim of the past, or we can be someone who says, "I have been victimized, but I am no longer a victim. I can fight back, I can be motivated, and I can overcome the hurdles that are currently before me." Through change, pain, and adversity we often learn who we really are. If a tragedy happens, what is my reaction? Do I loose faith, in what I believed? Do I cringe in terror? Do I become lost to the realm of logic and not know where I am going? Do I face the reality seeking a path that will help me deal with that reality?

Batman Begins: Becoming Something More

Sometimes in order to know that we are not truly facing our problems in life, we need to feel lost and alone. We need to face failure in order to realize that something is missing and that we may not be seeing the bigger picture. This is why it is important to stop and seek, or be willing to listen to wisdom in order to regain our balence. The other option is to live a life based on chance, and to be blown one way or another by the winds of life. Never knowing where we are going next, never fully becoming who we were created to be.

There is a saying that misery loves company, but what I believe is that misery hates those with hope. People who see glimmers of hope in the darkest situations and who choose not to dwell in apathy are sometimes some of the most despised and hated people. They are often scorned for not truly being empathetic to the harsh realities of life. Yet, could it be that this hatred is due to the person who actually decides to face down the reality and challenge it, no matter the cost. Whether they survive to tell the tale, or they fall to the ground maybe they are the ones who are living in the real world.

After the devasting and horrific tsunami in Asia Rabbi Avi Shafran wrote the following:

What Judaism teaches is that adversity -- wherever it strikes, whomever it takes and whomever its spares -- always has a reason, even when it cannot easily -- or at all -- be discerned. And so, the Jewish response to all disaster is to regard what has happened as, even if entirely confounding, somehow still entirely just -- the essence, in fact, of the Jewish blessing recited upon personal tragedy: "Baruch Ata...Dayan Ha'emet" - "Blessed are You... the true Judge." And to engage in introspection. No one but a prophet can associate any tragedy with any particular sin, but sin is not difficult to discern in our world, or in ourselves. Materialism and immorality are pandemic in our world; tribal and religious strife, terrorism and claims of divine directives to kill and maim are embraced, even celebrated, by large swaths of humanity.

Might a message about any or all of those things lie in the sorrow sown by the recent waves of destruction? One hopes that those whom the shoes may fit elect to wear them. But then there is the fact that each of us is a microcosm, with failed challenges of his or her own -- which Jewish sources in fact consider to feed larger societal failings. We may not personally act immorally or murderously, but there are more subtle realms of evil. The Talmud, for instance, speaks of malicious gossip as a sort of murder, and considers unwarranted hatred to be a wildly destructive force. Which is why the response of many rabbis who represent the fullness of the Jewish heritage has been a generalized call to repentance. Let us recognize, in other words, that God guides the world, and that, despite the appearance of randomness or capriciousness, nothing happens without a reason. (source)

There are two choices in life when it comes to challenges. You can either accept them and let them overcome you, or you can fight and do what you can to the best of your ability to overcome them. The next few entries are examples of this in my life.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Love, What Does It Mean?

As with anything in life one can find many opinions on any given topic. Sometimes it is important to have a base of opinions in order to see things from broad perspective. So this brings me to the topic of love and exactly what is it. What does it really mean when people say that they love each other?

I love God, and as Jews we say prayers that express our love for God. Yet, how many times do people really think about what it means to love God?

"When man contemplates concerning these things, and perceives all creatures, whether angel, sphere, or man the likeness of himself, and discovers the wisdom of the Holy One, blessed is He! In all beings of form and in all creatures, his love for the Omnipresent increases and his soul and body thirst and yearn to love God, blessed is He! And, fear and terror, because of his own insignificance, shortcomings and levity seize him when comparing himself to one of the great and holy bodies, verily so to one of the pure forms, separated from bodies of clay, which never joined a body of clay. He then will find himself likened to a vessel full of shame and disgrace, empty and wanting."

Rabbi Mosheh ben-Maimon, Mishnah Torah: Book I.4.II

I love my mother, and know if my father, of blessed memory was still here I would love him also. Yet, when I tell my mother I love her what does that really mean? Do I love them simply because they are my parents and that is the right thing to do, or is there something more to it? By like token when I found a woman who was pleasing to me and I told her I loved her, what did I really mean by that? When I feel like I love a woman, what brings on such feelings or emotions? How do I know that they are real, and what sustains such a feeling? I have family who I feel like I don't love, and I have friends who I love so much I would trust my life with them. So what does that mean? One day I, by the Hand of God, I hope to be married and have children. What will it mean when I tell my wife I love her, or when I ebrace my children with love?

I once read a book called The Road Less Traveled by Dr. Beck Scott. I read the book on the suggestion of DeLana, the woman mentioned in the Better to Have Loved and Lost: Part 1. One of the comments I found interesting in the book was that love is one of those things that really can't be quantified. What he did say was that maybe one can look at love as two people who choose to follow a common path together, based on certain circumstances. He further stated that when people say they fell in love, people can easily fall out of those kind of feelings. He believed that love is a development, and he preferred to say instead, "I am learning to love this person."

Another commentary I once heard about love defined one aspect of it when two or more people decide to have a relationship with each. They in turn make a commitment to continue to work at the relationship no matter the cost. If one or both decide to no longer work at it, the relationship will dissolve. Connected with this idea is the age old Jewish adage of loving your neighbor as yourself. On the subject of loving your neighbor as yourself, Rabbi Mosheh ben-Maimon (Rambam), states in his book the Mishnah Torah, Sefer Daoth that this means that you respect his/her honor and their prosperity. If you love someone you would do your best not to bring down their honor or affect their prosparity in a negative way. You would also do whatever is in your power to uplift the honor and prosperity of said person.

Rabbi Pinchas Stolper wrote in insightful article concerning the religious Jewish position called Love, Dating, and Romance:

"Romantic love is not always related to real love, especially when it ignores the true personalities and mutual interest of those involved. To be ruled by one's emotions and feelings, uncontrolled and undirected by logic, values and clear thinking, with no clear sense of goals and responsibility, is to ignore the only factors which can establish a firm foundation for a permanent and mature life-long relationship.

The theme repeated everywhere in novels and movies is that "I am in love and my love is beyond my control"; "I fell in love"; it was as though someone pushed me off a cliff and it was all accidental and unintentional. The Jewish approach warns us not to "love in spite of yourself", but to love "because of yourself". Find out what you're headed for. Enter into the love relationship with your eyes open, not with your eyes closed. Don't accept blind dates, unless you know who the potential partner is.

If you find that you are "falling", realize while your eyes are still open, while you can still think clearly and objectively, who this person is for whom you are falling. By whom, I refer to background, commitment, education, character, personality, family, friends, values, concern for others, goals and ideals--the things that really count--not the external, superficial things, some of which may be "put on".

Fall in love with the real person inside the skin. Fall in love deliberately, with control, not on the rebound, or because you're simply "in love with love". Fall in love only after you have come to know yourself, not because you feel insecure and think "no one loves me", and not because you don't get along with your parents and are anxious to leave home. Don't let your craving for acceptance or love lead you to throw yourself at the first person who gives you a tumble or is "pliable" in physical conduct."

There is an old Arabic saying I was recently reminded of by fellow Israeli blogger Miriam. It states that when God creates each person who will be married he puts the name of their intended on their heads, and only He (God) can see it. There is an old Jewish saying that when God creates a soul that will be married he splits it into two parts. One for the man and one for the woman, and in both situations it is a matter of the two people finding each other.

So what do you think? What does love mean to you?
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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Better to Have Loved and Lost: Part 2

The following is another story from the book I am writing. This is a similar story from the section on my folly's in love. These events actually proceeded those in Better to Have Loved and Lost Part 1.

Sheqitta: Take a Bow

I met Sheqitta during my 2nd year of college at Prairie View A&M University, about 1994. We were both Electrical Engineering majors taking some of the same classes such as calculus and chemistry. We met during a study session for Calculus I and became instant friends. Sheqitta was very beautiful, sweet, and friendly as well as someone who I felt very comfortable being around. She had that sweet southern disposition that could melt ice and she had the looks of a Nubian queen. She was definitely a knock out in all respects and I wanted to try and get close to her even though there were so many other guys that liked her. As time went on in the first few months that I knew her she seemed to have a concern about me, as I also was concerned about her.

When I was around her I felt like I was on cloud nine, because she represented the sweet kindness that I had always wanted in my life. She had a smile that was like sunrise on the beaches in Tel Aviv, Israel. Her voice was soft and pleasant like a breeze followed by rain through the deserts of the Sahara. It became a situation where I felt like I really wanted to know if it was possible to get to know her better. I was falling in love with her and life seemed real exciting at that time. She made me feel strong when I was weak and I could not stop thinking about her.


Then something changed in the relationship. Maybe it was because of my high expectations and lack of understanding of my true standing with Sheqitta, but there came a time when what seemed like a close relationship became distant friendship. It took place during the semester when she pledged a co-ed fraternity/sorority called the Wisconsin Sleepers. It was one of a few organizations on Prairie View’s campus that pledged both men and women together. This organization was known for pledging both men and women harder than any of the Historically Black Fraternity’s and Sorority’s. There was a saying on Prairie View’s campus that, “If you pledge Wisconsin Sleeper you will be tough enough to pledge anything.” During the pledge process Sheqitta’s time for study sessions decreased and eventually she did not have time to study with me at all.

Our friendship went from us calling each other and talking everyday to me calling her and never hearing back from her. Then it went to an even different extreme when she suddenly changed her major, and then I didn’t see her at all. I could never get in contact with her and I really began to wonder what happened. So after a bit of time I stopped calling her, but I could not get her out of my mind. I tried really hard to forget her, but I could not because I had invested so much time and emotion into the situation. Real strong feelings had been developing for her and in my heart and I felt like she was the one.

A few weeks went by and I thought I was somewhat over her, but I quickly found that I was fooling myself. One day I went to the campus lunch hall with my room-mate, Marx Thompson. We got our food and sat down and enjoyed our meals as we discussed this and that. All of a sudden Sheqitta sat down at the table behind Marx with some of her new friends. Now mind you I had prided myself on self-control and having a calm head, but at that moment I felt like I was loosing those skills. When she sat down she did not see me because her back was towards me. I leaned over the table and whispered to Marx in a shaky voice, “Its her. She is sitting right behind you.”

Marx knew about my feelings for Sheqitta, but at the time he did not know what I was talking about. I repeated to him in an even more frantic voice, “It’s the girl, you know, its her, she’s right behind you!” Marx looked at me with a big question mark on his face and said, “What are you talking about! It’s who!” My body began to shake, I could feel my temperature rising, and I had suddenly lost my appetite. I whispered to Marx, “If she turns around I am going run away.” At this point Marx had no idea what was wrong with me.

All of a sudden, Sheqqitta turned around and began to get up out of her chair. It was like her movements were in slow motion, yet my reaction was in full speed as I ran away from the table as fast as I could. As I ran, napkins from other tables were caught in my jet-stream and silverware from the salad bar went flying in the air. I ran as if I was being chased by dozens of basset hounds during a fox hunt. People moved out of the way as I zoomed past them as if I was going long like a wide receiver in football for a touchdown pass. Five minutes later I returned to the table to strange stares from Marx and a few other people at the table. By that time Sheqitta had left, and the smoke had cleared.

Trying to Face Reality

The semester ended and I was working in Dallas, TX as an intern at MCI. At the time I was living with my aunt and uncle and initially things seemed to be going okay, but I still had Sheqitta on my mind. I must admit that I had the love bug bad for her, and nothing was stopping it. Looking back it is almost comedic the level of the crush I had on her. Every night I would listen to depressing love songs that reminded me of her. My favorite songs of depression were “Take a Bow” by Madonna and “Creepin” by Stevie Wonder. Take a Bow was my song as I wondered why Sheqitta did not return my love for her.

Creepin’ was my song connected to the hope that somehow she would return and we would be in love.

It wasn’t until years later that I found out the Creepin was not even a sad love song at all, but that is neither here nor there, so back to the story.

I was so depressed by the situation that I would play those two songs over and over again. At the time I only had them on cassette so I would have to get up and rewind them and then go back to laying on the floor sulking in the dark. As I lay there every night I would look at the ceiling fan asking, “Why…..why did she leave the way she did?” The ceiling fan of course never gave an answer and I would sigh as I never found comfort for my soul.

She had my heart and for the first time in a long time my belief in my higher degree of logic was worthless. I played the court jester, or the sideshow buffoon very well, and I felt like an over educated side-show freak. Everyone come look upon a this hideous spectacle of a young man who thought so highly of himself....come see how low he has been brought so low. Now what of his petty thoughts of logic and such? Children may throw whatever they please at him.

In the back of my mind I wanted to believe that Shegitta would come back, and that somehow one day I would receive a call from her. She would tell me how much she missed me and cared about me. She would promise to stay with me as she held me close and that everything would be okay. It was my deepest desire just to hear her voice once more and to know she cared about me. Yet, I was fooling myself with this mindset and maybe somewhere I understood the reality that this would never happen.

When I am sleep at night baby,
I feel those moments of ecstasy.
When you sleep at night baby,
I wonder do I creep into your dreams.
Or could it be I sleep alone in my fantasy.
Stevie Wonder - Creepin


When It Rains, It Pours and then It Monsoons During a Sand Storm?

At the same time I was trying to get over Sheqitta I was also facing some health issues so I felt like I was being hit by a brick wall on one side and a concrete wall with spikes on the other. The condition began as a slight pain in my foot that eventually became infected in my leg and spread to the point where I was in pain because it was essentially like a number of open wounds. Over the counter medications did nothing and my foot swollen to the point where I could not fit my foot into my work shoes.

When I drove to work I did so without my shoe and when I arrived at the Richardson MCI office in North Dallas I would have to perform a ritual of preparing myself for the pain of putting on a shoe that no longer fit my swollen foot. I would then limp into work when no one was looking and when people saw me walking I would straighten up and hide the pain. I was a wreck at this time and my car was also breaking down as I had to travel on Dallas’s I-75 in the middle of summer during the height of the 1995 construction to expand it from two lanes to four. That summer was extremely hot and the air conditioning in my car had broken down.

It seemed like my health issues followed closely the emotions I was going through. As my health became bad it seemed like emotionally I was falling apart over how I felt about Sheqitta. I remember how it got to the point where I fell to my lowest point and I felt like I didn’t have the strength to deal with either situation. Light gave way to dark storm clouds. The fragrant smell of the summer flowers became the stench of rotting compost. The birds that once sung beautiful songs to wake me in the morning as I lay in the garden, became vultures and crows taunting waiting for me in the darkest woods to breath my last.

There was one night in particular where I was in so much physical pain that I could not sleep and I lay on the floor crying out in agony. The pain was searing, unrelenting, and unforgiving. My heartache was torturing and abrasive and I could not take it anymore. As I lay on the floor in the fetal position racked with physical pain I cried out to God, “God I can’t take the pain. What did I do? What did I do to deserve this? I have tried to do the right things, and I can’t take this pain.”

As I said these words not expecting anything in the way of an answer I sensed something that I cannot fully explain. It was as if my mind had left my body and began to travel to a different place. For a moment it was as if the physical pain was gone, and I was in a different place. I saw visions of people in hospitals burned beyond recognition living in higher degrees of pain than what I was experiencing. I saw people racked with full body pain where mine was all in my leg and I saw people who could not even move or have a life outside of a hospital bed and their pain.

My thoughts about my own situation began to change as my mind returned to my body and I thought about what I had just experienced or if I had even experienced it. It was then that I said, “Maybe it is better that I take what I currently have. Maybe it is better that I deal with my pain than the pain that others have. Maybe it is better that I take what I have because I have the strength to deal with it where another person may not have that strength.” These thoughts did not stop my pain, but eventually the pain eased enough for me to go back to sleep.

I Just Can’t Take It Anymore

After a few months of physical and emotional pain there was a day when I felt really hurt and desperate. It was then that I said a prayer in the privacy of my room, “I can’t take this anymore God! I just can’t take it anymore. She is never coming back. Why can’t I get over this girl?” There was no answer and I shrugged my shoulders and went about my sad and depressing way. I could see nothing further than my own pain and this hurt me personally as I could not remember what the better moments of my life were like.

A week went by after I had fallen to this lowest point and I came home to a country called “Depression” in a state called “Heartache” in small town called “Woe is me.” That night I sat down and randomly turned on the TV flipping through the multitude of channels. I sat there thinking about how low I had fallen and how bad I felt. As I flipped through the channels I got to a program called Kids in the Hall. The Kids in the Hall was a Canadian sketch comedy group, consisting of comedians Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulloch, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson that was formed in 1984. It was also the name of the group's television show that ran from 1989 to 1994 on CBC, CBS, and HBO.

There was a particular episode on where there was a man in love with his toothbrush. The man woke up in the morning and began talking to his toothbrush as if it was a person. He spoke to the toothbrush about how he was love with it and even called it “Mr. Toothbrush.” He told “Mr. Toothbrush” that he loved it so much that he wanted to spend a day at the park with it. So he left his home and spent a fun filled day at the park with the toothbrush. The scene went on with him running through the park in slow motion hugging the toothbrush and kissing it. At one point, he threw the toothbrush out of a tree into the grass and he then jumped out of the tree near the toothbrush and began to kiss it and hug it even more. As he was doing these things everyone in the park looked at him as if he were insane.

As I was watching this I thought, “How weird and foolish. Why I am watching this?” So I began to take the remote control in my hand in order to change channels. Yet, something inside told me to keep watching just for a few more moments and that is when it happened. At the end of the comedy sketch the man lay in the grass and leaves with the toothbrush, and he said these words.

“Well Mr. Toothbrush we have had a good day together and you know I love you, but I have to let you go. I know it hurts but even though you really love something you sometimes have to let it go. If you let it go and it comes back to you then it will last forever, but if you let it go and doesn’t come back it wasn’t meant to be.”

As I heard these words the room became still and it was as if there was no other sound on the planet. The lights were dim and in the night sky only the moonlight shone through the windows. The trees did not rustle and the neighborhood was unusually quiet. It was then, in that quiet, that I felt as if a door to my heart had been opened and I could think clearly. Then it was as if a calm breeze came through the room and filled my soul and I heard an internal voice say in a whisper, “Let her go.”

At that moment all the emotions regarding Sheqitta were taken and placed in a bottle with a two-ton weight tied to it and thrown into the deepest depths of the ocean. It was then that I knew that God had heard my prayers and was telling me that I had the power to let her go. All those months of pain and depression could be released not by my own strength, but by allowing myself to opened up by a still and calm voice.

I stood up and took the remote in my hand in order to turn off the TV. I quietly stated my answer and said, “Okay I will let her go.” I then walked into my bedroom in order to rest and finally enjoy some peaceful sleep. The next morning I awoke to a new state of mind and a much needed mental freedom. My feelings for Sheqitta were no longer a force of sadness and depression because they now had been erased from my inner self and left behind. At that moment I became a new man and though I still had the health problem, I could at least reclaim some of my sanity.

Facing the Storm

One day when I was still in pain I was feeling a bit down about how no matter what my current doctor was doing things seemed to get worse. It got to the point where the doctor I was going to told me that he didn’t know what he could do for me. I felt hurt and alone because at that point I had no one to turn to. With all that I had experienced I just wanted to have my leg amputated because I was tired of the pain and the failure. When I came home I passed by my uncle and he must have seen how depressed I was feeling. My Uncle Melvin Mitchell was always a sound voice of reason for me and I have the highest respect for him. He told me that there was a local clinic nearby and I should go there. He stated that sometimes the big name doctors don’t always know what the doctors at the small time clinics know.

I reluctantly took his advice and went to the clinic. The clinic was in the middle of a bustling Hispanic neighborhood in Oak Cliff, Dallas and when I walked in the door the sounds of Spanish enveloped me. I sat there not understanding 99% of what I was hearing from everyone in the waiting room. The place was so crowded that they decided to put me in the children’s section of the clinic. At this point I was really embarrassed since I was now in a place with children running all over the place and essentially was being compared to a child.

When my time came I went into the doctors office I showed him my symptoms and how I was in so much pain. I also explained how I went to a doctor that could no longer help me. The doctor was a brash and outspoken elderly man. He immediately checked me out and said, “This here is no problem son. Back in the war we used to call this trench foot. Many of those fancy doctors don’t know the first thing about something like this. I experienced this in the war.” I never asked him what war he was talking about, but I was glad that finally someone knew what to do. He prescribed to me several medications that healed the condition with about two weeks. This amazed me because I had been going to the other doctor for more than two months and I was getting shots and medications that were not working. I also paid the first doctor several thousand dollars that ate up the money I had made on the internship.

From Weakness to Strength

About a month later my internship at MCI ended and it was time for me to return to Prairie View A&M University to begin my 3rd year. As I packed my belongings dozens of memories washed over me and as a new man I began to take pride in the progress that I had made. Before I left Dallas to face a four hour drive back to college I stood in front of my uncle and my aunt’s house to take one last moment to myself. I thought about the entire summer and all that had taken place and how in each of my troubles having faith and praying were like a stronghold and refuge for me. It was then that I quietly thanked God for hearing me and healing my heart as well as my health. I then took my keys from pocket and got into my car in order to move on and face life anew.

I only saw Sheqitta once after all of these events. It was only a chance meeting two years afterwards and for only a moment, but there was no animosity or anger. I was a different person and the feelings for her had faded. It is with that that I wished her well and I never saw her again. For so long I held onto the desire that she would be with me, but I had to learn a lesson about placing trust in places it was not to return from. I was shaped by this experience and every time I hear the song Creepin’ I remember that summer with all of its seasons of growth.
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Friday, August 24, 2007

Better To Have Loved and Lost, Part 1

As some of you know, I have been writing a book about my family and my travels around the world. One of the areas that came to mind was about a women that I once was in love with, but I was never able to make anything happen with. So in the next few posts I will tell some of my stories. It is almost the Shabbat (Sabbath) here in Israel and this one came to mind.

In the Beginning

Her name was DeLana. I first met DeLana in 1997 during a visit to Baylor University in Waco, TX. I made a special trip there because earlier that year I had met a fellow member of Phi Beta Sigma in Florida at a national conference who had told me stories of a chapter full of beautiful Zeta’s (short for members of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.) in Texas. He had stated that he met some of them at the conference and he could not remember exactly where the chapter was located. The best part of it was that at that time there were no Sigma’s (short for member’s of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.) on the campus. After hearing this I knew that I had to find out where this chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. was located.

I was told of a chapter of Zeta’s on a college campus with no Sigmas. Of course with very little information to go on I quickly forgot all about this illusive chapter of Zeta’s. It was not until the fall semester of the 1997 school year that I met a Zeta named Malina at a Phi Beta Sigma event at Texas A&M University. Malina had mentioned that she attended Baylor University and that there were no Sigmas at Baylor. She further stated that it would be good if Sigmas from other campus’ could come to support the Zeta’s there. A few weeks passed and I decided that I needed to take some time away from my life at Prairie View A&M University, and I remembered Malina’s offer. Also, some of my father’s family lived in Waco. So this trip could be a perfect fit, I cold do my Sigma duty and visit my family at the same time. So I gave Malina a call to tell her that I was planning to be in the area. She mentioned that she would not be in town that week, but that she would tell the other Zeta’s that I was coming.

When I arrived at Baylor University and met the Zeta’s there I realized that some of them were at the Sigma convention where I had first heard about a chapter of Zeta’s in Texas where there were no Sigma’s. I had finally found the elusive chapter and I can say that I felt like I was in heaven. The Zeta’s were not only beautiful but also intelligent and caring. During my state at Baylor I was inspired by these ladies who represented finer woman; especially by one Zeta in particular name DeLana.

DeLana caught my eye because she was delightful and charming. She was one of those women that could stop traffic with her captivating looks and her graceful walk. One day during my visit I spent time showing her the photo album that I had been putting together since I became a member of Sigma. DeLana had already graduated from Baylor about a year before my travels there. It was because of Zeta’s like her that I began to contemplate transferring to Baylor so I could be around more often as well as to possibly start a chapter of Phi Beta Sigma. This idea of transferring never materialized, but I did end traveling to Baylor or to Texas A&M University whenever I heard that the Zeta’s from Baylor would be there.

In most of my travels around Texas the Baylor Zeta’s and Delana were there and it was a great pleasure to see her there. It was during one of these chance meetings that I eventually asked her for her phone number and began to call her. She soon became my favorite Zeta and hearing from her was always a joy for me. She always had an understanding ear and was very easy to talk to. I found immense value in her opinions and I often sought her advice on various matters. Often I joked with her of how I was receiving free psychology advice since her area of expertise was in Psychology.

As time passed we became close when she had moved to San Antonia to live with her family since her father was diagnosed with cancer. It was during this time that I started to develop feelings for her and I found myself including her and her family in my prayers. I was living in Houston at the time while I was finishing my BS in Electrical Engineering at Prairie View A&M University. There was even a short time where I contemplated trying to find a job in San Antonio in order to be closer to her. Yet, that was a drastic decision since I was more into big city life.

I wanted with all my heart to travel to San Antonio and visit her in her time of need, but at that time I was struggling financially and it was as if The Divine Presence had different plans. As DeLana’s father became more ill I felt so helpless because I could not go to her and comfort her. It was then that her pain became my pain and I think that it was this time that I began to harbor strong feelings for her.

The First Proposal

In 1999 I came up with a plan to try and get more attention from DeLana in order to convince her that I was viable marriage candidate. A scheme came to me after a conversation with DeLana about marriage and what a man would have to do to convince her to marry him. In a casual conversation I asked her the following question, “So what does a good man have to do to get you to consider him as marriage material?” She took my question in a joking manner, and she mentioned how she is a logical thinker and a man who wanted to marry her would almost have to lay out a careful and organized case. So I responded, “So what you are saying is that a man would almost have to make a presentation to you or a report to show the pros and cons?” She laughed and responded jokingly, “Yes, I guess he would have to do something like that.” It was then that the synopsis in my brain began to fire and a plan began to formulate. After we got off the phone I turned off the lights in my apartment, took hold of a flashlight, shined it on my face, and gave a diabolical laugh.

DeLana was definitely a logical thinker and so was I. I felt very strongly that I really had to win her over and maybe putting together a detailed report showing her that I was a good man and that I really cared for her was the way to do it. So I spent about a month working on a well-crafted document to present to DeLana. This report was one of the crowning achievements of my life and I took great joy in putting it together. The report included a history of our friendship and how I began to realize that she was such a wonderful person. It further detailed how I began to have feelings for her and that I wanted to prove that I was a good match for her. The report included key points such as pictures of us together showing how good we could look as a couple as well as personal references of people who could speak to my morality and behavior. The report ended with charts and graphs highlighting how her happiness level would increase over the years as well as how the stock market would soar to new highs if she married me.

When I felt that I had put enough time and effort into the presentation I sent it to DeLana. I spoke to her on the phone after she read it and she said that she really enjoyed receiving it and reading it. She also had a few good laughs from her family on it, but she really appreciated it. In order to gauge its affect I mentioned to her, “I know before all of this I was probably sitting at a stead fast no, but I have at least moved up to a maybe?” She replied, “Yes, you have definitely moved up to a maybe.” For that day I was satisfied with DeLana’s response and I relaxed in bed that night to a good comfortable sleep. For I would arise another day to woo her even more.

Mission Impossible, or Mission Possible?

In 2000 I thought I had a full proof plan to win DeLana over and it was all tied to her up and coming birthday. When we spoke about her birthday I would ask her what she wanted, but she kept telling me that I didn’t have to get her anything. No matter how much I pressed her she would not give in until one day she said, “If you really want to get me something you can just give me a phone call.”

It was then that the romantic and creative sides of my brain had a tactical meeting. As the meeting progressed it was determined that all the stops had to be pulled out this time. The creative in me stated, “Something had to be done that would put all other surprises DeLana received to shame.” The romantic side of my brain responded, “Yes, I agree, but it also has to invoke a sense of love and intrigue to where we will go down in the annals of romance.” Both sides agreed that even if DeLana was to say no to this last advance it would have to be something where saying no would be one of the hardest decisions she would ever make. With both sides in agreement they began to mark up a strategy on the chalkboard of my mind. Once the perfect plan had been concocted the theme song to Mission Impossible began to play and it was time to get to work. DeLana would receive a surprise for her birthday that would hopefully top anything that she could imagine.

It all began with me checking in at her job to get their exact address and making sure that she definitely worked in the building. This was confirmed by a phone call about a month and half before her birthday. The next step of the operation was for me to call a florist who could deliver to San Antonio and this phone call was made about two weeks before her birthday. I gave the florist an elaborate list of details to be followed exactly. I received a lot of credit from the florist for the creativity of the plan. The last phase of the plan was for me to purchase a flight to San Antonio and a rental car in the city. All preparations for my grand last ditched plan were complete and all that was left was to wait and bide my time.

So the day of DeLana came and I can only imagine that she went to work not expecting the day that she received. As the morning came my plan began to unfold as such. For those readers who have the theme song to Mission Impossible I would suggest you go and turn it on right now and keep it on repeat until you finish this section.
  1. One set of flowers would arrive at DeLana’s job at her desk. There would be 12 white carnations, a white dove with 3 pearls around its neck, and a note that stated, “From a secret admirer who will surprise you two more times today. Enjoy the suspense.”
  2. A second set of flowers was set to arrive at DeLana’s home later in the day. This set had 12 white roses, a white dove with 5 pearls around its neck, and a note that stated, “From a secret admirer who will surprise you one more time today. Delight in the anticipation."
  3. That is when I would arrive at DeLana’s door after coming off of a flight from California to San Antonio, TX.
So I now digress to my travel from Oakland to San Antonio to surprise DeLana. For about a month I had been telling all of my co-workers and friends about my plan to surprise DeLana on her birthday. So when the big day came I felt like I was getting ready to go out and play in the Super-bowl. The excitement stayed with me even on the plane. I was telling everyone in the airport and on the flight what I was going to do. Married couples on the plane started giving me marriage advice and when I left the plane people were rooting for me.

When I arrived in San Antonio I checked with the florist and phase 1 of the plan had gone through without a hitch. I wished I could have seen DeLana’s face when she saw the flowers and the note on her desk at work. I began to think about what I should say to her upon my arrival at her mother’s house where the second set of flowers were set to arrive. It must have been about 6:00 p.m. when I arrived at her home. Yet, there was only one problem. My ears had been affected by the altitude and the pressure on the airplane and I could barely hear. Much of my conversation with people upon landing was with me saying, “What did you say?”

I got out of the car and I began to make my way to the front door. It was then that her brother pulled into the driveway and got out of his car. I introduced myself and he stated that he remembered me from the proposal I sent DeLana about why she should consider me for marriage. He said that it was really nice and then he went to the side of the house. So now the moment of truth had arrived. All my hopes and dreams lay on the other side of the front door. It seemed like the gates to paradise and with one knock I could finally enter them. I knocked on the door and DeLana answered it in shock. As she stood there in surprise to see me, I told her, “I know that you told me that you only wanted a phone call for your birthday, but I didn’t have a quarter so I decided to stop by and say happy birthday to you personally.”

DeLana was somewhat speechless and she could not stop saying how I caught her by surprise. Both sets of flowers arrived on time and like clockwork. DeLana mentioned that she could not figure out who they were from until I arrived at the door. I met DeLana’s mother and her pet dog and I enjoyed finally seeing the fruits of my planning and labor. Yet, for me it was more than just a personal satisfaction. It also made me feel so good to see that DeLana was happy. Later that night I went to dinner with her and her family to celebrate her birthday. As we talked I kept asking for them to repeat themselves because I still could not hear very well due to the affects of the flight from California.

When we returned to her house it was late and I needed to make a 4 to 5 hour drive to Prairie View A&M University. We talked outside of her house, yet I was still having problems hearing. I again wished her a happy birthday and let her know how happy I was to see her again and that I missed her. We agreed to meet up before I left to fly back to California. I had hoped that she would call me at some point, and I agreed with myself that if she didn’t call then that must have meant that I needed to move on. It would be regarded on my part as a sign of her desire to not to pursue a relationship if she did not call back.

I didn’t hear from her when I was at Prairie View and because of how long it took to get back to San Antonio I didn’t get a chance to see her before I left. Months went by after I returned to California and I didn’t hear from her. I could not understand why she didn’t call me. Didn’t I make an impression on her? Where did I fail? At that point I concluded that it was never to be so I slowly let go of my feelings for DeLana.

Years later I found out that DeLana did not call because she thought I was going to call her. No matter the case this part of things may have been a miscommunication, but I think it was more. Maybe it was fate that we did not end up together. Our lives since that time have gone in different directions and it more than likely would have been difficult for us to have been together with my path that I am walking.

The Final Analysis

I could never convince DeLana that I would be a wonderful husband for her. For whatever reason our realities were different even though it took me a while to figure it out. I guess I just didn’t have all the right stuff and I really wished I could have showered her with my love, but alas I could not. With DeLana I can say that it was better to have loved and tried than to have never tried at all.

It is more than possible that I was not the right man for her, no matter how much I wanted to be. Maybe her role in my life was to teach me how to love someone without concern for what I would receive in return. I can only imagine how different life would have been if I had been able to win her over. Yet, as a French poet once said, “It is the great ambition of women to inspire love.” If this was the sole purpose that God put her in my path for that time, then her mission was accomplished with honors. I recently found out that DeLana will be married later this year (2007), so congratulations to her.
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Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Jena Six

I just recently heard about these series of events. Please view this video and get involved.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

The Forgotten African American Ethnic Groups

An ethnic group or ethnicity is a population of human beings whose members identify with each other, either on the basis of a presumed common genealogy or ancestry, or recognition by others as a distinct group, or by common cultural, linguistic, religious, or territorial traits. Processes that result in the emergence of such identification are summarized as ethnogenesis.

Members of an ethnic group, on the whole, claim cultural continuities over time, although historians and anthropologists have documented that many of the cultural practices on which various ethnic groups are based are of relatively recent invention. The term is used in contrast to race, which refers to a classification of physical and genetic traits perceived as common to certain groups. (1)

The following is a list of several distinct African American ethnic groups that are often never considered or even known about. It is important to remember that there are a number of people with different cultures who can fall under the rubric of African American.

Gullahs/Geechees - The Gullah African Americans who live in the Low Country region of South Carolina and Georgia, which includes both the coastal plain and the Sea Islands. Historically, the Gullah region once extended north to the Cape Fear area on the coast of North Carolina and south to the vicinity of Jacksonville on the coast of Florida; but today the Gullah area is confined to the South Carolina and Georgia Low Country. The Gullah people are also called Geechee, especially in Georgia.

Gullah Women from the Film Daughters of the Dust

The Gullah are known for preserving more of their African linguistic and cultural heritage than any other native African American community in the United States. They speak an English-based creole language containing many African loanwords and significant influences from African languages in grammar and sentence structure. The Gullah language is related to Jamaican Creole, Bahamian Dialect, and the Krio language of Sierra Leone in West Africa. Gullah storytelling, cooking, music, folk beliefs, crafts, farming and fishing traditions, etc. all exhibit strong influences from African cultures.

Black Seminoles - The Black Seminoles are a small offshoot of the Gullah who escaped from the rice plantations in South Carolina and Georgia. They built their own settlements on the Florida frontier, fought a series of wars to preserve their freedom, and were scattered across North America. The Gullahs were establishing their own free settlements in the Florida wilderness by at least the late 1700s. They built separate villages of thatched-roof houses surrounded by fields of corn and swamp rice, and they maintained friendly relations with the mixed population of refugee Indians.
Abraham, a Black Seminole Leader in the Second Seminole War (1835-1842)

In time, the two groups came to view themselves as parts of the same loosely organized tribe, in which blacks held important positions of leadership. The two groups led an independent life in the wilderness of northern Florida, rearing several generations of children in freedom—and they recognized the American settlers and slave owners as their common enemy. Today, there are still small Black Seminole communities scattered by war across North America and the West Indies. The "Black Indians" live on Andros Island in the Bahamas where their ancestors escaped from Florida after the First Seminole War.

Maghrebim, Sephardic Jews, Black Jews – African Americans who have Jewish descent either through ancient communities from from Morocco, Egypt, or Algeria who reside in America. Some have descent from marriage between Spanish/Portuguese Jews and African American converts or Ashkenazi Jews and African American converts. Can also consist of African Americans who returned or converted to Judaism. This group is often found within the various Jewish communities i.e. Sephardic, or Ashkenazi (Orthodox-Conservative-Reform-Reconstructionist). There are also a growing number of Black Jewish synagogues in places like New York, Chicago, and LA.

Moroccan Jewish groom and bride during the Chena Ceremony

Rabbis of Beit Elohim Congregation of Queens, NY

Hebrew Israelites and Black Hebrews – African Americans who are attached to groups that believe that they are lost Israelites from Africa. Many of these groups believe that all African Americans and many or most Africans are lost “Hebrew Israelites.” Most of these movements spawned off of certain movements of Black Jews in New York. They believe that Devarim (Deut.) 28 in the Bible prophesied the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade where in the view of some of these groups “the real Hebrew Israelites” were brought to America as slaves as a punishment from God.

Hebrew Israelites of Dimona, Israel (Originally from Chicago)

Black Muslims – Black Muslims is a phrase often used in the United States of America to denote members of separatist Black-nationalist movements who in some form or manner were influenced or descend from the Nation of Islam. After the death of his father, Warith Deen Muhammad broke away from the nationalist teachings of the Nation of Islam. However, other groups have also appeared, such as the Black Muslim group formed by Yusuf Bey in Oakland, California, in the 1960s. They also founded Your Black Muslim Bakery, which is associated with his group. Today, the vast majority of Black Muslims are not members of the Nation of Islam. Many Black Muslims follow a number of local religious leaders who may or may not be Black, such as Siraj Wahaj.

Nation of Islam - an Islamic centered, religious, and socio-political organization founded in the United States by Wallace Fard Muhammad in 1930 with a declared aim of resurrecting the spiritual, mental, social, and economic condition of the black men and women of America and the rest of the world.

Haitian Americans – Primarily made up of members of the various ethnic groups from Haiti who have come to America and settled together in Creole speaking communities. Some of the 1st generation and 2nd generation of this community loosely associate with being Haitian. Many who live in the inner city areas often associate with various native born African American communities.

Ethiopian Americans – Exclusively made of native Ethiopians and 1st generation Ethiopians. Most Ethiopians maintain a strict Ethiopian identity even with the 1st generation Americans. Most still speak Amharic, the Ethiopian national language, even to the 1st generation Americans. There is also a growing number of Ethiopian Israelis in areas like New York and California.

Note: Other African ethnic groups who moved to America in some cases follow a similar social structure to the groups mentioned above. Due to the societal pressures though the 1st and 2nd generation who do not maintain the language of their origin often blend into some segment of African American society.

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The Sellout and the Token

Recently, I received an email, based on my last group of articles calling me a sellout. The crux of the accusation is that if I don't marry an African or African American woman I am a sellout. The person further said that if I did marry an African American or African Jewish woman then they would retract their statement. The person also claimed that I moved to Israel simply so I could marry a non-African or non-African American, as if I couldn't do that when I lived in California and New York. The funny thing is that a large number of Israelis (probably over 40%) have African descent from Morocco, Egypt, Algeria, Libya, and Ethiopia. In fact there is a Rabbi here in Jerusalem, Rabbi Natan Gamedze, who is a Swaziland Prince. For those who don't know, the idea of being a sellout or a token amongst some African Americans is seen as some kind of evil associated with people either forgetting where they came from, or somehow turning their backs on black people. Most of the time it is used as a way of criticizing people who simply don't share certain views that are claimed to be accepted views for Black people. It normally is never applied to those born outside of the United States, except in situations when such a person is thought to be an African American. My Ethiopian Israeli friends in New York run into this all of the time. The use of the word token or sellout can go from a simple joke to outright hatred.

So this brings up the following questions of:

  • What is a sellout and who decides who is and isn't a sellout?
  • What people have the ability to determine who is a sellout?
  • Are Africans such as Malians, Senegalese, Ethiopian, etc. people sellouts (in the African American sense) when they marry non-Africans?
  • Where are the laws of blackness and sellouts written and where did they originate?
I have always found it interesting how quickly some people are to call someone they don't agree with a sellout. It seems like the popular thing to call someone when they don't go by or buy into certain elements of a society which they may or may not belong to. I was called a sellout when I was a kid in Kansas City because I spoke what was called "proper English." During that time I also spoke French, but I stopped speaking when I was about 7 years old. I was later called a sell-out because I did not act like some of the people in certain inner city areas. The fact of the matter was we had different cultures and when I decided to live by mine and not theirs I was a sellout in their eyes. I often wondered, do these people really care what I do with my life? They don't even know me and instead of engaging me about who I was they preferred to act as if they have the power to declare who I am and who I am not.

Besides what rule book dictates these fantasy rules, because I have never seen it? I have a lot of friends who were born in various parts of Africa and they don't know of any such rule book and the ones I have told about it consider such a concept flawed. My family in Ghana, London, Israel, and America has never followed such wacky rules. My adopted families in Ethiopia and southern Nigeria never went by such things. In fact my adopted family in southern Nigeria, considered themselves completely different than the other ethnic groups in northern Nigeria. So I will be up front that I don't buy into the whole method of skin color as a way of determining race or culture.

I do however believe that any group of people who join their destinies together and form communities can be called a people or an ethnic group. For example, there are a number of Haitian American communities in New York and Florida. In said communities the people live together, speak the same language, and have a similar culture. Maybe the reason I live the way that I do as a Jew is as follows.

Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) 6:16
"Thus says Hashem (the LORD), stand on the highways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk upon it and you shall find rest for your souls. "

Instead of choosing to define myself completely by new standards, I prefer to go by the ancient ways. My family didn't start off in America, they came from a number of places as I mention on the banner of this blog. Places such as Senegal, Spain, and France. I know where they came from because my family kept good records, photos, and oral traditions as well as a two year stint of research I recently did. I also have family here in Israel, in England, and I used to have family in Ghana (they moved to the US). I also have adopted family members in southern Nigeria and Ethiopia.

When I compare my situation to others, I find some things in common with some of my old friends. I had a number of friends in college who were Arabic speaking African American Muslims. They identified with their fellow Muslims before ever identifying with non-Muslim African Americans. It is funny that no-one ever called them sell-outs, but it may be because being Muslim, by some, is considered as okay for someone with brown skin. There are some who treat Islam as an original African religion, even though Islam began in Arabia. Who sets these kinds of standards of what Black or African American means, and under whose authority do they have that right?

I also had friends who were darker toned, but from Latin countries. Some of them identified with fellow Spanish speakers or long before they would with non-Spanish speaking African Americans, and some people did it the other way around. That is their choice to make, in my eyes they aren't selling out to anything. Besides if their culture is Latin how can they be considered sell outs in eyes of African Americans? I speak Hebrew, and I am learning Arabic so for me it is a similar situation. Of course I am going to be closer to people who also speak Hebrew, and duh where are the most amount of Hebrew speakers in the world?

In my youth I wondered why there was no one calling gangs like the Crips and Bloods sellouts for killing all the people they have, and causing people to live in fear. I also wondered why the various African dictators such as Charles Taylor, Idi Amin, etc. were never called sellouts. Why are rappers such as Ice Cube, Ice T, Easy E, Boss, Notorious BIG, Little Kim, etc. ever called sellouts for the music that they make that gives some pretty bad images of African Americans the world over. I always wondered why the guys who murdered my friend and former fraternity brother Amen Mills were never called sellouts. Then the answer came to me when I opened up the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) to the following passage.

Tehillim (Psalms) 23
A song of David. Hashem (The Lord) is my shepherd; I shall not lack. He causes me to lie down in green and pleasant habitations; He lays me down on calm waters. He surrounds my soul; He circles me in righteous/justice on account of His name. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You setup a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; You pour on my head oil; my cup runs over. Thus goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of Hashem (the Lord) for the length of days.

I remember when my elders and my mother would tell me to pray every night and every morning to remember that God had my back. I remember my grandmother always quoting the Psalms to me throughout the day when I went to visit her. The problem with thinking over people's words can hurt one if they dwell on them to long. Besides my life before God supersedes any supposed racial affiliations, that other people feel I am supposed to have.

If doing the will of God makes me a sell-out, then I have sold out completely and I will sell-out every night and everyday. I will wake up with the Divrei Torah (Words of the Hebrew Bible) on my lips at night before I go to sleep, and I will wake up with them on my breath. So yes, I am a sellout for God, for the Torah, and for my family heritage. To all of these things I have sold myself at the expense of people who don't even know me and or my family. I respect the various African Americans that exist in America, I don't identify with all of them, and some of them I don't understand because I didn't grow up with them near to me. I do identify with African Americans who have similar experiences as me, but at the same time identify with all people on that level. I also identify with all people who are doing good in the world and I draw strength from all the positive contacts I have had in the past and the present.

In the end I don't really care what people say about me, because those people will call me names for one reason or another. Having a different way of looking at the world that I grew up in from America, to Japan, to Ethiopia, and to Israel, and having a diverse ancestry that I connect with makes me who I am. I also recognize that not everyone is going to agree with me, that is perfectly fine by me because turning my back on my Jewish heritage would be the thing that really makes me a sellout, especially since there were a large number of Jews in North and West Africa at one point. What matters in my life is doing the will of God. He controls the universe and His authority to decide what I am is a lot higher than some person who will be here one day and dust the next, and won't even leave their name. To quote Cpt. Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean 1 movie, "Sticks and stones love. Sticks and stones."Read Entire Post!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Why Do Men Cheat? The Finale

For those who didn't read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this opinion piece, please do so before reading this The Finale. I wrote these group of articles with a specific intention in mind. To help point out some characteristics about cheating men that I have noticed, and to give some insight on how to avoid them.

Now I want to look at this topic from the other side of a coin. I want to deal with what does it mean to be a good man as well as the needs of men. This will partially deal with the cheating issue, but from a different angle. First lets to look at is basic male behavior. There are 3 general things that men have always historically needed in order to survive and feel content. They are:

  • Food
  • Shelter
  • The ability to procreate
  • The feeling of contentment of his manhood
If one accepts the Biblical scenario in the book of Genesis that all of humanity started from one man and one woman as well as the statements about how and why men and women were created, then one would be able to conclude that the ideal situation was for a man and a woman to be together for the purpose of helping each other and also to have children. Added to that in Judaism is the idea that a family serves the purpose of living moral lives based upon a plan for Jews and non-Jews. Yet, the reality is that all of humanity has gone in different directions when it comes to this original plan or blue-print for humanity God had.

In ancient times, in parts of the Middle East, bringing a woman into your tent and sleeping with her was equated to marrying her. In the Jewish perspective sex is a good thing, but it is reserved for marriage for the sake of bring a couple together and to have children. This comes from an idea that when a Jew does an action that is a Mitzvah (a command of God) they uplift the act to a higher level and make it holy. So a man who finds a woman, marries her, and raises a family he is supposed to teach his children the Bible and help them live holy lives. They in turn go into the world repeat the process and make the world a better place. The concept is a part of what is called Tikkun Olam, which means "Repair of the World."

Thus, in this mindset the act of sex is connected with marriage, and both are uplifted to a higher standard because their ultimate goals are beyond just love and having a companion (both a part of it and good reasons for it). A man and a woman can pervert these standard by having sex outside of its proper context, thus a man who sleeps with a woman who is not is wife is not following the standard set by God for a Jew, or for non-Jews. In fact, in Judaism there is a whole body of legal text concerning forbidden situations for men and women who are not married, i.e. not being alone together. So I believe that cheating is the result of misplaced natural sexual energy. Place that energy in its proper context, a healthy marriage, and you are doing what is right.

Yemenite Jewish Bride and Groom

Taking this into account, I believe that historically women have had more to lose from sexual encounters. Also, a woman can get pregnant and show physical signs of the encounter. She also will have some form of emotional attachment to a child produced from such a union. The male on the other hand can skip town, try to suppress, or never have any kind of emotional connection to the woman. Someone who would do this is not a man in my book. Thus, as I dealt with in the other parts, you have a situation with certain types of men more prone to cheat. These men I have found always have a group of similar characteristics and the warning signs are always there, but that is my opinion.

On the flip side of this, in the past women were often considered the property of their husbands, which was one of the reasons that money, cattle, etc. was often exchanged for the acquisition of a wife. In some parts of the Middle East a wife is called "Binti" i.e. my daughter by her husband. The reason was that the woman was being taken into the house of her husband for his affections and his protection. In some cases she may have been younger by a few years, or extremely young compared to her husband.

When it came to kings, in ancient times, when another king wanted to show that he usurped a previous king he would take the previous kings wives for his own publicly as a sign that he was in charge. A good example of this comes from 2nd Samuel 15:10 and 16:23 in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) when Absalom has launched a rebellion against his father King David. Absalom was advised by Ahithophel to take David's wives and to have his way with them sexually in public as a sign that he (Absalom) had taken over royal control. There are exceptions to the above as in some African, Mediterranean, and Asian societies there were women who controlled the system, with the men submitting to the whims of their wives as a part of the societal norm. I believe this was the case in Spartan culture, since they had a big Athena cult where only women were believed to receive prophecy.

Now that we have gone through some of the historical elements of this topic, lets investigate some of the basic elements of good men. The only way I know to initiate my understanding of this is to explain our mindset by using food. When I go to restaurants I am very picky. I am Jewish so I always eat Kosher food, I didn't always do this though, and when I lived in America I was limited in the places I could eat. Even with that, when I found a food that I liked I often only ordered that food. So at every restaurant I frequented they knew exactly what I was going to order because I am person of habit. It was often hard for me to change my choices and try different foods once I fall in love with a particular dish.

Relationships for me are the same way. If I am around a women who stimulates me intellectually, as well as being appealing to me physically there is no need for me to look at what else is out there. Once I am with a woman and I have chosen her, other women are not important to me in that way. I have all I need at home, and that is her. If I see a woman that is good looking, it simply makes me think back to the woman I am with and I that is as far as the thought goes. I am not some super human man, but I also wouldn't put myself in compromising situations. I am also picky, just like with food on constitutes a good match. There are some women, who are really good women, who would end up hating me if they were too close to me. There are some women who would like me if I did away with certain integral parts of myself, but since I won't we would not be right together. In both situations these may be good women, but they are not a good match for a relationship with me, and vice versa.

There is also another element to this that is important for women to realize. I once read a book that had an interested concept on manhood. It stated that all men are born with a scar(s) that we receive from our fathers. This scar in turn never truly heals, and it is a reality that we all have to deal with. It affects our relationships and who we choose to marry and who we choose not to marry. Using myself as an example, my scar is the fact that when I was 3 my father committed suicide. He was suffering from post traumatic stress from Vietnam, and he could not overcome the things he saw and experienced. There was also not a lot of help for veterans at the time, and thus on Thanksgiving in 1978 he shot himself at my grandmother's house. I have no clear memory of my father, and I did not know how he died until I was about 28. So my scar is that I wish every day that my father was here to tell me he is proud of me, or that he loves me. To have heard and remember him saying, Son I am proud of you would have filled my life with so much joy.

My father Eliyahu Ever and my mother Salli Ever

The only way that my scar will heal is when I am raising the family that I want to believe that my father wanted. When I am able, with the help of God, to be an old man and see my children grown up and also grandchildren living lives based on the Torah (Bible) with good Sephardic Jewish values with acts of kindness, I will be able to look towards the night sky and say, God I have walked the path and I am ready to rest with my ancestors here in Israel.

Within the male mind there is a drive and desire to compete physically and be considered strong by our piers, but also in the eyes of women. There was a comedian who once said that all of human development can be summed up as progress in order to bed the other sex. That is to say those whoever was able to conquer, succeed, and show off their manliness were often the ones who got the women and survived. Those who were with defects or perceived to be week often did not win over the women and they did not survive.

With this comes the concept that a man has to feel that he has conquered something, and if this is taken away from him he almost feels like less of a man. When a woman makes a man feel like he is the top dog, the Alpha-male, or he can conquer the world he is more prone to be attracted to her. There is also an element in every man of the thrill of the hunt. This is also tempered with every man feeling like at the end of the days battle, when the last bead of sweat has fallen from his brow, and his enemies have been laid to waste; when he returns home there is a woman there to take his armer and his weapons of war and comfort him. The weapons of war have for some of us become the textbooks, the brief case, and the place of war for some is the class room or the board room. So for some they feel like less of men as compared to athletes and military types.

Once again I return to the Torah (Genesis to Deut.) we see that Abraham when his wife Sarah died went through lengthy negotiations in order to prepare a proper burial place for his beloved wife Sarah, Genesis 23:1-20. The Midrash Genesis Rabba, a Jewish extra-biblical text, states that Sarah was the "crown" of her husband Abraham; and he obeyed her words because he recognized this superiority on her part because it is said her ability to prophesy was greater than his. We also see the emotional element introduced into the Biblical narrative when Yitzhhaq (Isaac) is wed to Rivqah (Rebbecca) and the Torah states in Genesis 24:63-67 that Yitzhhaq (Isaac) loved her and she comforted Yitzhhaq (Isaac) after his mother Sarah died. The concept that a good woman brings comfort to a good man reminds me of the age old West African adage of, A man without a wife is a man without a home. When one looks at the book of Mishle (Proverbs 31) one also finds a connection between a good man and a wife who is made up of qualities that all relate to her dedication and connection to God, her productive nature, and how she is respected by all who know her. There is also the example of how King David waged war against the enemies of King Saul in order to win the hand of Saul's daughter Michal.

I was once joking around with a young cousin of mine who at the time was in high school. She joked around with me and called me a geek. I in turn said to her.

“I have no problem being a geek. Geeks get paid. In fact what you need to do is get yourself a geek. Convince him to get in the gym and work out. Sweet-talk him into dressing up in suits and the like. Then you will have you a committed man for life, and don’t forget that geeks who apply themselves eventually get paid. You do all that and you will have yourself a good man.”

My cousin of course laughed at this idea, but I believe it has merit for young women. Sometimes the best of us, men that is, are formed from trial and tribulation as well as the loving touch of a woman. How many men became more than they were because they loved a woman with all of their heart? How many men went to the gym and got in shape because it impressed some woman somewhere? How many woman have shaped a man’s destiny because she chose him over all the other men who may have been better looking or more successful than him?

Women have more power in the development of a man, then men sometimes do. This is why when I tutored high school students in Houston I always tried to convince the young girls to keep their eyes on the young men who were not so flamboyant. I told them stories of my family history, and used these as ways to try to convince them to seek out good men early. I tried to convince the young men to keep themselves on the straight and narrow by telling them mistakes I made in life, I begged them to live by Biblical principles of morality and kindness. For many of them, what I was talking about was not the popular thing to do, but I later found out that some of them listened. At the time I figured that if I would never find a good woman I could at least help someone younger have a better chance than I did. I pray that I was on some level successful because I believe in these days and times the key for finding good guys is for more women to be marriage minded earlier in life.

When I was in college I once over-heard a conversation with two women I was helping move. One woman was talking about a friend of mine named Chris. She dated Chris in a non-sexual relationship off and on, but in this conversation she told her friend that she was going to stick with him because he was a really good man. She also said that she was going to make sure that no other women could get to him. How she was going to do this I don't know. I kind of giggled a bit, and the next time I saw Chris I told him that I heard he was a marked man. Every day I would go up to him say, I can see that target clearly on your chest....bullseye. He had no idea what I was talking about and I had a good laugh about it. They were married about 2 years later.

I had another friend of mine named Tanya, who was having trouble finding a good man. Then she began to study Calculus with me and my friends. One night a friend of mine named Nikki walked in the door. Nikki was a very funny guy and he was really good to people. If you were in need Nikki was always there for you. So that night, Nikki noticed that as he talked to me Tanya kept checking him out. As he walked out the door he turned to Tanya and said, "I see you over there checking me out you big old pimp." (That is how Nikki talked since he was always joking around) They began dating soon afterward and they were married about 4 years later.

My uncle Eljulius Ever was once married to a woman who unfortunately had a mental illness that ran through the women. Against the wishes of my grandmother and the warnings of the woman's father he married this woman. For 30 years they dealt with her mental illness, which got worse as time went on, and even manifested in two of their daughters. When my uncle's wife was about pass away, she begged him on her deathbed to forgive her for all he dealt with because of her. He stopped her and told her that he loved her, and that there was nothing to forgive. After she passed away, and the required time of morning passed there was all of a sudden a mad dash of women going after my uncle. The women in their community saw how he treated his wife, and how his love for her never wavered. The woman that beat all the other women was a woman who had liked him since high school. They are now happily married and she comforts him.

My uncle Eljulius Ever at age 18 circa 1947

When I lived in Kansas City, Missouri I had a mentor named Dr. Carl Boyd. Dr. Boyd was one of the men that my mother made sure I was close to after my father died. Dr. Boyd ran a radio show and youth activism organization called Generation Rap. When I knew him he had been married to a woman named Wanda for about 15 or 20 years. He would end each radio show with the following words: "Gracious God and Wonderful Wanda....I'm coming home." He once told a group of us a story of how someone asked him, "Why is Wanda so wonderful?" Dr. Boyd replied,

"You know it is hard for me to say exactly why I love my wife. Yet, there are so many things I like about her. She is a wonderful person, she is very beautiful, she is my best friend, she cares for people in need, she supports me, and she makes me feel strong when I am weak. There are so many more things I like about her, yet it is hard for me to express why I love her. One thing I can tell you is that I am glad that God gave me the ability to be in love with a woman that has so many qualities that I like. And that is why Wanda is so wonderful."

Dr. Carl Boyd circa 2005

For some women my point is the following. Good men are out there ladies, and we are not always in the places you may be accustomed to looking for us. Sometimes we are that nerdy looking guy with the thick glasses, who later gets contacts and goes to the gym. Sometimes we are that lonely guy who is being picked on and we only need a little encouragement. We are sometimes that guy who leaves poetry at your door because we are hopeless romantics. Sometimes you have to ask a good man to point out who are the choice picks. One sign is when you have a group of good married men, and they have that one friend who isn't married. A friend of mine found her husband this way.

Sometimes the best advice for women is in the words of Grace Jones from Conan the Destroyer. Grace Jones played an Amazon warrior, and a spoiled princess asked her how to get a man. Grace Jones's bold response was, "Grab him and take him."

To sum up, there are some men who cheat because of defects in their lives. In my experience, these may be, but are not limited to:
  • Defects in their childhood
  • Defects in their role models
  • Defects in their own application of logic to relationships
  • Defects in their morality
  • and most of all, men cheat when they TRULY do not care for the women they are with
Whatever your situation, know that there are warning signs for a cheating man. You may not agree with me on some of the details, but I think we all may agree that it is better to be alone than to be with someone male/female who doesn't respect you by cheating on you.

My experience has been that women have to act quick and early to find a good man, in these days and times. You may have to be marriage minded earlier than most woman are. Most of all you may have to seek God and pray for being in the right place at the right time. You may have to encourage that guy who just needs to balance himself out and he may notice you. You never know when you least expect it he may do something like this to win your heart.

Wedding Singer - Grow Old With You

Whether you agree with me or not I appreciate all of your comments, and I am more than willing to discuss my feelings and perspectives. Once again this is not meant to put down woman, but to help the women I care about (all of you) be able to avoid the type of guys that I knew who were cheaters. If you can at least do that you have won half of the battle. The rest is up to you, good luck and God bless.‎ Read Entire Post!