10 June 2008

Letter 2.3

So Allan Okam is going to be a rabbi, is he? It seems that there's more religion in the family than I supposed. You say he was inspired by the rabbi who married him, but do not say what the nature of the inspiration is.

Is it a great respect for the rabbi as a person? Or a wish to serve God? Or does he conceive the duties of a rabbi to be directed towards his fellow man in the form of social work rather than directed toward God? Is he concerned for his welfare in this life or in another one? Or is the rabbinate, after all, just a good job, one with good pay (or is it poorly paid?), a respectable position within the Jewish community -- a goof profession? When he becomes a rabbi will he have accomplished what he wants to do with himself, or will he have put himself in a position where it will be possible for him to work towards what he wants to do with himself? What does he want to do with himself? It seems unlikely, from what you tell me of his corpulence, that he harbors any ideals of an ascetic – or even austere -- nature. Will he go to Israel? It would be a good lesson – perhaps 'a rude awakening' might be a more accurate phrase -- to see how the Orthodox live in Mea Shearim, their quarter of Jerusalem.

There is a copy of Thoreau's Walden here which I have been slowly re-reading, and find that by and large, I am still in deep agreement with nearly everything Thoreau says -- and he says it so perfectly, with such evenness of style and wit that it is a great pleasure to read.

I have taken a walk to the other end of the island. A stream coming to the sea forks out into two branches, the eastern one where the hut is, being closed to the sea and the western one being open, the island is about 2.5 miles long but fairly narrow -- perhaps half a mile. There is a fishing village at the other end, with a lot of long narrow outrigger fishing boats on the beach, I arrived there at sunset last night -- it is so beautiful it puts this end of the island to shame. No use even trying to describe the luxurious growth by the river, on one hand, the sea, on the other, the village (which is small), and the river itself: it can only be seen and remembered. Certainly the most beautiful place I've seen in Ceylon (and that's saying a lot) -- especially at sunset.

The cows here are so unworldly they run away when I try to approach them, or even walk by them at 5O feet. The mosquitos, on the other hand, are very brave. They stay in the bushes all day, apparently, and after sunset, I can hear them rising en masse, formidable in their collective hum, which sounds like a flying saucer noise in science-fiction movies (and you know how dangerous the flying saucers in science -- fiction movies are!) for about half an hour before they become dispersed enough (or whatever it is that happens) to be bothered by them on an individual basis. A yellow-breasted bird with a long curved beak and a complicate cry flutters about my kuti and hangs sideways from the odd strips of leaf that hang from the roof; he's not afraid of me either.

In the next letter you send by envelope, could you perhaps enclose: (1) a package of Type-Erase, the pieces of white paper that obliterate errors and (2) some number 8 size stainless sewing needles (my attempts in the last year to get some sewing needles which don't rust within a week would make a long comedy!)?

This pen tells me it's tired of writing -- as you can see by the work it's Doing -- so…

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