Monday, September 29, 2014

Am I a Jew?

Years ago I heard a talk by a rabbi titled “What is a Jew?” She presented a number of different definitions, including the common one that you are a Jew if your mom is/was a Jew.

My dad, who also had Jewish parents, told me when he was dying that he didn’t want any services in a church/temple. They asked him in the hospice if he wanted to see a rabbi. “No,” he said, “But can you send a philosopher.”

He told me not to belong to anything. I mostly went against much of what he told me, but I kind of like this one.

Some people, including the head teacher of the Zen Center in Austin, don’t like to think of themselves as this or that…in his case, a Buddhist. When I look at the Burmese monks, I see them as Buddhists. It is a birthright that runs through their blood.

I was about to fill out a form for a temple yesterday and it asked me if I was a Jew. When I came to that question, I stopped filling out the application. Is being a Jew something that I can opt out of? Hitler didn’t think so. In Spain, during the inquisition, you could convert out of Judaism by becoming a Christian.

Is being a Jew ascribing to the tenets of a religion? And are there tenets ascribed to by most Jews. We hear of many Jews who claim they are non-practicing.

Our family had a marriage (actually many) between a Jew and a non-Jew. Both of the families were distraught. My father gave a speech and convinced everyone to be joyous of the union.

If we did a Venn diagram of all humans, Jews should be a small circle inside the human circle. One question in my mind is whether the circle is surrounded with a hard or soft line.

I don’t want to be separated from others who might be of other persuasions. My “community” is diverse. Being a this or that just seems like a limitation…a barrier. So my answer is: No, I wish to be interconnected with all beings and non-beings.

Though one could look at this like gender. I am a man, but I’m still connected to those who aren’t men. So in that instance, “Yes, I am a Jew, and a Buddhist, and an artist.” Hence my name, “Jelly Mosley,” because I change my mind frequently.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


I’ve become somewhat of an exercise fanatic.

When you are young you mostly think about the moments ahead of you. You never imagine that you are near the end. You buy a box of animal crackers. After eating the first one, it seems like there are many more. You haven't made a “dent.” But soon, there are few left. And then there are none.

You look at yourself in the mirror and you think, “I don’t need to look like this.” Or you get tired of waking up and having trouble getting out of bed. So you exercise.

I’ve tried a few things. Yoga, pilates, qigong, working in a gym with a trainer (actually two). Walking. Swimming. Meditation. I guess meditation is an exercise, of sorts.

But there are other exercises. Attempting to eat 26 weight watcher points a day. Another challenge.

Attempting to post on three blogs and Instagram a day.

Attempting to do 365 (minus a few) drawings from the Torah.

Attempting to know my grandkids, maintain relationships with wife, children and assorted relatives and friends.

These are all exercises. Practice, as they call it in Zen.

I retract my first sentence. I’m an exercise fanatic.

I wonder what my life would be like if I did nothing.

I had imagined a much easier retirement. I’d get up in the morning and wonder, “what shall I do now, what shall I ever do.” (from the Wasteland by T.S. Eliot)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Whose Eye is Beauty In—Beholder or Creator?

Zen says the artist,
the audience,
and neither.

And is it in the eye
or the mind…
or the visual

Uncle Ed
if it

My wife says
you know better
than to ask
me that.

To be honest,
It is all beautiful
to me, this
life of ours.

Try to construct
a more interesting
mix of this
and that.

Always a surprise,
and a challenge.
Always a miraculous
sight to behold.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Who Done It?

“I like your drawings” or “You have such a beautiful grandson” or “your kids are so talented.”

I was told years ago that when someone compliments your art you should say “thank you.” That was supposed to take the place of what Gomer Pyle would say, “ah shucks.” Or making some excuse, like, “well, it would be better if I had of sharpened my pencil.”

This got more difficult when people would compliment things that I didn’t make, as in “I like your wife.” Do you say thanks? I certainly didn’t draw her into existence.

Once someone asked my dad if I did good art and he said, “some people think so.” I’m still curious where that remark came from.

Though I’ve been doing similar pictures since the 5th grade, I really don’t take credit for them. A few days ago I was trying to dig into the “does G_d exist” question. When I hear that question I start marveling at the exquisiteness of the universe and then, whether I say yea or nea, I know that what exists is far beyond my comprehension. Can we take credit for creation if we didn’t create the creator of our art?

In the same way, I’m repeatedly surprised by my art. I can’t for the life of me understand where it comes from. It feels as if some agent has possessed me and takes control of my pencil, camera, or whatever. Even when I say something (or write something), I have no idea where it came from. It is the miracle of birth, I suppose, where two relatively stupid forms join and become something stupendous. The whole is bigger than its parts. Much bigger.

I’m curious about others. Do you take responsibility for what you do? Are you possessed in those creative moments by something you don’t understand?