July 17th, 2003

mask, pensive, portrait

Displacement: unique interests

rysmiel posted a meme about explaining one's unique entries in the interests section. So here's my version, cos I'm displacing.

chevruta: Traditional Jewish approach to text study, where you work with a partner and basically argue until you get some personal meaning out of whatever you're reading. It's a very effective way to understand a subject (I've found that a chevruta-type approach works for a wide range of things other than Jewish texts), and at best it can be incredibly intimate and exhilarating. My first boyfriend had been my chevra for a while before we got together, and as far as I was concerned sex had nothing on chevruta in the intimacy stakes.

I don't know anything else that comes close to good chevruta in terms of sheer fun (though obviously that's a matter of personal taste), and mediocre chevruta is also analogous to sex in that it's better than none. I had some really good chevruta going in Oxford, with various combinations of Old A, J and new A and occasional others. (Hey, let's drop the metaphor now before this gets dodgy, hmm?) And I miss it tremendously. At the moment I'm getting by on the occasional session with RB or preparing a supposed shiur for Prof S which isn't quite the same, but at least it's something.

Everett Fox: The coolest Biblical translator I've ever come across. Sadly he's only up to Samuel so far, but his translation is absolutely amazing. It's incredibly close to the Hebrew, to the extent that he makes subtle textual allusions and assonnances transparent, but his English is very readable. It's not exactly standard English, but it's poetic and inspiring rather than clumsy. His amazing translation is published by Schocken Books, and it's totally changed my life. (He also acted as the religious adviser for Prince of Egypt, which is how the obscure Jewish mythological references got in there...)

GB Edwards: The author of one of my favourite books of all time, unfortunately terribly obscure. Edwards was a sort of recluse from Guernsey, but was also an autodidact and spent some time as a professor of English in an English university. He was absolutely miserable and regretted ever leaving Guernsey, so he wrote a sort of alternate history autobiography about his alter ego who didn't. The first volume of this is The Book of Ebenezer le Page; it took him about 40 years to write and he died with the remaining two volumes only in note form. It's an amazing piece of social history, describing Guernsey over the whole span of the 20th century, and it has a cast of characters like nothing else I've ever read. I shall post a proper review of it at some point.

Jewish-Christian dialogue: I've been deeply involved in Jewish-Christian dialogue since I was a young teenager; now I'm branching out into more general interfaith work, but Jewish-Christian will always be my first love. At least partly because I know Judaism and Christianity far better than any other religions, so it's easier to get into a profound level.

Through dialogue, I've met some of my dearest friends, and learnt an amazing amount about myself and maybe even the nature of truth. I also think it's a worthwhile enterprise in terms of promoting goodwill and multiculturalism and all those other sorts of things. It's perfectly possible to be cynical about it, and indeed, sometimes it's little more than mutual congratulation by liberals being fluffy at eachother. But I honestly believe that in some circumstances it can be a genuine force for social change.

Microphotography: Taking (artistic) photos of microscopic things, particularly cells, in my case.

When I first checked with the intention of writing this post, I had BBC micros and Weizmann Institute as unique interests, but it turns out that other users were interested in BBC computers and Weizmann, so I've altered mine to match. And there is one other lj user who is interested in p53 (my professional speciality, which deserves a post in its own right, but this isn't going to be it).
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