Dr. Seuss and the free market

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This post was edited to include a missing book from the list and modify the text to make sure that book was included.

This is my insight into the corporate exercise of the free-market decision to stop publishing certain books. The 6 books are “And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street” pub 1937, “McElligot’s pool” pub 1947, “If I ran the zoo” pub 1950, “Scrambled Eggs Super!” pub 1953, “On Beyond Zebra” pub 1955, and “The Cat’s Quizzer” pub 1976.

If you read the linked story (t.ly/zp5n) you will read about Dr. Seuss’s (Theodor Seuss Geisel) history as an editorial cartoonist and the cartoons he wrote in support of the war effort in WWII, and some of his published statements that were clearly anti-Japanese. He seemed to come to a better understanding after visiting Japan in 1953, and wrote “Horton Hears a Who” which was published in 1954.

All but one of these books being removed from publication came from before that trip. The one published in 1953 was clearly written before then. Books take a while to be published after the writing. “On Beyond Zebra”, published in 1955, wasn’t very clear as what could have been offensive, although speculation is toward a character who may have been a Middle Eastern stereotype. It also was likely written or in process before the 1953 trip so may not have been edited with that new understanding. The last book on the list was published significantly afterward and contains an image harkening back to Dr. Seuss’s anti-Japanese stance with a picture of an unflattering stereotype. The text is not necessarily in question, just the image. This last book is one that I feel could have been updated and edited to use a different image and phrasing there. But perhaps the copyright owners felt it better to simply remove it from further circulation.

I have read all of them. In light of the entirety of his body of work, these aren’t his best work. They weren’t about the lessons that so many of us got through most of his post 1953 works. The company is making a free market decision. There were no petitions. There is no “cancel culture” going on. It is capitalism responding to the markets and their own corporate conscience. That is how it is supposed to work.

Justice at the core of Judaism

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Consider the following verses:

דברים ט״ז:כ׳ Deuteronomy 16:20  “Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” צֶ֥דֶק צֶ֖דֶק תִּרְדֹּ֑ף

מיכה ו׳:ח׳ Micah 6:8   “He has told you, O man, what is good, And what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice And to love goodness, And to walk modestly with your God;” הִגִּ֥יד לְךָ֛ אָדָ֖ם מַה־טּ֑וֹב וּמָֽה־יְהוָ֞ה דּוֹרֵ֣שׁ מִמְּךָ֗ כִּ֣י אִם־עֲשׂ֤וֹת מִשְׁפָּט֙ וְאַ֣הֲבַת חֶ֔סֶד וְהַצְנֵ֥עַ לֶ֖כֶת עִם־אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ׃

שמות כ״ג:ב׳ Exodus 23:2 “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou bear witness in a cause to turn aside after a multitude to pervert justice” or translated “You shall neither side with the mighty to do wrong—you shall not give perverse testimony in a dispute so as to pervert it in favor of the mighty—” לֹֽא־תִהְיֶ֥ה אַחֲרֵֽי־רַבִּ֖ים לְרָעֹ֑ת וְלֹא־תַעֲנֶ֣ה עַל־רִ֗ב לִנְטֹ֛ת אַחֲרֵ֥י רַבִּ֖ים לְהַטֹּֽת

These three verses are examples of the centrality of justice in the Torah. Indeed, throughout the Tanakh and Talmud and later writings, the issues surrounding the need for just action, for justice for the wronged, for justice for the criminal, justice for those who are on the fringes, and justice from HaShem are repeatedly explored and reframed. 

The theme of justice is one that is a clarion call for action. It requires that one understand what has happened and can identify the wrongs that have been done to someone. There are three main aspects to implementing justice in one’s life.

The first, in Deuteronomy 16:20, “Justice, justice shall you pursue…” was a directive given to the Israelites as they neared the end of their 40 year journey through the wilderness. The word Justice is doubled. Many commentators through the ages have pondered the meaning of the doubling. Hebrew is written in such a way that doubling is not merely poetic reframing, but has actual content meaning. Some commentators see this doubling as indicating that we should pursue both personal and societal justice. Other commentators say this means pursuing justice regardless if it ends in personal loss or personal gain. Still others say that it indicates pursuing justice all the time throughout time. It is focused on gaining justice for the litigants in a trial. Many see this as pursuing both legal justice and societal justice.

The second verse is Micah 6:8, “And what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk modestly with your God”. Through the ages, there were many commentaries on just what this verse meant. It is clearly an action verse. We are to do, to love, to walk. Action. It is what is required of us if we are intending to walk a spiritual path. The early commentaries felt this was a very expansive verse, encompassing the whole of the spiritual path in one short verse. Over the centuries many commentators reduced this to very specific acts only, rather than examples of the concepts in the verse. When taken in context with the book, we can see that the prophet Micah defines justice and how to walk with HaShem in very clear terms, often through the use of a negative example, i.e. what not to do. As Dr. Erica Brown wrote in her commentary, “morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible…Walking modestly for the prophet is walking with eyes wide open to the presence of anyone in need, waiting to perform acts of mercy, justice, and lovingkindness. Looking at a glimpse of the exegetical history of Micah 6:8 and its contextual meaning takes us straight back to the Talmud’s expansive understanding. Religion stripped to its most essential elements asks both very little and a great deal of us: to return to a state of simplicity, broken and small in God’s presence, able, in a state of vulnerability, to make those invisible visible, to create a society where we walk beside others because God is willing to walk beside us.

The third verse here, Exodus 23:2, “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou bear witness in a cause to turn aside after a multitude to pervert justice” is one I thought of quite a lot during 2020. Multitude is also translated as “mighty” in some sources. Either way, whether it is multitude or mighty or both, it is clear that we are not to follow along if the crowd or the powerful are leading us toward injustice. In these cases, we must stand against the mighty or the majority if needed. Watching the political powers continuing to lead toward a state of injustice for so many, watching those with authority committing injustice towards both individuals and groups, and seeing the delicate balance created by the educational authorities crumble under the pressure of educating our children in a pandemic and doing so with justice and equity reminded me over and over again why we stand against injustice of all types. I often wore my t-shirt from T’ruah that stated “Resisting Tyrants Since Pharaoh”. It seems we were working hard to bring down or expose the pharaohs of our day quite a bit this last year.

These three verses point to the centrality of the understanding of Justice within the Torah and the later commentaries. It is a quality that has come to have a central role in many Jewish and non-Jewish lives right now. So many areas are in need of true justice. These verses give a few pointers on how to live. We are to pursue justice in all its forms and arenas, we are to do justice when we find it by loving goodness so we see when something isn’t good, and walking humbly or modestly so we are open to spotting opportunities for justice. And lastly, we are to oppose the majority and those in power if they are perpetuating or leading toward injustice. Justice is at the core of Judaism.

May we walk in justice,

Paula E Popper, © 2021

References

Dr. Erica Brown, Associate professor of curriculum and pedagogy at The George Washington University and the director of its Mayberg Center for Education and Leadership, https://www.jewishideas.org/article/walking-humbly-brief-interpretive-history-micah-68

T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, www.truah.org

Translations and some commentaries through www.Sefaria.org

An introduction

This is part of my ongoing effort to collect notes, postings and longer writings from Facebook and other social media sites into my WordPress blog site.

Paula E. Popper is passionate about bringing meditative techniques from the deep well of Jewish tradition to people who are passionate about their lives and seek to increase justice in the world. She works one on one, in small groups, and in workshops and retreats. She is available to share her passion for modern Jewish meditation with groups in meetings, luncheons, and many other situations. 

August 13, 2012

A to-do list

This is part of my ongoing effort to collect notes, postings and longer writings from Facebook and other social media sites into my WordPress blog site.

February 11, 2013

Today I read a post that contains a perfect prescription for reducing stress (which then reduces pain, fear, anxiety, etc.)
“My To-Do List for Today:

  • Count my blessings
  • Practice kindness
  • Let go of what I can’t control
  • Listen to my heart
  • Be productive yet calm
  • Just breathe”
    Which of these speak to you?

History, studies, mindfulness?

This is part of my ongoing effort to collect notes, postings and longer writings from Facebook and other social media sites into my WordPress blog site.

July 8, 2020

Article: Is Mindfulness All That It’s Cracked Up to Be? http://t.ly/8LwP

Very interesting article, that not only calls into question some of the published studies on mindfulness meditation, but discusses what the history of what we now call Buddhist meditation actually is and how what we know has been changed to better fit the needs of Christian missionaries. While I like the general practice of such meditation, it hasn’t been my favored style, mainly because of the influences from the religious side of things. I prefer to work within the Jewish contemplative practices. But the article is interesting.

Welcome to Heart of Peace Chapel

This is part of my ongoing effort to collect notes, postings and longer writings from Facebook and other social media sites into my WordPress blog site.

March 24, 2020

Welcome to the Heart of Peace Interfaith Chapel! We are a worship and learning center without walls. We may work virtually or in various places, as the Spirit leads. We are an oasis for those searching for a new way to be in Spirit. We are a destination for those who like our open embracing way of life.

Meet the Chaplain of Heart of Peace Chapel

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This is part of my ongoing effort to collect notes, postings and longer writings from Facebook and other social media sites into my WordPress blog site.

March 24, 2020

Meet the Chaplain of Heart of Peace Interfaith Chapel — Paula E. Popper.

Paula has worked in religious organizations in a wide range of roles for many years. She has been the Chaplain for the Towpath District of the Seneca Waterways Council of Scouts BSA for 5 years. She is the Chaplain for Troop 171 in Pittsford NY. She has been a community-based chaplain since 2007. As she puts it, she is specifically an interfaith community chaplain, helping people find their spiritual path in a confusing world. All are welcome, regardless of background, ethnicity, gender identification, sexual orientation, economic status or education level. She continues to offer programs for the Scouts and other youth through the PRAY PUB programs and the Jewish Committee on Scouting (she is also a Jewish education and hazzan). She teaches God-centered meditation and visualization through her programs under the Passionate Meditation flag.

Observations in a virtual classroom

This is part of my ongoing effort to collect notes, postings and longer writings from Facebook and other social media sites into my WordPress blog site.

February 13, 2021

Hey everyone! I hope all is well with you.
I have had the opportunity over the last couple of months to participate in a wide range of virtual learning situations, virtual meetings, and even virtual awards ceremonies. I continue to see interesting ways to create connection and community in virtual settings. I also continue to see practices that could use some improvement.

One thing I am seeing that works well is having someone designated to be the “admin/moderator” of the session. This person would make sure that people are admitted to the room, perhaps give the overview on how to do reactions, raise hands, whether chat is on or off, what some of the limits and norms will be, etc. This person will then monitor the chat during the program and look for raised hands and notify the presenter so these can be addressed as needed.

Having someone other than the presenter do this makes the presentation smoother, more interactive and less stressful for everyone.💻💻💻💻💻

The Wayfaring Stranger Comes Home

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This is part of my ongoing effort to collect notes, postings and longer writings from Facebook and other social media sites into my WordPress blog site.

The Wayfaring Stranger Comes Home
Paula E. Popper, Chaplain and Hazzan (originally posted in 2018)

Once, quite a few years ago, I learned to sing the song, “The Wayfarin’ Stranger”, in my chorus at a performing arts school in Cincinnati, OH. This song so completely resonated with me, even at the age of nine, that I have continued to sing it in its many versions ever since. It is one of the private labels I have given to myself over the years. I found myself on a twisting road with many high and low areas. Perpetually wandering, perpetually a stranger, looking forward to “goin’ over home.”

I have had many labels given to me and have received them with frustration, recognition and amusement. The wayfaring stranger is one I gave to myself as I traveled through spiritual terrain and moved around the country. I grew up in a predominantly evangelical Christian home, with a father in the Navy, and afterwards moving around my parents’ hometown of Cincinnati as he found work and we found new places to live. Surrounded by extended family, part of a large church family, I felt like a stranger. My soul was not home.

I dove deeply into the Christian scriptures and tried to understand, to fit in, to be home.

In a job working in a library, I wandered through the religion and philosophy sections, reading endlessly, trying to understand the music in my soul, looking for a spiritual home.

One day I read a book about Jewish traditions. There was resonance and harmony here. I remembered a series of books I read in elementary school featuring a Jewish family of all girls. I remembered the warmth that I felt reading that series, wishing that was my home. I continued to study Judaism and found that my home was there, within a vast ancient tradition that had room for so many expressions. I was home.

I soon discovered that I had not found a home community even though I found my spiritual home within Judaism. There was often something missing , either I was too observant, too liberal, too mystical, too practical, too iconoclastic. I asked too many questions and accidentally shook up the status quo. I didn’t get invited to Shabbat dinner or holidays much, so I began to host them with my husband. We looked for those who were strangers, on the outside, on the edges, in the between spaces. We tried different congregations and minyanim. While some parts were wonderful and delightful, it wasn’t yet home.

I met Elana and discovered we had many things in common at our core. We recognized the resonance of home in each other. We both knew, separately, our friend Bean. He was also looking for a home, a community, and we found we three were looking for the same things. We have chosen to share our vision of community, naming it Yeshiva Shalem. A place to learn and to pray, to share meals and socialize, to do good in our world, to be our whole selves, to be at peace. Home.

© 2018 Paula E. Popper