It is not incumbent upon you to finish the work, but neither are you free to avoid it.
Lo alekha hamelakhah ligmor velo atah ben horin lehibateil mimenah. (Pirkei Avot)
For a long time, I have felt stymied by the fact that I am an idea person. It’s not that I am all talk–I certainly feel at least a semblance of accomplishment as a teacher, rabbi, writer, partner, and parent. However, I frequently find myself having a “BIG IDEA” but without the time, energy, expertise, or Sitzfleisch to do anything with it. I’ve even thought of writing a book called “100 Books I Will Never Write” filled with brief overviews of all the book ideas I generate but never flesh out, from theological works to children’s stories, from academic tomes to poetry. There are apps I think of but don’t develop. Prayers I don’t pray. Community institutions I never build. Research projects I don’t pursue.
Recently, a few things occurred to me. (1) I am not the only one in this position. The type of education that universities provide gives individuals exposure to a broad range of ideas and experiences which continue to stimulate us long after we’ve moved into specialized careers. Reading the Symposia and Discourses of the ancients, we spend our early adulthood on BIG IDEAS, and then move into more narrow universes. We may dabble, discuss, and stay up too late at night reading news (and blogs), but too often, these activities are solitary ones. Goal number one of OUR BIG and little IDEAS is to provide an opportunity for contributors to engage in public discourse with friendly, open-minded others, whether or not these other people agree with us. Thus, this blog is intended to be a social enterprise.
(2) Many of the people who generate new perspectives and possible solutions are in a stage of life which does not lend itself to large time commitments such as running for public office or writing an entire book. We are too busy raising our kids, caring for aging parents, or even simply struggling to pay off our student loans. Some of us are daunted by even taking up a hobby or exploring a new friendship, much less starting a political movement. We are just tired, even when we are fired up about something we feel is important. So OUR BIG and little IDEAS will allow the over-committed but passionate to get our ideas out there, even if we can’t do anything with them.
(3) Innovation doesn’t always come from experts. Last week, at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, I was particularly struck by a small exhibit of important dinosaur fossils discovered by a knowledgeable amateur. Another purpose of this blog will be to attract attention to ideas from non-experts from people who may have the time, skills, and inclination to do something about them.
I invite you to inspire people you don’t even know yet. Maybe you once started a blog that you had a hard time sustaining. Maybe you have an issue about our community–Silicon Valley, California, the US, or the Jewish community–about which you are mildly obsessed and prone to late-night rants when given the opportunity. Maybe you have an idea that gets the parents at playgroup fired-up but dissipates after everyone goes home to dinner and bedtime routines.
Our topics will depend on what those of the community bring forward. However, we will feature BIG IDEAS–concepts that might be so radical that they might be pure fantasy–and little ideas–briefly presented thoughts that people just want to share and disseminate. As community organizer/facilitator, I am particularly interested in the following themes: egalitarian co-parenting and partnership; gender; education; good books (new and old); how local, national, and ethnic/religious institutions are failing or succeeding; and what real families “family values” are.
You have a desire to speak your mind, inspire others, and politely hear out others who differ in perspective from you.
A note about audience–I want this blog to become a focus for community, neither falling into the contemporary trap of drawing together individuals who are TOO like-minded or allowing differences of opinion to become virtual shouting matches. I am currently reading a great book, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt. I’m very moved by his description of how the formal, recorded discourses of late antiquity allowed for multiple perspectives with no one “winning” the argument. As self-appointed editor, I am soliciting readers and contributors who meet a single description: You have a desire to speak your mind, inspire others, and politely hear out others who differ in perspective from you. I’m a woman who wants to hear from men without misogyny. I’m a Democrat who wants to hear from Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, and Socialists without partisan vitriol. I’m a rabbi who wants to hear from non-Jews without and Jewish laypeople without anti-Semitism or anti-institutional diatribes. I’m a mother who wants to hear from non-parents without devaluing others choices. I think you get the picture.