Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's the man, not the beard (Guest Post)



Photo: Mary Margaret Chambliss

Matisyahu in his own words

Here’s to you, MatisyahuLchaim!

I don’t know much of the music – but I think “One Day” is as good a song as I’ve ever heard, and to a lesser degree, I liked a couple others that I happened to listen to – and I don’t even know the man at all. Like all “stars” who ascend and find success in the pop world, he quickly became a caricature in the minds of the masses as well as his fans or detractors. That world is a tough place, a roller-coaster of emotional peaks and valleys – it’s what they call “life in the fast lane,” and it’s not for the faint of heart. For all its attractive veneer of fame, fortune and achievement, it’s a life that few of us can relate to at all.

Among the realities that come with the territory, everything becomes amplified and placed under a microscope. It’s constantly and consistently open-season on the human being in question, as the non-stop judgmentalism of the folks keeping score at home and on the streets heave praise, scorn or indifference upon their subject without mercy. Ain’t life grand? Bastards and bloodsuckers is what we are, my friends. Not for nothing do many a famous star or starlet suffer either silently or publicly – oh, but you say, “they’re big boys and girls,” or “if you can’t take the heat stay of out the kitchen.” Ain’t you a sweetheart.

“Hey,” you respond, “they wanted the money, right? They wanted that fame, right? Well, they can’t have their cake and eat it to, you know.” Uh huh, you must be one of the compassionate types, eh? I don’t have a clue what the beard thing is about, and I don’t know much about the man other than the fact that he’s another human being trying to find his way. And that second point is, I believe, more than can be said for many of us. Most of the gutless pontificators and self-proclaimed know-it-alls (myself included), simply live life in the break-down lane, exchanging liberty and all of life's possibilities for the safety and security of following the rules of convention, “minding our rhyme and meter and going quietly about the business of achieving other ambitions.” So it is that most of us live those lives of “quiet desperation” that Thoreau spoke of, and throw stones at those who take the road less-traveled. So, I don’t know Matisyahu’s thoughts at all, but I do know what it means to feel alienated. I know what it means to feel imprisoned by my community or to be put in a box by others. I know that there are countless times that I would have loved to give ‘em all a big pie-in-the-face. How many of us wouldn’t have liked to kick convention to the curb and scream out, “I don’t want to be a part of you all?! I don’t want you to keep on defining me!” When will we give people room to live?

24 comments:

CR said...

"I know that there are countless times that I would have loved to give ‘em all a big pie-in-the-face. How many of us wouldn’t have liked to kick convention to the curb and scream out, “I don’t want to be a part of you all?! I don’t want you to keep on defining me!” When will we give people room to live? "

And that, boys and girls, is precisely what irks us all about Matty and his date with the lawnmower. He has basically flipped us all the bird and yelled FYATHYRIO in our faces. I do not know if that was his intention here but that does not matter. The result is the same. Whether it is right or not I fail to see how the reaction from our communities could have been any different

Normandy said...

Just one of the best, well said, comments i've seen in a long time!

Almost makes the internet worthwhile!

Anonymous said...

Isn't that a sad commentary on our communities?

Guest Poster said...

And that comment CR, is precisely what I find so depressing.

BTW, I assume you meant to leave off the last 8 words in your divrei hamaschil though – after all, it was directed to you, my friend. May you one day get past your love affair with the avodah zarah of convention, and begin to relate to human beings for who they are as people. I realize that we may never reach a point where people place concern for their fellow Jew before concern for their version of Judaism, but I can hope can’t I?

CR said...

"BTW, I assume you meant to leave off the last 8 words in your divrei hamaschil though – after all, it was directed to you, my friend."

You assume wrong. You want "room to live"? Sorry, it is not an entitlement. Don't assume that anyone owes you "space" when it is at a bit of a premium, physically and otherwise, in our more cloistered communities.

"May you one day get past your love affair with the avodah zarah of convention, and begin to relate to human beings for who they are as people."

Hey, FYATHYRIO to you too, buddy! What you snidely call "the avodah zarah of convention" is what others call "community standards". And, yes, when you flout them loudly you are going to get blowback. That's life, deal with it. It may take a thicker skin to handle it but I am sure you will be richer for the experience.

Guest Poster said...

Awesome, CR. It's always special when after you write a blog post, someone proves your point right off the bat!

Now that I think about it though, this is an example of Poe's Law, isn't it?

CR said...

Did you hear that whooshing sound? Yeah? That was you completely missing my point.

Look, MM is his own man and is free to do whatever he wants. You too. Nobody can force conformity. Nevertheless, it is the most extreme chutzpah to insist that nobody can have strong opinions against his, your or anyone elses actions especially when they are viewed (perhaps not always correctly) as designed to insult. Again, be prepared for the inevitable community blowback if you make a spectacle of yourself, whether halachically permissible or not. This is not to justify it but just to point out human nature and that the Don Quixote act is futile.

Guest Poster said...

No, amigo, I got your point. And, of course, your point is the very point that I'm railing against -- but I do recognize that it's quite possible that I'm just a poor communicator.

And, the optimist/dreamer in me will continue to hope and dream for a better tomorrow where your stated 'reality' will no longer be the 'reality' it is today.

The Bray of Fundie said...

FWIW I linked to this on my lonely Red-Tent Blog

The Bray of Fundie said...

WOW

powerful post. thanks for posting.

The Bray of Fundie said...

Tzig did you write this yourself or is this a guest post... I'm confused.

Guest Poster said...

Thanks much, Bray

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...

WHAT'S CONFUSING?

ס'שטייט קלאר

The Bray of Fundie said...

I can't figure who the guest poster is although if you've read your email you know that I want to be one myself.

Guest Poster said...

As a Guest Poster, I'm just a guy that knows Hirshel on the outside. Every once in a while he indulges me and allows something that I write to go up on the page, but I'm not a regular reader or blogger (Well, at least I haven't been for a long time anyway).

Abarbanel said...

Pure Chafetz Chaim without the list of Lavin.
Hirshl, your GP is very descriptive, and more illustrative than Rockwell's gossiper.

Leroy said...

so where is your apology goat for calling him OTD. I know plenty of even Chabadniks with no beard and none are BTs...all gezhe.
where is your multiple apology?

Naftoli said...

The interesting thing (well, to me at least) is that I agree in general with both Guest Poster and CR.

In many ways I can empathise with Matisyahu and the ups and downs of his personal journey and, on the other hand, I also understand what CR is saying. Matisyahu did make many in the haimishe community proud by being accepted by the goyishe world - which is a whole other issue for itself - and therefore his seeming rejection of us possibly hurts more.

But he is still a Yid and is still obviously searching. For that I can only wish him hatzlocho rabbo.

Yiddish said...

although he had a beard, (a nice one) he never represented the beard, at least not my beard. you see he says on WNYC he saw his beard as his connection to the thirteen.... that's what he thought, and now realized he can be connected without it. Who taught him to be afraid of the beard? i don't think i'm afraid of mine, i simply see it as the ultimate external Jewish pride.

Mortimer E. Safkan said...

The problem may not be the gentleman being discussed but rather the Lubavitcher Hassidim of all stripes who latched on to him as some sort of spiritual-emotional leader. Just look at the despair on the other Chabad blogs.His music spoke to their souls as opposed to the five-and-dime mashpiim who can never connect beyond their trite vertelech although sometimes it's seasoned with a shtikl modernistic "kvetch."Our entertainer took on the trappings of a Rebbe of sorts without intention and it gained momentum in direct proportion to the total failure of any authentic leadership in Lubavitch.The "rapper" is an All-American kid who became a BT . He doesn't want to be a "Rebbe-mashpia." He wants to have a private life of his own. There will be financial consequences to this decision but he's smart enough to know that.

n from a long time ago said...

Lets parse this into three pieces: Matisyahu, the commenting audience, and the guest writer.
1) Matisyahu: I googled him a couple years ago, heard some songs and saw an interview on a late night TV show. I saw a BT fellow gifted with less than average intelligence and depth. Add the inherent 'angst' profile common among performers, and the lifestyle and its temptations, and its a noxious and volotile cocktail of existance. I just now saw his graying beard picture, and given his profile, why wouldn't he shave it off? I sometimes look at my fast graying beard, and undertand that I am aging, and that means I'm gonna die sooner than I thought, and I have gotten an immature/yetzer hara impulse/voice that spoke to me saying "if you shaved it off, you would look ten years younger, and therefore you could postpone death, and pull a coup on destiny". That is such a low thought process/impluse, and he may have had that and gave in to it, or some other impluse/rationale combo. Very human. And for a BT, very natural. The guest writer is bothered by people judging this fellow and chastising him and I concur with those sentiments including the writer's closing statemnt: "When will we give people room to live?"

2) The COMMENTATING AUDIENCE is involved in making Matisyahu into a getchke of sorts like people commonly do with any celebrity. Just because a person is a performer and doesnt automatically mean that they represent anything good, moral, or etherial truths. They make us feel good, and we make them into gethkes. And people go crazy ripping into celebrity getckes and certainly when they seemingly fall. For yidden to tear this poor fellow up is a shame and just cant be a real mitzva from any angle.

THE GUEST WRITTER seems to embrace Matisyahu's bravery in contrast to most of us who live life in the 'broken lane' of silent conventionality and that us cogs in the wheel live lives of quiet desparation. Actually we all have a measure of that. Its a given. We are all in galus. I would posit that perhaps this unstable (not brave), not too bright, BT, angst ridden performer is the one who lives a 'life of more quiet desperation', to a greater degree than us cogs in the wheel (or maybe he has has minimal desperation and just acts impulsively?). I vaguely remember a line in a movie BBT 20+ (before I BT'ed over 20 years ago, 'Run Away Train' with Jon Voight, who is an escaped convict on a runaway train bound to crash, explaining what it means to be a man. He was a hardened criminal, with many exploits, macho, with many scars of life, who lived in the moment more than us cogs in the wheel, not afraid of death, and he explained that a man, was somebody like him, who when told with contempt and derision to 'pick up a broom and start sweeping the floor', that biting your lip and simply sweeping the floor was the greatest (existential) display of manhood. So my dear friend and guest writer, you and the cogs are quite remarkable and brave with much impulse control, all that with with no contrast to Matisyahu. As for feeling that others are putting you in a box, well, so what.....

Der Shygetz said...

Riddle:

What begins with the same sound as dreck, and rhymes with hugs?

That is what this is all about. Matisyahu's agents and creators played us like a fiddle. He is just another drug-addicted alienated suburban wannabe performer, and someone came up with a good gimmick for him.

As I keep saying: When Chabad learns to say Shygetz Aross and the kanoim learn to say We Want Moshiach Now, Moshiach will come.

<> said...

Kvar haya leolamim ...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPvlY_jPHy0

zezmir said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=b8wi-MbnlnI#!