Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Found History: Disciplinary Note from Latin Class

I was home in NYC for the weekend and found some old artifacts, pictures, etc. These are all gems but the following I share with you I am particularly proud of. I think it truly encompasses everything about my personality circa 1999-2003. This is a disciplinary note I received (basically a slap in the wrist) that was sent to my dean and my parents. I received it for poor behavior in my AP Latin V class in 11th grade. I don't really have the means to scan it so I re-produce it here. I should note that "Maximus" is not my real name but my Latin class name. Enjoy:


Name: Max ("Maximus") Leibowitz
Class: 11
Date: 4/25/03
Teacher: Mr. Ettinger

The level of civility in our Latin V (AP) classroom has dropped, and Maximus is one of the responsible parties. I have said that students need to treat each other respectfully or keep silent, and I mean it. Maximus was neither respectful nor silent on Tuesday April 22, neither during nor--especially--after class, when he read off an insulting Latin poem about a classmate which he composed on classical models. I have spoken with Maximus and made my displeasure known. With just a few weeks left in our course (and fewer before the AP exam!), he has got to return to behavior appropriate to our school and my Latin classroom.

S.E. Ettinger

Friends, I wish...wish to high heavens...that I still had a copy of that poem I wrote (quasi-improvised) that made fun of a girl I had a crush on for being a whore, in Latin, in proper verse and meter. I remember seething with anger as the girl made googly eyes at my best friend, and as we read Catullus' love poetry, deciding to compose my own just for her. I read it aloud in front of everyone at the end of class. Everyone was laughing INCLUDING Mr. Ettinger, but the girl was upset and morals forced him to write me up.

A great moment in my life, folks. Thanks for reading today.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Alright, so it's time for my first real post to this sucker. The Black Eyed Peas have told me repeatedly to get it started, so let's do that. In this post, I'd like to discuss "choices."

There's a point in one of the Matrix movies where The Oracle says to Neo: "There is no need to ask me which choice to make. You've already made it. Now you have to understand it."

We make a great many choices as we pass through life, and I myself have spent the last few months contemplating what they are and what they mean and how and why we make them. I want to start by offering a excerpt from Deepak Chopra, whose work I must admit I have not exhaustively read. The picture up there is of him, contemplating like a dog in heat. These are his thoughts on "Right and Wrong Choices," an excerpt from his "Book of Secrets:"

Right and wrong decisions: If you obsess over whether you are making
the right decision, you are basically assuming that the universe will
reward you for one thing and punish you for another. This isn't a
correct assumption because the universe is flexible - it adapts to
every decision you make. Right and wrong are only mental constructs.
Immediately I can hear strong emotional objections to this. What about
Mr. Right? What about the perfect job? What about buying the best car?
We are all in the habit of looking like consumers at people, jobs, and
cars, wanting the best value for the money. But in reality the
decisions we label as right and wrong are arbitrary. Mister Right is
one of a hundred or a thousand people you could spend a satisfying
life with. The best job is impossible to define, given that jobs turn
out to be good or bad based on a dozen factors that come in to play
only after you start the job. (Who knows in advance what your
co-workers will be like, what the corporate climate is, whether you
will have the right idea at the right moment?) And the best car may
get driven into an accident two days after you buy it.

The universe has no fixed agenda. Once you make any decision, it works
around that decision. There is no right or wrong, only a series of
possibilities that shift with each thought, feeling, and action that
you experience. If this sounds too mystical, refer again to your body.
Every significant vital sign - body temperature, heart rate, oxygen
consumption, hormone level, brain activity and so on - alters the
moment you decide to do anything. A runner's metabolism can't afford
to be as low as the metabolism of someone reading a book because,
without increased air intake and faster heart rate, the runner would
suffocate and collapse with muscle spasms.

Decisions are signals telling your body, mind and environment to move
in a certain direction. It may turn out afterward that you feel
dissatisfied with the direction you've taken, but to obsess over right
and wrong decisions is the same as taking no direction at all. Keep in
mind that you are the choice-maker, which means that who you are is
far more than any single choice you have ever made or ever will make.

The final paragraph is particularly intriguing to me. The idea that decisions "tell your body" something seems somewhat counterintuitive. One would usually consider a decision an active move, something one would use to tell rather than be told. Yet if taken in the context of the entire passage, it seems that a decision in and of itself is not all that powerful. Chopra is saying that there are no "right" or "wrong" decisions because our world bends and shape-shifts around the choice. If it is a nice day outside, you may decide to walk to work rather than drive. On that walk, you may run into your soulmate. Who may then cheat on you and steal all your money. Or you might step in a pile of dog poop. Under which is a plastic bag filled with a hundred dollars. The decision to walk to work didn't really matter all that much- it's what became of the choice that is important.

I was presented with this quote by my improv teacher and coach, Jill Bernard. I had asked about choices in the life context, but she has also referenced the passage in improv classes I have taken with her. As will probably be a common theme in this blog, this is one of the countless ways in which improv mirrors life. When we improvise, we have to make choices. We decide what to say, what to do, where to be, etc. Every improv scene starts with a single choice made by each improvisor, usually with a "declaration," a choice usually in the form of a sentence, sound, or movement. Another improvisor will then make a choice, hopefully in support of the first improvisor's choice. From there, choices are being continually made to move the scene along, develop the characters, make discoveries. What's funny about watching improv scenes is that it's often hard to remember what that first "declaration" was, particularly if the scene was vivid and rich, since the improvisors bended and shape-shifted the universe around that choice, and they were off from there. There are no "bad" declarations, because the improvisors literally can use anything to jump off with. Unless, of course, no declaration was made at all. Then no choices could be made, and no scene could happen. Boo.

That being said, the choice MUST be made. No choice is thus the worst choice of all, whether it brings pain or joy. The act of making the choice is indeed wonderful no matter what.

If a decision cannot be right or wrong, it has no power or meaning in and of itself. It is simply one path to take, and, like Chopra says, tells your body to move in a certain direction. You are the same person before and after you make the choice, but not necessarily before and after you take the direction the choice takes you.

I believe I have made lots of right and wrong decisions in my life. I don't think it's unfair to believe in "mistakes." Chopra's thesis does not preclude human beings from making errors; rather, that the error is not inherent in the decision itself. What I hope to take from this is to focus on the right path, not the right choice. It is not the destination, but the journey that matters. Now, the idea that choice is irrelevant may be somewhat fatalistic, but I really don't want to delve into that right now. Why?

Because I need to decide what I'm going to wear today.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Blog New World!

Hello. My name is Max Leibowitz, and this is my blog. I have never had a blog before, so this is an exciting new experience. I have and continue to read many blogs, and most of them are uninteresting and somewhat masturbatory. Although I could be characterized by both of those things, I will try to make this blog neither. These last few months have been a little crazy for me, and I will explain my situation in the coming posts. Suffice to say, I love being here in Minneapolis with the wonderful people I call friends.
The above picture is of me and my new Guinea Pig, Putter. He is a shining beacon in my life. Some of you may get to know him. So anyways, this is the blog. I hope many of you read it and make pithy comments. Enjoy!