Chaos and order

I guess it makes sense that images of chaos seem like the universe shrieking and throwing out its arms in livid resignation, of circles loosening and pieces hurling out from the center.

William Butler Yates knew. This is what he wrote:

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…”

It goes on, brilliantly and terrifyingly, from there.

There’s been such chaos in our world. There was the debacle in Iowa — they had four years to figure out the technology, but nooo…. There was the ghastly charade of the impeachment trial. There is the constant barrage of lies, making the idea of truth seem illusory.

On a more local level, right over the bridge, New York City is falling apart. There was a story in the Times about all those sidewalk sheds, the constructions of steel pipe and wood that cover so many buildings throughout the city that it’s possible to walk for blocks in bright sunlight and stay in constant shadow. They are there to keep pedestrians safe — or at least to give the illusion of keeping pedestrians safe — should the lovely but crumbling pieces of stone façade give up their last grip on the century-old buildings they cover. They go up, but like a vertical play on a roach motel, they never come down; building owners have realized that it’s cheaper to pay the fines the city lackadaisically assesses than it is to fix the problems.

And then there’s the coronavirus….

In the midst of such chaos, such nasty confusion, such grotesque mess, it is so good to think about order, about precision and care and attention.

And that brings me to the Sinai Schools.

Sinai started as an ambitious but small venture nearly 40 years ago, when a small group of parents of special-needs children decided that those children deserved to be educated, to be treated well, to be seen for who they were, just as every other child does. Since then the school has grow incrementally, meeting its students needs while anticipating not-yet-recognized new ones.

Each child is given a specially tailored education, fit to his or her own educational style, physical, emotional, or cognitive disabilities, temperament, and interests. Every child leaves the school prepared to do something — it might be college and a thoroughly mainstream life, because his or her time at Sinai relaxed and then erased the special needs, and it might be a more sheltered life, working, using the life skills Sinai taught. No matter what the life is, it will have been individually shaped and guided.

If there were world enough, and time — and money — every child in the world would be educated like that. Every child deserves that level of clear-eyed love and attention.

When I compare the raging spittle-laced chaos in one direction, and the careful attention to truth — the truth of each child — in the other, I know which direction I hope we take. 

About the Author
Joanne is the editor of the Jewish Standard and lives in Manhattan with her husband and two dogs, so she has firsthand knowledge of two thriving and idiosyncratic Jewish communities. (Actually that's three communities, if you also count the dog people.)
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