Aphorisms by Rabbi Rami

Rabbi Rami describes himself on his website as a “holy rascal”, and that seems to me a wholly accurate description. This rabbi’s aphorisms have something of Rumi and Khayyam in them, the whiff of incense mixed with the laughter of the spiritual trickster. Rami, an adjunct professor of religion at Middle Tennessee State University, teaches writing—specifically, aphorism writing—as spiritual practice in the university’s certificate program in writing and at Path & Pen, an annual writers’ conference held at the Scarritt Bennett Center in Nashville. Rami is one of only two other people I know of who teach aphorisms: One is a high school teacher who uses aphorism writing in one of her classes and the other is Sara Levine; you can find out how she uses aphorisms in teaching by watching her presentation at the 2008 aphorism symposium in London. Rami says the goal of his course is “to get people to notice and think about the power of brief writing in their daily lives; to understand how this writing is constructed and how/why it works; and to encourage students to create aphorisms of their own.” To see how Rami achieves all three of these goals in his own writing, read the selection of his aphorisms below. If you want more, as you surely will, follow Rabbi Rami on Twitter.

“Emotions are choices.” Just not ones you get to make.

“In reality nothing is born and nothing dies.” Stop wasting money on birthdays and funerals.

“The only way to see the whole is to step outside of it;” at which point, of course, it is no longer the whole.

Be willing to let anything happen, even if what is happening is that you aren’t willing.

If you think that it’s the thought that counts, try remembering your anniversary and then doing nothing about it.

Detachment is the key to enlightenment, but who cares?

“Don’t allow people to push your buttons.” Wear your clothes inside out.

The difference between being alive and being dead is being able to tell the difference between being alive and being dead.