Fourth candle, eleven years on

Another late lighting. This menorah hasn’t revealed any of the issues of my earlier one with uneven burning, which is great.


I’m not the first (nor will I be the last) to observe that on the fourth night, the menorah / chanukkiah is as close as it will be to equilibrium (especially if we don’t count the shamash, or server candle).

I can’t remember a time in most of my adult life when things were truly in balance — thinking back, it feels like maybe 1996 was the last time. It’s been especially bad the last few years but it was an exacerbated state of a fairly constant experience of stress that derived from excess (usually too much work, or my inability not to overidentify with my work). I read an interesting post this week on someone whose passion just burnt her out. I could identify. It’s hard for me to do anything casually. I’m either fully with you, or completely absent. And then one excess (too much work) leads to other, even more dangerous ones. The Greeks were right about sophrosyne.

One of the main attractions of Judaism for me in the first place was the way that it screamed “Halt!” on Friday evenings. G-d rested on the seventh day, you are commented to rest on the seventh day. It was an important aspect of balance in my life for a long time, the kind of balance I want to regain.

For me, fandom has been, in many ways, a kind of religious excess, and the blog was a way of expressing and modulating that, but it also depended on the internal tendency I had to say “Halt!” and sit down to write to experience that state of flow that I miss so much. It took work. It’s seemed so easy lately just to watch cooking shows and Star Trek reruns.


In 2014, Richard Armitage did something nice on the fourth night of Chanukkah (or maybe the third day). In 2011, the fourth night fell on December 23rd (Norwegian Lillejulaften) and I posted something so maudlin I immediately made it private. Wow. This series has been very useful for perspective on my usual state of mind in December (which is not great). And back in 2010, I got a little bit into the topic of food and proposed giving Richard Armitage a beater car. I suppose now I’d propose giving him an EV.

~ by Servetus on December 2, 2021.

16 Responses to “Fourth candle, eleven years on”

  1. I can so identify with an inability to not overidentify with work. And also the inability to do anything by half measures. (And also that one excess leads to another.) When my kids were in high school, they were always saying, “But it’s good enough… I passed!” And I wondered how their emotional makeup was so obviously different from mine.

    I’m glad you are managing to make time to write regularly. And finding a bit of balance.


    • I think there are some gender issues involved here, too. Not to mention class. HL is puzzling over his daughters at the moment, and although I haven’t said it to him, I think there’s a difference between us (children of parents who grew up poor, growing up in the middle class) vs his kids (children of middle class parents, growing up in the middle class) in terms of perceptions of how hard we have to work.

      I’m working on it! Thanks for the good wishes.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think you’re right. Not that we have handed everything to them, but when they were young I often tried to tell them how lucky they were. But when they saw some kids being given cars for their 16th birthdays and such, I guess they didn’t feel lucky. My older son is now one of the hardest working people I know. Now, if I could just jump-start the younger one…


        • I think one’s own context determines what one considers both a reasonable gift and a reasonable challenge. My nieces both drive much better cars than we had access to as teens, but they also complain about them — which may also be a feature of adolescence.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. and here it is, from London to you 🙂 it’s not pretty, but at night when it is lit it’s actually really nice and very ‘London’


    • I don’t know how Sadiq Khan actually is as mayor, but he gets great press. Seems like a nice guy. Thanks for the pics!


      • He’s nice I think and a good mayor. He’s done more for ordinary Londoners than previous ones, especially in terms of housing, transport and pollution. But London is big and needs are great and we’ve been massively hit by the pandemic, in ways that we may not recover from. Never mind Brexit, the city has lost a lot, a lot of income that supported the running of its services for residents, tourists for one, but also spend from normal people coming here enjoying culture, eating, drinking, shopping. Transport here used to pretty much almost finance itself, unlike other big cities where they rely on subsidies. And unsurprisingly he’s being blackmailed my government to get financial help to reverse many of the supporting measures he has taken, or force local councils to raise tax to pay for pandemic cost in an already heavily punished city. And yet he still got reelected, but it’s very tough times ahead for the city as some things may have changed forever and will need massive efforts to rebalanced. Apart from good will and hard work we’ve got loads of things stacked against us in London. And so do other parts of the country , of course. I’m talking as a local resident. I’m partial of course as I wouldn’t have a home had he not made this particular building possible for local workers on small wages, who would otherwise be priced out of the city. Apart from that I like that he loves the cities and is really very good at building sincere bridges to all faiths, to diverse populations in general. For me he represents what I love about the real fabric of this city, not just its glitzy investors or 1% politicians and ultra rich who comes to play here. I wish we had better luck with the years he is our mayor, but am also grateful we have him in these difficult times.


  3. Work – life balance is essential and something I always strive for, it became especially important when my kids came. I took a day off work extra and now that I have that 4 day work week, I never want to give it up again, it gives me time for multiple interests besides work. I too can get very obsessed with things but it’s rarely with work. If work and other interests converged more, that line would be more difficult to draw for me as well.


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