The Shape of Things - Israel Story The Shape of Things - Israel Story

The Shape of Things

Judah Kauffman

Lately, I’ve been wishing I could be more like my friend Adina. Adina is a geometer. Or, more accurately, she’s is a postdoctoral student of geometry at the University of Toronto. Sometimes, at Shabbat lunch, she frantically tries to explain her favourite shapes to me; they are the kinds of shapes that loop through time and dimensions and planes. Just thinking about those shapes requires a bending of the imagination and several leaps of faiths about the contours of our world.

I, like most people I bet, grew up thinking that all shapes could be more or less classified into circles, rectangles, and triangles; on occasion, I admit, I run into the odd rhombus. But anything that takes a shape outside of that small set of possibilities becomes too hard to describe.

As a radio journalist I’ve trained my mind to think about stories as having a very specific shape, like geometric cookie cutters to describe the world.

Late Tuesday night, I walked back to my house in south Tel Aviv. It’s a gritty and historically neglected neighborhood made up of  mostly African immigrants, some documented, others refugees and asylum seekers. And as the police and government have cracked down on the African asylum seeker community, as they try to ‘clean up’ the area, it certainly feels like a neighborhood in tumult. On Tuesday night, as I walked by a fenced-in construction site, I heard the voices of children playing from behind the fence and the hushed whispers of adults. I live in an area where families are trying to make do, living wherever they can. And walking by those sounds, my first, glaring thought was, ‘Should I record this? It could really make great tape!’

And then I stopped


My reaction to the public issues of homelessness and social demonization hadn’t been sadness. Hearing these possibly homeless people, my reaction wasn’t empathy. It wasn’t even curiosity. It was just that their nighttime whispers could help me make a great radio story.

A few days later, I was listening to a segment from ‘On The Media’ about stories that don’t make it to the news. Stories of political movements (with hundreds of thousands of people involved) that get ignored by the media because there are no captivating characters or story arcs. These movements are too “slow,” made of committee meetings and spreadsheets and carpools. They don’t have the shape of a “proper” story, so the media doesn’t tell them.

And I’m not 100 percent sure how these experiences are connected for me. I do know that, when a friend confides in me, I don’t want my first thought to be, “this story has a great story arc.” And when I see something slow and complex happening in the world, I don’t want to ignore it because it doesn’t have that arc. So, lately, I’ve been wishing I could be more like Adina. What would it be like, I wonder, to re-imagine the shape of a story worth telling.


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