A MUCH NEEDED GIFT FROM DAVID MAZEL
By Barbara Smith Stoff
Some time in that amazing decade we call ‘the seventies’ I discovered the stories of David Mazel, who was then publishing them in The Christian Science Monitor. It happens also that, during those years, I was teaching high school English classes, and I began to bring these stories into my classes for my students. Even today, I have an old file in the cabinet, with yellowed pages saved from Monitor issues, which shelter these stories by Mazel.
In those days, I found that my students responded with amazing spiritual resonance and began to write stories of their own. Needless to say, I was pleased beyond words. And that’s where these stories send us…beyond words…far beyond words into a world of the intuitive experience of love and wisdom. In later years I began university teaching—often with classrooms filled with working adults returning for needed degrees and personal growth. The resonances deepened. And hereby hangs a new tale.
My husband and I were working on a new book (THE AKASHIC FIELD: IT MAKES EVERYTHING IN THE UNIVERSE PART OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD), a book about the field of being behind the physical manifestations of life, and we wanted to include Mazel’s “The Gift” in this book. Now long retired, we dug into that old metal filing cabinet for that yellowed page from the Christian Science Monitor, dated June 21, 1979, and then began the process of seeking permission to reprint the story in our book.
After countless hours of internet searching, emails, and telephone calls, we found that there are forty four persons listed named David Mazel, yet we have been unable to locate that one David Mazel, so special to us, so, with sorrow, we decided to take the story out of our manuscript. But our search turned up real gold anyway. We found that there is indeed a volume of his amazing stories entitled MY HEART’S WORLD: STORIES BY DAVID MAZEL, of which we did find two ancient used tomes, and purchased both and have given one of those to a granddaughter—passing on a metaphorical violin one might say.
The point here is that we feel strongly that this book, now out of print, should be republished, and a new edition should include that story of the gift which was originally published in the Monitor. This special story of “THE GIFT” does not show up in the existing print volume, but may I say, modern day publishers please take note: There is much emphasis, and demand, for “action” stories and crime stories, while now, during these tumultuous and troubling times, David Mazel’s “MY HEART’S WORLD” would be a deeply needed gift to this trembling world.
Please scroll down to read David Mazel’s THE GIFT—Believe me, it’s very much worth the effort of the scroll:
By David Mazel (from The Christian Science Monitor, June 21, 1979)
My maternal grandfather, Zalman Podkovnik, was surely the strongest man in the world. When he flexed his bicep for me to feel with both my hands, I couldn’t believe that he was mere flesh and blood, not solid iron. The globe of the world in my bedroom, that Atlas held up, looked littler than his bicep. Even when he flexed his fingers, I could see mini-globes.
Blue-eyed, tall but not towering, and with always a sad smile hovering about his lips, he wasn’t a weight lifter, or a wrestler, or a boxer, or any professional strong man. He worked for the garbage company. From the time he was twenty till far into his fifties, at hours of the morning when the limbs of most mortals in the city were heavy with sleep and existence, there was my grandfather lifting can after can and banging them empty into the back of the garbage truck. There were his muscles moving old mountains and making way for new.
But what is a man? Is he body, or is he spirit? Is he what he does or what he dreams? Or is he simply and always a surprise?
Early one morning, the morning of my seventh birthday, when midnight had barely completed its last bow to the sky, my grandfather shook me by the shoulder and woke me up. He had his own key to my parent’s house, and must have sneaked in, for all was quiet.
“Davie,” he said, “how would you like to see me lift the world?”
“Lift the world?” I said, wide awake at once. “Really? The whole world?” I had a vision of my grandfather replacing Atlas under all the globes of the world. “Yes, please!” I said.
“Get dressed,” he said. Then, going over to my window, he pulled back the curtain and pointed outside. Tens of thousands of snowflakes, tiny as tiddlywinks, were tumbling down. It was as if the sky had turned its pockets inside out and were giving away its entire hoard.
“These are the best nights for lifting the world,” my grandfather said. “The snow makes everything lighter. Even garbage. Come, I’ll show.”
Bundled up, I tiptoed after him out into the snowstorm. There was the garbage truck, its red “I’m stopped” lights blinking. And up inside the cab, my grandfather’s partner, a young man with a sleepy smile and snow in his hair. I scooted in between them, and off we went.
That morning, on the way to lifting the world, my grandfather showed me garbage cans that looked almost like people who’d gotten tired of walking, had sat down to sleep, and then been draped with garlands of snow by children who felt sorry for them, who wanted even them, the weary, to look young and festive. He showed me white bundles left on top of the cans, bundles of rags, clothes, bottles, “little bundles of yesterday,” he called them, that didn’t fit in. He pointed up to a clothesline where sheets and shirts and socks were “dancing together” to keep warm.
“Are you a poet, Grandfather Zalman?” I asked.
“How else,” he answered, “could I lift the world? Muscles alone aren’t enough.”
I rode in that garbage truck, up alleys, down alleys, for hour after magical hour. If I got impatient to see my grandfather lift the world, he quieted me with candy. If I got sleepy, the banging of the cans restored me. I didn't even worry that my parents would wake up and think I'd been kidnapped. My grandfather had left them a note: “Am taking Davie for a ride with me. Not to worry. All is well. Love, Zalman Podkovnik.”
Finally, at dawn, he stopped the truck at the top of a hill overlooking the city. Streetlights were glowing blurrily, and bedrooms blinking awake. It was still snowing hard. My grandfather reached under the seat and pulled out – a violin and bow!
“These I found in a garbage can,” he said. “They’re not broken. They’re not even scratched. Who would throw away such beautiful things? God knows. Maybe somebody who didn’t look what he was doing. Maybe somebody who had no sense. Maybe somebody who gave up; somebody who decided the trouble was in the instrument, instead of in him. No matter. I found them.”
“But Grandfather Zalman,” I said, “you told me you were going to lift the world.”
“I’m lifting it.” he said. “And I’m giving it to you. Happy birthday, my grandson.”
“This is the world?” I asked, looking down at the astonishing gift in my hands.
My grandfather nodded solemnly. “What we do with it,” he said, and sighed, “that isn’t so good. But what we could do with it, that’s a dream. That’s the end of garbage and the beginning of music. Remember this, Davie. Remember who first lifted the world for you.”
That was the morning I became a musician.--David Mazel, 1979
[Note: Barbara Smith Stoff is co-author with husband Sheldon Stoff of Conscious Evolution: The Dance of Intuition and Intellect, and The Akashic Field: It Makes Every Place in the Universe Part of the Neighborhood. Both are retired from university teaching.]