(B)logarhythm

Beginning. Again.

Life is full of beginnings.

 

Every transition, every turn, every corner… a clean slate, a fresh start.

 

So, if that’s the case - if we are constantly experiencing beginnings - why do we make such a big deal about dividing up and celebrating measured windows of time?  

 

For example, let’s take the new year...

 

Think about it: Our annual interstellar voyage around the sun simply ends… and then begins again. (Not ironically, most of us fly that round trip on a deep, deep-discount coach ticket). Seriously: aside from fact than that we employ it as a measured way to mark the milestones of our lives - why does the new year seem like a particularly poignant chance to start again?

 

Truth – If we employ a widely-cast but nonetheless accurate definition of the phrase, each of us “starts again” at least 1000 times per year.

 

Yes. This is certainly true when referring to the beginnings of more “concrete” things (like songs, letters, dinners, road trips, books, laundry, movies, games, etc.) but it’s also true when referring to emotional values, spirituality, and opinions about local restaurants, public policy, fashion trends, and the purported demise of professional baseball since the introduction of the designated hitter… 

 

What would we call that? Beginnings per year?

 

Better: BPA. Beginnings per Annum.

 

(That sounds like a Bill James statistic).

 

Life, in a true (but never simple) sense, moves in the seemingly perfect shape of a circle. We begin. We learn as we go. And then, something is revealed, and everything changes…

 

We are lifted to a new place… a unfamiliar place where we have no choice, but for the circumstance of the moment, to begin again.

 

And here we are now, once again, sharing our beginning.

 

To our credit: we’ve chosen not to simply cross a threshold and suddenly begin again.

 

We’ve slowed down.

 

We are paying extra attention as we approach; looking around, taking stock, and reflecting on the lives we chose to lead during a time that is no longer.

 

Today is much less about simply marking time, much more about the fact that we engage in serious and significant self-reflection while hitting our reset buttons during these days of awe.

 

In this season we celebrate the harvest while planting new seeds within ourselves; seeds that will grow through the year to come. We do this over, and over, and over again. Every year. We return.

 

Judaism carries a universal narrative. We retell it constantly as we connect to the historical texts of our community.

 

This narrative is simple:

 

Creation -> Revelation -> Redemption.

 

Today, let this narrative, this ever-repeating plot that underlies the human condition, shape the lens through which we see ourselves and see our world.

 

Shana tovah.

 

On Redemption...

 

 

what is it to be redeemed … ?

 

 

what is it to stare at the dark skinned night

before the light comes on

 

swaying back and forth

from breaking point to breaking point

forsaking points

we’ve been making all along

 

i believe there's more

but i don't know what more looks like

i believe there is redemption

but i have no idea what it is to be redeemed

i just want to breathe deep and live out this screenplay

before the final scene plays

the one that only happens once I'm gone

 

for no one

 

no one

 

reads their last page.

 

for is this not our story … ?

our narrative

our off-broadway drama

act after act after act while curtains rise and fall on the same tattered tale

 

we bleed and laugh and cry and pray

and walk away

only to be brought back again

when something changes

something tips

something falls/se and once again

we are sure there is only One

 

no one knows if they're actually alive

but faith itself is an act of redemption

and while we can't be sure there's even One

we're often sure

there’s only One

 

what are we hoping for when we say

next year in Jerusalem … ?

next year

as if we all somehow converged on this contested plot of birthrights and walls

as if some redemption would be found

 

it's about our own Jerusalem

our own internal wall filled with crumpled paper notes and wounded dreams

it's our own redemption

it's a prayer

next year

may we know more than we know now

may we see ourselves more clearly

than we do through this dirty, foggy lens

that we try so hard to keep clean

 

perhaps we were once delivered from mitzrayim

perhaps, somehow, each of us is there still

dutifully wandering the same path for years

until something, some truth

comes clear

 

whatever that truth is, it's right here

right in front of our eyes

 

i believe this can be, if we are ready to be this

 

let this be our year

 

this year

 

closer to ourselves

 

this year

 

in Jerusalem

 

OTD...

I was recently exposed to a new acronym. 

OTD.

“Off the derech.”

Derech is the Hebrew word for “path.” To say that someone is off the derech (sorry, I can’t bear italicizing it every time) is to say that they have lost their way. As in, away from the religious way. As in, once you were, but now you’re not. As in, how can we bring you back?

Seriously? 

Here’s some unedited, stream of consciousness wisdom: 

Treat each other with great care. Be holy, whatever holy means to you. When you have the choice to be right or to be kind, be kind.

Have some perspective. Go hug somebody. 

I drone on and on about bringing people closer to their center. The thing is, we generally focus internally to find that center. Focus OUT. Help yourself open up to what is all around you. Feel the energy of life. There are gajillions of planets. And we fight over little pieces of (h)ours. Kill each other in the name. The holy name. Fight over pieces of land. 

It's simple, peeps. I and you and we are in God. And God is in us.

The path is a misnomer. The paths, people. The paths.

Yes, I spout my cereal-box philosophy. To me, it’s that simple. Truth isn’t complicated. Truth is simple.

Just be. Do the right thing.

Forget OTD. 

OAD. Be on a path. If you ask honestly, you’ll find the right one. 

Have a love filled 2014.

 

Love,

me.

Rest...

Sunday morning, on the couch, pancakes made (egg whites for me), organ jazz playing, otherwise quiet.

Just a little post-Shabbos Shabbos.

I wonder sometimes, why we insist on breaking up our rest into one uninterrupted block. Because God metaphorically did so after the world was created? An entire day? That’s a pretty massive undertaking in and of itself.

I’ve been entertaining a 3 and a 4 year old all weekend. It’s not exactly galactic architecture, but I feel like I’ve earned this 12 minute respite while they excitedly enjoy Bananas in Pajamas. (Say: Ba-nahhhhnahhs). Maybe it’s a relatively logarhythmic rate of restful return?

(That was, for the record, at once quite the geeky and alliterate question.)

In The Confessions of a Misfit, Mokokoma Mokhonoana writes “…We are so used to working that not working is the new hard work.”

I guess when I think my phone is buzzing all the time (when it fact, half the time it is not, and I pick it up in confusion), when I feel obsessive about checking email, when I’m sure that some crisis is happening while I’m determined that my mind be elsewhere, I become sure of my status as a victim of societal enculturation. Perhaps it’s the curse of living in NYC? Everyone here is working all the time. I think, though, that we make our own choices, be that circumstance tends to wreak havoc with our intended plans from time to time.

And so, I bid you adieu. I will turn my attention to the remaining 4.5 minutes of Ba-nahhhhhhnahhs in… (well, you get it), and shall proceed outside with my kidlings to have some rest… a different kind of rest. The best kind.

The “new hard work.”

Shavua tov.

A priest, a rabbi and a minister walk into a performance hall...

I'm sick on the couch today, which means lots of spaced out thinking time. I've been ruminating on something that happened this weekend...

I was on stage at an interfaith concert in Toronto Saturday night. Multiple faith groups were represented in a community gathering to honor an incredible rabbi (Larry Englander) who has given blessing upon blessing to the larger TO community.

We were about to sing the finale. A gospel choir, amongst other groups, joined us at the stage. I took a moment to address the crowd.

I'm not sure what I said, but I do know that I spoke different words than expected. In hindsight, I believe I was inspired by the outwardly demonstrative faith of the choir. If you've spent any time in church (AME or otherwise), you may be aware of the incredible freedom with which folks express their faith. They affirm as one speaks. They nod, and vocally add their support to thoughts, sentiments and statements.

Most importantly, they do not fear acknowledgement of their relationship with a higher power. Whether you connect with the One or the Three (or any other number, for that matter), there is incredible inspiration to be found in a fearlessly outpoured sentiment of belief. 

I'm used to experiencing God as a euphemism. A burning bush, perhaps. Jews typically beat around this bush (pun very much intended), simply acknowledging that we all... acknowledge. 

The choir's relationship with their faith did not stop at simple acknowledgment. Words that inspired them were met with vocal affirmation. They gave themselves to the moment, really listening, really affirming. They brought the room together because they were not afraid.

I long for this in my own life, in my own spiritual community. I wish for that freedom to be found again. I believe we once knew it well; at Sinai, at the Red Sea... we exclaimed our faith. 

Truth: I'm not opposed to your beliefs differing from mine. I actually support it. (Read: I do not "tolerate" it. I *support* it). 

Monochromatic faith is like tossing a baseball in the air and catching it yourself. Sure, you are technically throwing and catching, but it's ultimately a poor substitute for tossing the ball around with another person. You learn, you adjust, you see more clearly when another person plays catch with you. You appreciate how the ball approaches you in different ways, and you enjoy throwing it back and forth. It builds camaraderie. It creates relationship. It puts us all on the same field. 

I want to live in a world where everyone gets to play catch.

The choir, by being present in the moment and affirming my words, invited me to toss the ball around.

And I am grateful.

אֲדֹנָי שְׂפָתַי תִּפְתָּח וּפִי יַגִּיד תְּהִלָּתֶךָ.

God, open my lips, that I might declare Your praise.