Rumi-nating on the New Year and sharp knives

First I have to notice.

The month before Rosh Hashonah is devoted to reviewing one’s accounts, seeing what is in need of repair – how my ways of doing and being have uplifted or downtrodden, made whole or split, brought solace or suffering. So first comes noticing.

Some years that is all I can do, and then my resolve to repair, restore, make whole does not have much flesh and bone behind it.

This year I have been blessedly hit with insights into very fundamental dynamics about how I live my life and move through the world, so much so that I can quite literally feel my body moving through space made solid. I can feel with my senses the effects as I move through the world unaware, in self-protective mode, how one “no” after another leaves the world around me roughed up and distressed. And how different the effects when I am awake to my full and imperfect humanity. Then even the “no” changes meaning and claims its actual power.

As I enter this New Year, I am deeply resolved to notice, and to choose the sharp blade as a kindness to myself and the world.

May you be blessed to be a blessing to your dear ones and to the world in the year 5778.

 

Rumi-nating

by Sara Eisenberg

 

I would say yes quickly if

I could, Master Rumi, if

I would.

 

Drowsing or distracted I am clumsy and

ragged, no

less nor more than any

one, propelled through

space thick with love

that I take for wood or

ice that needs a

roughly-handled

saw, a NO that is my first

response.

 

There is nothing for it.

Once born, I am skin and mind-

bound.

 

Then I remember God said and it was

very good.

 

How I would be

fresh from the water stone,

a keen blade slicing through

life, leaving no jagged open

seeping wound.

 

You would only feel the lightest

caress on your bare

skin, met, set

apart from all creation by your precious

unequalled existence.

 


The following came to me some time after I wrote this poem: while I do not keep kosher, I know that to minimize suffering to a permitted animal, a knife used for slaughtering must be extremely sharp,  is inspected both before and after the  slaughter, and must be applied in a single uninterrupted movement that does not tear tissues.

The morning after: a 21st century creation story

As I write and post this week, election results are unknown. Regardless of outcome, many challenges and opportunities await us. We will feel them with differing senses of urgency.

We wonder: are we, individually and collectively, up to what is being asked of us? 

Here’s why my answer is, unequivocally, YES.

YES, even though we are tired and may wisely “unplug” to recuperate.

YES, even though the work to come is demanding, daunting, and unending, and I tremble in my bones.

BECAUSE from our deepest roots we are fashioned to create, and to create together.

We create as effortlessly as we breathe, as continuously as our hearts beat. We are forever engaged in materializing our feelings, thoughts, and ideas, our hopes, expectations, visions, and fears.

We shape the material world with our hands and with their extensions, tools and technologies of all kinds. We put foods and spices together and call it cooking. We put words together and call it story-telling, or news, or nonsense, or poetry. We put wood and stone and metal together and call it building. There is no end to this.

Sometimes just walking around my local super-market, I am overwhelmed at the number of products to choose from. In a kitchen store, I find a new gadget and wonder if someone woke up in the middle of the night seized with excitement about designing a cutting tool that turns a zucchini or a beet into lovely spirals with which to top a salad or frittata.

We filter what we see: we perceive selectively. We fill in blanks. Early in life we use the material that has been given to us – the gifts and limitations of our parents as caregivers, the security or the chaos of our circumstances – to create a story, a life, in which we have as much safety as we can construct. We include, we distort, we omit. We write in heroes and villains, friends, allies, and enemies.

As we grow up, we continue to elaborate on these stories. We live them. We project them more or less onto whatever landscapes, encounters, and personalities make up our days.

These are our personal creation stories: our family origins.

The smaller, the more fixed our stories, the more we live in a trance state, a default state defined by habit, the less freedom we have.

The same is true of our cultural stories, our group identities, our biases, our views of what is “normal” speech, body language, and behavior.

When we are lucky – we can join this kind of tribe: we begin to wake up and see how our stories have become unconscious and self-perpetuating mechanisms that drive our lives and our communities. We begin to question our habitual ways of responding to the world. We wake up to the ways our personal and cultural stories have become prisons. We break out (commonly with the help of others who live their lives outside of our story), and tell a new – and often bigger one, with previously unimagined possibilities. And then we can change the institutions and systems built on those old stories, and create together for the common good.

We listen attentively to one another’s stories. We take them in. Together we cry, together we laugh.

Can you catch the scent of freedom here? get hold of the thread of what it might mean to be a conscious creator of your own life, an artist of your soul? a collaborative architect of your community? an awakening builder of our world?

We are a growing tribe, on the move and gaining strength.

So take heart. Offer comfort and kind words. Receive solace. Share the Kleenex around if need be, in grief or in relief. Let us strengthen our personal resolve and our shared humanity.

Then: take one step. Start anywhere:

There is no better morning to wake up. Today: question just one perspective, break just one habit, open to just one new possibility.

No better morning to make something whole in yourself.  Today: pick just one limitation that bugs you. Take your first few steps down a path that embraces both self-acceptance and self-improvement, so that this limitation is no longer an obstacle, just something that shapes you in a particular way, like a tree shaped by wind.

No better morning to practice. Today: be willing. Persist. Move with the movement of life.

No better moment to claim your place in the human tribe.


Photo credit: Up in Arms, by Linda Carmel, at Hillsborough Gallery of Arts, Hillsborough, NC