Friday, August 17, 2007

Hey, everyone, it's Elul

Just got this from my rabbi ... well, one of my rabbis. It's not quite a Toddler Logic bit, but I thought it was still worth passing along.

Elul is the month in the Jewish calendar that comes before the Yamim Noraim, the High Holidays, and it's devoted to t'shuvah, or turning: forgiveness, mending hurts, letting go of what's hurt you in the past.

Apparently, from what I've been putting up recently, I am planning on spending Elul figuring out something about getting my spiritual life together. But I'm mostly pretending that I'm not, okay? So don't point it out to me too much. (A little bit of pointing out would be alright, I guess.)

From "Snake Talk", A Traveling Jewish Theater

Enough of the oy veh! path. Now we are going to fix it. Now we make a new path. So. You take a shovel, you take a ground hacker, you take a hairpin. If all you got is a hairpin, take a hairpin and start digging. Dig in all directions, up and down, right and left, in and out. Not in a straight line. Nothing natural or interesting goes in a straight line. As a matter of fact, it is the quickest way to the wrong place. And don't try to pretend you know where you are going. Because if you know where you are going, you have been there, and you are going to end up exactly where you came from. Okay. So now we are digging. All of a sudden you bump into a stone. Oooh, it's so cute. Un-un. Throw it away like a hot potato. You are going to bump into lots of stones, geologically fascinating; stones of blame, resentment, self-pity. Oooh, from these I could build a palace. Forget it. You build from them, what you got is a prison. So you bend down, you pick 'em up, you throw 'em away. Dig a little, pick a little, throw a little, turn; dig a little, pick a little, throw a little, turn...

Now this is where you got to pay special attention to getting lost. If you are not lost, you are in trouble. Lost? Good. Sit down, blow your nose, and wait. Sometimes you got to wait for a very long time. Until a bird or a stranger comes along with a message. And do you know what you are supposed to do while you're waiting? You are supposed to do...nothing. Nada, zilch, nothing. And if you can do that, if you can do nothing until the right thing comes along, then you have mastered the hardest part of all.

Okay. So now you are back on the road, nice and easy, no rush, no push, and you take one little step, you take two little steps, you take three little steps, you take... watch out! WATCH OUT! You are about to fall into the puddle of empty manifestation. Here on the fourth step you are meant to fall down, not once, not twice, not occasionally, but on every fourth step. The ground opens up, the wind blows, a branch hits you in the head, you trip on stones, you twist your ankle, your heart breaks, you've got to fold the laundry and they have closed the two left lanes. All of the forces gathered together to stop you. And some people, when it happens, they fall down and they lie there for the rest of their lives. But some people learn to fall down/get up. Now that is one move: fall down/get up.

Okay. So now you are on your own way and you notice that with every step you straighten up a little bit. And it hurts. All of the places you've been bending over that got stuck. And don't try to avoid it hurting. Because if you do, you will never straighten up.

Okay. That's it. That is how you do it. You dig, you bend down, you throw away, you go in circles, you get lost, you wait, you listen, you do nothing, you fall down/get up; and inside, you unfold.


Furrow said...

There are a lot of interesting ideas in that story. I especially like "If you are not lost, you are in trouble." Too many of us are too certain about things.

Doing nothing is so hard, though.

S. said...

Isn't it just?

I like "you've got to fold the laundry and they have closed the two left lanes" -- because I want to go fast and never put away my clothes. Metaphorically speaking.

Jenny Davidson said...

Did I already ask you if you've read those Susan Howatch books? They're fairly aggressively Christian (think Phil Rickman but with a stronger interest in ethics and theology), not sure what I think about this aspect, but I like the way they make ethical and spiritual questions seem very high-stakes--the trilogy called "The Wonder Worker" (US--I think UK was "A Woman of Integrity"), "The High Flyer" and "The Heartbreaker" are the ones I'm thinking of, tho I love her earlier Church of England ones also. Very curious to hear what you think--I really loved them--I STRONGLY identified with the heroine of the second book, perhaps needless to say!

(un)relaxeddad said...

"the puddle of empty manifestation." Yeah, I'm overly familiar with that location. This, I'm taking on holiday with me (the story, not the puddle)

S. said...

Jenny, no, I haven't read them. I think it's funny to think of Phil Rickman as a Christian writer, since to me he is so much more interested in pre-Christian legends and power. I take Merrily's Christianity as a way he indicates she is on the side of the angels--but I read her as more of a white witch, actually.

(un)relaxeddad, I'm glad you're finding it as useful to think about as I am!

susan said...

That is interesting, to think of so much internal work happening at odds with the external. I am not good at the being lost part.

Magpie said...

You know, I kind of feel like that's what I do every time I get a stolen day to putter around the house, without husband, child, or work. A little of this, a dig in that direction, a smidge of something else. I only wish there were more of them.

S. said...

Susan, oh, the getting lost part!! My first thought about this story was that for me right now, blogging and writing are the path, and such unexpected things have turned up in my life since I started following them. I'm not at all sure I know where they'll lead me, but somewhere I haven't been, that's certain.

Magpie, I like the idea of this applying to household puttering, as well. It might make housework more appealing to me.

kathy a. said...

i'm late, and out of context [not religious, not jewish]. but this is the most perfect story of how we all make progress in life. i especially like the advice, "Not in a straight line. Nothing natural or interesting goes in a straight line. As a matter of fact, it is the quickest way to the wrong place."

S. said...

You know, kathy, while I think that Elul is profoundly Jewish--a solid month of working on your sh*t before your soul gets judged for the upcoming year, I mean, guilt, guilt, guilt, right?--but that's more about the way the month organizes the work rather than the work itself. We all gotta do this stuff or it tears us apart.

I think it's wonderful how many non-Jews have spoken up on this thread--so far as I'm aware, almost everyone.