I just returned home from a beautiful and music-filled Selichot service, where I joined my voice with my fellow Zemer Chai chorus members, and several cantors and rabbis, in leading a service of preparation for the High Holidays that are upcoming in just a little over a week.
On my way home, I opened up my podcast player (I happen to use Stitcher on my android phone), and saw that the most recent broadcast of one of my favorite programs, On Being, included two of my favorite On Being contributors – Parker Palmer and Courtney Martin. The episode is called The Inner Life of Rebellion. So, I set it to play, and started my 45 minute drive home.
It has been a long while since I had the courage to listen to On Being. This summer has been hard. It has been a period of adjusting to change – to getting comfortable with a new reality, and facing an unexpected future, and not knowing exactly how I was going to navigate the changes. And, in that uncertainty, I couldn’t quite face the idea of listening to anything to “heavy” (and On Being can be pretty intense). Certainly, this episode was content-laden – in fact, I think I need to listen to it again.
But, it really was the perfect conversation to listen to immediately after a reflective worship service with previews of the upcoming reflections that we will experience in the High Holiday liturgy. And, in this election year which seems so strikingly different from any election that I have had the opportunity to vote in and participate in – the idea of rebellion, of committing oneself to social action, and to change, and to Tikkun Olam – repairing the world, making the world whole – resonates deeply.
I encourage you to listen to the program. The idea that took root deeply in my mind was the notion that we need to have a level of discomfort – that discomfort moves us to new understanding. Maybe because I just emerged (or am emerging) from a period of several weeks of intense discomfort, and, as much as I disliked being in that uncomfortable space, I realize it was necessary.
Another idea that came up in the conversation included a lovely moment where Parker Palmer draws on a variety of traditions and how they define “soul”:
One of the things this society is most deficient in is safe spaces for truth-telling about the condition of our souls.
And if the word “soul” doesn’t work for you, it’s “identity” and “integrity” in the language of secular humanism. It’s the ”spark of the divine,” in the language of Hasidic Judaism. It’s “big self” or “no self” in the paradoxical language of Buddhism. Everybody has a name for it — different name — and nobody knows its true name.
So, I welcome myself back to this space, at this beginning of the new Jewish Year, anticipating the joys of the season, and the evocative melodies that have become more familiar to me with each passing year, and which are so deeply important to the process of introspection, and self-examination, and redirecting ones life in a positive direction. I don’t know how much of that new direction will include reflections here, but I hope to be back more. I’ve been accumulating a lot of thoughts and ideas, and maybe some of them are ready to share.