I awake to silence. The freshly-baked chocolate chip cookie (from last night) is doubly delicious in the dark. Well, it is almost pitch-black, but for the candle light from a sprinkling of odd-shaped candles flickering from the kitchen table. Nothing moving outside but the wind at the window pane. The electric lampposts are still. The coffee maker sounds from next door are quiet. Nothing breaks the silence but the small bell around my cat, Neige, when she moves through the house. I'm up and have posted via my mobile phone that The Hooray Daily will not be published today due to electrical outages in the mid-Atlantic. I'm in my PJs and now only notice for the first time that the heat is not on. Of course! But I don't mind the chill. In fact as a middle-aged woman, it is preferred to the heat! But we'll see how I feel in a few hours!
Later that evening (at a local Starbucks)
I mentioned that I was reading today. Because of the stillness of the day brought on by a loss of power, I gravitated toward my favorite modern-theologian-Renaissance-man, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972). I decided to revisit his little gem, The Sabbath. If you have not read it (whether or not you are Jewish or even spiritual), you must! Rabbi Heschel speaks about the holiness of time (particularly, the Sabbath) like no one else. He calls Sabbath, "the cathedral of time." Isn't that divine?
Let me share with you the first two paragraphs of the prologue, just to whet your appetite:
"Technical civilization is man's conquest of space. It is a triumph frequently achieved by sacrificing an essential ingredient of existence, namely, time. In technical civilization, we expend time to gain space. To enhance our power in the world of space is our main objective. Yet to have more does not mean to be more. The power we attain in the world of space terminates abruptly at the borderline of time. But time is the heart of existence."
"To gain control of the world of space is certainly one of our tasks. The danger begins when in gaining power in the realm of space we forfeit all aspirations in the realm of time. There is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord. Life goes wrong when the control of space, the acquisition of things of space, becomes our sole concern."
Our pursuits of space (things, status, work, goals) have become a 24/7 obsession. In fact, the television program 60 Minutes just aired an episode about the number of hours that we Americans work in our age of technology, an age of constant contact (with "Crackberries", iPhones, IM-ing, and email...and a 24/7 power grid). We multi-task and use it as a status symbol that we can text, IM, email and have a conversation (where we pretend to listen wholeheartedly) all at the same time! We are never turned off for conversations. We all suffer from this 24/7 requirement to be "on". We're rarely present to one another. And we never rest or experience the holy, unless we somehow schedule it!
Rabbi Heschel would not have been comfortable in this 21st century toil, even though he was marvelously productive during his lifetime!
Tuesday morning, December 10, 2013
Yesterday was a wonderful reminder about time and its holiness. I awoke in stillness, in the dark. Most of the light I experienced yesterday morning and afternoon was natural light. At 5 o'clock in the evening, I scurried about to feed the cats, before dusk turned to night. Without electricity I was not attached to email, to the mobile phone, to my laptop or even NPR! I sat with my three cats and with my spouse. And the world went on! Nothing was lost! No one missed me! Everything...was good...and holy.
At one point in my spiritual journey I "did shabbat" (Sabbath) on a regular basis, but I moved away from it. After this little "forced Shabbat", I believe that I'm ready to return to it and rediscover the holiness of time...the holiness of stopping. The difference now is that I will no longer "do Shabbat", Shabbat will DO me. I am changed by this holy time.