This period of protest and national dialogue should make me feel hopeful but, so far, it makes me more despairing. It reminds me of the racism my son, Gabe, has endured over the years in our “liberal” Bay Area community. It reminds me of the anger I feel for the times I have tried to talk about racial issues and gotten the message that I should move on. It reminds me of the shame I feel for the times I could have done something and didn’t.
I cried yesterday but not for the reason I would have predicted. To put my crying in context, I have been traveling nonstop for four years partly for the kindness and connection I discover in other places. I can find these things here at home. It’s just easier to find them in places that are new and different, where I have to pay more attention. And, honestly, it’s easier where the dominant feeling is a little softer than my American culture these days. (Something like that….I was supposed to be in Saudi Arabia today).
This afternoon, I called a friend from my days as an 18-year old hippie living in the Oregon countryside. Back then, her name was Sue. Now she is Rabbi Me’Irah. Every time I have what seems to be a casual conversation with Me’irah, I come away with more meaning in my life. “Today is a special day,” she announced (I already knew this because every day is special for Me’irah). It is the time between Passover and Shavuout, she said. Passover is a celebration of liberation — the Jews’ exodus from enslavement. And today is a day of constraints to acknowledge the Jews’ harrowing journey from Egypt to Mt. Sinai, where they would receive the Torah. Me’irah says we survive this time of constraint and our isolation by celebrating the bounty and blessings in our lives. And that celebration, I thought, gives us hope.
By now, I think we have learned that there are two kinds of people when it comes to staying at home. The first category of people say, “I am doing great, enjoying this time to relax and slow down. I am calling my friends on zoom and doing online yoga!”
The second category of people say “Oh yeah, well, I was kind of down yesterday but I am better today. Lots of people have it much worse than me. We’ll get through this, no problem.” If you are in the first category, please know that the people in the second category are actually thinking “I am going out of my mind.”
Our world is redefining the idea of adventure I think, and small things are getting more interesting by the minute. I had an adventure with a small thing this morning. It began with a search for a coaster for my coffee mug. I was starting to feel that my use of paper towels as coasters was wasteful and not very attractive. And, you know, I was trying to maintain a semblance of civility on Day 3 without a shower. So I routed around in a bag of small odds and ends I had picked up in my travels and I found something that I could use as a coaster. It was a little plastic folder. Here it is:
In the Bay Area, it’s a great day to stay inside, and that’s what we were going to do anyway. It’s raining with wind, like this stormy time in our history, reminding me that I have wanted to learn about Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest.” So I did some research and, as always, I found much more than I expected, including a poetic reference to a bat.
I used to think the title of the Beatles’ song, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” meant Lucy was taking diamonds into the sky. But now I think it means Lucy is going into a sky that already has diamonds. I changed my mind about this after I realized why the air in my Bay Area home feels different. It has sparkles in it! The natural beauty here is covered in a light that our proximity to the ocean makes glittery.
I recently came across a reminder of a simple act of defiance that changed history. In 1517, Martin Luther tacked a document called the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenburg Castle church. The 95 Theses questioned the foundations of the all-powerful Catholic church. Most specifically, the document challenged the church’s practice of “indulgences,” payments made by believers as a way to enter heaven. Indulgences empowered the church and enriched the church elite, mostly at the expense of the poor.