Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Spiritual Pause

In honor of the Jewish High Holy days (which began with the celebration of the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, last Thursday, and continue on to Yom Kippur, the day of repentance, starting Friday at sundown), please find two musings below.  Both were written during the incredibly important time between these two holidays. We take these 10 days, as I was taught at a young age, as an opportunity to ponder the larger questions…these, the "Days of Awe," enable us to see our world and lives from a new and enlightened perspective.

Sitting in services on Thursday, I, like many others in the congregation, took the opportunity to contemplate the bigger questions in life. Focusing my thoughts, I came to the familiar revelation that the universe is pretty darn big.

Pretty big is an understatement. The universe is massive. Listening to and participating in prayers that praise Hashem (the creator of life, the universe and everything) and exclaim the joy of a fruitful relationship with it, has always struck me as strange.

How could something so large and powerful as to create the universe be concerned with my relatively insignificant life (yes, I know, I granted the premise that there is an all powerful being, let's keep the Cartesian arguments to a minimum though)? Now I don't want this post to become a discussion of the existence of an all powerful being and religion, so I think the point I'm trying (albeit quite clumsily) to make is that we, as humans, must confront the dichotomy between the limitlessness of the universe and our own inflated egos.

Yes, we are minuscule in relation to the size of the universe, our galaxy, our solar system, but we can still appreciate that we are part of a whole. That's really what this whole thing is about, being part of a whole. Understanding that we are individual parts of many wholes is, to me, a calming source of wisdom and strength.

Sitting in the stands at the Cal Berkeley Golden Bears football game last Saturday (a game that resulted in an embarrassing display of the sport from University of Colorado at Boulder, I think the final score was 52 to 7, Cal), I found myself focusing on something that I've never thought about before while at a sporting event.

I've been to too many of them to count, nearly every major sport, from pee-wee to pro, but never realized the enormous sense of community that occurs only when two opposing teams (and sets of fanatics that go along with them) enrapture the attention of thousands of people at once.

Spectators were so enraptured that I seldom saw even the flash of a cell phone during the 3 hour tenure of the game. Yes, I'm sure there were tweets a la: "Cal is kicking Colorado's keister, go Bears," and the such, but other than the odd usage, nobody had their heads stuck in their phones. We were sharing something completely communal, something that did not require the burden of technology.

Sure, just ignore the big video screen, and concessions….and everything else connected to an outlet…nevertheless, for three hours, I was delightfully forced to interact with the game and the people sitting around me. And, it was one of my first experiences in a long while where people, generally free to do what they want despite social rules and guidelines, all instinctively chose to keep it in the pants (so to speak, at least where mobile devices are concerned...otherwise, it was a college sporting event, so….not really).

The greatest part of these ramblings, for me, is that one followed the other. I began to contemplate indeed how minuscule we are, and was confronted immediately with a sense of community and sharing that I didn't expect.  Don't just take it from me, no matter where your spiritual inspirations lie, you can take time, whether it is one day or one week to reflect on your life and examine the perspective through which you view the world.  And for my fellow Jewish readers and bloggers, shanah tovah....have a sweet and fruitful new year!