Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Time versus Space.

I've barely gotten into Abraham Joshua Heschel's "The Sabbath." I started reading it on the morning ride, but I've hit one of those every now and again slumps where I just can't focus on the ride. It's either too hot or too rainy for me to dwell on anything but the damp (from drops above or pure humidity) unpleasantness that exists before me. It's more the kind of book where you curl up on the patio furniture out in the country or in a quiet suburban neighborhood where you can reflect on nature's beauty and the essence of "time." I live in a concrete jungle, and although our back patio is quite pleasant to look at, the neighbors are always -- always -- outside either playing with their car alarm or splashing in the cheap blowup pool or even just lingering, ready to hand off some lemon paste (the neighbor lady said she saw it on Food Network).

But as I find myself considering the approaching High Holy Days, and as I skim articles, the prevalent theme is TIME. This ethereal idea versus space. It's an old adage, really. It shows up in that whole "what's more important -- happiness or things" argument. It's the constant battle we face every day ... do you donate those lottery earnings to fight AIDS so that people can be happy, or do you go buy yourself a new Lexus, house, jet ski, island, what have you? We ask ourselves at this time of year how to make time holy. It isn't about space -- it's about time. That thing we can't define, nor can we exactly understand.

On, Laibl Wolf writes:

These formative days of Tishrei are called Rosh HaShanah -- "the head of the year." And you and I spend the remainder of the year accepting the new bounty of this "new-time" and work at becoming a worthy co-creator of the yet unfinished symphony of creation.

May the flow of "new time" bring all of us the wisdom and insight to carry out the processes of spiritual construction, the Mitzvot, and bring about the realization of a new song of spiritual beauty that the world will sing when our eyes are truly opened.

More importantly, it's dire that one takes the moments of time and relate those to the moments of space -- not vice a versa. It isn't things that make moments important, it's the moments themselves. Wolf also says: "All events take place in the 'vessel of time.' They may seem simply a string of meaningless unrelated occurrences. ... Living consciously and deeply means taking the moments of time and connecting them to your deepest awareness. Then not only are the events elevated, but the time of 'here and now' becomes sacred as well."

The thing is, this is all well and good, but putting it into practice. Finding that divide, that way of focusing on time and not space is so difficult. Not because we're such a materialistic society -- people have always focused on space and not time. Space is what we can see, we can touch it, we can breathe it and taste it. We are inherently wary and almost unconcerned with that which we cannot physically embrace. This is why religion, faith, spirituality are so fascinating. The idea that time can be more meaningful than space!

For Heschel, in a time when assimilation was rampant among Jews, it seems he was hoping to express that Judaism was more than just ritual and acts of space, but that Judaism is concerned more with time -- holy times. Many religions and beliefs systems have PLACEs associated with their dieties/G-d ... Mecca, the locations of virgin sightings, the Vatican, etc. But Judaism is ruled by a calendar of events, moments in time that have come to define who we are and why we do what we do. There are not locations or places that we go to in order to soak in the space of something, but rather, we gather around a seder table or at a shul wherever we are for minyan. (Heschel saw a huge backlash about this thought, though, because many thought he was advocating an anti-Israel stance.)

Anyhow, I'm rambling at this point. My intent is to explore the idea of making time holy. I'm hoping to actually sit down with "The Sabbath" to get a good read and not a half-assed in-transit read, because darn't, Heschel deserves my focus! As the High Holidays approach though, the idea of time becomes ever more present ... we ask whether we shall be written into the book of life or death. We begin anew in hopes that we can use the newly given time of the new year to continue the work of creation. It's a beautiful vision.