A Light Among Us
I don't know this young boy's name, but he was at Rabbi Singer's services on Saturday; he's holding the Havdalah candle to conclude Yom Kippur, the day of repentance.
For me, this picture captures what Rabbi Singer was trying to impart to us earlier in the day. He talked about the honesty of youth, how young people see clearly without pretensions; they speak the truth and Truth transforms. That's what I see in this beautiful boy.
In the afternoon, the rabbi held a discussion group; we got on the subject of war and peace—and in extension, fear; how we can't tackle peace without first tackling the war within us. Each person must start inwardly to find peace; only from that position of inward clarity, Rabbi Singer insisted, can we begin to take on a wider agenda.
That's why young people are so important to this movement, he feels; it's what he found in Israel (i.e. in the tent cities in Tel Aviv); it's what's happening in NYC on Wall Street and in Los Angeles around City Hall. Young people occupying streets and parks aren't angry or confrontational. They're discussing the problems we as Americans face; they're telling it like it is. They're speaking the truth.
I long for peace of course, but when I can't sleep, when I yell at the guy honking behind me, or treat my students with condescension, I'm aswirl with mixed-up emotions. Lately I've been having strange dreams—I'm carrying a little baby, but have no place to lay it down; I witness a killing and the dead man splits in two; a black figure twirls and twirls like the tigers in Little Black Sambo, or a black widow spider, but I can't stop the twirling. I'm anything but peaceful.
I walked this morning in Heidelberg Park after a restless night; I found myself afraid to go through the densest part of the canyon, where the path winds through brush so thick only coyotes can walk. I have never felt afraid before walking down there; why was I suddenly afraid? I started thinking about my fear—what could possibly attack me?—it was irrational, without merit. I made myself walk on, taking the path through the thickest trees, looking around, keeping my eyes open.
I noticed how peaceful everything was: butterflies hovering, squirrels chasing, birds hopping on the ground. I thought about Rabbi Singer's message, how fear drives us to protect ourselves, to build walls, to see blindly; it's what drives us to war.
When I climbed out of the park, I looked down into the canyon where I had just emerged; all was quiet on the western front. I felt the warmth of the sun, I saw the distance mountains, I heard a tree full of chirping birds; I walked home.
Happy Birthday, Mekko, I can't believe you're 24!