As kitten Tzimtzmai purrs in a curled circle in my lap (where do cats learn how to be the cutest ever, most adorable, lovable beings no matter what position they choose?), rain drops pitter, the wood stove fire swishes, gratitude and humility fill me during this month of increasing joy. The past few weeks H-shemess (name of Divine mother father merging I have been playing with) has schooled me far beyond horizons I have been to in years. It was not since I lived deep in the wilderness in 2000 in the Gila that I have encountered the unforgiving reality of aboriginal skills. Hoping the solar cell and battery will allow me to elaborate…. You see in the Torah there are no vowels. It has been suggested that this lack actually invites us into a deep participation, to find them in order to insert them properly. David Abram in Spell of the Sensuous, articulately relates the gradual transition in human consciousness that accompanies our movement from oral to written tradition as being akin to a gradual descent in our ecological, interactive responsiveness to a more static anthro-centered encounter. Hence from here the resulting interactions are on this more myopic level. Similarly when I moved from an open screened tent into a windowless yurt, I felt incredibly shut off and blocked from the canopy birdsong, litter insect murmurings, wind branch caresses that shaped my previous sleeping and waking moments. So too last week’s hours carving an osage bow, flinknapping obsidian and flint, straightening viburnum stalks, grinding bone have opened my consciousness, muscles, heart, and primordial ambitions to be a worthy contributor to human tribe through a raw medium. As Marshall McLuhan said ‘the medium is the message.’
The feedback in practicing these ancient skills is relentless. You either do it ok, sloppy, well, in high form; there is not fudging it, no googling it, no intellectualizing it, no smoothing it over with peripheral knowledge nor buffering connections - this is real time, deep time, feedback without the soft grace of coyote mentors. Instead this is the visceral crack of a bow strung backwards, 50 hours gone up as an offering, shards of stone that had formed in the rock cycle over millions of years now on the ground as detritus, a handrill stalk split which cannot be fixed because that goldenrod plant is no longer alive.
So how can I apply this to the upcoming spring equinox, the jovial Purim festival of disguises and revelation, the parshas of Vayikra and Tvav? The following recounts a few recent realizations which hopefully resonate.
The first place is to crack through the veil of illusion, the curtain of hidden costs this modern lifestyle relies on: the habitat lost, the displaced people, the elements rearranged in biogeochemical cycles, the equilibrium challenged. Yes I stand a culprit, not guilty but rather responsible, accountable, and humbled to do as bubby said ‘Mach gut,’ do the right thing, and 'zie a mensch' take the high trail.
Ok, so maybe I don’t use 176 gallons of water a day like the average working or middle class American because my funky homemade gravity-fed water systems helps limit my usage and I only have 6 buckets currently to catch rainwater. Some figures say that in the vast continent of Africa, the average family uses only 5 gallons a day. I use @ 4 but the family I tend at this point is quite small. So lesson #1: Humility beyond humility. I stand in my ancient self at the crossroads of modernity questioning my participation.
Second, as Gabriel Cousens shares in ‘Torah as a Guide to Enlightenment,’ Vayikra is about devotion to the Divine. He writes about cultivating a relationship with angels through chanting, mitzvahs, prayer…. What does it mean to sacrifice when we no longer offer up an animal? This past week I have realized how many distractions I normally allow into my field which dilute and dissipate my service. To sacrifice my ego means I have to let go a lot of this candy connecting for more core linking which is less gratifying to my ego yet breeds a fierceness in my chesed orientation; a discipline in my openness, a boundary in my invitation. This is part of the task to hold and maintain sanctuary space. What does it mean to tend this? Tikkun Olam. We each have role in repairing the world To be intelligent, Krista Tippett of ‘On Being’ podcast states that to be intelligent is to know your gifts, polish them, and offer them to the web. So lesson #2: Hone, refine, allow gentle thorns to protect the unfolding rose; just as the hawthorn spike armor allows the heart fruit to ripen.
Third, this eve as I approached the shul to assemble our new compost bin, I saw the glow of the ner tamid, eternal light. How kind it was to have a tangible reminder in the dark eve, a visceral image during what some call dark times on the planet of the everpresent, though sometimes hard to perceive, abundant love. The abundant love allows a release from clinging, grasping, trying to achieve, to be worthy, to give enough, to hold enough. ‘Tzvav’ means to instruct or command. Well what then of this personal agenda? I thought this was the trail to serve, to help humanity, to support wild kin. And yet now it is not appearing open to me. So inside inner sanctuary I go to breathe, brew, wait until it feels safe to emerge and bring the inner to the outer. I cannot really bring the outer to the inner. When I leave this garden in the morning, I must be careful of entering Babylon – why, what purpose? Don’t eat or touch too much of the riches – remember. I go to uncover the diamonds buried deep under amidst the heat and pressure but not to stay too long – the recharge is in the garden for me. So lesson # 3: Consciously navigate between realms.
Fourth, allow the serving part to burn in the bridging and the consciousness to carry the message. Lesson #4: Surrender the medium of yourself so the message can come through with lucidity. As bubby would say at the end of each phone conversation, ‘a gesundeit and frelicha vok; a healthy, happy week to you. After Shabbas when approaching the mode of ‘doing’ over ‘being’ again, I think back to the last few decades still called BCE. At this time way back in his/herstory when Roman oppression was overwhelming the Jewish people, they split into four groups: Zealots (revolutionaries aimed at expelling Romans to restore independence using terrorist practices), Essenes (dropouts who sought radical change through internal work by withdrawing from society and following a strict pattern of prayer, work and purification, Sadducees (privileged priests who were conservative in political and religious affairs insisting on relying on old priestly traditions), and Pharisees (moderates including rich, poor farmers, laborers, priests, and commoners who creative updated practices and reinterpreted laws for current contexts). It is interesting to ponder these models today when the global, corporate, fossil fuel, military, industrial complex oppresses so many peoples and habitats. While personally I feel most drawn to the Essene path, in many ways it seems the Pharisee techniques allow effective remediation between the garden and Babylon. I wonder about the fine line between participating and remaining true to how one believes we are meant to live on this planet. Where are you in this spectrum?
Thanks for reading and allowing me to share these musings. Curious about your reflections..please share. Blessings to you and all you link with as the moon waxes and the light increases.