Thursday may have the most beautiful day yet in 2020. The sky a deep cerulean blue, the sunshine warm upon my face. A gentle wind wafted through, and my windchimes pealed quietly.
Maybe it was the windchimes. Or perhaps it was the heat of the sun… But I closed my eyes in a mid-day reverie. And I located myself in the moment – the very moment in which I existed. There was nothing else but my molecules vibrating amongst everyone else’s molecules, which were, in turn, vibrating with every thing’s molecules. In that short interval, that click of moments passing at the speed of light, I experienced the embrace of the eternal present.
To clarify: I was not under the influence of anything herbal or fermented. I was not seeking this experience. There was no premeditated series of steps to follow. My mind was simply clear of any clutter, anxiety, or fear.
Suddenly there was room for something else, something like appreciation, like God’s grace. The words from Psalm 118:24 flashed to consciousness: “This is the day Adonai has made! Let’s rejoice and be happy in it!” And just like that, I was filled with what the undefinable Hebrew word, shalva, describes: tranquility, peace of mind, alpha state, Zen…
We miss things all the time, distracted by the static of our loud and busy lives. We are distracted by a barrage of messages and calls and texts and God knows what else. They call out distracted driving – talking or texting while operating a motor vehicle – as the leading cause of injury and death on the highway. In truth, we often drive distracted through our lives. We miss quiet calls for attention or love or warning. Something as majestic and as fleeting as a double rainbow, or a particular melody, can be lost because of nonsense or call waiting or sheer overload.
I get it. We are all so distracted by very real concerns. Any number of things set off anxiety chain reactions, and those fears are all utterly legit. I do not minimize the burdens we carry in these times. I do not appreciate reminders like, “This is not bad; the Holocaust was bad.” I know the Holocaust was a time of unspeakable cruelty and genocide. But don’t tell me that Hitler and Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot make my current pain and fear any less real. It is. Period. Some of us are like breezy beach novels. Others are like Russian literature: dark and brooding. One isn’t ‘better’ or ‘truer’ than the other.
The founder of Hasidism, the Baal Shem Tov, once taught, “The world is full of wonders and miracles; but we take our hands, and cover our eyes, and see nothing.” Sitting outside on Thursday in the perfection of a Spring day, I was able to uncover my eyes. I was able to rejoice and to be happy in the day.
Bad things will continue to happen to good people; it is the way of the world. There’s nothing to be done about it. However, this fundamental truth of existence and suffering does not negate a beautiful day. Seeing a beautiful day – being a beautiful day, if you will, is a gift of grace, a reminder that life is not either/or, but rather, yes/and.
We’re covering our eyes. A lot. How could we be doing otherwise? But through the gloom are places that beguile and inspire, sedate and stir, places where, for a few blissful moments, we are transported to a wholly holy plane, if just for a few, double rainbow moment of shalva. Take your hands from your eyes. Breathe. Smile.