Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know last week was the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Synchronistically, this week’s reading is Moses on a mountaintop overlooking his own promised land, the precursor to Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech. It’s presented as a song, with the same powerful rhetoric.
Poetry and song get into our bloodstream in ways that rules and regs cannot. They’re inspiring and emotional. They open our eyes as well as our ears. Help us to dream a new world for ourselves. To visualize, even feel, what we have not yet experienced. They create hope.
That kind of dreaming, which I call visioning, unlocks the process of change, both personal and societal.
It’s a process of setting goals. The more tangible ones, like I wanna earn $xx,000 or marry so-and-so. But more importantly of saying: This is who I am in the process of becoming. This is the world I want to create. I’m willing to ante up my time and energy to make it so.
Visioning is a necessary first step to creating change. You can’t ask for what you want until you know what that is. Turning your vision into reality also requires action harnessed to your desires. That’s kavannah, intention, coming from the deepest parts of your head, heart, and soul.
You can manifest vision with intention by surviving occasional thumps on the head, tests of your patience, determination, and willingness to persevere, even without short-term gains. Without a clear vision you won’t have the courage or stamina to last through the process.
If you haven’t yet seen The Butler, go and bring hankies. It’s about the courage of those who stood up and said: I say No. I’m putting my life on the line because I envision a different world.
Only you can know what causes enough discomfort to motivate you to act. But until you say, I’m ready for change now, you’ll feel and stay stuck.
It’s never too late. You might whine, or enable yourself, or grab for the chips and remote because denial is easier than action. But once you’re deeply ready for change, all the energy you’ve used to keep yourself held in place will come roaring to your aide. You’ll be amazed at how invigorated you feel when you start to turn your visions into reality.
There’s a great quote from Rabbi Abraham Heschel, who said: When I marched in Selma, I felt my legs were praying.
Vision plus action plus prayer is the fullest meaning of intention. It acknowledges that you’re asking for help from every realm, and channeling that energy into your own life. Sometimes step by weary step can feel like an endless march. But only with true intention can you create the lasting change that you’re yearning for. That’s what the whole arc of Torah, what this blog, is about. And soon we’ll start a new cycle, another chance to get it right, or at least better.
Exercise: Envision yourself on a mountaintop looking into your future. What do you see if nothing changes? How would you prefer your life to look? What are you willing to do now?