On the Road Again: TorahCycle Bamidbar

vayetze 2013We’re used to measuring. We experience both excess and scarcity, but tend to think more of good things will make us happier and help dim the annoyances of daily life. That’s true about love, but when we feed our lust for chocolate, drugs, and other cravings, less would be a better path.

We count our lives in days and years, though the things we remember best are moments: the first bite, not the twentieth. We measure by future events that may never happen, and from past ones that may be old baggage it’s time to set by the side of the road.

How do we decide what’s the right road, and what to bring along? What does experience teach us, and what’re we still struggling to learn? What’s buried in the creases of those old maps we keep folding and unfolding, trying to find our way?

When I was a kid, my wise mother had a simple dessert rule: one cuts, the other chooses. So much energy to get the bigger piece of cake, when learning to skip sugar would’ve been the better lesson.

How do we change? Are behavior and identity fixed? I’d like to think not, though believe we’re each in this wilderness to experience unique lessons, ones that are built into our karmic DNA. We are capable of learning them. Even my auto-correct (as befouled as it sometimes make things), has acquired an elegant mystical vocabulary through repeated word use. Maybe we too can grow, albeit slowly.

In ancient tribes roles were assigned, and fixed for life. Do your family of origin stories still define you? If not, how do you find or make your own tribe?

In Alice Hoffman’s new novel The Museum of Extraordinary Things, the two central characters make their way in a dark world. Each carries serious burdens, complicated by complex feelings for family, mentors, and friends. It’s a fascinating, sad, and ultimately redemptive book that navigates a landscape of incredible beauty and harshness in early 20th-century America. Hoffman raises important questions about what separates us and what pulls us towards one another.

Who are your inner tribes? If you took a census, as this week’s reading does, what parts of you would guard the innermost sanctuary and which would be on the fringes? Are you more often fierce or holy, impetuous or wise? Who are you to yourself, and who to others? How much do you share, and what do you keep hidden away? Why?

This journey is all about becoming. We are at the beginning of book four. Bamidbar. In the wilderness. What better time and place to figure out who you are and who you are becoming.

I just turned 65. Cheers for aging and wisdom. Sighs for creaky knees, and the sins of youth come home to roost. This is still a long road, I hope, learning lessons all the time. The more we trek through these passages, the more familiar the wilderness becomes. It’s never the same journey one day to the next. Our job is to keep putting one foot in front of the other, learning ourselves along the way.

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