Because I Said So!: TorahCycle Chukat

JoshWhat pisses you off? Bad drivers when you’re late? Annoying colleagues, stubborn friends, or forgetful partners? Poorly designed tools, new software? What makes you lose it? Grit or gnash your teeth. Shriek, smash pottery, or just plain lose your cool.

I recently lost a beloved pet. Death’s high on my things-that-piss-me off list. Not so much my own death; if that was gonna happen now it probably woulda. But the damn finality of it. The can’t pick up the phone and find you now finality. Or in this case, shake the bag of tuna treats and see my kitty come running.

Even though I believe in reincarnation, the transmigration of souls, and high-falutin’ stuff like talking to unseen guides and all the wonderful things my generation helped scatter about, connecting with spirits that are energetic rather than manifested is harder and less reliable. It requires a certain sense of intention, kavannah. A committed, more focused way of doing things. Slower than my instincts generally motivate. Not to mention careful listening and a whole lotta faith.

So I can empathize with Moses, who’s spent 40 years shepherding the whiny masses. They’re hungry and thirsty, and when HaShem says water will flow from a rock, Moses gets impatient and angry and wonks it with his staff to hurry things along. I’m amazed he didn’t snap sooner.

Anger is such a murky emotion. So seemingly transparent, but usually the tip of a deep pool of other, older, feelings. Flailing at what doesn’t obey us, what doesn’t confirm to our desire to reshape the universe as we think it should be, can be momentarily cathartic.

I’m empathetic. I’m often moving too fast. Not always paying enough attention to fine details or sharp edges. My recent construction project helped. Enforced an ability to be more at peace with, or at least more tolerant of, what I could not control. It was a good and needed teaching.

But like most folks I’m not very good with a profound sense of helplessness. We like to say, Let go and let God. But really! Sometimes it’s hard to keep the faith. And then we blow it.

Usually there are consequences (rarely good ones), to us or worse, to others. They tend to make us rueful and sad, angry at ourselves for not paying better attention all along. This reinforces the helplessness, because we can’t change the past any more than we can avoid the deaths of those we love.

The day after, one of my wise friends quoted me a great line of lyrics: Everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die. It helped.

If we’re paying attention, we’ll learn from our lessons. Get a little smarter. Do better or at least maybe different the next time. No guarantee we won’t blow it again. And again and again. That’s why we’re here, doing this work. To keep blowing it until some day we don’t, and get to wherever it is we go next.

We get wiser. A little more healed. Find enough solace and blessings in what we have and can hold, love and be loved by, that even though we don’t get to enter the promised land right now, we get to see it is indeed there, waiting for us when we are ready.

Lucky us.

 

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