Most of us are passionate about something, whether it’s our soccer team, favorite candidate, or religion. I’m pretty anti-evangelical about religious passion, although I make an exception for Rumi, who refers to The Divine as The Beloved, with such open-hearted yearning that you hope he made it to nirvana.
Virtually of us have been passionate about passion at least once in our lives. That glorious cosmic zap when nothing exists but your new love. The Gotta have you now! kind of passion. One of my favorite Rumi quotes: At the sound of love’s flute, even the dead shall rise and rend their shrouds with desire.
The problem for me in this week’s reading, is that the lovers in question are killed by a guy named Pinchas, who enforces his personal morality with the sharp end of a spear, and is rewarded for doing so.
I’m from the “make love, not war” generation, a sentiment good for all time. Many rabbis don’t condemn Pinchas, who seems to have skipped his “use your words” training and gone immediately for the self-righteous knockout blow.
I think this reading is about excess. Not just acting out our super-sized moral values as though we’re the only ones who have it right., or lust’s temporary blindness. But the smaller, seemingly more trivial decisions that cause big problems over time. The eat-the-whole-chocolate-bar instead of a one or two pieces kind of excess. Whipping out our visas instead of saying I can live without that.
My teaching: excess at any end of the spectrum is wrong. And it’s a great time to cut it out.
In more personal terms, it might mean setting up (and then-gulp –living on) a monthly budget. Ditto for calories, TV, frittered time, etc. Whatever you’re doing too much of, this is a great week to think about reining yourself in.
Because if you don’t, the universe will do it for you. Not in a death and damnation way. But in the actions have consequences way.
If I don’t limit sugar/carbs, my body’s gonna rebel. I suspect you know which of your passions has been running on overdrive. You might not be on borrowed time yet, but Act III could be here or near.
I always prefer a carrot to a sharp stick. (Actually I prefer chocolate, but without it carrots taste much sweeter.)
Metaphor aside, payoffs often help motivate us. To make a change, chooose a different source than the one you usually gravitate to. If food’s your downfall, use kissing for nourishment. Spending too much? Appreciate what you already own: use the good china, or put on your dress-up duds on a weekday.
Whatever’s on your bucket list, pick a payoff that’ll help you choose change. And then, as the ad, says, Just do it.
But whatever you do, don’t be a zealot. Take the process a little slower and gentler than you might in your most self-righteous, first-to-fifth in six seconds mode.
It’s okay to be excited. But more kindness and less self-judgment will keep you on the right path far longer and better than a pointed stick or flaming out in a burst of short-lived glory.