Golfers have this great concept called a Mulligan, named, I assume, for the guy who whined/cajoled his play buddies until they let him take his shot over without a penalty. We’ve all done, or certainly wished for, the same. Would that all our mistakes were confined to the world of recreation, and had such benign consequences, and that we could self-declare the moments when we wished to invoke our do-overs.
In this week’s reading, the Israelites who’d been considered impure during Passover ask for a chance to make up their missed opportunity to give offerings. In another section, the people complain they’re sick and tired of manna and ask for meat to eat. For the record, manna can taste like anything you want it to, from carrot cake to lobster. Okay maybe not lobster, but whatever kosher delicacy you can conjure. You may hold and ingest the same glumpfy stuff every day, but you’re supposed to be able to transform it into something that satisfies your imagination as well as your nutritional needs. But apparently that wasn’t enough. If it looks like manna, even if it doesn’t taste like manna, it’s still manna. And even though you don’t have to do anything more than pick it off the ground each morning and eat, we’re a grumbly greedy lot.
Where from, this perpetual desire to have things better and better? Why do we suffer from FMS (fear of missing something)? And why do we whine for more or different when our lives are abundant and filled with blessings?
Someone once told me the UN definition for sufficiency of life. It’s roughly: a safe place to sleep, a choice of food, and a means of transport other than your feet. Look around your world and see how it stacks up. I’m betting on the high side.
I’m not suggesting we live in a permanent state of guilt over our comparatively fortunate lives. But I am strongly advocating that when we reflexively reach for more, or complain about the lots and lots we have in our hands, we’d be far better off taking a couple of deep breaths and a time out for some introspection and gratitude.
It’s also the perfect opportunity to practice some generosity. One of the organizational pillars of Judaism is tzedakah, which is translated more as righteousness and justice than charity. It’s meant to be done with an open heart, and without concern for future payback or reputational glory. The benefits accrue to the giver as much as to the receiver.
The next time you get a chance for a Mulligan, go past taste buds, personal comfort, ego and desire. Stretch a little. Think about someone other than yourself and the narrow circle of those you usually care for and about. If you have manna, share it. Ditto for money and time. Do some volunteer work. Clear through your possessions; then donate to those with less. Offer up what you can afford to, and add in some more. Help your tribe and your life become less grumbly and more caring. Who knows, maybe you won’t need more Mulligans in the future. You’ll be part of a happier and more satisfying flow.