a new year {personal}

i heard something that resonated with me today. it’s Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, and although i haven’t been to a synagogue in a ridiculously long time, i went today. i’m glad i did for many many reasons, one being the fact that this was read in part of the service.

“[Now]

There were no formerly heroic times, and there was no formerly pure generation. There is no one here but us chickens, and so it has always been: a people busy and powerful, knowledgeable, ambivalent, important, fearful, and self-aware; a people who scheme, promote, deceive, and conquer; who pray for their loved ones, and long to flee misery and skip death. It is a weakening and discoloring idea, that rustic people knew God personally once upon a time – or even knew selflessness or courage or literature – but that it is too late for us. In fact, the absolute is available to everyone in every age. There never was a more holy age than ours, and never a less.

There is no less holiness at this time – as you are reading this – than there was the day the Red Sea parted, or that day in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as Ezekiel was a captive by the river Chebar, when the heavens opened and he saw visions of God. There is no whit less enlightenment under the tree by your street than there was under the Buddha’s bo tree. There is no whit less might in heaven or on earth than there was the day Jesus said, ‘Maid, arise’ to the centurion’s daughter, or the day Peter walked on water, or the night Mohammed flew to heaven on a horse. In any instant, the bush may flare, your feet may rise, or you may see a bunch of souls in a tree. In any instant you may avail yourself of the power to love your enemies; to accept failure, slander, or the grief of loss; or to endure torture.

Purity’s time is always now. Purity is no social phenomenon, a cultural thing whose time we have missed, whose generations are dead, so we can only buy Shaker furniture. ‘Each and every day the Divine Voice issues from Sinai,’ says the Talmud. Of eternal fulfillment, Tillich said, ‘If it is not seen in the present, it can’t be seen at all.”

— Annie Dillard, “For the Time Being”

i don’t consider myself a religious person. i don’t believe that anyone is more or less deserving of love because of their beliefs, and i have trouble with the various exclusivities of organized religion. even if you’re an atheist, i truly believe that this passage has meaning. to me it isn’t just about God. to me it’s about the fact that inside all of us is a capacity for humanity that gets ignored all too often these days. it’s like it’s not cool anymore, or even necessary or acceptable, to think deeply about who we are as human beings.

let’s not mark our new years with champagne and empty resolutions that no one keeps. let’s wake up a little and think about how we can be more truly ourselves.

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