I sat with a couple of friends at the Hollywood Bowl with a glass (okay, it was a plastic cup) of wine in my hand, taking in the music of Schumann and Strauss. The weather was perfect with a gently blowing warm breeze, my friends and I were enjoying catching up, the music was wonderful, and the crickets were singing along.
The only problem was the crickets were not in time with the music. Ever.
The crickets were chirping away, almost in a compound time (for you music geeks out there) against the orchestra. In fact, I found myself terribly distracted as to whether or not there were times I could sing “123, 456” in my head along with the crickets and have it match the tempo of the orchestra. It never did. I tried to focus on the lush tones of the string section and the featured french horns, but the crickets just wouldn’t fade away. They continued on, keeping their own time to their own song, and their vibrations remained somewhere in the front of my mind. I kind of felt like I was hearing two concerts. Yet the crickets were an oddly stunning accompaniment… totally wrong, and yet somehow totally right with that atmosphere.
Entering Shabbat is kind of like listening to an orchestra. It’s a time when we are invited to give ourselves over to an experience that can be as fulfilling and colorful and all-encompassing as a concert at the Hollywood Bowl. And yet, our weekday lives don’t disappear on Shabbat. For most of us who are not traditionally observant, those weekday responsibilities often invade our Shabbat time even if we have the best of intentions not to let them. Any attempt to quiet down, slow down, focus on being at peace with ourselves and with our loved ones can get interrupted by… well… life noise… like a chorus of crickets chirping away at a tempo different than our own.
I think the trick is to allow Shabbat to be the orchestra, the real-world responsibilities be the chirping crickets, and not let it go the other way around. Can we (at minimum on Shabbat but with the hopes of every day) enjoy the concerts that are our lives, full of lush color, even if those lives have a few sour notes? Can we rest in those hues as if they were a technicolored blanket and try to accept who we are, what we are, and where we are, knowing we will never reach perfection? If not, the noisy crickets have taken the main stage, and the orchestra is now off in the corner trying to get our attention.
No one is asking or expecting that our “life dissonances” will simply disappear because we want them to. But maybe, we can allow that dissonance to complement our attempts at peace just as the crickets ended up being kind of a welcome accompaniment to the orchestra. We don’t have to avoid attempting a time of peace because we know we can’t turn off the extraneous noises. We can invite that peace with the knowledge that the crickets of our days are going to keep on singing, and we can choose not to be angry at ourselves for the fact that our minds are difficult to quiet. It’s like when I’m in a guided meditation. The leader will say, “If your mind has wandered, don’t judge, just invite yourself back to your breath.” Every time she says that, my mind has wandered, and every time, I have to gently nudge myself back into the present moment. Finding peace within ourselves, on Shabbat or otherwise, is the same thing.
If you don’t have a spiritual community (and I hope you already do!) to share in the process of asking Shabbat to, “come on in”, my Cool Shul friends and I are going to host a “Shabbat Sababah” (Cool Shabbat) Friday August 14 at 6:30pm at Big Red Sun on Rose Avenue in Venice Beach, CA. Click here (firstname.lastname@example.org) to email me and let me know if you want to come, and I’ll make sure you get the evite.
By the way, I found that adorable cricket picture at: http://now.phenomenon.com/now/singerssongwriters.html