“The world is full of wonders and miracles but man takes his little hand and covers his eyes and sees nothing.” — Baal Shem Tov (“BeShT”)
I don’t think BeShT could have envisioned the world of 2012. It seems that for most of us, twenty-first century life involves constantly running from one task to the next: grocery, laundry, dishes, employment, our kids’ activities, volunteering, etc., etc. While my list may contain different tasks from each of yours, our lists all share one common attribute — they are entirely too long!!
Modern life, even with all its technological advancements, has left us “slaves to the grind.” Our labor may not be as physically demanding as our ancestors’ labor (as evidenced by our waistlines and the exploding rates of Type 2 diabetes), but our ancestors had the benefit of the quiet imposed by dark nights without electricity. These days, the lights can always be on, so the ability to work is always there, pushing us on to the next task, until even the sacred activities that once rejuvenated us have been transformed into chores that eat up time needed for some other chore on the unending list of tasks.
We are SO busy running from one task to the next that we never stop long enough to see the miracles, much less take the time to truly appreciate them. … Unlike in BeShT’s day, we don’t even have to cover our eyes, because our speed makes everything a blur!!!
And the key to a happy life, I believe, is to STOP!! Stop running, stop moving, stop thinking about the next place you need to be or the next thing you need to do. Let your world, your family, your self … let whatever is around you at any moment come into focus. Then just breathe …slowly… in and out … and see what you notice. Who knows, you might suddenly find yourself surrounded by miracles, as I did:
A few weekends ago, I decided to attend Saturday morning Torah study at synagogue. I arrived 20 minutes early to have time to chant my usual morning prayers and to meditate, and I found a calm, private spot on the bimah in the old chapel looking out the east windows at the trees and the morning sun.
After chanting, as my first morning meditation song was playing, I found myself sitting with my eyes uncharacteristically open, looking at the trees. The sun was shining thru the gaps between the leaves. I began to notice variations in the color of the green leaves on one tree — darker and lighter; more and less vibrant; in shadow and in full sun; some reflecting the sun, while the sunlight seemed to glow thru the bottom of other leaves. And then, as I continued looking at the leaves, I had this string of thoughts:
How amazing is it that there can be so many different colors of green on the leaves of a single tree? . . . that Adonai created this world with such incredible richness of color? Look at all the different greens!! . . .
. . . wow. I wonder . . . is the distinction out there, really, or is it in the way that I see them? Because surely the leaves are all exactly the same color of green, right? It’s just the way the morning light is making them look? . . .
. . . I’m not sure, but isn’t it amazing that my eyes can see all the distinctions between those colors of green??
. . . And . . . really . . . it’s not my eyes that are seeing, right, it’s my brain . . . so how incredibly miraculous is it that my eyes send messages to some spot in my brain that recognizes that those leaves that I am seeing are so many different shades and hues of green??? That I can see them as different in this morning’s sun …
By this point, I was so in awe of the fact that somehow — and whether you wish to call it evolution or G-d is truly beside the point to me — somehow I came to exist on this planet with the ability to comprehend that I was seeing all of those different shades of green . . . and the awesomeness of the miracle required to create my reality at that very moment caused tears to trickle down my cheeks.
I didn’t make it to Torah study that morning, because I sat on the bimah, looking out the window, watching the birds and squirrels, the wind in the leaves, and the changing colors of green in the leaves on the trees.
I learned more about myself, and life, and G-d in that hour than I had in a long, long time.