“I am, by calling, a dealer in words,” said Rudyard Kipling, “and words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” But I am, by vocation, also a mathematician, and there’s a strange yet beautiful intersection of words and math known as music.
I am not, however, skilled in music in any other manner than its consumption. I cannot carry a tune in a tote bag or keep the beat with any sense of rhythm (but I can rhyme, and alliterate, and parse the sounds of vocabulary into something musical, if still not music).
And yet, in all my years of listening–which is, perhaps, all my years in general–I’ve discovered that even at times when I cannot hear myself, I can find myself in music.
I was reading these words–V’ahavta et Adonai Elohecha–and my thought-stream bifurcated, one mind reading the words while another interpreted them. This latter stream split once more, one thinking literally–You shall love the Lord your God–while the other spun off in metaphorical delight–if God exists in all persons, in all things, to love God means to love his creations–our human family and all the earth.
And it struck me in that one moment, my mind suspended on three interwoven yet competing thoughts, that all these years I have thought of love as a feeling, that all these years I have forgotten love is as much an action as fear.
Last week we met Rabbi Yoḥanan’s five disciples. Maybe you remember them? First there was Eliezer, that plastered well who couldn’t lose a drop, the one that remembered everything, for better or worse. Next was Yehoshua, the man who pleases everyone, for the recognition it brings him. After him came Yose, the good boy, that one overflowing with happiness and always willing to help. Shimon was next in line, that sin-fearing lad he was, the one who’d do what’s good for fear of the punishment behind it, but he still did good things, he did. Last of them was Elazar, the over-flowing fountain, who’d be blunt and upfront but be everything you’d need him to be.
A pleasant group, wouldn’t you think? And now that we’ve reacquainted ourselves with each of them, let’s see this next lesson that Rabbi Yoḥanan has to teach.
Yesterday sucked. Like an emotional train wreck. No survivors. One of those news stories that sticks with you, like Virginia Tech. I followed that story so much I had to stop following the news at all, I started to get so depressed. I really haven’t recovered: I’d like to follow the news again, but I’ve not been able to since then. And like then, whirling from yesterday’s distress, today doesn’t seem much better.
But feeling isn’t knowing.