OH boy is the universe a joker! Can’t be a total coincidence that not five hours after I attend a meditation class that focussed on the sense of hearing, I broke something I treasured for the delightful sounds it made.
Rabbi Aaron Bergman led the class, and prior to the meditation we studied the Shema, Judaism’s most important prayer. One simple sentence, Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One, is followed by the V’ahavta which instructs: You shall love the Lord thy God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul…” Among other concepts, Rabbi Bergman drew a link between the first word hear and the instruction to love with our heart, mind and soul. When we hear someone cry out in pain, we should feel their pain; when we hear joyous sounds, we should allow ourselves to experience that joy within our entire beings.
Then came the meditation, sitting quietly aware of the sounds cascading around us: children running in the hall, the drip drip drip of water on the roof, the sounds of breathing, shifting in our seats. Afterward we discussed the emotions stirred up by the sounds we heard. Someone worried that the dripping water might signal a leak in the roof and thus an unexpected expense. Another was distracted by the sounds of the kids running in the hall; someone else was delighted by their laughter.
I have a keen sense of hearing and like nothing better than to be in a completely silent house. Football blaring on the TV instantly drains me of energy as I try to tune it out. There are many sounds that delight me as well, which brings me back to last weekend’s cosmic joke.
Some years ago I bought a delightful little ceramic pomegranate made by Israeli artist Yair Emanuel. I loved everything about it. Glazed in deep shades of red and crimson, it shone even in dim light. Cool and smooth, it fit perfectly between my cupped palms. Best of all, when I shook it, it rattled! A real toy for grown-ups! I loved the muted sound it made, and reveled, keenly aware of the tension between the pomegranate’s fragility and the clay stone banging around its interior. How had the artist inserted that little bead of a noisemaker? I wavered when I saw it. Why spend money on such a useless trifle? But it wasn’t useless at all. Every time I held that glazed pomegranate, I did so with pleasure. Every time I shook it, I laughed in delight. I truly did hear its sound with all my heart, all my mind and all my soul.
And then last Sunday,in a moment of distraction, I brushed against the pomegranate; it shattered on my desk. I heard the sound of it cracking deep inside as if something within me was breaking as well. Mad at myself for having been so careless, I was also bereft that something so small, that had given me such great joy, had vanished in a moment of carelessness. What a reaction for a trinket you may think. But don’t. All of us this week hear again the shots that took Martin Luther King’s life and mourn with heart, mind, and soul all that might have been. I have my priorities straight; I know the difference between broken things and broken people.
Sweeping up the shards of the broken pomegranate, I heard Rabbi Bergman’s words anew. I had taken such delight in this small work of art because I responded to its unique sound with every fiber of my being. Last weekend’s mishap taught me to be more careful with precious objects. It was also a reminder to turn outward the God-given capacity of listening with my heart, mind and soul to those whose path I cross.
What a lovely post, Debra. I’ve always had a thing for pomegranates, and could feel your pain after I read this. I’ve broken treasured art glass, too — and it’s heartbreaking. Lovely how you turned this into a special lesson. And by the way, I smiled when I saw the spine of my own book in the photo with this post — I’m honored!
Yep, I have it right there!
So insightful, Debra!
I love the dance between your attachment to it, and your ability to feel it shatter and leave your life.
And most of all, I love the Rabbi’s thought – that we must HEAR with our hearts as well as our ears.
Thank you, Linda. It was an instructive day from beginning to end.
Dear Debra, Do we all love pomegranates? I have a tiny ceramic white one, a medium ceramic red one, and 6 dried pomegranates in a ceramic bowl in my kitchen. And then the two little silver ones I have, one of which I made into a necklace. But I digress.
I used to mourn breaking things- that delight you describe when shaking your beautiful crimson pomegranate is the special joy that brings light to each day. Now, after years of breaking precious things, I carry with me the knowledge that objects are objects. They do hold memories and joy but they are -as described in liturgy- fleeting as grass. So I say- yup. There goes another one, and prepare myself for the next infusion of joy.
So, dear Debra, don’t beat yourself up. The pomegranate is shattered but there are more signposts of happiness around the corner waiting for you.
I think we do all love them. They are just so wonderful, break it open and there’s all those pips glowing like rubies. And the cute little crown. And the dreamy deep red. Thank you for your insights, Laya. Always always there is wisdom from you.
Love this post. And with the broken treasure comes discovery. You get to see the stone. Listen long enough and one sees the inner landscape.
Sherri! I love your perspective. And you’re right, I got to see the little stone. I was always wondering, “What is making the sound???” Inner landscape indeed.
A truly beautifully written and meaningful post, as always. I so enjoy your writings.
I, too, love pomegranates – both the edible and the ceramic varieties, having purchased a lovely ceramic one in Israel some years ago. Thank you for your unique perspective on life’s lessons.
Thank you, Elaine. There is something so mesmerizing about them, isn’t there.
So glad to know you are enjoying the columns.
I completely understand your feeling of loss in breaking your ceramic pomegranate, as a few months ago as I was moving some packed boxes around in readying to move from my house (which, by the way, I now have a buyer for – yeah!) a box slipped out of my hands and crashed to the cement floor where I heard a sound signifying that something had just broken. As I hesitatingly opened the box containing kitchen items, including several fragile items, I was fearful of discovering what and how much had broken. I was relieved to find that only one very large bowl was in pieces.
I felt a loss as I looked at the broken pieces, as that large bowl, used primarily only for large gatherings of friends and family because of its size, brought back fond memories of the enjoyable times we had at the dinner table where that bowl held huge salads, mounds of mashed potatoes or large vegetable creations. I completely agree with you that the relationships with the people at that table are the most important things not to break and that my bowl, although I will miss it, is easily replaced with a new bowl that can hold food at new celebratory meals. “Things” can hold a very special place in our hearts, even when we realize “things” are nothing compared to those people for whom we care very much.
Hoping that you find the perfect bowl for the next round of entertaining!