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.