I just saw this blog entry from friend, colleague and adult Jewish ed guru-ess Jane Shapiro, and it struck me as truly relevant to everyday life. With her permission, I am recycling it here. Boy, do I feel good about my recycling efforts...
Has anyone else noticed the relationship between heavy metal music and MRIs?
A Blog By Jane Shapiro
Jane Shapiro is a presenter and teacher on topics of Jewish history, literature and thought, and on Marketing and Recruitment for Adult Jewish Learning, at nation-wide professional conferences. She has over twenty years of experience as a classroom teacher for adults.
This week I found myself in one of those awful containers trying to do my best relaxation breathing while the MRI machine clanged away at loud decibels. That is when I began to notice that the frequencies of the magnetic resonance (does anyone remember those cool toys with the slivers of magnet that you could move around on a funny guy's head to create toupees and moustaches?) sounded a lot like some of the percussion of certain bands that I have heard. Beat boxing and bone rapping.
To keep myself preoccupied I did what I always do in similar situations: multi-task. Breathing, the clanging, listening to music on the headphones, composing this blog and outlining a presentation I have to make in June at Northwestern Hillel. Classic. Why do one thing when you can do 5?
I know that there is a lot of press on the evils of multi-tasking (the M word) but I for one find it exhilarating. How better to show that I am in top mental form, at one with the world, creative, moving, shaping, challenging myself, than to be jumping artfully from one big idea to the next. With my Mac I'm even better. I can write, check my email, listen to itunes , talk on the phone and facebook all at the same time. Life beyond boundaries and time zones, endlessly dynamic.
But then the MRI machine stopped clanging and everything felt altered. It was quiet, my breath became natural and I felt a lot of dissonant parts reassemble themselves.
Breath and soul are synonymous in Hebrew, covered by the words Neshama (yes like the singer) Nefesh. Additionally there is Ruach which means both wind and spirit.
Breath signifies life, but these words are also conveying that there is something more to human essence. A Neshama is considered something pure, Tehora, open to the world. As much as we strive to measure ourselves through our gravitas, our weightiness and productivity in the world, we are supposed to see ourselves as buoyant and holy.
So what does this have to do with multitasking? We have a time-honored tradition as Jews (literally) to balance the two parts of our selves: the creative multi-tasking one, and the Soulful presence. Like other things of value in Jewish life, it gets prioritization in time, in the calendar. March along banging metal for 6 days and then lay off, Shavat so you can enter a phase of vaYinafash (Exodus 31:16-17 for the full quote which I highly recommend.) which translates best as "ensoul yourself". Breathe, shut down some electronics, recalibrate, become not human but humane once again before the irresistible urge to be creative returns.
If you think about the expression Shabbat Shalom, it is not trivial. Shalom means a so much more than peace: integrity, reintegration of inside and out, at-one-ness. When one Jew greets another with this saying, it comes from more than a historical and communal place. It seems to me that we are wishing others spiritual wholeness for a brief period of time, that we see in each other so much more than our text messages or facebook walls can convey.A final question to pose is how to cultivate a Jewish frame of thinking ( on your terms) that would allow you to shut down the mental heavy metal for 25 hours. What would it be like to turn off your Blackberry for 25 hours?
(Deb's note: I first read this on my Blackberry!)