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In our hearts


As I write this, over 100,000 people are in the streets in Bahrain, a country with a total population only 5 times that size.  Protesters in Yemen and Libya are facing off against tear gas and aerial bombardment. Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian doctor whose 3 daughters were killed when an Israeli rocket hit his home, just released a book (I Shall Not Hate) calling for dialogue instead of violence. Recent polls show that young people are open to a variety of sexual orientations because (and here’s the important part) so many of their dorm-mates and friends risked coming out during college, it became normal. A young woman sings despite her fundamentalist father’s ban. A scientist puts forth a theory on the nature of the universe that his colleagues say is crazy.

And everyone who excelled in ability and all whose volunteer-heart moved him/her came, bringing an offering to God for the construction of the Tent of Meeting.

And so friends, we’re back — after the slight side trip for the Golden Calf — to building. This week and next, we are no longer receiving instructions for the sanctuary and altar and sacred vestments. We’re making it happen. We’re bringing our gold buckles and earrings, our crimson & blue yarns, our woven linen, goats’ hair, tanned skins, copper bowls, precious stones, and acacia wood. We’re spinning, setting, carving, stitching, hammering. Our hearts are letting us know what needs to be done. In fact, we do so much that Bezalel (the chief architect) and Oholiav (the second in command) tell Moses it’s too much! The people are going overboard.

They’re no longer afraid. They want to give.

I understand this heart-based going overboard. I understand heeding the call to do something. The poem that bonded me to my spouse when first we met is Marge Piercy’s To Be Of Use. I love those who are driven by their hearts (and not their fear-laden heads) — artists, democracy-builders, dreamers, free spirits, muck-rakers. People who make things, even crazy-ass things, happen. I regularly quiz myself: would I stand with them (whoever the them might be) or would I play it safe? I’m thankful – and disappointed – that I’ve never had to test my resolve to the limit.

Yesterday, coincidentally, my homeopath said that my heart was feeling a little disconnected, that I was taking too much responsibility for fixing the entire world (and this from measuring my electrical pulse, not from psychoanalysis). She gave me some pills that contain dandelion root, good for the liver as well as the heart. I’m taking them, although I’m not sure I want to give up an ounce of my anger & sadness & compassion about the way the world is constantly going to hell in a hand-basket — though it would be a good idea to give up some of my gratuitous worrying.

My little heart aside, I love that we call this structure we’re building the tent of meeting, the place where we gather to be part of something larger than ourselves. I love that it is a place made beautiful by our individual contributions AND that it has a specific plan and vision. I wonder, though, if we can really ever give too much. I wonder about when the giving ceases to be genuine and becomes just another half-attended-to habit. I’m praying for all those who are putting their hearts and bodies on the line as I type.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Dan Price permalink
    02/23/2011 9:34 am

    “I love those who are driven by their hearts (and not their fear-laden heads)”

    I disagree with your dichotomy; passion does indeed come from the heart, but I believe fear does as well. Socrates defined courage as “a conviction about that which ought rightly to be feared.” Courage is not a lack of fear; only a fool is fearless. Courage is the ability to proceed in spite of fear; and passion without courage is worse than no passion at all.

    • sue swartz permalink*
      02/23/2011 10:03 am

      True, only a fool is fearless. What often stops us, however, is our brain saying things like: what will people think? I can’t write that, it’s too weird. I can’t paint that, no one will understand. I can’t possibly stand up for my beliefs because people won’t like me.

      Maybe that’s what you are trying to say: passion without courage is worse than no passion at all.

      • Dan Price permalink
        02/23/2011 11:48 am

        The “what will people think” concern, for me at least, has both an emotional and an intellectual component; I am willing to risk not being liked (the emotional part), but there is also the concern that there is a good reason why no one will stand with me when I stand up for what I believe. As one who has closely examined, and changed, dearly held beliefs, I can attest to the difficulty of discerning between being stalwart and stubborn. The trouble with the “still small voice” is that it’s hard to hear; or maybe I should say easy to ignore. It takes courage to stand up, but it can also take courage to stand down. Passion, unregulated by such introspection, is often the cause of all manner of travisty.

  2. Dan Price permalink
    02/23/2011 9:58 am

    Incidently, Bezalel, the first House Committee chair, is my favorite biblical character.
    Moses may be the passionate visionary, but he never seems happy; he’s typically frustrated, usually out of his comfort zone, and sometimes even out of his depth. Bezalel has the good fortune to be assigned to do that which he would have done anyway. I see him moving from one project to another with ever increasing enthusiasm; “oh boy, now I get to build the ark – oh boy, now I get to build the lampstand – oh boy, now I get to build… etc.”
    We need Moses to have the vision; to inspire us; to convince us that a better world is possible; but after Moses has the vision, it’s Bezalel that builds it.

    • sue swartz permalink*
      02/23/2011 10:05 am

      Amen to that brother.

  3. 02/23/2011 12:08 pm

    Thank you for this post, Sue.

    I’ve been thinking that I’d like to release a slightly revised version of the Velveteen Rabbi’s haggadah for Pesach this year — and also, for those who don’t want to reprint a whole new edition, perhaps an insert which could be printed and stuck in between the pages — because I feel like with all of these struggles for liberation happening around Africa and the Middle East, we need to acknowledge that the story of liberation isn’t ours alone. Have you written any poetry on that theme?

    • sue swartz permalink*
      02/23/2011 1:10 pm

      Hmmm. You would think that I’d have a million of these poems. But I don’t. I might have one or two. I’ll get back to you.

  4. judith rose permalink
    02/23/2011 4:03 pm

    I have only questions for you this week. so first off, how do the scholars explain ‘too much’; stop bringing on the gold? seems like this could be a gold mine for commentary re social organization and activism. secondly, what is it that propels us as individuals to give more than necessary? how come some people seem to have this gene so much more so than others? what is that tipping point that gets folks on the band wagon and allows a project to succeed (such as the building of the ark etc) — and why do some projects totally fall on deaf ears? Throughout history, there’s something about altering the world around you – the great wall of china, the railroad spanning east to west coast, sputnik going up in space – that captures the imagination and spirit of people. on the other hand, we have just as many examples of the flops – canals to nowhere, deserted cities, etc. There are magical moments when all factors are aligned – but does the magic just happen? do we wait for it or do we create it? As I said, full of questions today.

  5. judith rose permalink
    02/23/2011 6:55 pm

    think about the following
    On creativity… just do it.

    “Without a first fruit, without some rough thing to get things started and to show us how to do better, there will be no last fruit. Trying to perfect one’s work before beginning is a creative dead end, and usually just another form of procrastination. Sometimes you just have to get going. As songwriter Bob Dylan once said, “You see, I spend too much of my time working out the sound of my records these days….I’ve got a lot of different records inside me, and it’s time just to start getting them out.” In other words, better to create and keep creating than to waste your energy on perfectionism.
    As a matter of fact, though, those firsts can sometimes be our best. “

    • sue swartz permalink*
      02/25/2011 8:48 am

      A good new motto: Just do it. Then revise!

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