(Continued from this post. I had every intention of finishing the thought much sooner, but instead spent my free time this week doing what this blog is about: learning 29 verses to chant this past Shabbat, a chapter of Eikha [Lamentations] for Tisha beAv next Wednesday, some more verses for this coming Shabbat, and brushing up on the haftarah for next Thursday afternoon. Whew. Only during the summer do I have time for such fun stuff.)
So, having attended many interfaith events in a city full of progressive thinkers, I figured I wouldn't be surprised by anything at the blog con. I'd be a little bored by the politics. I'd find the non-Jewish religious services intellectually engaging but emotionally neutral, and would temper my reactions for fear of patronizing the Other and (secretly) somehow betraying my own tradition.
I was wrong on all accounts. Perhaps it was the space we occupied for panels and worship alike, a ballroom high above thick treetops with a hazy silhouette of New York in the distance. Maybe the safety of being close to home made it easier for me to take chances. The place belonged to no one tradition and all of them, as we seemed to float together on a wide carpet of clouds and green. Rabbi Waskow reminded us that the unpronounceable Old Testament name of God sounded just like an exhaled breath if you did try to pronounce it. And so we did, using different words to articulate the breath while sharing and celebrating its common origins.
Most surprising to me, as I pondered in the previous post, was discovering how much I had in common with these thirty people from different traditions and parts of the country. We shared political opinions, a disgust with the current administration, and--although as a citizen of the New York liberal bubble, I wouldn't have admitted it--an awareness of our lack of power as holders of the minority point of view. I was awed by the resolve of those who were lone, tireless progressive voices in their counties and states. I was ashamed for thinking that enough people in my city were already yelling, so I didn't have to. I left the conference determined to be heard.
And, buoyed by a room of open hearts and minds, I joined in Buddhist meditation on Saturday morning and allowed myself to be wrapped in a spirit of calm. I bowed deep on the floor as part of Muslim Zikr worship on Saturday night, feeling the same shock of humility as during the Aleinu Malhuyot prayer, the "Great Aleinu" of the High Holy Days. How different we Jews might be if we did this daily, instead of just once a year. On Sunday morning we sang "Amazing Grace," which always reminds me of the goodness in this world, and I marveled at a Christian prayer that, as in Kabbalistic tradition, invoked the angels and four corners of the earth. I joined everyone in receiving a blessing during Communion and, thanks to Rabbi Waskow, saying hamotzi over the bread and sharing in a ritual that had always felt a little threatening.
Even the Jewish service was a new experience. Friday evenings at my synagogue consist of singing, dancing, and Hebrew prayer, with few words in English. To hear Rachel's wonderful selections of poetry in a language I could understand was a very different and beautiful way of welcoming Shabbat.
I thank all the participants for reminding me, especially at this time of war, that there is hope, and that it lies within each of us. Lorianne spoke of her blog as meditation, and so itself a manifestation of Buddhist worship. I think she's on to something; writing a blog can be a very spiritual act. It's one voice out of many saying Hineni: here I am, the words of my heart and the meditation of my soul. If that isn't holy, what is?
Please read the eloquent comments of other conference participants to get a sense of how profound this weekend was for us all.