Last night I dreamed I was standing on the shore of an ocean, but the waves lapping up were made of people rather than water. I watched a brightly-colored stew of bodies wriggling back and forth in a most friendly and amusing fashion, teasing at my feet and inviting me to jump in and swim.
I really wanted to—the sun was big and yellow, and my bare feet burned in the sand—but as much as I imagined the joy of diving into that cool sea of faces, I was afraid I’d disappear and become anonymous, lost in the crowd. That I would never again be noticed.
I woke up and thought of this blog. I enjoy the freedom and safety of revealing myself while also hidden, but sometimes wonder how I might feel if more public with my observations. But I am not yet ready to dive into all those people, nice as I know they will be. I still need to remain apart, if only to keep my identity, which I am still figuring out even after all these years, safe within my own mind. Maybe I'm tentative because I know freedom quite well--I open so much of myself when I sing and pray--and it is both exhilarating and frightening.
The tension between being hidden and revealed is a very Jewish one. I was reminded of the Mishkan (tabernacle) that we've been reading about for the last few parshiot. Its beautiful adornments--golden poles, bells and pomegranates, priests in glorious linens and jeweled breastplates--are visible to all, but the most holy part, the Kodesh Hakodashim, is hidden from sight. The Aron, the Ark, that houses Torah scrolls at a synagogue, is also veiled with a curtain until the moment its words are uttered to the congregation. The truest parts of our stories and ourselves resist being revealed, and also need to be protected.
(I write this at the JTS Library, which I finally summoned the chutzpah to enter. It's very quiet, save for the hum of an air conditioner and click of neighboring keyboards. I'm sitting in an easy chair by a big window, looking past tall apartment buildings to a sliver of Harlem in the distance. What is everyone in those homes doing on this calm Sunday, I wonder? This is far, far better than Starbucks. If ever I decide to write a book I would do it here, in the company of thousands of years of Jewish wisdom.)