So I was sitting in our back yard, relaxing on Shabbos, mentioning that I had eaten only a little challah at the post-service meal at the little minyan where I was praying that morning. Our guest asked why I didn’t eat more of the delicious rich egg-bread which is a staple of meals on the Sabbath. Perhaps I was reducing my gluten intake?
No, not really. Well, sort of. I think in our culture these days we over-refine foods. Foods are often so processed (or genetically engineered) that they lose their connection to the earth and are stripped of their basic nutritional value. Bleached white flour, high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, and ingredients that only chemists can pronounce. I’m also wary of food grown with pesticides that leach into the produce as well as into the environment. “I’m migrating towards being a coarse ruffian,” I answered. “I aspire to be less refined.”
As I reflected on that back-to-basics theme in regard to food, I realized it also applies in other areas as well. Most of the movies I see advertised these days are remakes of older movies, or yet another sequel in a series of films whose pilot was of dubious quality to begin with. It feels like Hollywood is just rehashing the same old stuff again and again, with each iteration farther removed from any grounding in the real world. Special effects, increased violence, graphic depictions and unrestrained profanity don’t make up for a fundamental lack of human complexity in the characters and plot. I want a story that touches my heart or challenges my mind.
And in the arena of public discourse, much of the news feels like gossip to me. He said, she said, they reported, so-and-so commented, etc. There’s less original reporting and analysis on the events themselves and more gushing over what other people are saying about it, and speculation about popularity and potential public reaction. We get further and further away from actual happenings and caught up in blogosphere echoes.
I suspect we’re in danger of doing ourselves a similar injustice mentally as well. Perhaps it’s the California vibe I am newly immersed in, but I feel there’s a danger in overthinking our internal experiences as well. Getting caught up in classifying and clarifying and processing and sharing to the point where we’re on our phones composing texts to other people (in reality or in our minds awaiting the next online opportunity) and not spending enough time in deep attentiveness with ourselves and others, actually experiencing the here and now. Watching a sunset, looking deeply into our lover’s eyes, walking barefoot on the grass.
Sometimes fresh broccoli is more appealing than a rich tiramisu dessert.
(Okay, so maybe I just stepped over a line there.)
This is one of the things I treasure about the Sabbath. I unplug. I stop trying to change things or report on things or participate in molding the world in some fashion, or even trying to understand how things work. Instead, I focus on prayer and gratitude, on community and family, on simple things like eating basic foods, telling old stories and conversing about our inner lives. Reading a book, playing some games together, taking a nap. Simple, refreshing and nourishing.
Like having a friend over in the backyard in the beautiful sunshine, and thanking God Almighty for the opportunity to live and breathe in His world another day.
Gentle Reader, do you replenish and nourish yourself regularly? If so, what does that look like?
May the coming week inspire and uplift you.