Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Message to My Students...

Poetic Paradox

" Mizmor shir chanukat habayit--A psalm, a poem, of Chanuka for the home"

Life is poetry.
It can be inspiring or boring.
You can run through it and ignore its complexity and majesty,
or you can slow down to analyze, appreciate--internalize the countless and timeless messages.

Poetry is not a four letter word. It is not unreachable; it can belong to all of us.
When I was a kid I never read a book! I confess, I was more into sports, hanging out, TV, and socialization.

I never stopped to consider the poetry of my existence; the rhythmic movements of my body; the consistent inconsistency of my day; the irony, symmetry, inclusios and dramatic events of my life.
I just lived monotonously, day by day. What a waste!

Imagine if I had sensed it then. If I had perspective then, during my youth, during the vitality of my incipient existence... I might have been infused with creativity, expanded horizons, engaged my spirit on higher levels, connected with so many more ebullient souls--I would have soared.


Or, perhaps I would have nevertheless been depressed. Perhaps all that multi-dimensional self-expression would have rendered me lonely, distant, introverted. Maybe too much cerebral activity would have suffocated me; too much creativity would have left me ungrounded; too much self-exploration would have inhibited my social networking. Perhaps in the end I would have sunk into a deep despair.

Oh boy, I made a mess. I have self-contradicted!

That's poetry for you. Two readings, two interpretive experiences, but one text, one life.

Which reading is truer? Herein lays the beauty of the poet. Both are true. Both endure, both inspire. A poem is worthless and meaningless without the corroborating reader; without our imagination as we partner with the psalmist and create something new. Through reading and interpreting, the words take on meaning, the ideas materialize, our metaphysical notions morph into reality! Cool.

Machon Maayan, the beautiful poetic idea, doesn’t exist without each young woman who walks through its doors. You enter and embark on a journey that is yours and ours. Together we dream, interpret, internalize and turn that amorphous idea into a reality. A reality which we hope will last you and us a lifetime.

What does this all have to do with King David and a poem on the Chanuka of his house? Ask my Poetry of Prayer girls and they will tell you that what defines David is not his consistent, measured, anticipated message; on the contrary, he exudes a roller coaster of emotions towards himself, his God, his people. He sings in praise and moans in despair (sometimes in the same verse!); he leaps with the confidence of a new dawn, and recoils in the fear of a stormy, darkened night. He congratulates and excoriates himself at the same time, and that's okay.

A barrel of contradictions? Yes! But entirely and expectantly human!

What do we celebrate about Chanuka? Perfection? Completion? Consistency?
No and no! It is about light in the midst of darkness, a surge of holiness amidst the profane; majestic nobility and a synthesis of spirit and law, only to last for a fleeting moment in the great abyss we call our history. It teaches us to strive for the poetic in our mundane lives, to take a moment to meditate on the flickering fire which, like our own silhouetted souls, glances upwards towards the divine.

Happy Chanuka.