While Standing (Six Feet Apart) On One Foot
May 2, 2020
I have been correctly characterized as ‘hyperactive.’ It was a huge problem in primary school and It was made worse because, back then, a lot people thought hyperactivity was some kind of intellectual deficiency. (In fact, the school psychologists even gave me an IQ test which my parents ignored – but that’s another story). So, in the middle of 7 weeks of quarantine, I am bursting with energy – my hyperactivity never disappeared, I just learned to channel it more efficiently. I don’t climb the walls any more. Just an occasional bounce on the ceiling!
I am writing, of course. And I am teaching even more than I do during the normal times. I figure that if everyone is stuck at home like me, one thing they have plenty of is time. The philosophical question is really the question that Ecclesiastes asks – how do I fill that time?
Now, Kohelet was asking the question in the context of what it means to fill a valuable life. His small book starts off lamenting the vanity of everything but, by the end, urges us to fill the time with value and worth and merit and good. Simply put, what is true in Ecclesiastes is true in the pandemic. Like life itself, we now are smack in the middle of a new kind of life for the time being. How are we going to fill it?
Some people told me they are bored. There is only so much news they can watch and so many books they can read (unless you are Burgess Meredith in the classic Twilight Zone episode – https://www.cbs.com/shows/the-twilight-zone-classic/video/626428813/the-twilight-zone-time-enough-at-last/). But mostly they are just waiting for the next phase of this quarantine.
I think Shakespeare must have felt the same way. Rosanne Cash – yes, that Rosanne Cash – once said, ‘Just a reminder that when Shakespeare was quarantined because of the plague, he wrote ‘King Lear.’ ‘ Though I am not sure of the historicity of that, it still makes a good story. Anyway, I suppose that also explains why his hair was so long! I am pretty sure that he sat around for a while until he started writing. There was a moment where everything came together. There was time. There was inspiration. And most importantly, there was a way to focus on something other than the pandemic. ‘King Lear’ was born.
We are in what I am calling Phase II of our isolation. By now, we have cleaned our closets, maybe our basements, did the laundry God knows how many times and our homes are probably in pretty good shape. Or the opposite is true and everything looks like a teenager still lives there – and very well may! Nonetheless, we are in a new phase of our isolation.
It is time for new things. As the Hebrew expression says, ‘mishane makom, mishane mazal’ – change your place and you change your luck. Well, we can really change our physical place, so we have to change our mental and spiritual space.
This is my plug to take my courses.
I am teaching on Saturdays at 10 with Torah study, Sunday at 8 with Talmud, Wednesdays at 10 with Theology, Thursdays at 10 with Unorthodox for the next couple of weeks. In addition, there are services on Friday evening at 7:30, Havdallah on Saturday night at 7:30 and Teen Academy Jews and Shmooze at 11 am on Sundays. In addition, I am planning a very special look into ‘No Man’s Land’ – a poem/song about memory which is so pertinent to today’s situation. Come and join us. Use your mind and ask questions in a non-judgmental Zoom space. Make new friends. Reaquaint with old ones. And, when this whole disaster is behind us (God willing, soon and in our day!), we can look back and know that we filled with it learning, study, and knowledge that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.