If something doesn’t get you by surprise, catch your breath and drop your jaw at least once a day, you’re either not paying attention of you’re way too busy.
How long has it been since you sat by a river with no agenda? Not waiting for anything to happen – no sense of urgency or purpose – no notion of religio/spirito meditation – just watching the flow. Vegging out on the bank. If you haven’t done it lately, I encourage it.
After sitting there for only a few minutes, your thoughts and emotions take the hint from the river and begin to flow. Random thoughts, monkey thoughts swinging from memory to consciousness and back again. You breathe and feel yourself submerging into the moment.
Then, sometimes, out in the water just a few yards off, there’s swirl. A ripple. A little water dance that wasn’t there just a minute ago. And, if you’re like me, when that happens, all your monkey thoughts screech to a halt – do a freeze frame – in mid-swing. Your breath even stops for an instant. And, for the teeniest nanno-second, all your attention gets focused on the goofy little river ruffle. Was it a fish? A snake? A turtle? A bubble from the bottom? From a bloated body in concrete boots?
The darkness of the river obscures whatever it was; and now the river flows over it and instantly erases all traces of the ripple. As if it never happened. You scan the river, but see nothing unusual. You can’t even remember where the ripple was to begin with. You wonder if you really saw anything. You wonder if your imagination is messing with you. Or the river is messing with you. Or if last night’s brownies weren’t as innocent as you thought. You wonder. That’s the point: you wonder.
And maybe that’s what God had in mind with the inspiration for Hanukah and Christmas: to bring a sense of wonder back into the world for us stodgy, opinionated, routine-driven human hair-bags. Maybe the Holy One had had it up to its divine dimples with our rules and regulations, with our work-work-work, worry-worry-worry, war-war-war, want-want-want mentality. Maybe The Holy One woke up one day and said, “Whoa, Sweetcakes! Did you bozos forget that there’s magic going on right in front of your little religious noses – even in your little religious noses – and you’re missing the whole show? The whole thing’s magic: getting born and dying, not to mention tasting, seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, smirking, smiling and smooching. The magic of good loving and great music. The magic of children, chilies and cha-cha. The magic of simply being alive in this magical river of life.”
The ripple of an oil lamp burning for eight days with barely enough oil to sauté an anchovy, is hardly an earth-shaking event. The ripple of a teen-aged mom giving birth to a love child in Bethlehem, surrounded by a confused fiancé, a cow, a donkey, a few wacked-out shepherds and three star-struck camel-riders, didn’t get a bit of press. Both events came and went in an instant, before almost anybody even noticed. But, those who did, told and retold the story. Embellished it, no doubt. (Storytellers always do.) But the ripples of that simple oil lamp and humble birth has caused countless folks through the ages to catch their breath and get caught up in the possibility that there’s more going on here than meets the eye. And with this rippling, heart-stopping wonder emerges a hope, or even an expectation that love, peace, joy, anything is possible.