“If you can fill the given minute,
with sixty seconds of long distance run,
yours is the earth and everything in it,
and you’ll be a man my son.”
~ Rudyard Kipling, “If”
Did you see that amazing “blue moon” over the weekend? The occasion fit nicely with thoughts of Niel Armstrong‘s passing on to another world just the other day. A blue moon is actually the appearance of the fourth full moon in a season that has four full moons, instead of the usual three, hence, the colloquialism, “once in a blue moon” to describe a rare event.
I’ve found that when considering the notion of Time, we of a Western cultural mindset suffer from a great handicap in our effort to grasp the metaphysical dynamics of its engineering, as we’ve inherited our perspective from the Hellenistic-Roman contour of thought rather than the Hebraic contour of thought. Through the lens of mystical Judaism, for instance, the over-arching concept of solar time—the Western standard— is seen, metaphorically, as a repetitive, unyielding focus upon which to base life’s passing, as Rabbi Binny Freedman puts it, a metaphor of stubborn regularity: “The sun represents the idea that in the end, nothing ever really changes. And if the world does not change, then who are we to assume that we can be any better? In the end, there is no point to change and growth, because it all turns out the same anyhow.”
Judaism’s consensus, as drawn from the book of Genesis, maintains that God ordained sunset as the origin of “day,” not sunrise. Rabbi Freedman is making the less popular point that while the sun is indeed the source of life for our planet, it also can be seen to represent an essentially changeless pattern of behavior denoting a stark sense of sameness over time. To the more mystical Jewish sensibility, the lesson we might draw from the sun is: today is the same as yesterday; nothing we do really makes that much of a difference; eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. The sun is, afterall, an enormous, potentially deadly, highly compressed gaseous body of constant thermonuclear reaction, unlike the moon, a celestial body of less pressing concern.
When the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob gave us His “instruction,” that is“torah,”a foundational aspect of its content had to do with Time. The God of Jacob instituted a calendar year measured in lunar terms, perfectly contrary to the Egyptian format which revolved around the worship of Ra, the sun god. Jewish tradition explains how the moon was God’s chosen object lesson for mankind to follow through time for a reason, purposefully illuminating the notion of growth and harvest, humility and meekness, in ways the sun does not. The moon waxes and wanes, appearing different every night, and just when you think it’s gone forever, it comes back in strength, reflecting the character, not of itself, but of Avi Ha Me’orot, the Father of Lights.
As humans who have no power to offer the gift of life, or to save, or to redeem, on our own, we are to be more like the moon than the sun–if we read divinity in the heavens rightly. God is teaching us, according to the traditional Jewish emphasis, to be reflective of Him and not to think of ourselves as our own source of light: “… we are never doomed to stay where we think we are stuck… we can always rise above where and who we are, just like the moon, which is constantly changing and never ‘gives up’, waxing again just when it appears to be gone forever.” [Rabbi Freedman]
“And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” (Genesis 1:5) First evening, then morning; this is God’s patterned engineering of what we call “day.” Perhaps, as Westerners, then, we need to humble ourselves to study the symphonic organization of Time at its basic, compositional level if we are to ever truly comprehend the depth and sophistication of its music on a personal level. And if the concept of Memory and Afterlife truly do simultaneously exist in “other worlds” just parallel to our own, how will we navigate the ocean of Time to fully experience those worlds without humbling ourselves before the metaphysical principles of Time-Navigation provided by the Master Navigator?
May we increasingly be more like the humble moon, humbly reflecting the light of God’s character, and less like the glaring sun, acting, on a daily basis, as if the entire Universe revolves around us. Shabbat shalom to you and yours.