"You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither areyou free to abandon it." The Talmud
I guess I'm on a Talmud kick. That seems like that's a pretty good thing. A friend of mine posted this quote eariler today, and it kept rattling around in my brain. I like the idea of it - that we work that which is in front of us, and even if we never see it come to fruition, another picks up the task after us. It is the constant struggle, and perhaps the true resistance - the battle against apathy and isolation. We ought to strive with all of our being to love our neighbors, to walk this earth justly and to dole out mercy. We were made to do so.
I get cranky sometimes - usually after I washed up all the dishes for the FOURTH TIME in the same 24 hours, or after the SIXTH time I said, "Stop, doing that! Leave your (insert sibiling here) alone. I ought to love my neighbor, but sometimes I'm just fractious.
I wrote the other day about the fact that this is indeed my circus and all these monkeys are mine. It is a thought that has made me view the world around me differently -- everyone is part of this family. In my best moments it makes me pause and wait with a little more patience, and helps me dig in deeper for a little more compassion. I can let someone into traffic even if I am in a hurry. I can tip a little better, and smile more. I can listen to a student's very, long story. I can admit wrong, and am quicker to forgive. But the truth of life is that I'm not always in my best moments. And it is in those moments and times that I can hear the echoes of the speeches I was once forced to memorize in school come echoing back and I am reminded to return to the "better angels" of my nature.
Did you have to memorize and read famous speeches? We did -- way, way, WAY back in the day. I did the same thing to my students, too. I wonder if any of you out there can still recite the Gettysberg Address or the last few stanzas of the "I Have a Dream Speech". Remember how we would all say it together? The sweet power of words - old words, spoken by young and hopeful voices. I still get chills when I hear my young students read aloud, "I am the master of my fate; the captain of my soul!"
I suppose that is why I find comfort in the Talmud - the oldest words of wisdom and comfort. They speak of hope and love, of kindness and goodness. I appreciate the message of peace they bring. I suppose it is fitting to get lost inside words of peace in a world so full of sharpness and bitter quarreling. It is like water that sooths the driest of throats.
I was thinking again of Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. My copy is rather worn, and I have underlined so many parts. I was thinking of this, "There is only one way in which to endure man's inhumanity to man, and that is to try, in one's own life, to display man's humanity to man." Alan Paton was pretty deep. (SIDE NOTE: There is a terrible, terrible, terrible movie version of his book. It even stars James Earl Jones, but don't be fooled. It doesn't even TOUCH the heart of the book). Anyway, I often think of that book and the opening lines, "There is a lovely road . . ." I loved the symbolism of the story -- that the land of South Africa itself is a reflection of the people living in it -- when man listens to his better angels, even the earth is healed.
So tonight, I shall sink down into sleep, and rest, but tomorrow with the sun, I'll rise. I will continue this work that I may never finish, and try to see all those around me with the warm love of family as I spend my days surrounded by the greenest of hills, traveling this lovely road.