Please Note: I try to add a link to every reference. I have yet to figure out how to make it obvious, but until I do (meaning until Debbie shows me how), just click on a title mentioned and you will find the link.
Thank you for the surprising and insightful responses to, “In Prison.”
I take the liberty of attaching a few:
“So interesting it makes me think of Chava’s (Eve’s) choice to take from the Tree, I wonder if that was her intention for the future, the potential to free ourselves from our own imprisonments. But the freedom is not dependent on the outside it’s something that has to come from within.”
“A friend of mine shared with me that she is part of a WhatsApp group that learns together. She was sharing a type of meditation with the women in the group and one woman responded that her Rabbi said that we cannot talk to our neshama. I told if it’s true that the Rabbi said that, that’s worse then death. Based on these posts I realized he imprisoned her. Our Neshama is our ticket to freedom. It was so painful to hear. From the depths of my soul I pray that Am Israel will be freed from these limiting ideas, and that each searching person will have the clarity and courage to find the answers that Hashem intended for that individual. May we hear the kol of our Neshama directing us.”
“It seems that to a large degree, we determine whether we are, in fact, in prison.”
“Isn’t there a bracha that we all say regarding this?”
* Actually, two: In the Morning Blessings: “Who releases the Bound,” and in the Amidah Blessing of Infinite Empowerment: “Who empowers us to break our bonds.”
“Someone unable to walk. That would be very much like prison for most, I would imagine, not just because of being unable to walk, but for many other reasons. I would think that a person’s thoughts and sense of drive or lack of drive could lead to worsen this.”
“What about someone like me who lives with a constant conviction of never being good enough to satisfy her father?”
The many comments triggered memories of Goethe’s “Nature and Art,”
Like token market every high emprise.
All spirits undisciplined strove in vain to stand
Where heights of pure perfection reach the skies.
Who great things would, shall hold his soul in hand.
Only self-mastered may man master be,
And law fulfilled, alone can speak us free!
(Translation by Robyn Lowrie)
My notes – how I can apply it to me – have it as;
People who want to grow large in spirit have to pull
themselves together quickly:
Mastery shows itself, first, in how you cope with restricted
(John Armstrong, “Love, Life, Goethe”)
Armstrong’s book is my favorite about Goethe. Here is a Lightning Bush story:
“Heading off into the mountains for a few days on his own, Goethe paid a visit to a large pilgrimage church, which had been constructed around the remains of a little hut, where – almost a thousand years before – a hermit called Meinard had lived. The otherwise desolate valley was now popular with pilgrims, despite being so difficult to reach.
‘Here a single spark of morality and piety had kindled a gleaming and ever burning flame to which throngs of believers would make the arduous journey so that they might ignite their little candles at this sacred fire. Be that as it may, this is an indication that mankind has a boundless need for the same light and warmth which the saint had nurtured and enjoyed with the profoundest feeling and surest conviction.’
Armstrong thoughtfully reflects: This is one of the moments in which we see Goethe’s view of his own life being displayed. A very normal reaction for a non-believer like Goethe would be depression – look how much enthusiasm is wasted on misguided beliefs; see how people search for salvation in the oddest, least promising places. This is how Voltaire would have responded – should some misadventure have taken him to such a place.
Goethe’s response stresses the need – not the folly. They need something. And the success is inspiring – an idea can touch people: one individual life can, a thousand years on, inspire.’
My initial reaction upon reading the story was, “Thank God we don’t know the real location of the Lightning Bush! (Especially since the Sages teach that Moses spent years in Yitro’s prison; He found the Bush upon leaving his “In Prison”!)
Imagine a thousand years of pilgrims seeking a place where someone found inspiration and enlightenment. They sought the place, not the enlightenment.
Second reaction: “Thank God for making it happen in the desert; too difficult a place for the average person to seek!”
I would urge anyone seeking the desert location of the Lightning Bush to read William Atkins’ “The Immeasurable World: Journeys in Desert Places.” (You’ll learn much about history, weather patterns, faith and cultures.)
Third reaction: Thank you Moses for destroying the Golden Calf!
Can you imagine:
“Goethe’s response stresses the need – not the folly. They need something. And the success is inspiring – an idea can touch people: one individual life can, a thousand years on, inspire.’
I am so bothered by the story because it is oh so true. I weep when people seek external enlightenment rather than discovering their internal flame.
As someone commented to “In Prison,”
“A friend of mine shared with me that she is part of a WhatsApp group that learns together. She was sharing a type of meditation with the women in the group and one woman responded that her Rabbi said that we cannot talk to our neshama. I told if it’s true that the Rabbi said that, that’s worse then death. Based on these posts I realized he imprisoned her. Our Neshama is our ticket to freedom. It was so painful to hear. From the depths of my soul I pray that Am Israel will be freed from these limiting ideas, and that each searching person will have the clarity and courage to find the answers that Hashem intended for that individual. May we hear the kol (voice) of our Neshama directing us.”
Tonight is my mother’s yahrzeit and, believe it or not, John Armstrong’s book also had me thinking of my mother:
“Each parent wanted to achieve the same thing: one strategy compounded the difficulty; the other was kindly and successful. Caspar (father) was an intellectual man; Catharina was uninstructed in higher learning. He got it wrong; she made everything right. All his life Goethe was appalled at the possible gulf between learning and practical wisdom.”
The descriptions do not at all reflect on my parents. My mother was instructed in higher learning; she was always pursuing one Higher degree after another.
However, she was blessed with an abundance of practical wisdom. It was painful to argue with her because it was unconsciously assumed by all of us that she was right.
She knew how to handle anything and everything. She even transformed her final birthday celebration into a Goodbye party without anyone realizing what she was doing. She gave everyone there what they needed.
I think I want that practical wisdom as the base on which to build my quest for Inspiration so as not to get lost in a jumble of aspirations.
“All his life Goethe was appalled at the possible gulf between learning and practical wisdom.”
There was no such gulf in my mother.
“Catharina had a cheerful disposition; she avoided dwelling on problems if there was nothing of practical use she could do to alleviate matters.” (I do not believe my mother acknowledged such problems existed; she always found something, something to do!)
“She liked formulating little rules for a contented existence. ‘I never bemoralize anyone, always seek out the good that is in them, and leave what is bad to Him who made mankind, and knows how to round off the angles.’
‘Order and quiet are my principal characteristics. Hence I dispatch at once whatever I have to do, the most disagreeable always first, and I gulp down the devil without looking at him. When all has returned to its proper state, then I defy anyone to surpass me in my good humour.’”
I think my mother stared down the devil.
I also feel that nothing has returned to “its proper state” since she moved on from this world.
I guess I’ll call Naomi and have her share a story that will have me laughing uncontrollably, you know, like the story with the two nuns shaking their fingers at her…