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Flying into the Wilderness

05/21/2020 08:51:26 AM


I am writing this blog from 30,000 feet.  And I have to share that this experience, thus far, hasn’t been nearly as awful as some in the news media and many on social media are making it out to be.  From the moment I entered the Birmingham airport, most everyone was wearing a mask and by the time we got to TSA, everyone was.  The process was easier than it usually is, the line moved quite quickly AND we didn’t have to take off our shoes.  (Apparently, the appearance of COVID 19 has eliminated the terrorist threat that our bare feet, on their own, used to alleviate!)

The United desk attendant announced that we would be flying on a larger plane than originally planned. She was courteous and clear in her instructions to us, and we appreciated her forewarning that we might find that our seat assignment has changed in her effort to, as much as possible, safely distance the passengers.  As we boarded, rear aisles to the front, we were each handed a handy wipe, as the requirement that all on board must wear a mask was reiterated.  The seats had been freshly disinfected and there was plenty of room for carry-on luggage. 

I share this all with you not in a veiled attempt at trying my hand at  travel writing, but because we do indeed need some balance in our lives.  There is no limit to the possible, “Germ-shaming” that only our super charged, social media driven world can create.  I am not at all suggesting that PSA’s encouraging safe-distancing, responsible person-to-person interaction and honesty in reporting are unimportant. They are crucial to our successful journey through COVID-19.  But what does deeply concern me is the terrible lack of common sense-thinking that our extremely polarized society has endangered.  We are so obsessed with ever more terrible news, that rational and reasonable dialogue too often finds its way to the margins, even as it ought to live at the center. 

So my flight was honky-dory.  And I am sure there are others that are not and haven’t been.  But all I have heard through rumor and innuendo (i.e.: social media) is that the airlines are evil conspirators committed to the endangerment of their crews and their customers.  That no one cares about anyone, that in essence, they are bent on malfeasance at any cost.  Come on people!

One of the grand lessons of life is that in the face of the reporting of the worst possible life predictions and descriptions, it’s important to listen more, to wait to respond, and to hold off on declaring that the sky is falling.  No matter what side of the political spectrum in which you find yourself, there are plenty of Chicken Littles to go around.  The television news and social media industries are built on these declarations.  Whether seeking to affirm or deny them, they give them air to attract readers and viewers (e.g.: potential customers).  And that is indeed their business model, not too different than the old days of carnival barkers. 

We enter B’midbar, the 4th book of the Torah this week.  B’midbar, translated as “Numbers” but literally meaning, “In the Wilderness,” consists of a series of parshiot (Torah portions) that share the trials and tribulations of the Israelites “in the wilderness.”  The fascinating part of the Torah, to me, is that for a people whose dream is arriving and thriving in the Promised Land, its primary and foundational text (The Torah – 5 Books of Moses) nevertheless spends the vast majority of its time “in the wilderness.” Throughout more than just this 4th book, other than Abraham, Sarah and their kin, few of the Israelites, and thus only a small portion of the five books, dwell in the land of Canaan.   In the wilderness, b’midbar, is “where” a majority of our Torah takes place.  There, in the in-betweens of enslavement and freedom, Exodus and Sinai, fear and hope, hate and love, sorrow and joy, the Jews are really the people who dwell between the poles.  We are a non-theology driven people in love with God.  We are a non-fundamentalist driven, world-wide family, that loves the written words and all of the unwritten ones as well.  We are an anti-fundamentalist, pro-choice (in all of its myriad possibilities), avant-garde people, religion and identity, who ought to be setting the examples for finding and if non-existent, creating the middle ground in which all human beings, created b’tzelem Elohim, in God’s image, should be able to dwell.  This is our calling, as a people.  We are best served, and will best be served, by allowing our fears, worries, and anxieties to dwell, but not take up residence in our minds.  Calmer heads will prevail in this, as in all crisis moments.  Worry but don’t panic.  Mend, but do no harm.  Fly, travel, live….but with care and concern for the value of human life – yours and that of others.



Sat, June 6 2020 14 Sivan 5780