Monday, 15 June 2009

Be Extraordinary!

At the end of Shabbat on Saturday evening, it is traditional for us Jews to mark the occasion with a short ceremony called Havdalah. The purpose of this service is to not only mark the end of the Sabbath, but to revel in and to praise the separation between that which we view as kodesh (holy) and that which we view as chol. (ordinary) It strikes me that lately we have spent far too much time engaged in the ordinary and not nearly enough time in the pursuit of the extraordinary. Our lives have become fragmented parts of the whole and we desperately require a "de"fragging program to bring it all back into focus. We worry a great deal about the minutiae of our lives (grocery lists, work tasks, and schedules) and we don't seem to fully appreciate the new, the adventure, the enthusiasm or the exciting. Several events over the past couple of weeks have forced me into an examination of the pursuit of the extraordinary.

Firstly, I was quite ill. While a week in bed with the flu is certainly not worthy of an epiphany, it got me to thinking about small pleasures to be relished and enjoyed. Music, chocolate, ice cream and a warm blanket all added to my comfort, and their healing properties should never ever be dismissed. As I was healing, it became very obvious to me that I had absolutely no interest in dealing with the mundane; the chol, but rather I found myself searching for things that would invigorate, incite and stimulate my psyche. I felt like I had lost what I began to term as "my clever", that part of me which is creative and extraordinary. I began to rediscover it during a week of R&R, first on Moore Road and then by just watching the ocean tides in South Florida. I read a phenomenal novel, (Loving Frank by Nancy Horan-a must read!!) I listened to some new music on my iPod, and I saw Pixar's latest, which is a full examination of the ordinary versus the extraordinary. (If you haven't yet had the privilege to see UP, you absolutely must!!) I came to realize that "my clever" needed to be fed and nurtured and that I could only accomplish this feat with a consistent understanding of the need to strive for the extraordinary and not allow the chol to monopolize my life.

Secondly, my parents left yesterday for their latest global jaunt. My parents both on the cusp of 70+, have departed for an adventure in the Sahara and North Africa. My septuagenarian parents, both sets mind you, will be cavorting through exotic places with names that I cannot pronounce and will be riding camels to a campsite in the desert plains. Now, anybody who has ever had the pleasure of meeting my parents will realize that this travel is so much a part of their everyday existence that the mere mention of the trip inspires a nonchalant shrug. My parents learned long ago that life has no dress rehearsals and began to live the extraordinary years ago. In addition to their thrice yearly trips, they have embraced artistic pursuits, scuba diving, exercise programs and adult study. They refuse to live their lives through the mundane and prefer to realize all the potential out there. When I grow up, I want to be just like my mom and dad!

Now, I am not suggesting for a minute that one needs to venture out into the Sahara or jump out of an airplane (that would just be stupid!!) to realize the extraordinary. I am simply suggesting that the kodesh can be found in everyday activities. So this summer, as we all search for activities to occupy our time, I would like to offer the advice to pursue the extraordinary. Try a new food or a new restaurant. Listen to a musical genre that is foreign to you. (I have promised myself to attempt to find the joy in opera. A tough sell, I assure you!) Become a tourist in your hometown and maybe visit its museums and galleries. Do something that takes you out of your comfort zone, something that terrifies you just a little bit. Get moving and take a walk. The extraordinary is not found in front of the TV or the computer. Make contact with an out of touch friend or relative. Make peace with an adversary and put old grudges to bed. Above all, rediscover your clever. Find that creativity within each of us that has been tamped down by the all-consuming adoration of the mundane. Live in the chol, but live for the kodesh!

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