The daily something.
In the last years before my mother’s death this past June, she read from the “Daf Yomi” – a nearly seven and a half-year cycle of readings and commentaries from the Babylonian Talmud. (For the uninitiated, the Talmud consists of the Torah or first five books of the old Testament plus commentaries by learned Rabbis from around the year 400 onward.)
She described it at first as an inquiry into something that had been denied to her as a young girl. Rather like forbidden candy, the mysteries of the Torah were intriguing to her, akin to wearing your older sister’s jewelry or sneaking out after dark (with a please pardon for the religious out there who might feel offended by the comparison).
Over time, the process of her daily readings went from breaking a taboo, to duty and on into a realm of grace. The daily reading of two pages of text and commentary became a punctuation mark of her twenty-four hour cycle. Both a beginning and an end, the cycle of readings brought her closer to assuaging the spiritual hungering that had walked along side her most of her life, as well as an opportunity to order the disordered world of illness and increasingly diminished physical health.
In thinking through the idea of a daily something, it struck me that so much of our lives is lost to the constant interplay between the “have to’s” and the “need to’s,” as in I have to wake-up, have to get to work, need to pick-up the dry cleaning, have to make dinner, and so on. What’s left then for a quiet space of being? Of dwelling in the mind or the body. And if not a daily reading of a spiritual work — a Daf Yomi, what then?
It’s a question many of us lose sight of. And resolvable in a myriad of ways; as a daily dose of shadow boxing in the mirror, a morning run, a meditation or even a daily write. The point is to find a space — an “n” length of time that can mark a beginning and end of a twenty-four cycle. A punctuation mark that belongs to oneself and oneself alone. And maybe it’s nothing more than singing one song every morning, but in the end that span of experience represents a moment unlike all the other moments in the day. Multiply that times a number of days, weeks, months and years, and one can really be on to something. A sacred space that is bounded by all the junk out there, but from which one can find great solace and even joy.