Sunday, April 2, 2017

Keeping the Sabbath

It’s the turn of the month and always the sense of another chance for new beginnings and living yet more fully. Though T.S. Eliot called April the cruelest month, he was living in a foggy London rather depressed when he wrote it. I’m here in a sunny Munich, doing the work I was born for with people who give me hope for humanity. So I’m quite happy to see the forsythia bushes and daffodils beginning to color the landscape, to feel the “lilacs born from the dead land” as nature’s message of renewal and to align myself with resurrection.

After that beautiful ending with the beautiful people of the Special Course in beautiful Salzburg, I took the train to Munich and taught a workshop yesterday to 35 German folks.That was fine and fun and inspiring to invite two of our young SF Orff Course graduates to teach something (they live in Munich) and have them do so with such poise, grace, humor and clarity. (Thanks, Franzi and Michi!!). Truly expertly done and another vote for hope that this work will continue to grow and prosper

And now it’s Sunday and I don’t have a single obligation except to my laundry. Well, notes to finish and plans for the next three days of classes with kids and catch up on e-mails and such— so not precisely a day of rest. But still my own timetable and my own version of the Sabbath.

Sundays in Bavaria are quite different than in the States. Things really close and you have to prepare yourself ahead of time or else be stranded. I first encountered this in Edinburgh in 1978 at the beginning of the round-the-world trip my wife and I took. We went out to eat on a Sunday morning and nothing was open. And I mean nothing. No food market, no restaurant, nothing. I remember walking for an hour or so and finally finding some bar where we could get pretzels that also was some kind of strip club (we grabbed the pretzels and got out.) After that, we learned to stock up on Saturday.

The day of rest is an old idea and a good one. A culturally enforced time to stop the madness of constant busyness, connect with the family, with the natural world, with the unbusy self that needs some attention. Back in my young adult life, Sunday was a ritual brunch with my sister and our growing families and a phone call to my parents back in New Jersey. We passed around the Sunday Chronicle newspaper, watched the kids play, discussed the week’s events. After the bagels and cream cheese, we often went out for a walk. We kept at it for some 10 years and it felt good.

Sitting alongside the river in Salzburg last Sunday, I tried to imagine an American culture with no Internet on a Sunday, Versatel machines shut down and such. The 24/7 culture shifting to suggest that constant access and work makes Jack a dull boy and that the family picnic, stroll through the park or time spent with one’s own thoughts is necessary to a life fully lived and savored. That night, there was a dinner at one of the students’ houses and we sat outside for a bit on a bench by the river watching the world go by. I remembered how I did this as a kid on my front stoop, my cat Zorro on my lap. I liked it.  

So note to self. Leave time without the laptop, the book of lists, even the book I’m reading to just sit. Not the formal Zen meditation with proscribed posture and incense timing the practice, the older, universal and timeless practice of just hanging out. Keeping the Sabbath. (Of course, I’m breaking the rule as I write and post this on a Sunday!) William Henry Davies sums it up nicely in this poem:

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

On to the laundry.

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