Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Psalm for Wednesday: Psalm 94, vs. 12
Note: I apologize for not being consistent with my psalm commentaries, I will try to improve on this. In the meantime, we are still looking at the traditional Psalm for Wednesday. I hope you find this meaningful. spn
לְהַשְׁקִ֣יט לֹ֖ו מִ֣ימֵי רָ֑ע עַ֤ד יִכָּרֶ֖ה לָרָשָׁ֣ע שָֽׁחַת
[verse 12 - Happy is the one who is chastened by God, and those whom You teach from Your Torah,...]... may you grant them quiet from the days of adversity [or bad days] until a pit is dug for the wicked.
I have included verse 12 in this translation because in English it really forms the first half of the verse. In my blog commentary on verse 12 (Dec.21, 2011) I write about the connecting the concept of chastisement with learning a life lesson. I also related it to how mindfulness practice can teach us as well.
However, I can't help but notice that, read as one long verse, it expresses the idea that learning Torah can grant us quiet from life's adversities. But if Torah simply means teaching, then it is the teaching that we learn from the Divine, as flows through all of us, that brings about this sense of quiet and solitude. It takes us away from the days of adversity or, as I prefer to call them, the bad days.
Connecting with the Divine through spiritual practice, connecting with the breath during meditation or connecting with other human beings through learning or simply through relationship, helps turn bad days into days of quiet, serenity and tranquility. Or perhaps that is a bit too ambitious a goal.
Perhaps the goal is simply to provide a moment of tranquility, which can then be added to another moment and another and another...... In this way, moment by moment we can hopefully create a day, and a life, that is filled with serenity, tranquility and quiet.
Yet, the Psalmist does not say that the bad days will be gone forever. On the contrary, if connecting with the Divine turns a bad day tranquil, then the underlying assumption is that there are, and will always be, bad days.
And yet, what is a bad day? What is adversity? These are words that we use to define a day or an experience that causes us discomfort, pain or even suffering. And yet, as mindfulness teaches, these are all labels that we place on our experiences. But through spiritual practice, we don't necessarily achieve the cessation of adversity, which is then replaced by tranquility. Rather it simply that which we come to two realizations. First, that pain is an unavoidable part of life. Second, is our need to label pain or difficulty as bad that turns it into adversity, and eventually to suffering.
If we let go of the need to label and the need to hold on to our pain so firmly that we turn it into suffering, then we can find the tranquility and quiet that was there all along. It was just being masked by the story of adversity, pain and suffering that our egos have created for us.
But what about the last part of the verse? What does it mean to say that this will continue to happen until a pit has been dug for the wicked? Can wickedness ever be abolished from our world? Will a day come when murder, destruction, persecution and all those things that we consider evil will be no more? I wish I could answer this in the affirmative, but I don't feel like I would be honest if I did.
For if human history has shown us anything, it is that the capacity to love and show compassion is only matched by the capacity to hate and destroy. Having spent today in a symposium on the Holocaust, I am aware of this all too well. For this was a time when suffering was not "created" by us holding on to our pain. It was a time when suffering was objectively real. Yet, we simply need to listen to or read the daily news to be keenly aware of this. We don't need to look back into history to see that there is evil and there is suffering that is not caused by our egos, but by the evil actions of other human beings.
So what can this verse mean? From a global perspective, it could be a messianic wish. It is a desire that eventually God will bring about a time when all of creation will be filled with quiet and solitude. It is a dream for a future that we can hope and pray for for, but also which me must work towards.
But there can also be a more personal way to understand this. We can see it as a call to find ways of experiencing the quiet and serenity that we find by connecting with the Divine within us and which connects us to all. May we do our best through spiritual practice, reaching out to others, creating relationships and communities and making the world a better place for all. For if we do this as much as we can, each moment, each hour, each day, then finally all of our cumulative efforts will create a place within which, the source of suffering and adversity can be buried.
In this way, it is wickedness itself which is to be buried. I will define wickedness as that which separates us from God, humanity and the world. It is that which our egos create to bring suffering into our lives and the world. But if we try our best through our personal practice each day to bring quiet and serenity into our own lives, perhaps it will eventually bring about a time when wickedness will be dead and buried.
As I write these words, I realize that I am speaking about the Messianic Era after all. But in this vision, it is our individual and communal actions that eventually lifts all of us above the pettiness and quarrels of our egos, which separate us from the Oneness of the universe, to a place where the love, compassion, mercy and joy that is the essence of divinity and humanity divine will envelope us all.
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