When I was younger I believed if I tried hard enough I could fly. I would have settled for hovering briefly, which I think I actually accomplished one late fall afternoon. I try less frequently these days unless I am teaching my children the art of flight.
A friend recently commented that It is hard to be human. We are at once self-doubting and confident, humble and arrogant, judgmental and empathetic and all seemingly within the same moment. We often rationalize our mistakes while judging harshly those same actions in others. It is like a spiritual gravity pulling us back to earth despite our best efforts to reach toward the crowded heavens and be our highest selves.
The month and days preceding the Jewish High Holidays are when we do what is called a heshbon nefesh: an accounting of the soul. We talk to the folks we may have had challenges with in the past year and we strive to make amends -- to ask for forgiveness.
The tradition speaks about relational marksmanship - that while we might aim for the center of the target we occasionally miss the mark. This is the time of year to reset, refocus and redouble our efforts - to try again. The rabbis understood that even though most of us hit the target more frequently than we miss it that it is those times when the arrow careens wildly off course that plague us most. And it is the weight of those relational misfires that accumulate to pull us to the ground. A slowing down of our spiritual metabolism. An accumulation of dirt and grime that weakens our connections, short circuits our relationships and send us plummeting.
But if we take the opportunity envisioned by our ancestors, and we reach out to clean up our relationships with our colleagues, friends, family and ourselves we may live lighter and help those around us do the same.
We have to turn toward our emotional headwinds, lean forward and take the first step. Who do you need to talk with? Where did you miss the mark? I look forward to these conversations with the people in my life. The vulnerability brings us closer.
So start with compassion for yourself, and it may ripple out from there. Start with the belief that you are human and so are those around you. People are people first and co-workers, friends and parents second. We are doing the best we can despite our complicated, neurotic natures. Dedicate yourself to being an ambassador for civility and humanity and others may join you.
Practice the art of forgiveness and you may receive the gift of flight.