Until the advent of aviation no one except for the highest mountain-dwellers knew what the world looked like from above the clouds. No one understood what it was like to peer down to witness them as a floor and not a ceiling. I had been flying at 30 thousand feet and for a second, though I’d long since been inured to the wonder of air travel, that high altitude view struck me as beautiful and mysterious once more. It made me consider what other ‘clouds’ I’d been lulled into seeing only as a ceiling, and what other obstacles have been placed above me, to block my perspectives, to narrow my focus?
I was on my way home, flying across the North American continent to be with my family to celebrate Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year celebration I’d observed exactly fifty-six times before. This year however, I felt needed a different experience. I resolved to allow myself to be pushed in new directions, to be called to greater action by the message of the Days Of Awe, as they are known.
The message of the holiday is both elegant and universal: The world in all its pain and beauty is not random; it is deliberate and intentional. It is Masterminded by –(and here I will attempt to avoid any distractingly familiar religious terms by referring only to an integer–an X), an X that is inconceivable, unfathomable to all humankind. This X is a bestower, a giver, a generator, and a bringer of life and energy. It, like its creations is possessed of a will. The essence of that will is that all human beings, the crown of its creative endeavors, also act as bestowers.
And the challenge is enormous. Without the capacity to see beyond the ceiling of our own personal clouds, we fear that a substantive increase in our giving will deplete us. From our perspective, this ceiling looks and feels real, unconquerable. It looks to us as if when we give of ourselves, we will somehow lose the resources and energies that sustain us. This is the paradox we are challenged with not only on Rosh Hashana, but everyday of our lives: How to go beyond what seems logical, what is visceral, to stretch the reach of our understanding?
Though Rosh Hashana is observed as a Jewish Holiday, in fact, it is the holiday of all humankind. Its message is that by accepting this X into our thoughts and actions, and by following its injunction to elevate the world around us, and all its people, we will be made more joyful and more fulfilled. We have been tasked to look beyond the ceiling of clouds, towards a brighter future, and a broader outlook, even when it seems like chaos is on the loose, and even when a portent of evil feels as if it’s drawing ever nearer.
The power of human volition, particularly when it’s united for good, is an unstoppable force. May we be blessed to accept and succeed at the challenge.
Peter Himmelman is a Grammy and Emmy nominated rock and roll musician, visual artist, author, film composer, and speaker. Peter’s new book, Let Me Out (Unlock your creative mind and bring your ideas to life) is available here.