Friday, July 14, 2006

The Blank Page’s Message

It just sits there, quiet yet intimidating. Another sermon to be written, and all I have is a blank page. Will I have something inspirational to say?

Inspiration is hard to come by. Maimonides points out that inspiration is like a bolt of lightning: enlightening, sometimes shocking, and extremely uncommon. And so, the blank page taunts me, a reminder of my own uninspired mind.

Rabbis searching for sermons aren’t the only people who need inspiration; it is required on a daily basis. Everything significant in life, from relationships to friendships to work, can either be inspired, or routine.

Of course, our dull everyday routine is often necessary. We simply cannot live in a constant state of high energy. Much like sleep, we all require some quiet routine to replenish our strength. Yet, like sleep, if we slip into the routine all the time, we end up living our lives in a spiritual coma, unaware of the powerful moments constantly available to us. Living without inspiration is a true waste of life.

So where do we find the inspiration to fill the blank pages of our lives? Strangely enough, in an empty box. When you give a two year old child a toy, they are usually more enchanted with the empty box. To them, a box is filled with possibilities; you can put things in it, turn it upside down, and stick it on your head. Two year olds know that even an empty box is inspiring.

In actuality, a forty year old doesn’t find inspiration, he uncovers it. A forty year old has, over the years, covered the inspiration of an empty box with layer upon layer of routine. To find inspiration, a forty year old has to peel back the layers of routine, and rekindle childlike excitement.

When we remove the thick covering of routine, we inspired by a fresh look at life. At times, we find ourselves enthralled by the little things we take for granted. On other occasions, we are angered by the mediocrity and petty corruption we are willing to accept as a matter of course. Most importantly, without routine to hold us down, our creativity soars because we are willing to explore the unfamiliar. The inspiration we need to renew friendships, relationships and work is already within us, waiting to be rediscovered.

As a Rabbi, I often find myself settling with a routine, repeating themes, citations and anecdotes. This is why that blank page is so frightening; I’d really like to find something inspiring to say.

But the blank page, like the empty box, is exploding with possibilities. The blank page is filled with messages, if I can only figure out how to dig them out from under a mountain of clich├ęs.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

As you know, I've been very concerned about the situation in Darfur. An article about a visit I took to Ottawa with a group of March of the Living students is found here.