Posts Tagged ‘language’

Time is given into our keeping.

August 20, 2015

Paradoxically it seems that the fuller and richer the experience of a day or hour, the more intensively it is lived inasmuch as every moment is precious and special, the faster it passes. 

Surely it should be the opposite? We might expect that the emptier, the least satisfying our day, the faster it would go, rather like a deflated balloon without substance. But in such a case, time drags. 

If ‘time is given into our keeping’, we are conflicted. It might appear that the more fully and deeply we live, the more quickly therefore death hurtles towards us. But is an endless, miserable, emotionally poverty-stricken life preferable? 

What, then, is our responsibility or, as Holt (Http:// would have it – responsability, (distinguishing through this spelling judgement from capacity). We are responsible when we take and accept our responsability for our choices and decisions – for how we choose to live. 

‘Time is given into our keeping’, then, means that time is not something that happens to us but something in which we also play our part, every moment of every day. Here we distinguish between the circle of the natural cycle of seasons, where plants and animals live in timelessness and man’s entry into and making of history, especially through stories, the telling of deeds. 

Language, perhaps preceded by music, rhythm and etchings becomes necessary to extend our memory which of itself only stretches back at most three or four generations. Language, like time (the two of course are interwoven) is equally something which is given to us and which we also make. In doing so we both uncover and create our world. We live, therefore, in a world which we both inherit and make.

These days, though my appearance is incontrovertibly ‘Jewish’ (mainly Ashkenazi with Sephardi skin tones), there is little, it seems to me, to suggest that I am a rabbi. Neither my daily life, rituals and practice, nor my choice of language – expressions, quotations – would lead anyone to guess that, someway below the surface, Bible, Talmud, midrash, Jewish thought and practice deeply inform my thinking and action.

Over the past twenty years, the profound issues which face us all, the secular humanism which appears dominant in British society together with the shortsightedness of multiple Israeli governments have led me superficially to loosen the hold of Jewish particularism and plunge myself into the maelstrom of the present, that present in which alone can we meet “I am That I Am”, that eternal Being, the present in which (whom?) we all live. 

Of course, such a plunge carries with it both loss of the past, of ‘tradition’ and therefore the very real possibility of drowning, of losing oneself. To maintain perspective, as Hannah Arendt beautifully observes in her reflection upon Kafka’s parable “He” (see, for example, it is necessary to step out of time and think, which, in itself deepens our observations and enriches our experience. But death?