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Newsletter 44: Learning from the river

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Shalom everyone

The great writer of the beginning of the 20th Century, Herman Hesse, in his book, "Siddhartha" gives a beautiful description of a river as an allegory of life:

"You have already learned from the river that it is good to strive downwards. To sink, to seek the depths. The rich and distinguished Siddhartha will become a rower; Siddhartha the learned Brahmin will become a ferryman. You have also learned this from the river."

Usually we enjoy the brilliance of the surface and don't delve into the depths. But really, when one thinks about it you realize that the real currents that move the things on the surface are in the depths.

As you know I spend a lot of time exploring Israel, especially Jerusalem. This naturally happens more frequently when the current flows slowly, namely, for me, when there are few tourists around.

My exploring is disguised as real activity, however mundane such activity might be, like repairing my car or checking out the value of an insurance policy.

In these kinds of activities I'm always tempted to make them more interesting by seeking out their spectacular aspects.

A spectacular activity, like going to the opera or a symphony concert pushes me into its depths. A mundane activity like confronting an insuranceclerk about the value of my policy; pushes me into my own depths.

It's always the mundane that reveals surprises about ourselves.

At the insurance company office I just expected some simple information; instead I found myself in a heated discussion with the clerk and discovered a hidden violent current flowing in the base of my nature.

There's no doubt that I had fallen low. The old saying "pride comes before a fall" comes to mind. I'll change this to age comes before a fall.

I, the wise old man, was humbled by a young insurance clerk who sent me packing to get the information I required from my agent who I hadn't seen for a long time and who I didn't want to see for an additional long time.

She wasn't going to reveal to me the information I needed. She was protecting my agent. Little did she know that, by promoting an unwanted meeting she was in fact placing her agent/my agent in dire danger?

I could either boil over at her attitude or I could submerge. At first I boiled then I submerged and cooled off. My sweet smile appeared, I swallowed my pride and the ruffled waters became smooth again.

Now I knew that the only way to carry out my further chores was to walk humbly like the strong but unseen currents in the depths of the river.

I still remained calm even after I had left the car at the panel beater against Ettie's instructions; she had sworn she couldn't get through the day without it.

It's really possible to keep one's calm in the midst of panic and turmoil but it requires humility and patience. These things don't come easily unless we spend lots of time meditating on the river. This also isn't easy in a country like Israel where one can't really find a calm, smooth flowing river.

"The river has taught me to listen; you will learn from it, too. The river knows everything; one can learn everything from it."

But what do we do in a land without a river?

Wishing you a great no news day. Yours truly, Leon.

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