Another late arrival. Those Days of Awe are rushing to a close and Yom Kippur, the most holy day in the Jewish calendar is almost on us, and here I am attempting to write another letter to you.
If you have never received one of these before then what a delight, we have become at least acquaintances and I hope friends within the last year! If you have then I hope that this message once again finds you well and with time and space to read.
Always at this time I send a message out to all those that I know and attempt to engage with them around a central concept at this time of year, Teshuvah (repentance). This is a key religious act, an attempt to write the wrongs of the past and in doing so improve one’s own life and the lives of others, and so be inscribed in the Book of Life for the following year.
To start this process this year I read through all my previous New Year’s messages, which actually proved rather difficult as it necessitated looking through every message I had sent Simon Morley since Yom Kippur 2011, which in fact proved an enlightening process in itself and a timely reminder of the time I have spent over the years exchanging short videos of spectacular goals, wildly inaccurate observations about the emotional lives of others and a bewildering array of overused glossolalic-like exaltations such as bananas or immense.
I refuse to call this time wasted. This is wisdom.
While it’s possible that I sent a message earlier than 2011, I can’t find any evidence for one. Over the last two years in particular the messages have grown in scope, ambition, pretention and I hope quality (presenting me with a challenge this year!), but I do feel this year as if there might be a change in the wind, even though I am still worrying about my hairline (hopefully in a couple of years this won’t appear in these yearly missives, for your sake but sadly not mine).
Firstly I’m not sure if I have anything quite so grand to say or quote. Perhaps this connects with a current I sense in, or project onto, last year’s message, that of a narrowing of scope. This was expressed last year in terms of doubt. I was profoundly unsure whether I could solve any problems that arose from the messages I sent out. While I still doubt this (and now additionally doubt I could even fully perceive any problem brought to me), I feel a new perception rising in me that I am becoming slightly more comfortable with these limits. I am slowly coming round to the fact that this limited wisdom is a blessing in itself, a sign of a shift that I sense in my body and my mind.
It is on this note that I start my message proper. I have started to think that Yom Kippur this year signals a shift from young manhood into manhood (quiet down those at the back who ask, why has taken you until 27?), and that in this process I more fully manage to perceive my limitations than ever before. Whereas I previously raged internally at my limitations of body, mind and spirit, I know feel like rather this limitations are gradually uncovering, like the Golem in the riverbed, who I am, and through this process what is the wisest version of me I can realise.
This message is therefore an entreaty to you, whereas I have previously asked you to turn inwards for an essentially external locus (me, and our relationship), now I ask you to turn inwards as I do to ponder, your essence, your divine spark exiled at creation (if we may bend a view from Lurianic Kabbalah). Our lives can seem somehow so fleeting and so endless. The flow of news stories, pictures and sounds, nearly all profoundly and violently decontextualised, uprooted, can mean that the time one takes to truly appreciate oneself can feel fleeting. But push a little bit deeper, here at the core of one’s being is an essence that while in flux, steadies itself against the wind. This self is rarely considered, often weather-beaten by worries and vanity (don’t worry I’m speaking for myself here!) and the endless battering of pressures that attempt to impose internal change, externally. In these days of Teshuvah, ultimately what I ask you to do is strip away these external layers that keep us apart as a community, and through this process if you find a piece of our personal jigsaw where things do not interlock, then know that I wish to hear from you.
I will not have the wisdom to understand. I will not have the wisdom to solve.
So here we must turn to Robert Browning’s Rabbi Ben Ezra (which I rediscovered in my endless message trawl):
For thence,—a paradox
Which comforts while it mocks,—
Shall life succeed in that it seems to fail:
What I aspired to be,
And was not, comforts me
Our incongruity will not provoke fear in me, as the many so visible crises around inevitably do, our own small (hopefully not wishful thinking here) issue, is but a reiteration of the statements of self that we make when we interact.
So I enjoin, come help me know the failure of my aspirations, help me know myself, and doing so I hope that we secure a bond between us that in some small way supports you in the completion of your righteous deeds, your Mitzvot. Let it help to rebuild our home, our community, and in this secure us against the unhomely that was last year’s focus. While this may not answer last year’s questions, (“Am I who I want to be? How can I continually turn and face the world when it fails to match my hopes and dreams?”) I now realise that perhaps these questions were too grand. I cannot hope to be who I want to be. I cannot hope to continually turn to face the world, let alone shape it in my finite wisdom. Instead I ask:
Are we who we want to be? How can we continually turn and face the world when it fails to match our hopes and dreams?
I hope in the following year, that we can together understand each better, and with this spirit of moral and ethical discourse turn to face this faltering world together.
So, to quote Browning again:
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be
La Shana Tovah
May you be inscribed in the book of life.