Thursday, October 13, 2016

Cycling on Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur caps ten days of atonement with a prayer ("Ne'ilah") for God's "closing of the gates" to the central part of His temple.  One online commentary counters that traditional view with a more comforting thought: He shuts his people in, as keeper, protector.

Maybe it's the Yom Kippur prayer that my Education for Ministry class (EfM) recited Tuesday night, or just the change of season, but I had gate-closing thoughts all Wednesday.

With the holy day off from school, I spent the early afternoon on my bike, enjoying blue sky and temps in the mid-70s. But, though I finished at 3:00, it was already too chilly to enjoy the ride.  In November, I'll ride in Mississippi with my original biking buddy Jason, but this must be one of my last rides of the year.  I took a couple photos to mark the event.

Earlier, in no rush to shower and dress, I sang along with a recording of Streisand from 1971 that I hadn't played in 20 years.  I was struck by how some songs and arrangements had not aged well.  Then I was struck by another thought:  I'm 57 now; Dad and his dad died at 77; If I wait another 20 years, I may already have heard that CD for the last time. Gate closed.

Should I feel a pang of regret? Naw. I'm a gate-closed-in kind of guy.  Besides the cheesy stuff,  some of the pieces are still strong.  The album, when I first heard it in middle school, taught me to appreciate sparse accompaniment, ostinato, and the difference intentional phrasing can make.  I loved it, I learned from it, and I don't need to hear it again.

Here's how I see it: the contents of my life are piled high, safe behind God's gate. Now I'm outside,  moving forward.  Those contents are an immense store of experiences and people I've loved but see no more.  How can I regret that?  It's no coincidence that "contents" and "contentment" grow from the same stem.

I go forward, as on my bike, stripped down to my tee shirt and Spandex, content to have so much behind me, watching the meter to see how much I may have ahead.  If I've covered that much more distance, I'm that much closer to the end of my ride. That's good.

PS - Moments after I finished drafting this, I was seated in a circle with 7th graders who encountered "The Road Not Taken" for the first time.  Resonances abounded, including their appreciation of the lines, "Knowing how way leads on to way... [I may never] come back."

The boy who said, after first reading, "I don't get any of this," had the last word in class: "I never took a poem seriously before.  I really liked this."

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