I am once again making the attempt to do some spiritual or reflective writing during the month of Elul. Some of it will show up on my blog, with grateful acknowledgement of whoever provided the writing prompt that opened up that particular day’s reflections. Tonight’s prompt comes from Rabbi Jordan Braunig. He writes: On this second day of Elul, I invite you to think about the space between the private and the public sphere. What intentions would you like to set for yourself when you are going into the world? What reminders would be helpful when you come in?
Sometimes it feels like the world has become one big comments section: people are snippy, judgmental, snarky, eager to believe the worst. Although I mainly consider myself a nice person, some of the things I say when I’m driving and people drive less politely than I would like suggest that my niceness has a limit. Alas the more I look at my behavior, the more I see cracks in the niceness picture. It has become for me, and perhaps for others, all too easy to assume I know what’s happening with people — even that I know their politics — based on external factors. I find myself putting people into boxes before ever even saying hello.
It’s now not uncommon to hear people say that this is part of some nefarious master plan to eventually turn Americans against one another, as in the Civil War not that long ago. I think it may be true.
And if it is true, the best thing I can think of to counteract it (the only thing I can think of) is to look beyond the stereotypes and to refuse to box people in. When there is no “them,” we all become “us.” This is what I wish for, and work for, and often fail at. This is what I feel I need to take, now more than ever, into the public sphere.
I always try to remind myself: we share a country.
And when I come home into my own space, may I keep some of that openness and temper my own temptation to judge, in order to search for the common humanity that unites us all — or could — despite our differences.