My elbows in my blue sport coat touch my body just above my belt. My hands rest on my computer, on the tray table, above my jeans-wearing legs. My stomach feels awkwardly compressed.

I feel physically constricted.

Considering I am 35,000 feet in the air traveling at a speed in excess of 500 miles per hour, it’s not so bad. Comfortable, actually. For 500 miles an hour.

Annie leans her nine-year-old-in-headphones head on the outside of what I think are my triceps, but I’m not really certain if that’s the muscle group.

I feel like a cartoon drawing of a T-Rex, with tiny arms.

Annie, seemingly comfortable, is re-watching the movie Daddy’s Home on our five-year-old, struggling-to-run-the-latest-operating-system iPad. The man on my right, the guy at the window, has the newest, gigantic, iPad Pro. Wow, so bright and shiny.

A slice of shame, uninvited, almost unconscious – except that I noticed it – asks me, “Aren’t you a hobo of a parent?” Into evidence is entered the iPad mini Emmett is using one row ahead of me; it is a hand-me-down from a friend in San Francisco who travels the world and posts photos of his family in exotic locales. We are on the way to Miami. Which is awesome, but it’s not Nepal.

This computer on which I type feels like an extension of my very self – both because it is at my fingertips and because of the four years we have spent together. The USB port on the right just doesn’t work. My fingernails have worn down the black veneer on the left shift, “a,” and “s” keys.

I know myself.

The fact that I’m not bothered by my antiquated electronics or the cramping and discomfort of the plane lets me know that I’m in a good place.

When I’m grumpier, these things get to me more.

There are days that the airline discomfort might outweigh the astonishment of flying and having my daughter next to me.

And there are days that my tech-shame gets to me.

But not today.

Today, I don’t care so much about this.

And why don’t I care?

Love.

Today, I feel loved.

Today, I know I am loved.

Let me explain.

 

Freedom

Yesterday I ran an ROTB_live service/class about freedom. It was amazing. I so very much enjoy learning with people about real issues – things that matter – like freedom.

Towards the end of our hour of face-to-face time via web technology, I asked everyone to reinforce their learning with a 30-second summary of what they had gleaned.

If you would like to listen to the hour-long recording or watch the video, it’s available. I guarantee that the $18 price tag is far below the value of learning you will get from it.

Here’s my 30-second summary of what I learned about freedom:

  • Freedom is a fruit of love. Freedom comes from being – and knowing you are – loved. The people who are the freest – to make mistakes, to be themselves, to not conform exactly to society’s rules – are that way because they have set themselves free.
  • Freedom is easier to come by when you are loved. The thing that enables people to liberate, to unfetter, themselves from constraints is love – knowing that they are loved.

 

Lao-Tzu taught that courage could be found in being loved.

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. -Lao Tzu

Yesterday, before the ROTB_live event, I was walking in my neighborhood and found my boy on the sidewalk outside a friend’s house – on a dare – dancing disco moves while clucking very loudly.

Why is he so free to be a goofball? I am certain it is partly because he knows he is loved.

What gives me the tenacity to be so outside the box in my approach to religion?

The support and love of people like you.

What helps me to not care if I’m not keeping up with the iJoneses?

Knowing I am loved as I am.

Love protects.

The more you feel love – the more you experience that you are loved – the more you are able to be the self that you are – the better able you are to free yourself from yourself so you can be you – delight-filled, joyous, fun, free.

 

Rumi tells us that what we need in life is not to seek out love, but to seek out all of the barriers that we have built up to accepting it.

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. -Rumi

How true.

The last line in Maya Angelou’s poem “Touched by an Angel” puts it succinctly: “…it is only love that sets us free.”

Because of this, here, at 35,000 feet, somewhere above Georgia, I recommit my life to loving myself and loving other people. Because accepting myself, accepting you for who you are, and accepting them – for who I, you, and they are – helps me, you, and them feel more free.

With love,

Rabbi Brian