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In the air. Fear.
Part One: It's real
The smell of fear
In 2008, research scientists at Stony Brook University attached moisture absorbing pads to two different sets of participants to collect their sweat.
- Treadmill joggers
- First time skydivers
Next, Dr. Lilianne Mujica-Parodi and her fellow scientists monitored the brain activity of a different set of participants who smelled the unmarked sets of pads.
The research was clear.
People could sense the difference.
"Brain regions associated with fear – were more active in people who breathed in the 'fear' sweat… [while they] were unable consciously to distinguish between the two types of sweat." US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Heath Journal
I can sense it today.
The heaviness. The strife. The anxiety.
You probably sense it too.
You can't see it or touch it, but it's real.
Fear and nausea are in the air.
This is a hard time
Many are distraught.
Past trauma is re-surfacing.
Tensions run high.
Anger and Pain
I am angry.
What I want is not what I am getting. And, I am not getting what I want.
Those who are in power seem out of touch with human decency. They imagine that those accusing them of oppression are the oppressors!
Power takes as ingratitude the writhing of its victims. Rabindranath Tagore
Our society seems light-years from reparations let alone a simple acknowledgment of hurt. And, that injustice stings.
I beleive you. What you are experiencing now, what you experienced then, it's real.
Even if they do not know about it.
Even if they know about it and refuse to acknowledge it.
Even if they know about it and acknowledge it and then blame you for it.
And, even if you doubt it yourself.
What happened, what is happening, was and is real.
It's hard to beleive. And, I get filled with doubt. Nonetheless, it's real.
Even if it can't be seen, even if it is only a feeling, it is still real.
Part Two: Taking it
Only so much we can take
In 1996 Psychologist Roy Baumeister and his team at Case Western Reserve University proved that we only can take so much. In their experiment, participants were divided into a group that ate radishes while smelling (but not eating) freshly baked cookies and a group that was allowed to eat freshly baked cookies and had a radish option. After, each group took a persistence-testing puzzle. Those who had to exert will-power not to eat the cookies performed significantly worse. Every time.
Radish eaters tried less hard. If you had to resist the sweets, you just didn't try as hard on the test.
"Every day, in one form or another, you exert willpower. You resist the urge to surf the Web instead of finishing your expense report. You reach for a salad when you’re craving a burger. You bite your tongue when you’d like to make a snide remark. Yet a growing body of research shows that resisting repeated temptations takes a mental toll. Some experts liken willpower to a muscle that can get fatigued from overuse." Willpower a Limited Resource?
Me, legos, my kids
On Saturday morning, I stepped on a lego and I was a hair's breadth from eviscerating my children for this crime. (What kept me from decimating them with words and shame was that when I looked down at it, I saw it was the door chock, not a lego. Had it been a lego, I would have yelled, certainly yelled.)
This is not how I would like to be in the world – a moment from aggression.
But, in this climate, many feel triggered, on a hightened state of alert.
I am like the radish eater. My resources are drained.
I know I am not alone.
Part Three: Sermon
Stand with the oppressed
The call of the Bible – the call of the religious, the duty of any person who considers themself to be spiritual – is to seek justice and to love mercy.
I stand with those who are suffering. Their voices must be heard! We cannot marginalize victims and make them feel that they are the ones who have done something wrong!
The story of the Exodus from Egypt is repeated over and over again throughout the Bible as the justification as to why we must act with dignity. We are told not to oppress or mistreat. We are commanded not to deny justice. We are told to include the foreigner, the orphan, and the widows with this injunction: "You must remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt."
The point of this is that we cannot say "they are suffering" as though they suffer while we do not.
Our lot is with their lot.
This is a tense time. I must be compassionate to myself if I am not at my best.
This is a tense time. I must be forgiving of others who are not acting their best.
Here is a quote that helps:
I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain. – James Baldwin
The continual strain of the world around us is making us all ill.
- It is real. Care your yourself.
- It is real. Care for others.
- It is real. Repeat.
TOOLS TO CONSIDER:
Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer
I’m glad you are here. Really. I know this is just a website. But, if I think of it as my home on the web, I want you to feel at home. Let me know if I can be of help. And, if you haven’t signed up for the newsletter, let me suggest that you do. It’s pretty awesome – something spiritual in your in-box 40 / 52 weeks a year.
HELLO, JEWS My four-year incarnation as a rabbi in the form most people would recognize began in 1997. I stood in front of 750-plus people to lead High Holy Day services at Temple Judea in Tarzana, California. This wealthy suburb of 40,000 named for the estate of...