Monday, 2 July 2012

On Wishes and Western Walls

It seems to me that humans have a profound preoccupation with wishing, and I find it interesting because it's probably something other animals don't do.  It's unlikely that a dog or a cat or a rabbit or a mouse or a lizard or a bird or a donkey or a rattle snake will sit back on a rock or a tree and think to themselves, "damn, I wish I had some bubble gum to keep my mouth busy while I hunt for food.". Not because they don't know anything about bubble gum – they’ve probably seen plenty of the stuff in places they shouldn’t - but because they are so damned caught up in the present and the reality of what's given and what needs getting that they haven't the time to devote to wishing.  So instead they set out doing.
Humans, on the other hand, walk around wishing all the time. We happen to be lucky enough (or unlucky enough, depending on your perspective) to have been endowed with the capacity to step out of the present, to reflect on future and past, and to formulate in abstract sound symbols (language) our desires.  But there's a particularly interesting thing about Human formulations of desire, or wishes: namely, that some wishes are more prestigious, shall we say, than others. And its not that they are made prestigious by their content, or by their contender, but rather by their context.  
So we blow out candles with a wish on our birthday.  We huff on daffodils and sleepies, kiss wishchips and sing to shooting stars. And we humble ourselves before some Lord Almighty on particular days, get all nice and dressed up, and truck our asses down to a building designated for prestigious wishing, or praying, as some have come to call it.
Now, it’s undoubted that there's some sort of relationship between the content of the wish and the seriousness, say, of the context.  Thus, birthday candles are hoped on for presents, shootings stars for romance, and places of worship for health.  But in the end its all the same phenomenon, and you have just as much right to wish on your birthday candles for world peace and ecological health as you do to wish in synagogue for the new Samsung Galaxy S3 Android phone.  Its totally up to you.
However, there is a certain place, equipped with a certain object, that in my cultural tradition of Judaism holds the highest prestige of all wishing platforms.  It is the Western Wall, a two thousand year old stone structure that lies at the heart of half our planet's global politic and cultural air.  For thousands of years, this has been the cornerstone of Jewish wishing, the pinnacle of context.  More psychological energy is spent on that wall than probably any other on the planet.  And I'm not the type to suppose that material objects present in human perception are immune from the influence of psychological energies - that would be completely absurd.  These things gobble up our psychology, and spit back goblets and philosophers’ stones, and an entire tradition of alchemy and interface with the physical world.  
So here we have a wall, a collective stone of philosopher, priest, prophesier, poet, and pious, imbued with the spirit of a race that wants nothing more than to secure its future, and to maintain its home. A structure that attracts people from all over the globe in stone dry white and grey blandness, cooking under the beating sun.  An assembly of stone with absolutely no importance and absolutely all the importance that a group of individual humans could agree to bestow on a physical object.  The pristine prestige of the holy of holies, the sacred haven amidst a world of profane.
I happened to be lucky enough this week to find myself in this presence of our object of discussion, our pristine piece of poetic plain - the holiest of holy walls.  And, indeed, never in my life have I experienced such a powerful place for placing a wish.  Granted I sometimes shiver when I reflect in front of birthday candles on the state of the world and ecological degradation, the demise of Human dignity and intelligence, wishing for a future in which forests and rivers and havens of natural beauty are protected en mass from the onslaught of industrial destruction and noise heavy polluting machines.  But standing in front of that wall sent more than a shiver down my spine. It sent a thunderstorm and an earthquake.  Here was the place where hundreds of thousands had come to stick notes in a wall and cry out to the sky for salvation and good fortune, for themselves and for others, for the end of time.  Here was the place that thousands of young men and women had died for – the place that symbolized the history of an entire Human race.  And here I was, and I could feel all of it.
 I felt the massive energy that poured into that object on a regular basis. I marveled at the capacity for a single material structure to handle such psychological pressure.  Granted, the piece that is wished upon makes up about 1/1000 of the total mass of the wall, the rest being hidden behind houses and other structures, but the outpouring of human will and desire that descends into that place is no less astounding. So I hugged the wall and felt 2000 years of Human History and Wailing. I felt my body become one with the wall, one with history, one with God.  My Being flowed in and out of this great stone structure as I looked within and reflected on the world, and on my position in it. 
I reflected on the hate and the greed that surrounds us.  The misfortune and violence that penetrates so much of our planet.  The despise and demise that is perpetrated by such a large fraction of this giant rock ball’s inhabitants.  I felt the pain that rings out from thousands of years of Human suffering.
I felt the screams of the Earth – her crying.  I felt her shiver and tremble below the immense and unsustainable consumption of her most blessed inhabitants.  I felt her forests and animals disappearing.  Her oceans succumbing to acidity and pollution.  Her skies turning multi coloured in a dazzling array of dis-ease.  Her beautiful, luscious body being raped by The Man, gouged from within, torn from her own soul.  I wept for her, and kissed the wall.
And then I felt the possibility, the opportunity – the meaning of hope and the joy of Becoming.  I felt invigorated and empowered, as if I, a measly Human child of the Western-not-so-wild, might make a difference.  I felt meaning – I felt the power of collective human consciousness, the capacity for a community to agree to bestow in physical objects immense symbolism and psychological energy.  I felt meaning – I felt the capacity for a community to agree.  I felt Humanity.  I feared Humanity.  I loved Humanity.
And then I prayed.
But I prayed not to an abstract figure whose identity is defined by an old book.  I prayed not to a man on the mount with a tablet and a ten-count and a scepter and a beard that flows.  I prayed not to a giant cock commanding lightning shocks and howling at those who disobey.  Nor did I pray, to the Commander of Days, to the Father, to the one who Knows.
But I prayed to myself.  I prayed to an infinite energy.  I prayed to the Way – the Dao.  I prayed to my soul, which is eternal and old, and equivalent with the Universal in every which way.  I prayed for the power and might to know what is wrong and what is right and the courage to act accordingly.  I prayed for our future, for my children and their children, for the generations of Humanity that will follow.  I prayed to find within myself the capacity to lead, to work by example, to be the best damn Human I can be.  And I prayed that others would follow suit.  I prayed that we might all, under the influence of some collective consciousness, be swayed to make better choices – to consider the impact of our actions on the world at large when we make decisions.  To live not just for ourselves, but for the entirety of Life on Earth.
This is our Space Ship.  And we have only one.
Before I had sufficient time to close my prayer, to seal my thoughts, to chant my OMs and wrap my wish in symbolism for insertion into the wall, I was torn away – by the hustle of the tour I was on.  So I walked back to the bus with my grandfather, and erupted into tears.  But these weren’t tears of sadness.  These were tears of energy, of power.  So much energy had descended into my body in those few minutes at the wall that before it had time to flow back, before I had the opportunity to discharge, the connection was severed.  And so I discharged with an outpouring of tears – tears that symbolize the greatness of Human compassion for all Life on this planet.  Tears that symbolize the power of a wish.  Tears for our Future.
It was time to board the bus, to go to a counter-terrorism shooting range, to learn some of the skills used to protect the people of this incredible country so that they can return, once again, to the Wall - so that they can make their wish.
Israel.  A hell of a time.  A heaven of a country.

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