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Welcoming Change…The Celebrations of Autumn

As summer winds down into autumn, it’s common for people’s moods to wander down into a darker place. This has been a difficult year for many of us. Our country has become involved in a horrible war. It’s hard to escape the feeling that we have made a terrible mess in Iraq, and have no clue how to clean up after ourselves. We feel angry as we see the stress our friends, families, and neighbors are suffering because of the cuts in social programs that are the direct fiduciary result of the war. We see that it’s going to get worse before it gets better, and worry about the growing holes in the social “safety net” that is supposed to take care of those in need. It’s frustrating, too, to feel like we have no way of making a change in the situation. It feels like there are dark days ahead. In the midst of this cultural mindset, the calendar rolls around to some traditional holidays. Perhaps contemplation of these holidays can help us see a way to make change in ourselves, our neighborhoods, and our culture. Sundown on September 26 marked the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, popularly known as the Jewish New Year. The following ten days, known as the Days of Repentance or the Days of Awe, is a time to contemplate the year just past, personal changes, growth and shortcomings. This is a time to ask forgiveness of those we have wronged, to give to charity, to make amends. The final day of the celebration, Yom Kippur, is the Day of Atonement; the last chance to make good the transgressions of the previous year. On that day, the judgement is sealed, and the determination is made as to what the next year will be like. Traditionally, the day is spent in fasting and prayer. Fasting is also the central element of the Muslim celebration known as Ramadan. This year, the month-long fast is expected to begin on October 27, which officially begins with the sighting of the first crescent of the new moon. During Ramadan, Muslims fast during daylight hours and eat lightly at night and early morning. Traditionally, the resources saved from this lower consumption are given to charity. The prospect of spending some of the quiet, cooling days of fall in fasting and contemplation seems appealing during this time of shared depression and concern. The key to wisdom in this case is to sit with our sadness for a while, without distracting ourselves with eating or drinking. Or with television, excessive activity, or mood-altering drugs. Just sitting with the sadness to see what it will tell us. Looking at the suffering without turning away. Letting our hearts be broken without trying to heal. What will we learn? Who will we be after we have let the changes take place without our interference? We don’t know. Therein lies the mystery and the hope. There’s an investment in patience and pain that is the price of wisdom. Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 10 – October 2003