Friday, September 02, 2016

Permission to Speed?

The goal of this blog is to slow everybody down for a few minutes. Please share.
Wishing Yisrael ben Sarah a speedy recovery from his surgery.

speed-limit-snailFollowing last week's story about the greatest Olympian (thanks for all of the positive feedback), here are four speed vignettes that all happened this week, leading to one vital question for your table.

1. A couple days ago, my wife is driving with our six-year-old on a city street where most drivers see the 30 MPH speed limit as a mere suggestion. If you drive 30, you will typically find someone tail-gating you, and everyone else racing past you as if you were standing still.

Maybe they like to get to the next red light quickly so they have more time to check their messages.

So out of the blue, our daughter says, "Mommy, you know you are allowed to speed here."

Oy, Mommy thinks, she's learning by example.

"How do you know that?"

"Because I saw a sign, it said, 'speed'!"

2. I myself was driving on a highway this week with someone who didn't like that I was going the speed limit, telling me that I am required to stay with the flow of traffic, even if it's over the speed limit.

(Not everyone agrees. The thrust of this discussion seems to conclude that it makes sense, but not sound legal advice. These guys all seem to agree that although many people do it, it's still illegal. But here we learn that the law varies by state.)

3. Somebody tells me yesterday that he has so little on his agenda, he doesn't know what to do. Not busy enough.

4. In the airport this week, we find ourselves sitting opposite a Tibetan monk. The kids are fascinated. One asks, "Why is he wearing a dress?"

His travel companion gives him a slice of pizza, which he places on his lap and meditates for a full five minutes before eating it.

That's pretty impressive. When we say a beracha, it might take us five seconds. Five minutes is major-league spirituality.

Now, after he finishes meditating, there is no outward indication that he is eating his pizza any differently than anyone else. Perhaps that's the point. Perhaps his meditation was all about not experiencing the pizza. Perhaps he's having an incredible experience of nothingness.

(It is interesting that many versions of Buddhist "mindful eating" do not seem to care about the taste of the food. See this Tibetan buddhist nun, this woman who attended a Triartna Buddhism retreat. According to this Theravadic monk, it is wrong to eat "for pleasure". Yet Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh demurs.

So now for this week's question:

Let's go back to the Jewish version of pre-eating meditation, the bracha. The Talmud says that saying a bracha is a way of "paying" for the food. I may own it legally, but I don't have an ethical right to consume it until I say, "Wow, thank you."

But is it enough to say, "Wow, thank you" before I eat? Even if I say it with tremendous feeling?

Hos should the wow-thanks affect how I eat?

What say you and your table-mates?

Shabbat Shalom
PS - Here's a secular book with some practical wisdom on mindful eating. Here's a Jewish-oriented book with the same.

PPS - If you are thinking about Rosh Hashana gifts for any teacher, try
our unique online resource for people like you.

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