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Silent Dove

Psalm 56

Set to “The Silent Dove in the Distance”.

9 (8) You have kept count of my wanderings;
store my tears in your water-skin —
aren’t they already recorded in your book?

Distracted by the superscription— musing over what a tune called “The Silent Dove in the Distance” might sound like.

Leviticus 16:1-19

Then Aharon is to cast lots for the two goats, one lot for Adonai and the other for ‘Az’azel. Aharon is to present the goat whose lot fell to Adonai and offer it as a sin offering. 10 But the goat whose lot fell to ‘Az’azel is to be presented alive to Adonai to be used for making atonement over it by sending it away into the desert for ‘Az’azel.

Why two goats— one that lets us kill our sins, and one that lets us send our sins away into the wilderness? I don’t think there are two kinds of sins, though. I think that there are two methods of sinning or two means by which we sin: one in which our most apt response to sin would be that of sacrifice; of surrender; of severing, and one in which our most apt response would be that of flight; of leave-taking; of banishment.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

15…. we who remain alive when the Lord comes will certainly not take precedence over those who have died.

I don’t like the linear timeline that results in the kind of concept often jokingly referred to as “Pie in the Sky By-and-By”. On the other hand……. as I bounced sideways off of this reading, in a paraphrastic but useful way I hope, I tried this: “What remains alive when the Lord comes will not take precedence over what has died.” I can hear old man Zen clearing his throat over there in the corner, right about now. There’s a Zen koan about that, you know:  ”Dead or Alive? — I won’t say; I won’t say!”

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 (Matthew 6:1-18)

(I always read the omitted verses whenever the reading has been redacted by the anonymous editors of the Lectionary….)

But you, when you do tzedakah, don’t even let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Then your tzedakah will be in secret; and your Father, who sees what you do in secret, will reward you.

(7 “And when you pray, don’t babble on and on like the pagans, who think God will hear them better if they talk a lot. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows what you need before you ask him. You, therefore, pray like this:)

“Maimonides says that, while the second highest form of tzedakah is to give donations anonymously to unknown recipients, the highest form is to give a gift, loan, or partnership that will result in the recipient supporting himself instead of living upon others.” (Quote from Wikipedia article on tzedakah.)

It helps me to imagine that all of my efforts over the past two and a half years have been the highest form of tzedakah. Whether or not I understand what’s going on; regardless of how much misery I’m in at the present moment; I know for certain that my intentions have always been clear— to hold a space for my friend to find her own freedom and autonomy without any need to co-opt or appropriate my ideas and choices in place of her own. If I think of my task as that of being the guardian and custodian of a clear space; a space empty of all expectations, entanglements, assumptions and dependencies, then I can see how the present state of affairs came about.

If someone has exhausted every means available of creating and maintaining a co-dependent, entangled relationship, and this person suddenly realizes that this is what they have been attempting to do— well, then, I can see how that person might make every effort to sever all connection with the person who has been the target of all those attempts at enmeshment.

I can see how imperative the need for separation might be in such circumstances, and how impossible it would be for the person engaged in such a strenuous process of individuation to make any effort to consider the other person’s feelings. I can also understand how it might feel as if it’s necessary to refuse to interact with, or even speak to the other person.

Of course, I know that this understanding of what is happening might be entirely off-base, but I can’t see any harm in proceeding as if it were true. It helps me keep my balance, and it opens a channel for compassion…not just for her, but for myself. It allows good-will to unfold in that same empty space.

I’ll just imagine this:

the Goat of Leaving belongs to her,

and the Goat of Sacrifice belongs to me.

Her goat will wander away into the wilderness

to find a divine cliff from which to take flight,

while my goat remains behind in this holy space

to practice the art of surrender.

Dead or alive, I can go along with that—

especially if this touching scene plays out

to the tune of “The Silent Dove in the Distance”.

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