2010-09-08

Finding new meanings in the routines

It was ten years ago that I started to keep this weekly reflection on the evening of Rosh Hashana. I am celebrating the tenth Roth Hashana since then this evening. It is true that I have experienced a number of unexpected things in life, but on the other hand, it is also inevitable that the older I become, the less unexperienced things I will have. One of my new year's wishes is, therefore, to be able to find new meanings in the daily routines, though this will preclude me from wishing to have my dream come true this new year.

We never get bored with various things we have to repeat every day or even every minute for our physical survival, such as eating, sleeping and breathing. But we are liable to get bored with things we repeat for our spiritual and intellectual nourishment and growth.

Prayers are certainly among the most difficult challenges for me in the spiritual domain. It is difficult to pray every time, even on special occasions such as Rosh Hansha, with kavana, so it is all the more difficult to find new meanings in the same prayers we repeat all the time. Actually, this is the most difficult mitsva for me in Judaism, but I assume that precisely because of its difficulty it is a mitsva, as we would not do it otherwise. I am only starting to find some Jewish wisdom in repeating certain things even blindly in the beginning.

But my greatest struggle with the routines is probably in the intellectual domain. We as researchers are supposed not only to find new phenomena but also to give new explanatins to known phenomena. If one spends decades in certain academic disciplines, one can easily get used to them and even fail to notice something new, as everything becomes self-evident. This is my biggest intellectual fear. I do not know yet what I can or must do so that everything I already know and witness again (and again), whether directly or indirectly, may keep instigating me intellectually.