Dangerous

“I feel most alive when I’m doing something dangerous.” Powerful words, if somewhat concerning when spoken by your then-10-year-old. His middle name is Sage for a reason — no less than Eleanor Roosevelt counseled, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face….You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

I am re-reading Rabbi Naomi Levy’s memoir, Hope Will Find You, a decade after first reading it. In her quest “to learn how to live with less fear,” she attends a Buddhist meditation class, in which the leader drops this doozy: “‘Today we’re going to learn the death meditation.’ [I]t was important to see that we could die at any moment.” The teacher proceeds to list many ways they might die that very day — aneurism, car crash, choking on their post-meditation lunch.

This caused her initial panic, but then Rabbi Levy writes, “Embracing a death sentence was extraordinarily liberating. Small-level fears were beginning to seem inconsequential and irrelevant. I felt free to take risks and to speak my mind. I was more open to change and to trying new things.” Just like my son had known.

“I am not afraid” — words from the Yom Kippur liturgy, Adonai Li — lodged in my head this week. I found myself reverting to an old way to process feelings: I wrote a poem. I am no poet (just ask my cringe-y teenage journal). And I had no intention of sharing it with anyone, let alone everyone. But as Rabbi Levy spoke to me from pages written years ago: Liberate yourself. Take risks. Try new things. A poem may not be the kind of danger my son had in mind those years ago, but going beyond one’s comfort zone can take many shapes. This week, maybe find a way to exceed one of yours?

I am not afraid
of death
I know people who live there

To be clear
(Whomever may be listening)
I am in no rush

Whenever I get there
(early or late)
The party is in full swing
The sounds of a shindig
Favorite songs and longed-for voices
Laughing!

The unmistakable hush
as the guests pause to look
who is arriving
The rush to embrace
The loving reunion.

9 thoughts on “Dangerous

  1. Lovely! And as I and your parents, belonging to the same generation, get closer when we will be encountering our own deaths, and the deaths of family and friends, the words ring true, even for me who doesn’t believe there is an afterlife. But I want there to be one.

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