Samain Joe and SeoAh Moon
Fed the dogs at 4 a.m. today. Didn’t mean to, but the ever interesting saving of daylight rendered it so. We’ve stopped saving daytime as of 2 a.m. this morning, so I’m up an hour “earlier.” I will say no more. Longtime readers of this blog know my feelings. I’m glad we’re back to standard time.
The Joe and SeoAh moon is high in the south, over Black Mountain, hanging above and to the right of Orion’s still visible left shoulder (his left). That’s one reason I’m glad to be up this early. I can see the dark sky and the wonders that it holds.
Mussar works with the idea of a soul curriculum. This old Jewish system of character development, as I’ve said here before, works with middah, or character traits, for example: awareness (watchfulness, accounting for the soul), gratitude, joy, humility, loving kindness, honor, truth, awe. (for one full list see). A soul curriculum encourages the practitioner to find those traits which are already strengths and to build on those while identifying the traits that are less well developed for more work. (an example, not mine)
In my case awe, truth and awareness are traits I count as strengths. That doesn’t mean they’re automatic or always available to me, just that they’re in my quiver. One of the things I find useful about mussar is that it doesn’t assume, or even anticipate a sudden, self-help like jump to perfection if only you follow these steps. In fact it emphasizes the incremental nature of this work, the difficulties all of us face in it, and a certain tolerance for our tendency to go off track in our efforts.
On my soul curriculum right now are joy, simcha, and gratitude, hakar hatov. There are and will be others as the months, weeks and days of this new year roll round, but right now I’m searching for those places in my day where I can say thank you and those instances where I experience joy. By having them on my curriculum I mean I’m actively working with them, using a focus phrase: Thanks and Yes! in this case. I’ll write about them here because that’s a way of reinforcing and integrating them in my life.
A brief word about theology. Mussar works with or without a belief in God, or at least, the traditional belief. All of the traits have relevance in a secular view of the world. As a pilgrim, I’m learning about them because they’re helpful to my daily life and I really like the people engaged in this work. It’s also a common language for Kate and me as we negotiate our daily lives.
A pilgrim sees what is on the path and engages it, often without question, knowing that the path winds on beyond this place. Right now mussar and kabbalah are on my path just as Christianity, existentialism, and paganism have been on it, too. The pilgrim does not lose what he’s been taught. It all goes into the journey, enriching it, making it deeper, better.
Still on the ancientrail.