Monday, October 05, 2009


Last week I was working at my dad's office on a grant proposal for his organization. I love doing this because our desks are right next to each other and we can talk while we work and, more importantly, I can hear how he makes his phone calls. I have been taking advantage of this set-up for almost 15 years and almost all of my professional mannerisms come from observing my dad talk on the phone with colleagues, donors and strangers.

Last week, someone called him mistakenly because the name of his organization is similar to the name of another organization. Instead of graciously taking his leave when the mistake was discovered, the caller kept my father on the line for 15 minutes, describing the work he does and asking questions, trying to get my father on board anyway. Dad is polite and gracious but kept making faces at me and shaking his head. (This is the exception to my use of him as a role-model; I know that I am not yet skilled enough to pat my head and rub my belly on the phone: my facial expression will be belied by the tone of my voice.) When he got off the phone, he bemoaned "you young people, you zealots." I deserved to be lumped in with that guy. I'll talk about my church or the Jewish community's response to interfaith marriage until someone's eyes glaze over. I hope that when I get a job, it is one that serves a cause that I can also get excited about.

But today, I read this quote in my Geez magazine, from the Orthodox saint, Isaac the Syrian:
Someone who has actually tasted truth is not contentious for truth . . . once he has truly learnt [what truth is really like], he will cease from zealousness on its behalf.

It seems that my dad is wiser than he looks. I look forward to seeing the world from his perspective at some point in my life. If God is ineffable and unknowable and we can only catch glimpses of her through our peripheral vision, like watching the invisible wind move the trees or like Moses being allowed to see only the afterimage of God's passing, then how could we put that experience into words that we were certain enough about to fight for. As a zealot, I ignore the needs of others and try to manipulate them into believing what I believe, if only through the hope that they might lend the argument credence simply because my passion and enthusiasm is unlikely to be utilized on behalf of a dumb cause. Someday, I will trust that my work is worth doing, even if no one else joins me, because I finally trust that God would not tell me to do something if it were not worth doing and I will desist from my zealotry. Saint Isaac trusts that God will show all people truth and that their normal interactions will pass it back and forth between them. Zealotry is simply another way of making ourselves more important to the process of redemption than we actually are. God redeems us and the world. We are lucky enough to be invited to join in the task but our participation is not at all necessary. The work will get done either way.

Thank God for that since I do a pretty terrible job of mending on most days. Maybe one day, I'll be as good at it as my dad is.

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