BY RACHEL LAVICTOIRE / AJT //
All of my writing teachers stress the importance of writing – not the significance of the writing, but instead the importance of simply starting, putting words on paper.
I’ve been staring at my computer for two hours, aimlessly reading and writing. I’ve told myself this work is research, but I’m convinced at this point I’ve simply been procrastinating.
I have three documents open with three different half-articles, each of which is a vague combination of “here’s the text,” “here’s my interpretation,” and “happy holiday!”
I found none of said works-in-progress satisfying and thus proceeded to open yet another new document. More reading, more research and more procrastination led me to a line of Torah that I found both interesting and somewhat humorous. Moses says to G-d:
“If I have indeed found favor in Your eyes, pray let me know Your ways, so that I may know you…Show me, now, Your glory! (Exodus 33:13-18).”
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How strange, I thought, that Moses – Judaism’s most revered prophet – would make this statement. Obviously, we all have days (maybe even weeks or months) when we just want to look at G-d and, like a small child, stick out our tongues and yell “prove it!”
I know I’ve written about this frustration again and again, but the repetition speaks to how significant this issue is in my life. So today I want to look at it in a new light.
To set the stage, I should let you know that I recently added TED talks to my daily routine. These online videos, hosted by a non-profit organization that spreads ideas of Technology, Entertainment, and Design (TED) through various avenues, can be found on a free website.
The other day, I was watching a TED talk called “Your Elusive Creative Genius” given by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of “Eat Pray Love.” She began with the question all writers hear:
“Aren’t you afraid you’re never going to have any success?”
Gilbert expressed her frustration with the question but recognized that it’s widespread. So, she presented a potential solution.
“I have to sort of find some way to have a safe distance between me, as I am writing, and my very natural anxiety about what the reaction to that writing is going to be, from now on.”
This idea led her to ancient Greece and Rome. Gilbert explained that in these ancient cultures:
“People did not happen to believe that creativity came from human beings back then, OK? People believed that creativity was this divine attendant spirit that came to human beings from some distant and unknowable source, for distant and unknowable reasons.”
I can relate because I write, but so too can people for whom creativity comes in other forms: problem-solving, imagination and creation. It all comes from the same source, but what is that source?
Why is it that one minute you’re staring at a math problem – literally just staring at it – and then, suddenly, you have a “light-bulb” moment and you know what to do? Why is it that you can be in the middle of cleaning the kitchen when you’re struck with an idea for an upcoming sales pitch?
Psychologists call this phenomenon “insight,” and while it wasn’t their intention, the term fits perfectly. “Insight,” as I like to think of it, is literally sight from within. It’s that spark of G-d within every human being that ignites our creativity.
I find it difficult to schedule writing time; my ideas are unpredictable. Creativity comes to me at all hours of the day; it pulls me out of the current moment and into the story it has chosen to tell.
Strangely enough, whether the story is fact or fiction, poetic or direct, it’s in these moments that I feel most connected to G-d, like I’m truly living the specific gift He chose for me.
So I smile when I think of Moses and his words of doubt. I can’t choose when G-d enters my life or how G-d comes to me, and I know that I will never understand His ways. I can, though, fully engage in the moments that He gives me, rather than brush them aside among the haste of my average day.
Look for the old instead of the new – instead of searching for proof of G-d, try to find G-d in what is already present.
G-d answered Moses’ request by saying:
“I will let all My goodness pass before you; I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you, and I will favor when I wish to favor and have compassion when I wish to have compassion (Exodus 33:19).”
We as human beings will likely doubt the existence of G-d and the reliability of the Bible at one time or another. The key is in this interaction between G-d and Moses: It is to doubt with an open mind and always be ready for those moments when G-d chooses to drop in.
Rachel LaVictoire (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a graduate of the Davis Academy and Westminster High School, recipient of the prestigious Nemerov Writing and Thomas H. Elliott Merit scholarships at Washington University of St. Louis and an active member of Temple Emanu-El and the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta. She was recently named to the board of St. Louis Hillel.