My love language is books. If you know me for any length of time and I like you, there will probably be books arriving. I might even send you books if I don’t like you. Two that will be among the first to arrive are The Prophets and The Sabbath, both written by the late Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. There is much to be said of Heschel, but for my money, all you need to know about the author is communicated by the tears running down this brother’s face:
Today I was thinking, rather randomly, about something Rabbi Heschel said in his book, The Sabbath (which is also a beautiful object in and of itself, with illustrations by his daughter). In the prologue, entitled “Architecture of Time,” Heschel writes about our quest to gain control and power in space, while ignoring the importance of time. That grossly asymmetrical evaluation on our part, well, gets us into trouble:
Technical civilization is man’s conquest of space. It is a triumph frequently achieved by sacrificing an essential ingredient of existence, namely time. In technical civilization, we expend time to gain space. To enhance our power in the world of space is our main objective. Yet to have more does not mean to be more. The power we attain in the world of space terminates abruptly at the borderline of time. But time is the heart of existence.
To gain control of the world of space is certainly one of our tasks. The danger begins when in gaining power in the realm of space we forfeit all aspirations in the realm of time. There is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord. Life goes wrong when the control of space, the acquisition of things of space, becomes our sole concern.
Nothing is more useful than power, nothing more frightful. We have often suffered from degradation by poverty, now we are threatened with degradation through power. There is happiness in the love of labor, there is misery in the love of gain. Many hearts and pitchers are broken at the fountain of profit. Selling himself into slavery to things, man becomes a utensil that is broken at the fountain.
That isn’t merely a broad overview of dangers of power and the love of money, it’s a personally descriptive statement. It’s me. It’s you. Not only are we slaves to sin as Romans 6 tells us, but so often we are our own broker!
After I read the good Rabbi, I thought of something Mockingbird’s favorite psychiatrist, Frank Lake, wrote in his amazing book, Clinical Theology. It struck me almost as a seamless continuation of the Heschel’s thought. It echoes that broken vessel concept and leads us in the direction of hope:
While we regard our humanity as a container which ought to have something good in it when we look inside, we miss the whole point of the paradox. We are not meant to be self-contained, but channels of the life and energies of God Himself. From this point of view our wisdom is to let the bottom be knocked out of our humanity, which will ruin it as a container at the same time as it turns it into a satisfactory channel.
So a Rabbi and a Psychiatrist go into a pottery studio…