This week, a chicken taught me a really important lesson.
I was at the gym listening to On Being, a podcast that explores some of the larger existential life questions through interviews with scholars and thinkers of all stripes. In this particular episode, Krista Tippet interviewed Brain Pickings* creator and curator Maria Popova on how we navigate meaning in a digital age.
Popova is a brilliant, soft-spoken, witty intellectual, who connects centuries of literature and learning with 21st century questions and challenges around finding meaning. At one point, she cites Thoreau’s reflection on chicken lifestyle as a contrast to our current culture of productivity.
A chicken, Thoreau noted in one of his journals, lays one egg – and spends the rest of the day feeding the things that feed the next day’s egg.
The beauty of that statement hit me so hard that I almost fell off of my elliptical.
In a world where we are always, as our Director of Education Susan Jacobs reminded me earlier this week, “at the end of something, in the middle of something, and at the beginning of something,” it can be so easy to get swept up in the quest for more and faster and NOW.
The order of our technological world rewards the new – we have become accustomed not to seeing the most important thing at the top of the list, but rather the most recently posted. New feels exciting – full of possibility and potential. And in the rush to offer something new, and then newer, and then newer again, all of that newness runs the risk of coming out half-baked.
What if we instead focused on feeding the things that feed our egg? And what if the egg, the thing we produce, is not a tangible physical thing, but rather our soul, or a sense of belonging in the world, or a moral compass?
What would it mean to spend the day feeding the things that feed your moral compass?
Martin Luther King Jr. taught: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Some might say that arc is too long, that if we don’t move quickly we lose our ability to act at all. It can be discouraging to watch from twenty steps back as the world spins ever faster. Watching someone else snap up an opportunity, or raise their hand first. But I have found in teaching Sheva, our seventh grade class at Temple Beth El, that sometimes the first people who raise their hands do not always have an answer so much as they want to get their hand into the air fastest.
The length of time it takes to get from here to there is not as important as the direction in which we head. The quality of the eggs we produce are dependent on the focus we put into feeding the things that feed them.
This weekend we celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., a man keenly focused on bending the moral arc toward justice. May we continue to help shift that arc, one “egg” at a time.
We hope you will join us for any of our various Justice Shabbat events this weekend. Information on all of the goings on can be found on our temple calendar.