Pre-Pesach roundup
Zionism and anti-Semitism in the new Zeek

Sacred spaces

The cover of the March 2007 issue of the Williams College Alumni Review (not yet online, so I can't link to it -- sorry) caught my eye as soon as I picked it up at the post office this morning. It shows a young man holding up a Torah scroll. The photo is taken from behind, so we see the embroidered bracha (blessing) on the collar of his tallit, and on his head, a purple-and-gold kippah emblazoned with a purple cow. (If your seder left you wondering what makes this week different from all other weeks, one answer may be that Ethan and I are both making posts suitable for EphBlog...)

Anyway, the Alumni Review cover story is titled "Space for the soul," and features several short student responses to the question of where they go "to search for truth beyond the classroom, to pursue the intangible, nonmaterial good, to center themselves and widen their frames of reference." The range of answers makes me happy. There are vignettes about the practice rooms in the music building, about the art building and the dance studio, about working in the greater northern Berkshire community, and about the glorious outdoors.

And, of course, there are pieces about spaces which are explicitly religious. One student writes about singing in the gospel choir; another, about walking the contemplative labyrinth the college sets up in the First Congregational Church ("Whatever happens, I think I wind up someplace better than where I started.") And there are pieces about the Newman room, the Muslim prayer room, a progressive Christian gathering called the Feast, and the Jewish Religious Center.

Reading the article, I find myself thinking about the many sacred spaces I found as an undergraduate. The JRC was one of them (both the place, and the community which inhabited it.) So were the stairwell at Thompson Memorial Chapel and the atrium at the college museum of art (where one of my poems currently hangs, and where I'll be reading in a few weeks), because I remember singing sacred music there (with the Elizabethans) and feeling holiness reverberating in the soaring of our joined voices. Classrooms were sacred space sometimes, too -- there were definitely holy sparks when Jacob Meskin or Thandeka was at the front of the room!

And now I'm thinking about sacred spaces in my current life. My shul, of course. Elat Chayyim. The coffee shop where I meet with friends for hevruta (and also where I meet with friends simply for socializing and connecting.) Several of the rooms in our house, breakfast nook and hot tub room especially. The woods and the hills. The hospital where I worked last year. Really, as I think about it, what places aren't sacred, if we walk them mindfully and meet one another fully there?

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