Gold and Dust

My car has become a mini-sanctuary where I can keep quiet, talk with God or listen to a spiritual podcast.  When I was working, it gave me at least two quiet times per weekday.  Since I have retired, I still welcome the opportunity to drive by myself to appointments or stores so that I can have this time set aside.  I am aware that this sounds a bit pious.  Read on.

One day, I started listening to Pray As You Go podcast with the monks of Someplace-or-Other singing a psalm which sounded quite churchy.  With my head in the clouds, I was driving quickly, as usual, out of the apartment building garage across the sidewalk to get to the street, startling a female pedestrian, who was walking by at the time.  She stopped short and began yelling epithets at me for driving in front of her across the sidewalk.  I angrily returned “the favor” by making a rude gesture, as I sped away.  When I got to the stop sign at the corner, I began to laugh at the incongruity of my behavior and my original spiritual intention.

Writer Parker Palmer retells a Hasidic tale, where the rabbi says to his disciple, “Everyone needs a coat with two pockets.  In one pocket, carry dust to indicate that you are nothing.  In the other pocket, carry gold to indicate that you are precious.”  In the Hebrew bible, humankind is made of dust and yet, also created in the image of God.  My quiet times in the car (and elsewhere) serve to remind me of my gold, my connection with God.  They uplift me, especially when I am tired and discouraged.  On the other hand, the dust reminds me that my ego can get overinflated with judgement, self-righteousness or pride.  Who am I to gesture rudely?  I frightened that pedestrian!  I need to remain in touch with the earth, the humus from which we get the word “humility.”  I am nothing; I am precious.