There are a few significant moments in our sacred stories, in which the hero (Moses, Abraham, etc.) announce their presence, their full willingness to confront or engage with one simple word: Hineni! I Am Here! With the fatigue and cynicism of our current circumstance coloring my view of the world at the moment, I wonder: Would that Hineni have counted if it were uttered in a Zoom meeting?
If so many of the things we are doing are virtual nowadays (meeting, teaching, learning, schmoozing, etc.), does it mean that none of those experiences are actually happening? I know that on Passover I could not actually hand the piece of afikomen to my friends who were sitting more than 50 miles away from me, but wasn’t there a bit of actual something going on?
On the other hand, and stay with me here, I can also think of times when when actually meeting, teaching, learning or schmoozing that (embarrassingly) I was only virtually there. It my have been a screen of some kind or fatigue or worry that contributed to me being only virtually present in an actual encounter.
I guess that these (hopefully) playful wonderings about virtual gatherings versus actual ones are leading me to this observation: no gathering is ever not actual. I know, I know, that we would all rather not have that drink with a friend, learn/teach that lesson or comfort that mourner virtually. The truth is, however, that as long as we are alive and our hearts are beating, there never really is a moment or encounter in which we are not actual. We must remember that virtuality does not exclude actuality. The stuff that makes us essentially who we are, transcends time and space.
We just have to work harder to pay attention to it.
Physical actuality is pretty straightforward. Our five senses are always attuned to it. They let us know when we are experiencing it AND when we are not. Our sixth sense — our spiritual sense, is not as developed or maintained. We do not know or trust our spiritual senses as naturally as we trust our physical ones. And yet, when I think about it, why would spiritual actuality be any less potent that the physical kind? In actuality, it is most likely more so.
When you sit down in front of your screen for your next virtual encounter, don’t let the fact that you cannot pour a drink or shake a hand deter you from the actual encounter that is happening. A sincere, authentic Hineni! I Am Here! (whether spoken or simply internally acknowledged) is always actual.