I probably sound out of touch to people when I say I am going to ‘pencil’ something in my calendar. While I have not used a paper calendar for almost two decades, it is still is part of my OS (operating system)! In the parlance of that old technology, inserting a date in ‘ink’ meant that the event in question was a sure thing. So, ‘penciling’ it in was a way to acknowledge the temporary or unknown nature of the event. I guess I still say it, because it rolls off my tongue more easily than, “I am going to put it in my calendar, but put a question mark after it until we confirm the date.” I find myself using this phrase a lot these days. We are all living in a ‘pencil’ kind of moment.
A fundamental part of the human condition is this unknown, uncertain, unpromised ‘pencilled in’ aspect to the world. No one is promised more than the day we are living. However, the abundance of days, weeks and months we get to live lulls us into a sense of security. We sense that our calendars are all written in ‘ink’. We avoid, escape or even deny the anxiety and fear that accompanies the full on remembering that all of our days are actually ‘pencilled in’. Living in these days of the Covid-19 pandemic serve as a harsh reminder of our tenuous nature the and our vulnerability.
For me, all of this ‘writing my calendar in pencil’, will make this year’s Passover Seder unlike any other. I might linger a little longer, recline a little harder and even throw a little more bitter on my plate. Within the wonderfully varied, peculiar and long standing customs of the Passover Seder … is some comforting familiarity and structure. Simply put, the Seder offers some ‘ink’ to counter all of this ‘pencil’. In some form or fashion, we have been re-telling this story for almost four thousand years. I am going to wrap myself in that certainty and welcome the cocoon of its embrace. And maybe, even a short time, it will shield me from the anxiety and fear I feel at the awful unknown and uncertainty of this moment in time.
As you consider what your Passover observance may look like next week, I strongly urge you to put it in your calendar … in ink.