Sneezes, deadlines and church

04 July 2011
Today was the day of sneezes. Well, sneezes and deadlines.

Two sneezes began my morning. Yuck… not mine. I save mine for the office, a location that permits me to a) use a tissue and b) wash my hands prior to contaminating further innocent inanimate objects and/ or people around me. The amount of germs that issue from your nostrils when you sneeze… Imagine going at a spray can a few times. And all the minuscule droplets of water that gush from the can’s nozzle equate the infestation of germs that emanate from a sneeze. I’m well aware that sneezing is natural. But on behalf of the germaphobics of the world, it would be greatly appreciated if sneezing were done in a tissue. 

… Not into your hand. And definitely not into the same hand that grabs support onto the pole grounded in the center of the morning Sydney train headed to the city.

So no, the sneeze that began my morning was not mine. No, definitely well worse. Man #1 is the culprit in this (true) tale. And it gets worse. Following his sneeze and pole wipe, man #1 moves to my side of the train to lean against the glass barrier blocking my seat from the train doors. Great. The germs were in my vicinity.

Culprit #2 boarded the train a stop later (from where I live [Bondi Junction] there are only two stops before I arrive at work [Kings Cross]). Woman in a red jacket, seemingly innocent, but obviously not. She, as had the man, stood in the center of the train to sneeze. She did cover her mouth (amen) but with the hand she must have mistaken for a tissue (yuck), paused for a few moments (probably to reflect on her sneeze) and then continued on… and sat down two people down from me. She sneezed again. And again. Both times with her hand. Who knows which one…

I was officially sandwiched in between the two sneezers. A germaphobic's dream.

The horror of the morning sneezes, however, did prepare me well for the shock of my work inbox. Because for the first time, I had deadlines. On all 18 assignments posted for me to complete. My to do list had never come in so handy.

I am proud to say, I completed all the necessary tasks due today, in addition to beginning on an assignment for tomorrow.  I also have two more publications to boast for today! Nameless again, but currently one is being featured on the website’s article page, which is pretty neat. You can take a look here and here. I assume my boss goes in to edit them… she added in a paragraph in one of the articles and added additional superfluous wording to a few of my sentences. I guess it’s to target the type of audience that visit the site. I mean, it is a tanning website. So I guess they’re looking for catchy over quality.

I plug my ears to my iPod during the work day. I’ve mentioned previously, but it helps keep my focus on my required tasks rather than on my racing mind.

Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu, a classic Israeli folk song, came up on my shuffled playlist. It’s a song of peace (directly translated as “Peace Will Come Upon Us”) and commonly associated with a call for the end of the Arab- Israeli conflict (ok, I just got that off of Wiki. I connect the song to camp… and most recently, my Hillel alt break trip). Regardless, the song came on, seeping its upbeat flow of Hebrew words of hope for peace into my eardrums. I closed my eyes for a split second, picturing myself at camp, swaying my body to the music among the hundreds of campers and staff members in the bet am (our basketball court/ stage). My thoughts trailed to my alternative break back in December, when one of the teams taught our whole group the song’s lyrics. And together, in the UM Hillel’s grungy dining room, we all linked arms, rocking our bodies along to the power of the melody. I reopened my eyes, appreciating each beat’s thump. A thump of love.

Music in Judaism serves a vital role. It’s a common tongue that unites us all as Jews. It’s melodies that add lyrics to our culture, rhythm to our beliefs.

I wrote a paper for my college writing class… individuals seek transcendence via music. Now couple that with the word of G-d.

I believe it’s time to describe:
My Church Experience
I pride myself on my desire to experience foreign cultures and traditions. It's part of the reason I enjoy traveling… It provides me the opportunity to see life outside the American bubble. I admit, however, that as an American (and also just as me being me), it can often be a struggle to view differences as norms; I’ve grown up defining “different” as “not my way of doing it.” “Different” is in fact a social construction, a notion agreed on by an area’s majority. (Or a minority, whichever dominant opinion sways the crowd.)

So my first thought, upon entering the Hillsong Church was “different.” I mean, a rock show set up for religious worship is far from what I’m used to. Regardless of religious denomination.

I stopped myself… different for me is only different for me. Not for the hundreds of attendees at yesterday’s Hillsong Church services. And so to enable proper appreciation of the service, I would have to wipe my mind clear. Free of judgment, ready for a new experience.

The service was unlike any other. Hundreds of us crowded the stage (my two friends and I secured positions in the front… I had a prime view of the stage… and the beads of sweat building up on one of the singers as he belted out praises to G-d). 

The music was beautiful. Powerful. I examined the room, awed by how deep into another world the attendees were in: transcendence in action. People swayed in tune with the music, hands extended upwards, praising Jesus. A woman behind me yelled “I love you Jesus,” a statement of truth, an echo of honesty. There were five singers on stage with a crew of drummers and a guitar player behind. A camera man edged across the periphery of the platform, capturing film clips that were played on the live (edited to evoke emotion) feed playing on the enormous screens placed behind the musicians. A cursive “God is able” hung directly below the screen, reflecting the flashes of blue and white stemming from the service’s light show. A massive cross stood feet above the ground to my left, a reminder that I was in fact, at a church service. 
I refrained from praying out loud, as I was merely an observer in another religion’s area of worship. I swayed with the music, at times jumping along as others clapped and cheered. I read the lyrics on the screen… “Lay yourself in the name of Jesus,” is all I can remember.

The service was unlike any I have ever been to before. I admit, I teared up for a moment… I’ve always had such a strong connection to music in my religion. I never knew Christianity had the same. And it was honestly, beautiful to see. Seeing the love these individuals had in the name of Jesus. Their desire to become good people, to make the most of their lives, to do good, as their savior had for them.

I define myself strongly by my religion. It was an unforgettable experience being surrounded by hundreds of others who also strongly define themselves by their religion. It’s odd that religion causes such conflict in the world. When really, we’re all searching for the same thing… the path to a fulfilling, positive life. Yesterday’s service reinforced just how irrelevant the path is, it’s the destination that’s most important.

I've realized that you don’t leave your roots, religion, culture, heritage behind as your travel forward. We bind together in the communities we find most comfort while being so far away from home.

Happy 4th of July!

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