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The Impermanence of Life

PGP Mediation
by Phyllis G.

The high holy holiday of Yom Kippur was celebrated recently. The bad news is that no one could attend services in person. The good news is that services were on Zoom which enabled me (for the first time in decades) to attend services in my hometown-2700 miles away. There, the rabbi gave a sermon that will stay with me. It is one of those rare sermons that you don’t forget.

Its theme was the impermanence of life. Talking about the Kol Nidre prayer itself, the Rabbi cited Rabbi David Lew who suggested that a prayer recited long ago preceding the Kol Nidre prayer was one recognizing that we are imperfect and impermanent. We are just passing through. As much as we would like to think that we are here for the long term, in truth we are not and with this recognition comes a sense  or pain of loss. We all pass on and everything slides away, and we find ourselves grieving over ‘our loss” of what could have, should have, would have been!

In fact, change is the only constant, and we remind ourselves of this when confronted with something bad by noting that “This too shall pass” or “Things will look better in the morning.”

Which leads to our illusion of control. While we work mightily to control our lives and everything in it, we, in truth, have very little control. We think we are controlling our lives and things are going great, if not wonderful and then suddenly and without any (or much) warning (being in California) massive fires occur destroying property and lives, or an earthquake hits, or (if in the south or east coast) a hurricane or (worldwide) worse yet- a pandemic. Who would have taken a bet one year ago that for more than six months the world would be in lockdown or semi lockdown and all lives would be lived on Zoom?  (Many of us did not even knew what Zoom was way back then!)

Rather than dwell on what we wanted or cling to an outcome that never occurred, the Rabbi  citing Sylvia Boorstein suggested that we simply “…accept that no matter what we had hoped for, things are the way they are.” Or, more succinctly, “…this is not what I wanted but it is what I got” and so we should be  accepting of it and move on. In modern parlance, “Get over it!” And  focus on what you do have; the positive aspects of what you got! (Remember, nothing is permanent, and this too shall pass.)   It is useless to fret over an outcome that never occurred; dwelling on the past, and reliving it over and over again will not change what happened. Accept what did occur, learn life’s lessons from it, gain some wisdom and resilience and move on.

Why? Because we only have the now- this day, this hour, this  minute, this second, this moment. While we think we may have next year, next   month, next week, or even tomorrow, we are impermanent, and life may well go on… without us!

As a mediator who deals in conflict and its resolution, this sermon   really struck me. Too many parties in dispute have taken their conflict and themselves much too seriously, dwelling on and fretting about the past, unwilling to accept what did occur and even more unwilling to learn from it, gain wisdom and resilience and move on. They refuse to recognize or accept the impermanence of it all: we are all just passing through and so should make the most of it- in short- settle and move on! As the rabbi said, we only have the now!

… Just something to think about!



Phyllis Pollack

Phyllis Pollack with PGP Mediation uses a facilitative, interest-based approach. Her preferred mediation style is facilitative in the belief that the best and most durable resolutions are those achieved by the parties themselves. The parties generally know the business issues and priorities, personalities and obstacles to a successful resolution as… MORE >

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