Along time ago, in 1969 to be exact, I read the iconic Jewish Novel, Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth. At one point in the novel, Portnoy reflects on the meaning of “How are you?” He poses the question, when you ask someone “How are you,” do you REALLY care how they are doing? What if they respond with something more than, “I am fine or I am so busy?” Roth asks us to consider: do we even care how the other person is? What if they truly shared their thoughts? What would we do?
Fast forward to 2016 and this sleepy Sunday morning. I had been pondering about what I would write about for this holiday season, when I came across Omi Safi’s op-ed piece on The Disease of Being Busy. Safi is the director of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center and a guest columnist for On Being.
Safi eloquently cautions us that our Dis-ease of being busy is killing our spiritual soul. We don’t take time to be present in each others’ lives. He shares, “In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal? What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, ‘How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?’ When I ask, ‘How are you?’ that is really what I want to know.”
Safi reminds us that like Philip Roth, he truly wants to know how you are. Like both Roth and Safi, I want to know how your heart is doing today. I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, or how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.
I hope you will tell me that you remember you are still a human being, not just a human doing. That you are more than just a machine, checking off items from your to-do list. Have that conversation, that glance, that touch. Be a healing conversation, one filled with grace and presence.
Put your hand on my arm, look me in the eye, and connect with me for one second. Tell me something about your heart, and awaken my heart. Help me remember that I too am a full and complete human being, a human being who also craves a human touch.
And while we always strive to do this as helping professionals, I invite each and every one of you this holiday season to rethink that long list of busy plans. Reconsider the excess parties, presents, holidays cards, etc, and try to be Present in each others Presence.
Whatever your orientation your religious affiliation, your gender preference or your holiday customs, I want to thank you for being you, and I invite you to stop and share. Put your cell phones away, drop your to-do lists and ask one another “how you are really?” and “how is your heart today?”
Thank you for being you and Many Blessings this holiday season.