Fixin' My Slip-n-Slide, Fixin' the World
For several days now, as we've endured extreme summer temps, the only relief to be found is in staying wet. In our backyard we have a paddling pool, a retro sprinkler, a slip-n-slide. Basically, we just rotate – and drink. (Water…mostly.) A few days ago, I even had a slip-n-slide party with a couple mom friends and their elementary age boys. The boys’ size and enthusiasm took its toll on the slide. When we tried to move it off the grass it began to split. I heard my husband’s voice in my head: “Don’t try to move that thing until it’s completely deflated…” But it was too late. My friend felt badly, even though I told her not to worry. We had more than benefited from the $15 investment. But still, she apologized. And then later, when I was napping off my slip-sliding, her boys showed up at my door with a new slide and an agreement to take the botched one for their own backyard amusement. I hazily agreed, but now wish I would have insisted they keep the unmarred one. As an act of kindness, I set out to repair the damaged slide. And guess what? It’s harder than it looks. As I shifted the body of the slide to get an even surface, it ripped more. When I pressed down and wiped it dry, more water squished out. As I was orchestrating this haphazard charade, two thoughts ran through my head, both based on a Jewish theological concept. First, I imagined a local Reformed Cantor I know singing, folk style: “Fixin’ the world, Tikkun Olam…” And then, a quote from a sleeper of a movie, Leaves of Grass, where Ed Norton shouts in exasperation: “Don’t you want to repair the world!?” I laughed, set down my duct tape, and grabbed a pen. Because I wonder if sometimes we’re repairing a pair of plastic, but what we really want is to fix the world.
In Jewish thought, especially in progressive circles “Tikkun Olam,” literally, “the repair of the world,” is translated into social action. In Jewish mysticism, this originates from the understanding that in creation the luminescence of God was shattered and dispersed to all beings. It is creation’s task to ‘repair’ this gift of light; restore what God intended. In Kabbalah, “Tikkun Olam” is an essential part of spiritual practice; you pray, you study Torah, you perform acts of benevolence in partnership with the Divine.
I don’t need to rehearse all the things in our world that could use “fixin,” the list is long, and can often seem impossible. But we need reminders – from our backyards, and our faith traditions – that nothing is impossible with God and in community. I think prayer and appreciation for my friend even inspired me to keep at it with the duct tape and that damned slip-n-slide. So, here’s to fixin’. Fixin’ relationships, fixin’ toys, and with the help of God, daring to even repair our world.