I’m almost done, I think. I started with the idea that we seek to experience the Divine in prayer (among other reasons we come to services, of course) and went to the notion that when we do experience the Divine in prayer, we do it through metaphor. And that those metaphors by which we experience the Divine in prayer are dominant metaphors in the culture. Those metaphors change, and the liturgy changes, and the changes reflect each other, which (we hope) keeps the possibility of experiencing the Divine alive, while those experiences themselves change. And then I identified a metaphor that I think is new, and powerful, and newly powerful: the world is a web, where everything is connected to everything. The next step, then, is creating room in the liturgy for people to experience the Divine in prayer through the metaphor of connectedness.
Now, though, there’s this: while I think the attempt to create room in the liturgy for people to experience the Divine in prayer through the dominant metaphors of the time is fascinating, necessary and vitally important, I also fear it is foolish and dangerously wrongheaded. Here’s the thing—the Sages of Blessed and Holy Memory did not decide on a metaphor and then shape the liturgy to it. Even the Reform Movement did not decide on a metaphor and then shape the liturgy to it. They tried things, and did what worked, and then afterward, from hindsight, we can see that it works through metaphor, and what the metaphor is. The dominant metaphors of the age aren’t chosen by intellectual argument; they are felt. They are believed, without being known. The correct way, it seems to me, is to blunder into them, to try things that seem, somehow, to be right, and then find out that they aren’t right, and then try other things, and put them together in ways that seem to be helpful, and keep things that appeal and lose things that don’t, and most of all to argue about it a lot.
So maybe we should just try all the stupid stuff. Making a synogogue-specific social network, or a network of such networks. Replacing the siddur with a tablet and an app that encourages interaction during the service itself. Tweeting all the prayers in translations of 140 characters or fewer. Having screens for FaceTime interaction between a synagogue in Connecticut and a synagogue in Prague and a synagogue in Tel Aviv and a synagogue in Des Moines. Actually, I think literalizing the metaphor is a dead end, unlikely to heighten the actual experience. But I haven’t tried, have I? I still think instrumental music during service is crazy. We aren’t going to get to a good liturgy without making mistakes. I think it’s worth making mistakes. But it’s not easy.
Particularly since we don’t want to lose anything. Right? So what I’m looking for, I guess, are a hundred stupid ideas to try without changing anything whatsoever, which should lead to a service that might lead to people who think that the world is a web experiencing the Divine through prayer. Who’s got one?
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,