Running away from ourselves

We can put ourselves in a place that is conducive to transformation.

September 27, 2017 15:26
‘Jonah and the Whale’ in the ‘Compendium of Chronicles’ (c. 1400), Metropolitan Museum of Art. In co

‘Jonah and the Whale’ in the ‘Compendium of Chronicles’ (c. 1400), Metropolitan Museum of Art. In contrast to Hagar, Jonah ran away from God to a distinct and intentioned location.. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)


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The polymath John W. Gardner observed in his book Self Renewal: The Individual and the Innovative Society that “by middle life most of us are accomplished fugitives from ourselves.” During the Days of Awe, we might look at this statement curiously and ask ourselves the two most obvious questions that emerge from it. This year, what are we running from and what are we running toward?

When we consider the fugitive, the operative question is the first one. It doesn’t always matter where we’re going. We will go “anywhere but here,” the title of a Mona Simpson novel. It is a matter of escape. We find both fugitives – those who are running away and those who are running toward – in the sacred texts of our holiday season: We encounter Hagar on Rosh Hashana and Jonah, who makes a spectacular appearance on the afternoon of Yom Kippur.


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