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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Obsessiveness

“The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal.” (Lk 11: 39)

Almost fifty years ago the friars sent me to barber school. I am reminded of this today because I am writing from New London, New Hampshire and I went to school in Nashua, NH. It was an interesting experience for many reasons. Almost all of the people we “practiced” on were street people and most of them were not very interested in a haircut, but in sneaking a drink of the Bay Rum tonic that we rubbed on people’s necks after a haircut.

In any case, even today I notice peoples' hair. As a barber, it is almost impossible not to look at the quality of the cut others have, and this lingering habit made me ask the question this morning: What are the things we pay attention to on a daily basis? Gardeners look at their flowers and plants. Cooks check the quality of the produce or the fruits they will use. Carpenters notice how well something is made. You get the idea. We all pay attention to things according to our training or interest. Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised that a Pharisee was amazed that Jesus did not observe the washing rituals expected of observant Jews.

Unfortunately, like all of us, the Pharisees sometimes spent so much time and effort making sure that the ritual washing prescribed by the Torah was observed properly that they forgot the person doing the washing. The same thing can be true for barbers, gardeners and cooks! We can spend so much time doing what we do perfectly that we ignore the sadness or joy that another is carrying, and that is the problem for the Pharisees and us.

Today, step outside your own skill set and pay attention to the falling leaves or the cool of Fall.

What helps you let go of your obsession with being perfect in order to pay attention to the people around you?

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