The aim of this activity is to specifically examine the individual’s emotional need for others.
- We suggestion here that you carry out this activity in a classroom, with people facing towards the wall, or sitting at angles to each other. Blindfold each person.
- There should be silence for a few minutes. Then, very softly at first, play a piece of sad instrumental music. [One of the slower pieces of Bach’s cello sonatas might be perfect, for example.] Alter the volume for a few minutes and then finally let the music fade away into silence. After about two more minutes of silence, play another piece of music for a few minutes (or, preferably, a recording of wind and/or water sound effects). After more silence, read the following piece slowly in a clear voice, so that the blindfolded participants can hear every word.
In the beginning there was only space. And in the space was despair, black and lonely, shrieking and wailing, pleading for comfort, pleading for relief - anything, anything so as to be freed from its burden - even for a moment.
And so dust filtered down and came together to fill the void. Gravity formed a round mass. We have called the mass ‘earth’ because it is solid, and through the solid sponge of earth, the cries are muted and the sobbing is quieter. We have called the earth ‘Mother’ since it is her job to tend the pain of those who look to her for comfort.
But some of the stars’ dust fell away from the round mass and instead of a smooth sphere revolving to eternity, the earth’s surface was jagged, filled with its own spaces and hollows, its own dark shadows. And slowly, we are told, life evolved and people came too, moving in the shadows, worshipping sun and moon, all sources of light, frightened of darkness, fleeing from shadows.
The most powerful word in the world is lonely. It is the only word we never succeeded in devaluing. Set a person alone in a desert or on a mountain and wait for the descent of the sun. Watch the colors change from blues to oranges, reds and finally purples: see their pulse quicken and whisper the word ‘lonely.’ Give them no fire to warm them or to banish the shadows. See the night fall - and hear them wail. It is the same sound - the first sound.
The stardust fell and let the shadows in.
We are afraid to catch each other’s eye.
We are afraid to touch each other’s hand.
- After you finish the piece, there should be more silence for a few minutes. Then remove the blindfolds should be removed and give each participant pen and paper. Ask them to write down their thoughts and feelings at that moment. In order for this to be done properly, it is essential to maintain a serious atmosphere at this time of transition. Ask them to write in whatever form they choose: poetry, prose, stream of consciousness, or to draw visually their feelings and thoughts. Tell them that they have plenty of time for this.
- When you think that they are ready, divide them up into pairs or small groups and ask them to share their feelings, thoughts, writings and/or drawings with each other.
- In the full group, ask volunteers to share their feelings, thoughts, writings and/or drawings with the whole group. Discuss the pros (if there are any) and cons of social and emotional isolation. What does isolation and loneliness do to people? Is ‘lonely’ as terrifying a word as the piece suggested?
- Now turn to the familiar Biblical account of the creation of man and woman in Beraishit chapter two. Concentrate on verses 15 – 22. Either together or in pairs, the group should try to work out what they think they would have seen if they, like God in the Biblical passage, had observed Adam in the Garden of Eden. What do they think prompted God to say, after observing Adam in the garden, - “it is not good for man to be alone”?
- Ask the individuals in the group how they think they would fare emotionally in a world without others?
- Finally, explain to the group that most human beings throughout history have sought to live in community rather than in isolation, because of the various reasons outlined in the introduction to this section: material needs; security needs; human cultural needs; emotional needs and for reasons of human continuity. The rest of the program will deal with the individual, and specifically, the Jewish individual in the framework of a community.