Near my home is a very intimate theater. My wife and I love attending plays there because you can almost reach out and touch the performers.
We recently attended a play and had one of the seats closest to the performance area. During a particularly poignant part, my phone vibrated. I did not commit the grievous sin of interrupting another person’s experience of the show because only I could hear the vibration.
Yet, for some inexplicable reason, I glanced at the screen to check the message. I pulled my attention away from the show and missed one of the most moving and critical scenes.
What Happens We Are Not Fully Present
I know I am not the only one who has missed out on life by not being fully present. All of us have suffered from what one researcher calls “continuous partial attention,” where we constantly pull our focus from one thing to another. Rather than help us achieve more, it robs of us of the experiences that make life worthwhile.
The Jewish holiday of Sukkot provides a useful corrective for this problem. On Sukkot Jewish families build small portable huts called sukkahs. Tradition dictates that we spend time in the sukkah over eight days, rain or shine, warm or cold. They symbolize the temporary dwellings the Israelites lived in during the forty years of wandering in the wilderness.
Going All In
When we enter the sukkah, we have to go all in. We cannot bring an umbrella into the sukkah. We cannot put a tarp over it. We have to be to able to see the stars from inside of it. Jewish tradition even says we have not celebrated sukkot if we do not put our whole bodies into the sukkah.
[callout]The same is true with life. We need to go all in. When we are at work, we go all in. When we are with our families, we go all in. When we are at church or synagogue, we go all in.[/callout]
This is harder than it sounds. It’s easy to go all in when we see a beautiful sunset. It’s hard to go all in when we are sitting in front of a spreadsheet. Both matter. As the Psalmist wrote, “This is the day God has given; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”