So. How are you?
How many times a day do I ask or get asked this question, thoughtfully or as most often, not?
There are dozens of expressions and gestures with which we initiate conversations with friends or strangers. It almost always begins with a question and they’re almost always rhetorical, ritualized nods to the respective negotiated terms of communications: how are you? What’s up? What’s going on? How do you do? Some Talmudic sages use to greet each other with ‘where are your feet coming from?’
When do we actually pause to ponder the question, and truly check in, and honestly answer it – to self, or that conversing other?
This 40-day journey to the heart of atonement is, for me, about paying attention to the details that shape our lives, for better or for worse. Perfection is too high a goal perhaps but constant improvement, a perfecting of the simple things that will make us happier and better people – doable. Deadlines help. And questions help, when they help us cut through to the core of what is on mind and in our hearts.
So, how are you?
I stood in front of the mirror this morning, full length, and looked me in the eye and asked this question and took a deep breath, and a full minute and then replied, with a single run on sentence that became a short monologue, a private confession, a clarity of what’s hot and what not in my life right now.
“The time has come for a self examination,” wrote Abraham Joshua Heschel (in one of my assigned readings for a class on prayer at JTS, starting this Tuesday!)
I find the exercise of asking myself this question and attempting an answer as qualified of Heschel’s challenge. Try it.
And the next step – is extra awareness to how I will initiate conversations, what questions do I ask people as I meet them, and with what intention, and how do I reply?
(Nobody wants a monologue reply.)
My new favorite question is the Hebrew ‘Ma Kore?’ or ‘what’s happening?’ It’s direct and somehow compels me to always be more specific say something more than ‘I’mokthankshowareyou?’
How are you? As in, who are you, now?