The Story of Soup

I shared two Sabbatical articles with my writing group last week. Aside from the small suggestions of grammar and sentence structure, I heard comments that I need to pay more attention to story. These articles could be more than just a journal of my activities. They should be the ongoing story of a series of transformative activities. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be in a profession that allows them an unstructured leave from daily responsibilities to spend an extended period of time learning and thinking. However, the Sabbatical can be experienced in microcosm if the story can be translated into the reader’s life.

Here’s a story from the first week of Sabbatical: One of my more mundane activities has been making soup. When I was first learning to cook seriously, in my early 20’s, I thought cooking soup required magic. My mother is a wonderful cook. I could never figure out how she could turn water into this rich, fragrant, golden liquid called chicken soup until I tried it for myself. I discovered that cooking soup simply requires throwing the ingredients into a pot of water and cooking it for hours, letting the magic of chemistry blend the flavors together, pull the starches and bind the liquid together into … soup!

If all you have at your disposal is standard kitchen equipment (i.e., no pressure cooker), you can’t rush the process of making soup. You can’t turn the stove up to high and make the magic happen faster. Similarly, the learning that happens during a sabbatical takes time. What do you do when you don’t have extended unstructured time? One answer, the Jewish answer, is that you can build a mini-sabbatical, called Shabbat, into your week. Magic happens on Shabbat when you decline to schedule shopping, entertainment opportunities, or children’s obligations, but rather spend the time in prayer (preferably community-based prayer), study, reading, contemplation, socializing, and eating meals with family and/or friends.

Winter is approaching. What a good time to make soup and make Shabbat!

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