When I finally listened to the Hadestown soundtrack, I didn’t know whether to dance or cry.
Hadestown is a retelling of the story of Orpheus, who walked into the underworld to get back his wife Eurydice. Hades agrees to let her leave with him, as long as she walks behind him on the journey, and he never looks back. Unfortunately, he looked back right at the end, nervous that she wasn’t following him and she slipped back into hell.
The musical really played up the psychological aspects of the journey out of hell. When told they could leave as long as he did not look back, Orpheus says: “It’s not a trick?”
“No, it’s a test,” answers Mr. Hermes. He goes on to explain that we need to dread “the dog that howls inside your head.” The song of the walk is filled with Orpheus’ doubts – who am I to get this deal from Hades? Would he really let us go?”
Does this sound familiar to you? Have you ever had a clear path, littered with obstacles of your own creation?
In the show, Orpheus is depicted as an extraordinary person, who could see the world as it ought to be, not as it is. And, he could make others see it that way as well. Has there ever been a time with a bigger gap between the way the world is, and the way it ought to be? I suspect there has been, but not in my lifetime.
This is what Mussar is all about, looking within to see the way we ought to be, and working to close the gap step by step. And as we come toward wholeness ourselves, we are better positioned to heal the world along the way.
If you haven’t hear it before, give Hadestown a listen. The beauty of the music, and the vision of a world of all of us standing together made me want to dance and cry at the same time. Because now we need beauty, and a vision of what the world could be, even as we keep our eyes open to the world as it is today.
What are the Mussar Lessons From Hadestown that you are walking away with?
This blog post is the lead in for the weekly Jewish Wisdom for Coping with a Pandemic zoom gathering.