Thursday, March 22, 2012

Stupid and pointless

“Curse God and die,” says Job’s wife. You said it, woman. Honestly, nihilism is my first response to horrible events, too.

Seriously? Toulouse? Children and a teacher, a young father, mowed down outside a school? Really? It was just under over a year ago that I wrote this post about my feelings on the Ittamar massacre. Revisiting it, this bit resonates with what I’m feeling now:
I am tempted to let myself to be sucked into despair and obsession. On the couch recovering, I have the time to read endless news reports and blogger analyses. But that’s just treading water, spiritually speaking. I know with perfect clarity that I need to direct my energy toward building.
When I read the horrible news coming out of France, I wanted to analyze it and understand it and contain it. That’s how my mind works. And then I made myself imagine my own children, my own husband. And that grounded me to the events, and then sorrow overwhelmed me. And then the sorrow rippled outward to all the violence, all the cruelty, all the injustice, all the suffering of the world, and a familiar voice arose within me:

This is stupid. This is pointless.

* * *

Sometimes a nihilist outlook seems like the sanest and the kindest perspective on life’s events. The gropers for meaning seem like fools to me, every explanation of the working of the universe and societies, every elucidation of good and evil seems to rest on quicksand.

In Dan Bern’s excellent and grimly timeless Kids Prayer, he puts it this way:
And all the world descends and offers up their condolence
And offers up their theories what went wrong
And who and why and when and how
It feels hollow to me. I am left with: this is stupid. This is pointless.

* * *

And that’s why I’m glad I have A.N. in my life. My daughter is four-and-a-half, and she is sure she is smarter than I am. She always seems a bit skeptical that I can care for her with any competence. She seems to be watching my parenting moves with suspicion, looking out for her own interests, seemingly confident no one else will.

The truth is, she might be smarter than I am. Her memory is terrifyingly sharp. She’s a clear thinker, and a deep thinker for such a young person. And she is often several steps ahead of me in her planning and impatient for me to catch up.

Yesterday, she asked, “Who is going to take care of B.A. this afternoon while you take us to gymnastics?” And actually, I hadn’t even thought about childcare. I hadn’t asked my husband to stay home with my son, or made plans to take him along. But A.N. thought about it.

And yet, she’s still four. She has a fine mind and she understands a lot, but all her knowledge is resting on four years of life on the planet. And so, when she is authoritative or condescending or indignant, it is completely adorable. And silly.

Today I asked her if she would like to watch a video on the computer with me. Yes, she would. Okay, let’s find some performance footage of Yonatan Razel singing “Vehi Sheamda,” right?


“That is NOT a video. That is a song. A video is where there are pictures and . . .”

The rest of her assertion dissolved into tears and shrieking. We didn’t get around to watching a video.

But she’s not wrong, is she? “Video” connotes something for her, and when the meaning I assign to that word didn’t match her experience, she flipped out at the colossal, infuriating wrongness and unfairness.

* * *

I’m so much like A.N. when I look at the universe and try to understand it. I know so much, I understand so much, but my experience and perspective are so limited. I know what I see and I call it reality, I base everything on it.

And I am angry. I am sad. I feel overwhelmed with despair. I want to say that life is stupid and pointless and cruel, really cruel. I want to carve out my own little corner of happiness and warmth and pleasure and grip onto it with both hands.

Then I remember how cute and ridiculous A.N. is when she thinks she knows everything, and even funnier when she draws conclusions based on what she thinks she knows. It opens up for me the tiniest bit of uncertainty and humility.

Almost every day, I stand in the face of A.N.’s frustration and rage at some perceived injustice. That girl is big on justice. She sobs and sniffles and squeezes my hand to show me how strong her feelings are. I ask her to name her emotions, and I feel her squeeze and I say, “Wow, that’s a strong feeling.”

And I think, I wish she could just know what I know. I wish I could force her to be logical and make her realize she doesn’t know everything. I wish she could just cut me some slack, that she could know I have to make decisions for her own good, for the good of the family, even if she doesn’t like it. I wish she could trust me.

She can’t do that now, of course. She’s a kid. But I’m an adult. I can know how little I know. And I can trust the One who understands the whole picture.


Espresso Aroch said...

Shkoyach - Thanks. I will think about it.

I have a hard time even looking at the paper - my mind, my eyes, just don't want to be brave enough to go there. It's easier for me to tell myself - focus on your Pesach cleaning, focus on what you, your family, your home, need today, and be there and do it. Which is partly OK. But also partly from fear of meeting even a tiny bit of other people's pain lest it overwhelm me.

It is important to deeply consider that my fate is in the hands of the all-knowing and all-powerful One Above, but also terrifying.

Shabbat Shalom.

Bayle said...

Very powerful, Chaya. You had me worried until i saw the direction you were heading in. May your children imbibe your emunah and bitachon right along with your wit, insight and goodness.

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