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04/24/2020 12:37:26 PM


Eve Lowenstein/Sidlow


From: Eve Lowenstein/Sidlow


I really enjoyed your 'ramblings' in the last issue.  Six weeks ago at the Shabbat table, after the kids just got off the plane from Israel, I likened what was going on to Albert Camus' The Plague just as you did, and Jonathan piped in: Oh, I gotta read me some of that right now. I advised against reading about plague and devastation during a devastating plague as it might incite panic, terror, hopelessness. 

But what do I know? I’m only a mother. 

Thought it could be almost as bad as when Jonathan decided to ignore medical advice (not from his parents, mind you, but from a REAL doctor!) after he returned from Israel and went with a friend (another chayal boded) to see American Sniper.  He was still working through some PTSD.

(On a Fourth of July after his return, his reaction time was phenomenal: never saw someone jump under a table and take cover from fireworks in under a second!)  

He came home from the movie soaked in sweat having been shaking in fear for half of it.  When I asked him: Exactly what kinda stupid are you?  He sheepishly responded: Well, it was a really good movie- very realistic! 

But Jonathan listened to me this time and didn't read Camus.

Funny thing: The Plague has this sorta slow interminable pace that feels a lot like these COVID times.  Its message of meaningless suffering is a total Debbie Downer, I barely could tolerate reading it in the good old days when I HAD toilet paper and hugs!  But kol hakavod that you could stomach that dismal read now. You must be made out of some kinda happy clappy tougher stuff than us mere mortals. 

On a flip side, I really appreciated what you had to say about moving on from a BBQ (korban pesach) to perhaps something better (Passover seder). None of us asked for this COVID hardship, and yet, here it is.  So, will our lives be dictated by circumstance (Am I no longer a Gen X-er, 

but now a Branch COVIDian (remember Waco, TX) pre-destined to go down in flames, or can we carve out a better path by our responses and our attitudes?  I will look to the words of those more eloquent than I. 

Is "Life..but a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing"? (Shakespeare) or is there a more hopeful and helpful message?

I would like to think so:

"When all seems hopeless and all has gone silent, that’s Destiny turning down the music so that all may hear our response to life's great storms, giving our response the chance to echo throughout eternity with the level of greatness it deserves." (A.J. Darkholme)

And so, we may face this beast with optimism, making lemonade of lemons:

"You'll never find a better sparing partner than adversity" (Gold Meir)

Or, we can think of how this can lead to service:

It may be a good thing to be blessed, but it’s even better to be a blessing.

We may search for the advantages offered:

"It's the rough side of the mountain that’s the easiest to climb. The smooth side doesn’t have anything to hang on to." (Aretha Franklin)

Or we may face it pragmatically:

"Sometimes it's about playing a poor hand well" (Donna Tartt)

We may face things philosophically:

"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a persistent one." (Albert Einstein)

Or we can approach it tragically:

"The world breaks everyone and afterwards many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break, it kills." (Ernest Hemingway)

Or cynically:

"In reality, hope is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of men." 

(Friedrich Nietzsche: No wonder he has G-d in the morgue!)

And there is, thankfully, humor:

Disasters are like fertilizer.

They stink for sure, but they make things grow faster in the future.

This new normal doesn't feel like any kind of normal: it's adaptation at every turn.  It is known from psychology experiments that in experiencing change, we perceive more loss than we perceive gain.  But in truth, life is and always has been ever-changing, and that is not anything new under the sun.  My father used to say: 'Das war einmal und kommt nicht wieder' (Translated from German: 'That was once and will never be again') 
As everyone's similar but unique sort of adaptations unfold, I think to brace myself for a marathon, altogether different than living as piloted by life's more modest sprints, as I have been more accustomed to do. 

Note to self: Every time I was convinced I couldn't go on, I did!

Wed, May 25 2022 24 Iyyar 5782