Sunday, March 26, 2006


They Are All Gone Into the World of Light.

There is so much in this world that is beautiful, and persistent, that fights the darkness and struggles to live. There is so much to see and yet I have eyes for so little; I notice only the obstacles, the problems, those who try to thwart me and destroy me.

And then one day there is something that shocks and thrills me, or fills me with a deep, sudden sadness, something that cannot hold me by my rational mind but by my feelings, that keeps me spellbound and enchanted with all that is terrible and wonderful, and that fades away in the pure light of reason.

I am purified through this feeling; I am cleansed when I can understand another as deeply as I understand myself. It is books and movies that inspire such emotion within me, and that leave me feeling cleansed, so that I hug the book to myself and swear that I will never let it go.

But it is not the book I will not leave so much as myself, the part of myself that I have found in the reading of that book, the part of myself that I value most and which is the most secret. I am vulnerable in front of others, and I cannot expose myself to the gaze of people who would frighten and attack me. I exist within my own imagination, and it takes tremendous effort to express a true thought or feeling in front of others. We are always so, afraid of rejection or of misunderstanding, but most afraid that the part of ourselves which is the most precious should be laughed at and mocked, worse yet, dismissed.

I'm scared. We all are. Are we ever ourselves in the company of others? How much can we reveal? How much before the other person laughs, a cruel form of torture that we cannot take? How much before he grows acutely uncomfortable, and makes up excuses to avoid you? How much can you say, and why is it that we keep the purest part of ourselves hidden?

I think it is because, if we brought it into contact with the world, it would be broken.

Who would understand your tears if you cried for someone who didn't exist? Who would understand that you cried for all the people who did and were embodied by that one character? There is always one person, special, kindred to your heart and soul. This person understands you, but he may not like to understand you. There is no choice, however.

The most intimate relationship we can form is when we expose this vulnerable part of ourselves to another, remove all masks or pretences, forget to consider what the other will think but simply continue as you truly are. It is the most frightening thing we ever do. We allow another to see us, to observe our nakedness, not of physical bodies but of our minds, hearts, souls. We do not need to speak to make ourselves heard. It this action that is so eloquent, and it is because it is so rare that it is always suspect, for people will give themselves over to base, vulgar ideas to avoid understanding.

How many people have we met that know us in this true sense? We are lucky if there is even one. One to see us as both our better self and the worst demon, the human being in his entirety. One to view us without shame. And one to whom we can be revealed.

And beyond people, who is it but God?

What is God? Who is He? This is the question the youngest child asks, though it may not be formed on his lips. How do you explain? What do you teach? How to comprehend? As a child, God was my father. He watched me and cared for me and I thanked Him each night. He was the heavens in all their vastness, the stars that glimmered down at me. He sent me the snow that glittered at my feet, and looked down on me all the time. He was my guardian.

As I grew older, God became more than a father. He was a King, mighty in judgment, someone I feared and served. He was my liege-lord and I the commanded, the Gandalf to my Frodo, but more than that, somehow. God became nobility and glory and I His vassal, but there was no duty that made me feel more proud.

And then I became angry with God. Angry because people I knew died or passed away. Angry because of Templars and the teachers I saw there. Angry because I encountered superficiality and hypocrisy and stupidity, and He did nothing to stop it. And what did I do? I screamed. I shouted at God,for he was my God and I was his, so there were and could be no barriers between us. He knew my thoughts and my every emotion, and my screams were a prayer, a way of protesting and speaking. I am allowed to be angry with God, because anger is only a continuation and a part of love.

I was so angry when my Grandpa died. It was close to my birthday, and I was horrible to everyone that day. I was angry because he couldn't be there. But I felt I could express my anger- I didn't need to bottle it up or repress it, because I felt that God listened to me, and that he was sad for me. I felt a tear drop from his eye and roll before my feet. There was a strange and awful knowledge that God carried, and that burden was far greater for Him than ever it was for me. If my Grandpa could have been with me, God would have given him to me. But it was not the time for my Grandpa to be mine.

Everything- all my thoughts and words, my stories, my feelings, my anger and hatred, my love and my life- has been given to God, shouted at him, stormed from the tallest turrets. I have been defiant and defied God at times, I have railed against him, I have accused him, but I have also loved him. And it is because of that, because of my personal "romance with the Creator" as Rabbi Soloveitchik wrote, that I go on.

All my faults and all my strengths are revealed to God. He sees me as a person and as I could be, with my potential and ability shining through. He sees me as I am when I read books and feel a curious ache, a phantom pain that settles upon me, and when I shirk my responsibilities, am lazy or idle or cruel. He knows me intimately. I am his Creation.

If I see beauty in God, it is reflected in me, if I see the darkness within Him, then that is mine as well. For am I not the image of God? He stands mightier than I am, but he has many different personas- father, lover, creator, master, king- who could name them all? In my anger, he is my master, when I am loving, he is my father. But above all He is mine, intimately mine.

And so that is why I don't need the warnings and gates and chains to surround me. At least, I do not need them yet- I cannot be so cocky as to claim I will never need them. My parents raised me to know God, and to feel accepted by Him no matter how I am. I feel shame and guilt and responsibility for my actions, but God is a Judge, and it is not feelings that touch him. He cannot hate me for my actions, but he can judge me for them- and I know the verdict and sentence before they are ever pronounced.

I do not know how many of you will understand this. I do not know how many will think this nothing more than the pretty but naive wonderings of a little girl. In truth, it does not matter. There are moments where we are all transcendent- either through superb joy or pain. You have all experienced the wonder and awe that dawns on you then, the way you look at the world with new eyes, the unhappiness you feel on behalf of another. This is what I speak of.

I love McMurphy, and Alan, and Vicky Austin. I love my family and my Mermaid friend. And I love God.

Even when I don't understand the reason why. Because I don't feel helpless. I feel like I can talk to God, scream, shout, write or laugh. And that God watches me and sees what I do. That he cares about people, and about me. Perhaps this is a gift that has been given me. I know some who would consider it the height of selfishness. Either way, I am ecstatic, bathed in golden light, my hair shining in the sun.

I like the idea of a little girl walking along the seashore, the wind in her hair and her hand outstetched. She is walking with someone, someone very special who holds her hand. And as her beaming eyes look upward, she smiles- because she is walking with God.

And maybe that little girl will drown, or be hurt, or in some way be made to feel pain. And she will ask why, and she will wonder and stand confused and bewildered. And she will not have the answers. But she will have the ability to ask these questions- of God.

Someone once directed me to Rilke, specifically to Letters to a Young Poet. There is a quote there, a very beautiful and profound quote. This is the quote.

"Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."

The person who told this to me no longer believed in a personal God. But I do. And I hope to live the questions, and through my life, to live the answer.


Ezzie said...

Not only do I understand it, almost the exact same thoughts went through my head this past weekend...

And you do live your way into the answer, at many different times and in many different ways; some are just more obvious than others.

Thank you for the mazel tov. ;)

(And another beaituful post.)

smb said...


FrumGirl said...

Oh, Chana... wow... this is amazing! You understand the concept of the vulnerability and giving yourself away but can you actually do it? I wonder what this means in terms of whether you are interested in a guy?

I love Hashem too. I also love your empassioned posts like this one. You dont need me to tell you how talented you are....

Nicole said...

Thank you... Your eloquence pales only in comparison to the purity, beauty, honesty and depth of the thoughts you express themselves.

That is a level of expression and understanding that belies your youth, and demonstrates the depth of your experience.

It is possible to live authentically, or in any event to live a life that is committed to the attempt, but practically, it is hard to pull off in the purest sense. I think you can live a generally authentic life but to live "authentically" every second of your life is impossible. (but something worth striving for".

The practical issues are: #1 its hard to know who that true self is (and its always changing), and #2 its hard to live in that world with its constant barrage of challenge and the fear of others who do not wish to acknowledge the truth of their own existence and self...

Also, what does it get you? Is it just the simple knowledge that God is accepting of you even if he judges and loving even if you do not achieve your potential. What of Evil as opposed to evil? And it is trite to say that we cannot understand God's plan which is ultimately good. In some ways I think what you are describing is a God that is a benevolent/caring observer, one that notes your experience and appreciates it for what its worth. I think that's true, but I also think that its an attractive thought because its comforting. But then you still have to figure out what you want your experience to be and what it should be about.

Just some thoughts...

Nicole said...

Oh and I thought this quote regarding your idealism post...

Young enough not to care too much
About the way things used to be
I'm young enough to remember the future
The past has no claim on me

I'm old enough not to care too much
About what you think of me
But I'm young enough to remember the future
And the way things ought to be

- Rush - Cut to the Chase