Monday, July 23, 2007

Surrender

It occurs to me that the quality I most admire in others is the one I can't achieve myself: the ability to surrender.

This expresses itself on many levels, from the Rav's idea regarding "surrendering our minds to God" to the idea of surrendering to death. The most powerful scene in the animated movie Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas is when Sinbad kneels, his fists clenched, places his head on the executioner's block and you see his fists unclench, his hands open. His hands open and the moment is incredibly powerful; he has completely surrendered to his fate and expects to die. He is completely powerless, completely helpless and he accepts that...There's a very strange quality to that scene for me; I always wonder how he is able to do it.

The idea of surrendering one's intellect to a being who is supposedly higher than you, trusting another to give you the answers, is one that I find impossible. I cannot trust other people's answers; I have to figure everything out for myself. I can respect other people's answers, but to simply adopt them without question? No, I cannot do that. Is this a learned response due to my high school experience or an inborn character trait? I do not know.

This is probably related to my quest to be in control of my own life, to fight when attacked (whether that attack is real or merely perceived.) If you surrender, you surrender to something, to someone. You give someone else authority over you. I can't do that...that gives someone else far too much power.

Surrender, in my mind, is linked to submission. To submit is to have failed, to have lost. I do not like authority. I do not like surrendering anything, whether it be my mind, my will or my spirit to an alien authority. I do not want to be chained to anything, I do not want to be pinned down; the butterfly does not want to be caught.

There can be no surrender, not even to God. To meet God as a child, yes, but even then, it must be through defiance and at times through anger, because otherwise I would have to admit I do not understand and that is unthinkable. I am not like my friend; had I been stricken with cancer, I do not think I could have met God in love, have surrendered to Him. My instinct is to fight, to protest, to cry out...not to yield.

But I find that some of the most beautiful moments in the stories I so treasure are ones where people surrender to fate, death or God. And I admire that quality. I wonder if perhaps only the person who is not proud has the ability to surrender. The proud person would have difficulty with surrendering.

I don't know how to change it or if it is worth trying, but I can't surrender to any authority and I won't surrender to God. One wonders what I prove by my defiance- perhaps it is only that that defiance makes me feel like more of a person and less of a puppet. Or perhaps it is that I cannot stand to choose to be powerless, to be helpless.

But I think I need to learn, if only to do it once, how to surrender.

12 comments:

haKiruv said...

You seem to be in a state of constant conflict.

daat y said...

See the Rav in Yemei Zikaron first chapter where he differentiates between 'gaus' and 'gaava.'In hebrew letters the only difference is between the heh and the tuf.But what a difference.

Daniel said...

I think there are several different issues here.

“I cannot trust other people's answers; I have to figure everything out for myself.”

I don’t think that is bad thing. It is not pride to reject an argument that has not been proven. However, it is important to be able to gracefully reject one’s own arguments if they are disproved. That is not “surrender”. That is placing truth ahead of pride.

“This is probably related to my quest to be in control of my own life, to fight when attacked (whether that attack is real or merely perceived.)…
Surrender, in my mind, is linked to submission. To submit is to have failed, to have lost.”


This is a more dangerous train of thought. To be eternally on the defensive is to run the risk of ignoring real arguments that run counter to one’s beliefs, and to antagonise people unnecessarily by over-reacting to criticism. To have one’s argument disproved is not to submit to another person; rather it is the only way to grow as a person, to learn, to develop one’s ideas.

“The proud person would have difficulty with surrendering.”

I think so, or at least the person who is not proud can be so self-effacing that he or she can remove his or her self from the argument. The argument becomes one purely of ideas, not a clash of personalities. Moreover, the argument can be placed in perspective: sometimes it is necessary to concede a point which is not proven in order to preserve the peace, or because the argument can not be won because of the other person’s prejudices.

G said...

I would echo Daniel.

"surrendering our minds to God" to the idea of surrendering to death."
&
"surrendering one's intellect to a being who is supposedly higher than you, trusting another to give you the answers,"

These are two very different things.

Larry Lennhoff said...

When C.S. Lewis talks about how he perceives humility, he tells a moshol about a man who designs a cathedral, knows it is the best cathedral in the world, is pleased for Hashem's sake that such a beautiful design exists, yet would have just as much satisfaction if someone else had done the design. The idea is to remove the self from the equation, and to be pleased when work is done for Hashem's sake, regardless of who does the work. This is similar, l'havdil, to Moshe Rabbenu's 'Would they all could be prophets'.

Refusal to submit to others ideas unless they show you their ideas are better is one thing. Refusal to submit to other's ideas because they aren't your is another. It is a common enough problem it even has a name the NIH (not invented here) syndrome.

Ezzie said...

I'm somewhere in between the two. I always have trouble surrendering myself - particularly my intellect - to others; on the other hand, I've gotten quite good at realizing when to do so in recent years. This often comes with understanding people's skills and their own thought processes... and recognizing what you still need to learn a lot in. The hardest to get used to was doing so with people whom I viewed as "not all that bright" - but then realized that in certain fields, certain situations, they were extremely successful.

It's weird to be listening to/following advice from people whom you think are smarter than - particularly when you think there's another way - but often, that is the best way. It's interesting that the world's greatest leaders throughout history are usually bright, but never brilliant; and the most brilliant are often the worst.

As for the rest, I'm with G. There's a strong line between the examples, though I think that most of us start off with putting those together, and many stay that way forever.

Scraps said...

Strangely, I am able to surrender my intellect--not always, but at least sometimes. It is my emotions, my deepest feelings, that I have a much harder time surrendering. I cannot give my heart away...

G said...

"As for the rest, I'm with G."

Great, there goes my credibility.

Jack's Shack said...

I don't think that there is anything wrong with not surrendering.

Anonymous said...

"The idea of surrendering one's intellect to a being who is supposedly higher than you, trusting another to give you the answers, is one that I find impossible."

How about surrendering your intellect only to yourself, only to your own heart and trusting your highest self?

haKiruv said...

Corey Hart - Never Surrender

Erachet said...

I am exactly the same way as you, Chana. I am a control freak when it comes to my own life, which perhaps I should write a post about one day. It's one of the reasons why I'm so terrified of death. Death is when you lose control, when someone else takes you away.