Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My Beloved, Lonely God

What strange and curious thoughts arise at night! That there could be something more than this, that this whole world is nothing but a dream, that I float almost, that there is nothing here for me but what I pretend to see; there is so much to laugh about at night, if one can bear to laugh! But it is impossible; there is a bitterness that curls up around the tongue, so that one's sighs are turned to breaths, and every breath is fraught with pain; there is something great that weighs upon me and will not let me go! And how I wish to fight it off, so that it might leave me and I might be free of it, but I cannot, I cannot, and God will not allow it of me.

Such a strange quiet in the dead of night? There is nothing to hear; there is no sound, not even the hushed whispering of one across the hall, or perhaps a roommate deadened through sleep. I long to walk, but where I do not know; there is no place that can describe where I walk and so I enter my mind, so that I might walk there, dancing through halls and memories that only I can describe, so filled with shadows are they. They are all in blacks and whites and greys, coming to haunt me, with the emerald sheen that speaks of misery, because there is naught of color in them but what I have brought, and I have perfumed them with that scent, so that it catches on fire, for it burns in color; there is nothing but color! A great conflagaration, a very blaze of passion upon the eyes, so that it hurts to look; there is nothing here.

Nothing but lies, so many lies told and weighed and counted for upon so fruitless a soul! What venture is this, and wherein lies the journey? I fight, but what for? There is nothing so great as this bitterness that weighs upon me when I can bear to think; there is nothing here, do you realize it? There is only my fantasy, an imagination that wraps and envelops me so that I might be glad of it, to bind me and to hold me, with the poor comfort that it offers. These are not the kisses of a soul, these are nothing that I desire, and yet as they are, still they bind me! Are these fetters or are they manacles of love; tell me so that I might know! I am half mad and I despair but I cannot comprehend; there is no logic in this sense; there is nothing in this that I might understand. Too many things pass me by, too many images, confused and whirling, and as I grasp for them they dance beyond my reach. I cannot hold them, I cannot hold them! What a torment you have devised for me, God! You let me pursue what you know I cannot reach, and I damn you for it at the same time that I am drawn closer against my will- or perhaps because of my will; I do not know, I do not know! Will you not take pity on me? Will you not leave me be? Let me pass; let me walk a little while, and perhaps it will be in shadow but perhaps the moon will shine, and the trail of whiteness behind me may purify me.

May I not be graced with that light? Come, if I must walk at night, at least allow the moon to show me my path? There I skip, with lilting steps, for there is naught of me but that it has some of a child's grace, and it is upon you to show me where I walk and where I dance. I shall close my eyes and I shall walk, but who will guard me from the glass, for I see that even with my eyes closed, the glitter of the glass upon the concrete. It shimmers so! Does it not strike you as peculiar that the merest beer bottle may unleash such furious light upon the backs of my eyes, so that it fills me and completes me, so that all I am is suddenly seen within these sparklets that dash against my face and blind me? My temples ache but there is no one to offer a cordial or any sort of drink; there is nothing here but me. I am all of myself and all is illusion; these are fantasies I wind about me to help me find my way.

What bitterness! Can such bitterness possess me? You know I love you, then let me cling to you! But you make it difficult; you must push me; you will give me no peace! No, I am not fair to blame you, but did you ever take fairness into account when once you had created me? Perhaps I am a creature of passion, perhaps of mood, perhaps of emotion, perhaps I know not what I am, and claim only to be that which you made, that creation of dust and ashes. I am the very dirt of the ground upon which I tread, and you look upon me and do not care; you do not care, I tell you! You watch us all and watch us suffer, and what can you comprehend, who has no feeling with which to comprehend it? And yet, I know that is not true; I know your loneliness in every moment; I know who you are and more importantly, what you are! Can there be any loneliness such as yours? For you are one, apart from all, never to be understood. There is no one to wipe the tears from your cheek, no one to draw close to comfort you. You are tormented; your people betray you and what can I do but accuse you? And yet, even that is not permitted me for I know how great your pain, and how sorrowful your distress!

What good can there be in accusing you who is so unhappy? You suffer alongside me, as always You have; You are close to me as no one else is. You are unhappy with me or proud of me at turns, but you are beside me, within me; you are my spirit, my breath, my life and my form and at the same time that I rebel against you, can it not be that I wish to draw close to you and cannot conceive of the way? There is too much that you ask for! It is too much! And yet you demand it of me, why? I cannot give it to you; you are asking me for more than your due; you gave me my soul but did you give rise to everything else within me? How can you have? How can you have feeling when you are said to know none? But you must have feeling, you must, else I could not love you and I do.

How lonely is a God in his world, his universe populated with so many fragments of Himself! How lonely you are, so apart from us, doubted and hated and in turns accused, forced always to live a solitary life. Indeed, is there anything we can offer you that is of importance to you? What can delight you? I give you my life but it was you who gave it to me. How difficult it is for you to watch me and see me err; how powerless you must feel, having given me the gift of my own will. I know what it is like; I have seen it, too; I have been condemned to watch. And so are you, O' God, condemned to watch, to see what I have been and what I am and what I yet may be, if only I had the courage to take what is mine.

And if I were to defy you? Oh proud, foolish thought! And yet how many times it has entered my mind of late, to throw myself against you and repudiate what you have given me, to end this game of foolish lies and defenses, these apologetics I cannot hear; these words I cannot abide! Will you take them back so that I need not hear them anymore? Every day another disappointment; every day another form of disillusionment! Will you not take me back? Show me so that I will not defy you, as I so wish to; you know how much I wish to be anything but what I am, so that I might live a life that was not constantly indebted to you, so that I might be hateful but have my revenge! And on whom? On what? Have you wronged me, that I must avenge myself? But you have, you have! You wrong me because you will not show yourself! They all prayed for you to show yourself and still you will not, for you are proud in your loneliness, and you shall have us crawl to you before you will come to us. And yet I will not crawl, I tell you! I will not crawl.

I cannot comprehend how you last the nights; I do not know what goes through your mind. How insufferable a world, and at the same time how magical! How beautiful are your creations, and at the same time, how splintered, how fragmented! How can you bear it? For your sake, I know I must...If you can bear it, if you can bear such loneliness, how can I refuse? What use my anger and my words when it is upon you to choose to hear them, and you hear them entirely? It is only that I must protest, I must, otherwise the words choke me for they are bound up in my soul and it is only at nights that they come clear. You have given me this; this strange clarity and feeling in the night, so that only then does everything unravel and I can see you so closely that I could touch you, if only you were near.

I know, God, of all that is unutterable and world-wearying for you and I am sorry that we have given you cause for it to be so. Who can comfort you? There is none who may comfort God. Can I reach you to climb upon your lap, to reach up to your eye so that I might wipe away your tears? Will you allow me? I dream a little; perhaps I clamber upon your knee, perhaps I may kiss your cheek, and what? A tear, so that you command the angels to bring the cup of tears to you! No, but you shall not cry; it is not for you to cry. If it is I who has wronged you, then may I make amends. Allow me, God, to wipe away a tear...

Oh, and so we are both crying! You are crying for your nation and I, for myself, and for my people, and for everything I am not and at the same time, what we are. There is a great and terrible beauty in your nation, God, despite our squabbles and fights, and it is because you see it that you allow the world another day, even as you take others to you. It hurts me so when you take them from us, but then, your loneliness hurts you too, does it not? How you desire them around you, to learn in your hallowed palaces and walk your crystal halls, to bring you joy so that perhaps you might laugh...but the laugh of God is seldom heard; there is too much sorrow for Him. How it pains you, God; how you must suffer!

Allow me, then, to wipe away a tear...


Anonymous said...

There is no way you don’t suffer from depression. But, then again, perhaps this is how you write so beautifully.

Baruch from YU said...

This is an incredible piece!
The fact that you know who you are/explore your thoughts so completely spills into the content of this essay,makes it so much more powerful!

Anon 8:33 am-please stop diadnosing!

another YU student said...

I have been reading your posts for the past couple of years. This is one of your best works yet! Keep on writing! Help others see the light!

Stern student said...

Chana,how do you come up with topics for your essays? I love this one a lot.

SimchaGross said...

Anon 8:33,
I believe you need to reexamine the definition of depression. Depression does not mean being thoughtful, or having the ability to recognize truths which may be painful. Rabbi Soloveitchik wrote many thoughtful pieces about his "loneliness" which I would hope you would not attribute to clinical depression. The dictionary defines depression as "a mental state characterized by a pessimistic sense of inadequacy and a despondent lack of activity." I do not quite understand how this post would reflect either of those traits.
There is then another issue, that of publicly diagnosing someone, with your clear vast expertise,as suffering from depression. Is that in any way appropriate? Do you stand to gain something by doing that? If it was true, do you believe you in someway help by making this information public. If you were truly concerned, then contact Chana personally. Do you really feel the need to write, to get attention. Perhaps you simply feel the need to write out of a sense of inadequacy, that you are struggling with issues and wish to project them on others. But that would in fact fall under the rubric of clinical depression. Think before you act, it'll help you in life.

jackie said...

I think that underneath almost any person's facade is a well-protected loneliness. Even in religious people.

But why the feeling sorry for Gd? That part I can't relate to.

a satisfied reader of your blog said...

God's Loneliness

And God looked around
On all that he had made.
He looked at his sun,
And he looked at his moon,
And he looked at his little stars. . .
And God said:
I'm lonely still.

Then God sat down
On the side of a hill
Where he could think;
By a deep, wide river
He sat down;
With his head in his hands,
God thought and thought,
Till he thought:
I'll make a man!

J.W. Johnson (1927)
Chana.I was impressed by this letter of yours to God. It's a productive way of giving up to Him whatever it is that's on your mind. Actually,you wworked the kinks out in the body of the letter and found a solution-you can and will handle Loneliness for whatever period of time that it will last because God does.
I enjoyed this essay immensely:it's sincere,creative and captivating.

Chana said...

satisfied reader,

"you can and will handle Loneliness for whatever period of time that it will last because God does."

Oh, well done.

lurker said...

Jackie, you need to reread the essay carefully in order to understand the point you are clearly missing.

Moshe Y. Gluck said...

You know what they say, "It's lonely at the top..."

Anonymous said...

A friend in need is a friend indeed.