Thursday, May 18, 2006

life, death and, blah

There were probably a million things I could have written about in the last week, but I kept holding myself back. It's spring, and it's a time of birth and freedom, I can appreciate that, but it also feels like the end of an era, overburdened by change and worry and departures and distance and change. I don't know if my thoughts about all this have been negative or regressive or positive and a learning experience - but I wanted to avoid writing another tirade about death, war and the good hiding in the world.

I kept putting off writing about the deaths of the two people critically wounded in last month's bombing in Tel Aviv. Both were young and sons and died of organ failure. I took the news pretty hard. My instinct when I heard about the first was that the second had died also. He did, the next day.

I hear about people I don't know dying every day, but for some reason, this one hit hard. Maybe it's that everything seems to be exploding around me, figuratively, or maybe it was because it all hit so close to home, literally, down the street, and in so many other ways. The last few weeks have felt so transitory and transformative to me, that the news of of two more people whose lives and families and everything around them changed in a split-second was a lot to handle.

I'm in my own absorbed reality, much less tragic, thinking about how insane, and deaf, I am going from construction now at all sides of me starting before dawn, thinking about the amazing community I've been part of that's already in the process of morphing with time and the nature of things, thinking about emotional labor, and caring for friends, and the balance between selfishness and selflessness, thinking about the importance of sleep and the importance of adventure and the importance of love and the importance of happiness, thinking about my family, and my work, and joie de vivre. It's absorbed and it's not so tragic, but it's another reminder that life is not static.

I got a ride with my boss on Monday to outside of Jerusalem, planning to meet up with friends in the city and hitchhike together to Meron for Lag Ba'omer, traditionally the 33rd day counting down to the end of the grain harvest and the giving of the torah, and in the hasidic world, the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai, author of the Zohar, who is buried in a huge tomb at the top of the mountain. I wasn't sure I wanted to go. I went for Lag Ba'omer five years ago, and hated it, feeling very out of place, and very small and sticky and debaucherous. But I figured I'd be with great friends, and we could spend the whole time camping in the forest.

When I got to Jerusalem, nobody was ready to go. It took five hours of eating and playing music before we got on the road, and then we were 12. We stayed a group walking through the empty market, to the street, to the bus stop, to the random junction where every ten minutes another five buses pulled up, and another hundreds after hundreds of haredi men, wives, sons and daughters, and dozens of hippies, pushed their way on. Lots of screaming, lots of shoving, and one woman who gave me a dirty look and slapped my arm when I made a noise she said wasn't modest. We waited almost two hours for a bus. Then we reconsidered.

Four of us went on. I stayed in Jerusalem. We broke down again into two groups, one went to learn zohar and the rest of us went to make a bonfire and play music in the park. The apocalypse that had hit the park on Independence Day was back, this time in the form of hundreds of groups of high school kids eating meat and gleefully building enormous fires. We went back into the forest, and ended up sleeping there until late morning. It wasn't exactly what I had planned, but it was nice.

I keep learning, over and over to stop planning. Things change whether we plan them or not. We're much more susceptible to great surprises when we're not so busy feeling disappointed at unfulfilled dreams.

The park looked destroyed when we came down from our site. I wondered who was going to clean it. We decided to pick up some garbage, and ended up attacking three sites. We scored some ketchup and unopened bags of about 40 fresh pitas. I needed to get out of the city and go be lazy somewhere in nature. It took some time but at around 2:30 we made it to the bus station. Then we waited some more, until I made everyone get on a bus that was going close to where we wanted, if not exactly, because I so much prefered to be sitting on a bus riding through the Jerusalem hills to a random spot than sitting in front of the bus station waiting.

So we did, and the day was awesome. We went to a collective community called Evan Sapir, set on a cliff in the middle of the forest. We found a great tree cave and a natural pools carved into stone, and a handmade wooden sweatlodge, and lots of green and quiet. We sat around for six or seven hours, but this time we weren't waiting.

I tried to avoid writing this post because I didn't want to write about death again, and I didn't want to come up with some feel-good analysis of how to keep these things from breaking us down, or give some moral guide to reorganizing tragedy to build ourselves up. But it's unavoidable.

Usually, when I hear about deaths, I can do that moral guide thing, I can distance myself enough to understand the loss on some level, and use it on other levels to recognize the lesson learned to love life and make the most of every second. You never know when things are going to change. Man makes plans and god laughs. Be ready for change. Be ready for tragedy, be open to its invigorating elements.

But I don't think I succeeded in doing that that with the news of these deaths. I know about change, and I know how to look at the positive elements of tragedy, but sometimes we just want to mourn, not necessarily use the opportunity to boost our own morale and price of life. Even when we don't know the victim personally, recognizing their name, hearing about them in such detail, seeing their families crying and knowing, feeling, the desperation they must be going through, being familiar with the exact place they were injured and having been there numerous times, being familiar with the kind of community they come from, the kind of life they lived, makes it too difficult sometimes to be ready to pick ourselves up and find the feel-good moral of the story. Even if we get to spend a day lazing around in nature and feeling alive.

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