The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “Belief in God”

Wonder and Curiosity

 
books
Me:  When this narrator first came to me,  I  was walking on the street,  heading to the subway.  He popped into my head “speaking” in a very strong accent (Russian? Eastern European?) Normally,  when I receive these stories, they come to me almost as memories —  a combination of  images, thoughts,  feelings  and  written words.  This one  however was somewhat different.  It was as if he (or she, but probably he) was literally speaking to me in my head,  telling me the story in his own voice. I did not get any of the images or feelings,  just the narration.
The voice was so compelling,  however, I  dug out my phone and started dictating, speaking his words in his accent,  as if he were speaking through me; as if I were merely a receiver.    Alas,  there was too much street noise to get a good recording  (and I wasn’t going to do this while sitting on the subway!)  The voice, however, still remains very clear in my head, so I have re-recorded the first paragraph so you can hear it. (Click the link below the post.)  I honestly have no idea what kind of accent this is, or if it’s even a “real” accent.  I’m simply presenting this narrator as he  came to me.

Ko

The course of my last life was driven by two primary states of being which worked in conjunction with and in opposition to each other. They were: wonder and curiosity.   A sunset is beautiful. But why is it beautiful?   If humans are descended from apes, by what mechanism did we become us and they become them? Light is faster than sound. What is different about them that makes that so?

As a child, my curiosity quickly surpassed my parents’ and teachers’ abilities to answer my questions. Sometimes, if they had the patience and were curious enough themselves, they might look up the answer in books. I found amazing the notion of such a store of knowledge was available to anyone who could read.

Since I was so curious and filled with so many questions, my elders didn’t always have time or ability to explain things to me. Often, my questions were very complex. I realized that if I wanted answers or more information to fill out my understanding of a subject, I would have to learn how to read and calculate.

While my contemporaries were struggling to learn basic skills, I was far above my age level. Some teachers called me a genius but I never thought of myself as precocious. From my perspective, it was a necessity; it was the only way my thirst for knowledge could be slaked.   So I thought.

I consumed books on a wide variety of subjects but the more I learned, the more curious I became; the more questions I had, the more I directed my energy to finding answers. I was fortunate that my family had the means and the connections to send me to university. There, the questions became larger and wider and deeper, and sometimes, even the smartest of the professors didn’t know the answer. If I wanted to get to the nut, down to the marrow, I would have to ask new questions. I would have to look in places theretofore unsearched. I would have to look at facts in new ways in the hopes that I would find what others had missed. I would have to explore and seek and observe.

This is when my life’s work began.

I was happy and proud to contribute to the stores of human understanding, to see my own name in books; to see my ideas incorporated into known science. I was gratified to know that those who came after me would not have to wonder about these things, but would be able to use my knowledge to see even further than I.

But humans can learn only so much in each lifetime. And so, while it appeared that I knew so very much, in fact, in some of the most important things, I knew very little

As a child, I was socially at odds with my peers. I was so beyond them intellectually, I had nothing to say to them. Neither they, nor their petty childhood games held any fascination. I spend most of my early years sniffing out understanding from the pages of books or conversing with grownups or trying my own experiments.   Other children had nothing to teach me. By the time I grew into my own intellect, I had no idea how to behave among people my own age.   Yes, many of my colleagues were misfits as well, much none so much as me.

Human emotion seemed to me a colossal waste of time. Feelings could not be revealed or understood by the scientific method, and thus they did not interest me. They took the mind away from study, siphoned off energy better spent on more important things.

While I was always chasing knowledge about the world, I never bothered pursuing self-knowledge. That, too, seemed a waste of time. More navel-gazing would have been less time to work, fewer contributions to human advancement.

There are, of course, many kinds of knowledge; more lessons to be learned than there are stars in the skies.. All are ultimately necessary to ascend. Each lifetime, however, offers the opportunity to learn only a few

For all I knew and for all I discoveries I made, this is what I did not learn: I did not learn to be a friend. I did not learn to laugh at myself. I did not learn relax. I did not learn to simply BE. I did not learn to love.

 

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey! 
-Adrienne
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The Hero of the Story

First published January 14, 2015

AA046331

Ti

I met him when we were children and I loved him the minute I laid eyes on him.

It was in the play yard of my first school. The Bully, who tormented us all in one way or another, was picking on a much younger boy. He was boxing at his ears, tugging the collar of his jacket as if to pull it off, stopping short of hurting him but tormenting him nevertheless. It was his idea of fun, puffing himself up at the little one’s expense.

I was on the swings, pumping my legs furiously, taking myself as high as possible, not paying much attention to that bit of mischief. Suddenly a boy with dark curly hair, way on the other side of the yard, noticed the altercation and made a beeline across the playground. His direct path, fierce determination and brisk pace made him pop out against the random chaos of recess. He caught my interest even from way up in the air.

It was clear to me he was going to interfere, but what would he do? The Bully was bigger than everyone. And yet, this hero seemed fully confident, full of righteous indignation. I scraped the heels of my white shoes on the dirt to bring myself to a full stop, and followed him with my eyes.

The Bully was backed up by his friends, as bullies often are. Simply humiliating another human being is never enough. They need an audience; someone to remind them that, at least for the moment, they are in control.

The hero walked right up to them, stepped between the troublemakers and the little boy, and nudged the child aside, to safety. The boy ran away, frightened but relieved. Then, the hero leaned over and whispered something to the Bully so that none of his friends could hear.   It was as if he had stuck a pin in a balloon, that’s how quickly the Bully deflated. He slunk away, his head hung in shame. The hero never even took his hands out of his pockets.

I knew right then, in that playground, I would marry him someday. And so I did. And I spent my life striving to become worthy of such a man’s love. He made me a better person, and that was only one of the reasons I loved him.

We married young, raised three children, and had a good and happy life together. We had our challenges, but we never let anything or anyone come between us.   He was my hero, always and forever.

And then he got sick.

It started slowly, the descent into infirmity. We weren’t very old. Our youngest child had just gotten married. It was right after the wedding when the weakness started. The disease progressed slowly. In the beginning, we were able to joke about it. We accommodated his limitations. We took things more slowly, spent more time at home.   As long as we were together, we could manage everything.

Eventually, as he deteriorated , it was hard to maintain our sense of humor. We saw doctors more often than we saw our children or grandchildren.   He became dependent upon me for everything. I was happy that I was there to help but this kind of constant care takes its toll on the caretaker. I dreaded the time when I could no longer do for him what he needed. I knew I could not carry or lift him,   even as frail as he had become.

I don’t deny that I sometimes felt put upon and angry and frustrated by our, by my, circumstances, but I resisted self-pity and did everything I could to keep him at home. My children begged me to put him in a place where he could have full time care. I was not so young myself, anymore, and it was wearing on me. But I couldn’t do that to us. His body was gone but his mind was intact. Our love was intact. I would not be the one to abandon it.

The time came, however, when I could not care for him alone. His mind was starting to go. The end, while not imminent, was not far away.

One day, when I was cuddled in bed with him (as we still often did), he asked me for the biggest favor he’d ever asked of me. He wanted me to help him die, there at home, in our bed, with my arms around him. He did not want to die in a hospital, hooked up to tubes, unconscious or unaware of his surroundings, being poked and stuck with needles and monitors.  We both knew there wasn’t much time before that would be inevitable.

I was terrified, both of living without him and of being the cause of his end, but he knew what he wanted and I was the only one who could give it to him. I cried for days when he asked me, but we both knew I would do it.  It was time for me to be a hero to my hero.

I found a method that was painless and undetectable.   I held him in my arms, stroking his head, as his breathing slowed and eventually stopped.

I lived for many years more, alone, missing him every minute of every day. When my time came, he was here waiting for me. I flew to him in joy.

 

  image: Getty

 

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey! 
-Adrienne

Beyond The Veil

First published Jan 2, 2015

aeg eye curtains sky

 

Ipo (again)

There is a veil which separates humans from the spirit world. It is neither completely opaque nor completely transparent.

Sometimes, humans can see shapes and shadows moving behind the screen. Some catch occasional glimpses by accident. Perhaps they are looking in just the right place in the right moment. Some are able to peek behind it regularly. They know how and where to find the split in the curtain. Others don’t know where to look and cannot not see anything at all. And even those who can see do not always know what they are seeing.

An earthly event with a thousand human witnesses produces a thousand different accounts, each person experiencing and perceiving events in their own way.

And so it is when humans peer behind the veil.

Humans can only see as much as their limited senses allow. The Other Side is not comprised of substance or dimension which humans can perceive or understand. They can distinguish light within a certain spectrum, but The Other Side has colors which humans cannot even dream of. They can hear only within specific frequencies. Most of what is on the Other Side vibrates differently.

Skeptics who seek unequivocal proof of the Other Side will never find it. There must always be room for doubt. Without doubt, there can be no faith.

It does not require faith to believe in the things you can see, feel, taste, smell. Faith is believing in the intangible; in what you feel, what you think. In what your heart tells you. It follows from your perception of reality.

Faith is the path to love and love is the path to all other lessons.

Humans are given this choice —  to believe or not to believe — so they may exercise their free will and follow the path of their faith.

It doesn’t matter if that path leads to false reality. In this case, simply developing faith is the lesson.

This is not to say you shouldn’t question. It is not faith to follow blindly, obediently believing everything you’re told. Try on various beliefs until you find the ones which feel right.  It is through this process, you develop faith.

Those things in which we have faith are what we love. For some, it’s God. For others it’s money or power. For the lucky ones, it’s faith in themselves.

And we love that which we have faith in — the things and people we can count on; who and what does not disappoint us; who and what we trust. Faith is the belief that these will always be the answers to our questions.

When a belief system no longer provides answers, faith is lost. Spirits are crushed. Souls are set adrift. By instinct, humans will immediately begin searching for a new set of beliefs which will answer their questions and quiet their doubts.

Thus, our lives are about the search for love via our search for faith.
Me:
I am fortunate in that the deeper I go into the belief system which I’ve held since I was a child,  the MORE answers I discover and the clearer those answers become.

I was raised in a formal, organized religion but never had any use for it. My form of religion has always been extremely personal,  which I believe is the only valid kind of religion. The answers are different for each of us, and can be found only within each individual.

Dogma is anathema of enlightenment.

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey.
photo: (c) Adrienne Gusoff

War, Ugh, What Is It Good For?

Originally published October 30, 2014

armytank-watercolor

 To

I was a tool of history. I was a soldier. I followed orders, which I believed to be righteous in their intent. I never doubted that I was on the side of God; that our mission was His.

I killed without ever looking the enemy in the eye. Modern weaponry allows a certain moral remove. Vanquishing those who do not believe as you do becomes purely theoretical. From the air, from afar, one does not feel as if they are extinguishing a human life. Deaths are merely numbers, calculated and displayed on graphs and charts.

Soldiers are not encouraged to think about such philosophical matters; or to consider that the lives taken likely belonged to a father, a son, a husband or lover. Such consideration would render a fighting force impotent.

There is no such thing as a killing machine with morality.

But, then, what is morality? It is so much more complex than the way humans, in their limited understanding, define it. It is easy to say, simply, that killing is always wrong. Or that killing to defend oneself or one’s loved ones is justified. Or that destroying your enemy — an enemy who would destroy your very way of life if given the opportunity —   is a righteous cause. Anyone can find justification for any of these positions, but in the end, these are human justifications.

War is built into the human experience.   It has always existed and always will, despite naïve calls for world peace.   Peace might be achieved in a limited arena for a limited time, but it will always erupt again somewhere else. Always. War is human emotion and relationships, writ large; the personal human condition, played out on a grand scale;

People call for peace and understanding yet cannot even get along with their own neighbors or stand to be within the bosom of their own family.

War and conflict are part of the fabric of worldly existence. They create  the shadows in the pattern, and it is this darkness which defines the edge of the light.

Pure light is only knowable in this realm.

 

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey.

Who You Callin’ Primitive?

Originally published Oct 12, 2014

 

 

…Continued from August 27

[note: When I go into my trance the next night, I look for Ipo again. This time, he shows me around his old forest home. We are sitting on the ground, under some trees, talking. I ask him what his prized possession was.]

That’s easy. My bow. It took me many, many days to make it; to find just the right materials and to shape it just so. It was a very good instrument and others admired the fine workmanship.

“And what is your favorite possession?” he asks in return.

 I couldn’t think of an answer, which I suppose is good. I guess it means I’m not that attached to material things. I thought about it for a long time afterward, and now I would say it’s my collection of journals, dating back to college.

 As we are sitting and talking, I am feeling a bit nervous. As beautiful as it is in this place which feels so alive, I recognize that it is also full of unseen dangers. Ipo reminds me that there is no danger to us here. We are merely astral forms.

With that, Ipo casually and reflexively grabs his slingshot, and in a single motion, loads a stone into it and brings down a snake inches from my head.

 “I thought you said there was no danger!?” I said, frightened and a bit annoyed.

“There isn’t,” he replied.

I just wanted to demonstrate something to you. Even if we were not in our astral bodies, but were in human form, you still would not have been in any danger. I would have seen that snake long before you were even aware of it; and it would have been dead before you’d even registered danger.

Notice, however, that when you realized what had just happened, what close a call you’d just had, you were terrified after the fact. If that had happened in your real life, that fear memory would have remained with you for a long, long time. Perhaps the rest of your life.   Even though the danger was only conceptual.

Now, imagine me as primitive man visiting you in New York. Our situation is reversed. My surroundings are completely unfamiliar and terrifying to me. There are unknown, unseen dangers all around. We are standing on the street corner, waiting to cross. I am about to step into the street without looking or thinking. You, however, are unconsciously aware of the traffic light and the flow of the cars. Before I can step off the curb, you instinctively put your arm out across my chest to prevent me from moving forward. At that very moment, a bus whooshes right past me.

To you, the act of reaching out and stopping me would be pure instinct, honed from your years of living in the city. It is a non-event for you. It’s the kind of thing you would forget almost immediately after it happened. I, on the other hand, would be terrified by what had almost happened to me. And that fear would likely remain with me for a long, long time. Perhaps the rest of my life. Even though the danger was only conceptual.

My point is that all danger is conceptual, and thus, so is fear.

We fear what we believe we cannot control.

But we cannot overcome fear by controlling everything, because that is impossible. If that is the goal, it can never be achieved, and thus fear can never be conquered.

Fear can only be overcome by relinquishing the need to control; by understanding that life is going to unspool in exactly the way it was wound up – by you, when you were here, before you breathed into life.

What do you have to fear? All obstacles have been put in your path by your very self, to help you understand and ascend. Vanquish fear by searching for the lessons in the very situations which you, yourself, have provided to yourself. Use the unknown to learn something new – about yourself, about others, about the universe – and fear evaporates. Accept that it will be as it should be.

People with understanding and faith in this truth are peaceful.

But blind faith can be worse than no faith at all.

You must work, always, for your own enlightenment. You must not accept facile answers. Everything you need to know is within you, if you look deep enough.

And if you go down far enough into your soul, you will find a door. That door opens into the universe.

 

[There is much more from Ipo. He’s quite the philosophical and chatty fellow! And I’m finding him very interesting.  But in the interest of the blog,  to keep it from becoming too “one note”,  I’ll be posting some narratives by others who’ve come to me during the same period.   I will get back to Ipo’s wisdom and insights soon enough.

I find it difficult to understand his concepts sometimes — it’s a lot to process — so I imagine it would be even more difficult for many readers.  I think we can all use some time to digest.)

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey.


Belonging

first published Oct 1, 2015

pitchforks-mob

 

Ger

When I was young, I didn’t have a lot of friends. I was not well-versed in the social graces and did not get much respect. I felt odd and apart from others.

In my twenties, I volunteered to do some work for an organization. They were happy to have another body and brain to help the cause.   We were all working towards the same goal, and there was a real sense of community.   For the first time, I felt I belonged and was a part of something.   It pleased me and so I devoted more time.

I quickly and mostly unconsciously assessed the group dynamic, even the more subtle, low-level hierarchy. The closer I moved to those in power, the more I emulated them. The more like them I became, the more respect and higher status I attained within the group.

I devoted myself to making myself as helpful as I could be to those at the top.   I made sure they knew they could trust me and count on me, which they increasingly did. I was always there, ready to do what needed to be done, all in order to make myself indispensable.

Over time, I became a part of the larger inner circle. … not the core group, but close enough so those below me on the ladder thought I was more important than I actually was.

This group came to define me. They were my family, my support team, the only ones who accepted me fully, even though none of us ever really shared our personal feelings with the others.

And then, after a many years, the momentum of the group shifted. They wanted to do things which I did not condone, acts which would cause material and/or psychic harm to others.

I was in a quandary.

If I contradicted their mission, if I protested, if I suggested that as a group we reconsider our actions, I would have been ostracized. I couldn’t bear to go back to the days of having no status, no friends, no acceptance.

I felt it was wrong to follow them, but I was too much of a coward to say no.

Initially, I regretted the harm I did to others but I soon convinced myself that our actions were just. In any case, I did not bear this guilt alone. The ones above me, certainly, but also the ones below. Their belief and compliance allowed those at the top to achieve their goals. It was easy to deny my own complicity when I felt myself to be a cog in a machine that was moving forward with or without me.

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

The Voice

First published August 13, 2014

fan

Si

Just when you think you have it all figured out, the proverbial ca-ca hits the fan. Everything is going smoothly. Your life is working. You feel safe in the illusion that you are in control. Then suddenly, it all blows up in your face.

The structure crumbles. Nature deals you a serious blow. There is illness, death, tragedy. Inability to control the circumstances. And then panic. Or depression. Or both.

The “luckier” and more privileged we think we are, the further we’re sent reeling by the smack down. We are unprepared. It feels as if we’ve fallen down a flight of stairs and had the wind knocked out of our lungs.

In many ways, life is easier when disappointment starts early. We learn the lesson at a young age that nothing is a given; that we must fight for every drop of happiness we experience. We come to appreciate the times when tragedy does not yank us out of our bed in the middle of the night and toss us out into the cold, dark night. We learn to value the moments when no pain pricks at our body or soul. We know that joy is fleeting, so when it comes, we embrace it and savor every second.

For some — those born into more “fortunate” circumstances — those lessons often don’t get learned until late in life, or perhaps not at all.

When we suffer, we rail against the injustice, failing to recognize that all of life is unjust, even for the so-called lucky ones. Joy is not a permanent condition, but we can achieve a kind of contentment if we can find the lessons and purpose in our journey.

From here, it’s easy to look back and understand all we cannot understand in life. The reasons for each journey are hidden from us behind a veil. Sometimes, we can see vague images, movements, the shadows of actions behind it. We may feel ourselves being pushed or led in a certain direction, but we never really know until we’re back here if we understood correctly, if we were following the right path, if we learned our lessons properly.   So many choices and no way to know, until it’s all over.

I was fortunate in that in life I remained strongly tethered to the part of me that remained here. My life was guided by this part of myself.   I was able to hear my true soul more clearly than others. I knew enough to listen for that voice, to heed its call, to follow its advice.

This is not to say I never made mistakes or suffered from sadness or pain which (at the time) seemed to have no reason. There were many occasions when I could not hear that guidance.  I lost my way, moving blindly and unsteadily through my circumstances, without any faith, hoping I didn’t make any irreparable mistakes.    Eventually, however, I’d rise through the pain with a sharper ear, listening more acutely, until finally I was able to distinguish it from all the background chatter, like picking out a familiar voice in the din of a crowd.

It was this voice that got me through.

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!We may feel ourselves being pushed or led in a certain direction, but we never really know until we’re back here if we understood correctly, if we were following the right path, if we learned our lessons properly.

Why Zig When You Can Zag?

  first published 8/1/14

zig-zag-cigarette-papers

Zig

I never understood why some people had a hard time with change. Me? I changed myself all the time. I must have totally recreated myself half a dozen times in my life. I would just decide what I wanted to be, and then, work hard at becoming that person. It was more than just changing my career or changing where I lived or changing my relationships. It was changing the way I looked at the world. Changing what I let in and what I kept out. Changing what I accepted and what I fought against. Changing what I respected and what I despised. Changing the way I let the world change me.

Some people didn’t take me seriously; they said I was just trying to find myself but I knew I was never lost. Inside, I was always myself, unchanging.  I simply wore these personae like costumes but my soul remained the same.

I was not looking to find a skin I felt comfortable in. I was seeking new experiences, new perspectives. I was attempting to live many lifetimes in one. There was something powerful about being able to recreate myself at will. I had no fear. I had no long-term attachments.   I never promised permanence to anyone, although a few wanted it.

There were many who thought there was some kind of pathology to this. Who knows? Maybe there was. But I never felt I was running away from anything. I always felt as if I were running to something. I was not stumbling around in a wilderness. I was boldly exploring new lands!

I pitied those who remained on the same course for their entire lives. It was as if they were compelled to follow the trajectory they set out on. Most of the time, they weren’t even the one who set the trajectory in the first place. “Go to school, get a job, get married, have kids, raise them up, retire, sit on the porch.”   What kid lies in bed at night, dreaming of such a future?  But that’s how it usually plays out, their futures molded by parents, teachers, society, blah blah blah.

I preferred challenge and change. When zigging was expected, I liked to zag.

Of course, if everyone preferred challenge and change, society would fall apart. The powerful (political, commercial, academic), need the masses to behave in predictable ways. People like me messed up their statistics!

But I figured, we have free will; might as well use it. Who has the right to tell us that we cannot recreate ourselves in our own image? Whose business is it but our own?

I understand better now that all that change was my trajectory from the beginning. In that course, I had far less spiritual choice than I thought.  But in each case, it felt as if I were expressing my singular free will.  Perhaps that, too, was merely an illusion.

Still, while I was living it, I felt as if I were the captain, well in control of my own ship,  navigating waters of my own choosing, using maps of my own making, following nothing but my heart and the stars.

This was certainly better than following someone else’s plan for me.

 

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

 

The Choice of No Choice

first published 7/29/15

 

drought-cow

Ka

When you’re poor you do not have a lot of choices. The poorer you are, the fewer choices you have. We were so poor, I had only one choice.

I had seven to care for…my wife, my five children and myself. I had no work. The soil was so barren, nothing grew. We were starving to death.  We had already lost two little ones, but we didn’t have the luxury of mourning. Poor people living in such dire conditions know better than to become too attached to infants until it’s clear they have the strength and will of spirit to survive. Life for us was difficult and precarious. Chances of living to an age of self-sufficiency were not high.  This is not to say we did not do our best for our children, but we were philosophical when they did not survive. So many died young. That was just the way of life.

Of course, as they got older, as their personalities developed, they became more precious to us. My oldest daughter was 14, born during better times, when we had some hope. She was quite lovely and graceful, a very sweet child.  She was strong and smart. To look at her made me happy and proud, and yet sad and ashamed that she had been born to me — I who could do nothing for her. I wished I could have offered her more.

One day, I was approached by a man from the city who offered to give me money for her. He promised to take her to a place where she could have a better life – lots of food to eat, pretty clothes. My wife wanted to do it. She knew the promises were hollow but she would have sacrificed her for the benefit of the rest of us.   But I was not naïve. I had heard about what they did to the girls from the small, poor villages. Stories came back, in bits and pieces. They were horrific. I  had heard of the kinds of things they made the girls do. I knew the kind of lives they were forced into. It was said these girls were usually dead of drugs or beatings or suicide in just a few years.

I couldn’t do it. I could not sell my daughter like a goat, to be slaughtered. I could not condemn her to a life – such that it was — of slavery and abuse. It was not her fault she was born to such a useless father.   As desperate as I was, I knew it was immoral to sell my child. I could not bear the guilt, even if it meant saving my other children, at least for a while.

So, I did what I had to do. This was discussed with my wife who finally agreed that my plan was the only way.

I knew of some plants that would put us all to sleep so we would never awaken. We fed them first to the youngest, then the older ones, then my wife and I took ours.

There was no pain and at least we died together, in our own hut, as a family. It was more loving and peaceful and compassionate than watching each other die, one by one, from disease and starvation, counting the days until finally Death came for us, too.

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Forbidden

first published July 26, 2014

hasids2

Yi

If they had known what I was they would have thrown me out of the community. That would have destroyed me.   Such love, such relationships, were not allowed. It was more than sinful; it went against God’s commandment to be fruitful and multiply.

I married young, as proscribed, and my wife and I had eight children. I was a good husband and a good father, but I lived all my life hiding my true feelings.

I first felt the stirrings as a young man in the Yeshiva, surrounded by boys and other young men, young rabbis, teachers. I felt a kind of love and attraction that I never felt for a woman. Perhaps it was merely that I could understand men better. In our community, men and woman had very different and specific roles.

I suppose there were couples who really loved each other, but I suspect that more just played their part, did what was expected. Men went to work and studied and prayed. Women raised the children, kept the home, obeyed their husbands. And in this duty, in this obligation, a kind of sentimental attachment was forged. The love for one’s spouse was an extension of one’s love for God.

When I was young, the feelings were inchoate, vague, undirected at any one specific person. I simply preferred the company of men. But this was not unusual. Unrelated men and women were not allowed to be alone with each other, thus men were always together. We prayed and danced and socialized amongst ourselves. Any affection I felt towards another man I assumed to be perfectly normal.   And truly, it was not strange for me to spend most of my free time in the shul, praying with my brethren.

But when I was 32, I met another young man a few years older than myself. He had just moved from another community to be closer to his wife’s family. We quickly became the best of friends, spending as much time together as possible; always seeking out each other’s company. We spent hours discussing obscure religious tracts and the minutia of Jewish law. Initially, it was a meeting of minds. We had a deep, spiritual connection. I always looked forward to our walks and conversations about the most profound subjects. Nobody had ever understood my mind the way he did.

I missed him when we had to be apart for a few days (over a holiday, for example, when we had obligations to our extended families).

And then, one evening, it happened. We were a bit drunk after a Purim party (the only time Jews really get drunk). We were walking home from the shul. It was very late and we’d been amongst the very last to leave. The street was quiet and dark.   We came to the corner where we had to part, each to go in our own direction home, and there was a look that passed between us; a look that said, “I feel it, too.”

We lingered, wanting to savor the moment. I don’t know what gave me the courage, but I reached out and touched his hand – just a brush of my finger against the back of his palm. He took my hand in his and pulled me close, first glancing around to be sure nobody could see us. He drew me into the shadows of a closed storefront and kissed me.

The kiss lasted for what seemed like blissful eternity. I could taste the sweet wine on his tongue. We were drunk enough to lose our inhibitions, but not so drunk as to be foolish or careless, so that was as far as it went. What else could we do? Even if we’d had the opportunity – a place to go to be alone – we would not have done it. We were men of God, and such things were forbidden.

But from that point on, we were damned, or at least it felt that way. It didn’t matter how much we desired each other; ours was a love that could never be consummated. The desire was both a blessing and a curse. Strangely, this torment brought us closer. We were both feeling the same emotions; both learning so many deep lessons about love and duty and choosing our obligations to others over the fulfillment of our own selfish needs. We were both traveling the same path, both equally committed to remaining on it. This was how we shared and nurtured and demonstrated our love.

Our physical relationship consisted at best of a furtive touch when nobody was looking; a “brotherly” embrace that lingered a bit longer than it should have; the feel of his warm palm pressed against mine with our fingers entwined as we danced the hora,  trance-like, ecstatic. I lived each week for the few brief moments at the end of Shabbos prayers, when I could safely feel his arms around me.

We still spent time together but rarely allowed ourselves the opportunity to be completely alone or in any compromising situation. We were careful never to let ourselves become too tempted. We did not get drunk together again. Sober, we were much more sensible.

And so it went. I preferred his company to that of any other human being; valued his wisdom more; thrilled at the sound of his laugh. There was never a moment when I did not think of him. Ours was a deeply spiritual relationship and remained so for decades. Our chasteness was a testament to our love of both God and each other. We both agreed: This was a test put upon us by the Almighty and we would embrace the challenge and rise above it.

And then I got sick. I was only in my late 50s but the cancer came on fast and I was gone in a matter of months.

He was at my bedside when I died, along with my wife and children. We prayed together in those final days, until I could no longer speak, until I could no longer remain conscious. His presence and love calmed me and let me pass over in peace.

I know he still feels me in his heart when he prays. I know I still live in his soul, as he does in mine.

 

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

 

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