Diary of a Traveler
You hear wailing echoes in the night and tolling bells
in the background. Forces clamor for attention. And where
is the Jewish sound? Is it in the bustling streets and the
incessant bullhorns of Geulah and Meah Shearim protesting
one thing or another? Is it in the boisterous arguments
of taxi drivers and plain everyone about matters that don’t
matter that much?
Welcome to Jerusalem 2009.
The Pope’s in town. Whoopee! And the traffic jams are worse
than ever. People continue to do what people do, and Messiah
has not yet arrived here, in case you were wondering.
My father’s soul has just finished the fourth leg of its
journey beyond our material plane, which makes me think
about our journey down here on this plane.
I look for some relief from existential pain. And realize:
Either we soothe ourselves through distraction or numbness.
How many of our dreams and visions will be fulfilled in
this lifetime? And does anybody really care – except
our petty egos and fragile beings? Can we release our wild
souls and not get hurt or hurt others in the process? And
does it make any real difference – except for the
moments and the people it affects?
And then I remember that there is a third path: Not distraction
or self-medication, but taking on the dissonance and challenging
its dominance in our lives.
Philosophical thoughts about the sadness of existence may
make us feel wise and insightful. But they don’t accomplish
much – anything for that matter – unless they
motivate us to do something about it.
Dissonance – and its much less benign offspring – is all
around us. Inconsistencies, deception, outright greed and
corruption, surround our lives. But do they govern our lives?
They surely have the power to overshadow every aspect of
our experience, dictating terms of compromise and resignation
as we succumb to its tentacles. But we have the ability
to withstand, and more importantly, to reverse the negative
effects of dissonance.
Take the “scoundrel” by its throat and strangle it. Not
with your hands or with violence, but with light. Strangle
darkness with light. Asphyxiate pain with joy. Choke off
the toxic oxygen of the negative by breathing healthy air.
For every despondent moment create two moments of joy. For
every resigned thought, generate two of hope. For every
broken heart repair two.
And here in Jerusalem, where every experience is amplified
and pronounced, the forces are in full battle gear. Voices
insist on being heard. Perhaps the less secure they are,
the more attention they demand.
And then there is the voice of silence – more powerful
than them all – which can hardly be discerned, but
its truth resonates with confidence. It is the wise voice
of the silent orphan who has grown through his suffering
and is stronger because of – not despite – his pain.
It is the voice of the old Jew that trudges every dawn to
the broken Wall to file his daily protest.
Where does all this leave us? It leaves us challenged in
a complicated world. It leaves us with a choice –
will we be carried with the tides or will we create them?
Yes, you can say it comes down to pride: Who will win this
battle? Will we just lie down and die because life can often
be unbearable? Or will we rise to the occasion and do the
single most difficult thing: To go against the grain and
fight the temptation to become indifferent and cynical.
To show that even when dealing with one person amongst billions,
a fleeting moment amidst trillions, in one small corner
of a vast universe – you transform this brief encounter
Some thoughts emanating from Jerusalem this bright morning.