07 October 2010

150 (37-39)

37.  This is a psalm said to be read in conjunction with the Book of Job (if you dare.)  "Trust in God and do good.  Live in the land and befriend faith."  I think we know that--inherently--and deny that--inherently.  Ever at war with ourselves, like God and the Adversary, at war over Job.  The tension, just beneath the surface, of what suffering can do to us, the erosion it can cause, is strong.  I don't know about you, but I fight the suffering.  And I get angry.  "Cease anger!  Cut off wrath! Don't fret--it all causes you to do evil."  The slippery slope.  You really gotta watch it.

The corrupting power of depression is best countered by a disciplined commitment to follow the light--however one defines it.  No, seriously.  You have to work to overcome.  "And (then) He will make thy righteousness to go forth as the light, and thy right as the noonday."  Here the abundance (which really, is just enough) teaches that better is the little the righteous has compared to the abundance of the evil ones.  Justice will, in the end, bring the balance we seek.  It's about integrity.  Uprightness.  There is the future, in the man of peace. Also:  the Eternal is the salvation of the righteous, their fortress in a time of trouble. 

Repeat.  Over and over and over again. 

Oh, I almost forgot!  "I have been young and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread."  The story the lady told on the 2 train today at 4.30 in afternoon was a real hunk of bull.  There's no way all that stuff happened to her that she said happened to her.  But I gave her money anyway.  Because I wasn't about to start choosing to forsake anyone today, I'll tell you that.  If the stories aren't true, is she no longer righteous?  And is she among the "unrighteous" begging for bread, rendering our psalm to a truthful integrity of its own?  Who am I to say?  "Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Eternal upholdeth his hand."  When she walked past me she had already a few bills and comes in the palm of her hand.  I added to them, the Eternal, through me, upholding her hand.

38.  Here you're really looking at someone who is drowning in the muck of his own sin and sorrow.  These are horrible and deeply tragic situations.  "For mine iniquities are gone over my head; as a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me."  I'm reminded of the midrash about a man, covered in filth and chained to the town cemetery fence.  Rabbi Akiva inquires about his misfortune and the man describes a life of indescribable sin, which left a child, orphaned and all alone.  Akiva goes to find the child, teaches the child, and upon the child becoming Bar Mitzvah, the chained man is released, his lost son having recited Kaddish and unbinding the father from eternal death.  David seems to know this, to intuit that in certain cases, our own sin drowns us, kills us spiritually, and leaves us so that our only hope is what another may do in our name, long after we're gone. 

39.  A few months before Dad died, he and I had a big argument.  And as the embers from our argument smoldered, we looked at each other across the diminishing fires.  I saw death and he knew I saw death and though neither of us said anything, when he died three months later of a sudden heart attack, I was not surprised.  I never told anyone that story until one day a few years later I was visiting with a professor on campus in Madison and he told me about how he once prevented his father from being held up in their family store in Chicago more than 60 years ago and when his father saw that his young son had saved his life, he described his father's face as having known mortality in that very moment.  I was relieved that another had once had an experience I had; I knew I was no longer alone.  "I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, had no comfort; and my pain was held in check."  But knowing that there was another who knew and if there was one there were more, I began to grasp a kind of relief in the inexorable, unavoidable reality of death.  "Behold Thou hast made my days as hand-breadths; and mine age is as nothing before Thee; surely every man at his best estate is altogether vanity."  The cry of this prayer is the cry of certainty and humility. 

The confidence of knowing our end; and the awe before the utter powerlessness we possess in preventing it from simply finishing us off, once and for all.  "Keep not silent at my tears; for I am a stranger with Thee, a sojourner, as all my father's were."

I know that look, that sideways glance.  Head on is too unmasking.  Too much to possess.  "Look away from me, that I may take comfort, before I go hence, and no more."

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