40. Sometimes a person can be so depressed they can't help themselves. Here's where they reach for God. King David here reaches for a simple metaphor, perhaps coming across it while scratching his own head in despair and frustration at his hire predicament. "For innumerable evils have compassed me about, mine iniquities have overtaken so I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart hath failed me." When you lose the head and the heart, you know you're in trouble. There's a needlepoint totem that hangs in our kitchen, made by my grandmother, of a first grade writing assignment I brought home from school. It was a piece of penmanship, written on wide-lined paper, in which we were asked to express what we thought was the quietest thing in the world. I wrote, "The quietest thing in the world is my hair." My grandmother loved that and had the assignment printed onto a needlepoint canvas and memorialized that thought, in yarn, for all time.
But now my hair makes noise! It recedes like rocks falling from a cliff in the earthquake of trouble I consider. It's graying temples crack and quake like icebergs yawning great pits into the surface of the frozen deep. And its roots smolder as ill-winds in the land pant fires of destruction, a lost world, unable to see its way.
Some people see their bodies change and they treat it like taking a car into the shop for repairs. A paint-job; oil change; switch out the plugs and filters. Hammer out some dents. Still others buy a new car, leaving on the heap in an unnamed yard, abandoned wheels and doors and windows, signals with no light. The beautiful ones seem to rise above it all, don't they? It seems to go so well for them. "Let all those that seek Thee rejoice and be glad in Thee; let such as love Thy salvation say continually: the Eternal be magnified! But as for me, that am poor and needy, the Eternal will account it unto me; Thou art my help and my deliverer, O my God, tarry not!"
Quiet my head, quiet my heart.
41. Physical suffering reaches down to the soul's depths and the suffering becomes existential. One's perspectives shift, into a dangerously dark and irrevocable place. David's enemies seek nothing less than the end: the end of the family line, the end of personal integrity, the end of a reputation. "A good name is more precious than fine oil." But what happens when there is no more oil? At a moment of his own cognizance of material waning, David realizes that integrity and reputation are weightless accumulations of good, stronger in sustaining his life than the bread he once shared with former friends, now enemies circling him like vultures. The fearsome darkness he faces is alleviated by the Face of God, upholder of his integrity. I see a magician on a stage. A vaudevillian act. David, the Levitating King! Hashem in top hat and tails, his wand, the staff, parting waters, redeeming yet again. The lights crackle with explosion and excitement. The audience wails laughter and joy.
The Psalms editor here adds a verse, a perfect coda to trouble temporarily lifted: "Blessed be the Eternal God of Israel, from forever to forever, amen and amen."
42. "Like a young hart lapping at the water's edge so my soul pants after Thee." Graceful beauty, under threat, that careful calm of self-sustenance while knowing at any moment, from any quarter, a predator waits. The thirst of exile. "When shall I come and appear before God?" David is cut-off. His exile is deep valley of shadow and death, carved into distant, rocky cliffs. "My tears have been my food day and night." Dreadful! And in his hunger he remembers the old days, caught up in the throngs in Jerusalem, wandering into the courtyards of Hashem. He himself led them to a Beit Elohim--to the House of God--and there was joy and praise, the multitudes, the festive pilgrimage. He remembers from the land of Jordan, the Hermon, the mount Mitzar. His soul becomes the landscape, and "deep calleth unto deep at Thy voice pouring down like a mighty waterfall. Thy waves and billows washing over me."
During prayers tonight, I got lost in my head and went to Jerusalem, twenty-five years ago, where the fragrant, musty pungency of rosemary entered through a window of the room where I prayed.
Where did that memory come from? How did it find its way out? "Deep calleth unto deep."