Before the ceasefire, I had a thing that on days I had to leave my town for the merkaz, I’d wear comfortable shoes. You know… just in case. That faded as the explosions quieted, the sirens halted, the Hostage Release Reality Show stole our attention.
Today was a day I should have worn comfortable shoes, but alas. Lately there’s an in-and-out of reality, of war normal, of war extreme, of intrusive thoughts, of pain, of celebration because lifecycle moments don’t stop in the face of war, of lightheartedness for the kids, of lightheartedness by blunt force in the form of stupid TV.
But today I didn’t wear comfortable shoes. There are two modes these days: taking for granted or appreciating everything.
So when the siren sounded I kinda laughed at myself. There’s your just in case.
And when I found myself walking 2.6 kilometers from my dumped car to make it to a packed funeral of a fallen soldier/son/brother/husband/father, I didn’t laugh at myself either.
And as I stood in the sun listening to this real every day guy be eulogized…
And as I stood watching his burial, as the military did its thing making this more meaningful with all the extra prayers and uniformed context and three volley salute.
Instead, I remembered a speech given over this past shabbat at the bar mitzvah I attended. The gist was about how we ascribe meaning to religion, to the Torah, to our relationships with god and man, to being part of this nation. Relating to meaning in an inherently meaningless world.
The blessing we’re bestowed innately as humans, to make it through this life in a meaningless world, a world devoid of inherent, built-in meaning, which is ripe for us humans who come equipped and hard coded with the most elaborate skill for feeling. A menagerie of emotions, each hand crafted and personalized for our own existence. A capability to lose an entire essence, to feel loss because of the meaning we must give to all. To survive through grief.
The challenge we’re loaded with innately as humans, to make it through this life in a meaningless world, a world devoid of inherent, built-in meaning, which is ripe for us humans who come equipped and hard coded with the most elaborate skill for feeling. A menagerie of emotions, each hand crafted and personalized for our own existence. A capability to lose an entire essence, to feel loss because of the meaning we must give to all. To survive through grief.
That a military exists, and acts, is full of impact, of meaning. That anyone has a state to protect, is rooted in meaning. That we’re a nation, moving through generations of existence, is meaningful. That we manage to continue to exist in a complex world, is meaningful. That too many people have died for – and too many people have grieved over – this existence, this meaning, is very very difficult to bear.
I think a lot of people living very different lives look at us and wonder why the hell we bother. I can’t really answer; it’s so different for everyone. I can tell you this – it’s not lost on anyone that it’s complex. Or painful. Or risky. (Is anything else not, though?) Or so full of an overpowering array of pure… feeling. The kind of feeling that can visibly age you in under 66 days. The kind of feeling that traps you in a wave of pain, even if it’s not your own. The kind of pain that is conjured by the wailing eulogy, shaped through the lips of a young widow with young children. The way her mouth keeps hold of the word קצר, short; she grasps on to this word, she won’t let it go, it’s sharp, it’s cutting, and finally it leaves her tongue, and reaches our ears and we feel its biting, its jagged edges; it’s the pain of having invested, in making meaning, and losing. And losing.
It’s best to remember – whether you’re in the meaningful or meaningless camp – this isn’t simple. Human life isn’t simple. It’s heavy, it’s messy, it’s weighted by ascribed value, it’s all that and it’s short.
We’re pre-loaded for pain, because we’re hard-coded for meaning.
It’s a recipe for grief.
These are uncomfortable times.