It’s interesting to me, how many of us wonder if there is an afterlife. For some, more energy is put into that question, then how we can best live our lives now.
I got a Bat Mitzvah, around 8 months ago, at a Jewish Temple in Ashland. 50 is kind of late for this sort of thing, but I felt moved to do it. I was yearning for answers to the many painful questions of existence.
At the time, while I was working with Rabbi Boettiger, I felt quite inspired. Life was going fairly smoothly for me, and I felt a real connection to Judaism.
It is funny how feelings can change so quickly. I’ve been dealing with several very icky issues, one of which is a flare-up of a chronic illness of mine.
I’ve always felt afraid in my life. Since childhood. For many different reasons.
School, and socializing terrified me. I preferred to stay alone in my room and read or sketch, then to be outside at the park, riding bikes with girlfriends.
Not that I had many friends. I was painfully shy. And though I’ve grown and my personality has shifted some, I still am very shy, and tend to withdraw into myself when things get difficult.
I’ve felt for a long time, that what is most frightening to me, is simply living. Living with depression. Living with Crohn’s disease. Dealing with others who aren’t understanding. Running up against unkindness and injustice in this world.
I believe there are many others who share my point of view.
It is all of the struggling, and pushing, and stretching of oneself that is most frightening.
Death seems like a release to me. And a relief.
I don’t know if we continue on after death, but even if we don’t I imagine it will be a cessation from suffering.
There is awesome beauty in this place we call earth. Kindness, friendship, and love, too. It definitely isn’t all bad. But sometimes, for many of us, it can feel that way.
All of us are dragged down by our personal burdens. Whether it be illness, poverty, homelessness, or living in a war zone.
It’s easy to imagine that other people aren’t fighting as hard as we are with our problems. And it’s easy for others to imagine the same of us.
Suffering is suffering. And it is a fundamental part of the human condition.
For many years I was agnostic. I could not fathom why a loving God would create humankind, and this world the way She did.
Then, in the recent past, as I studied for my Bat Mitzvah, I was reading, and reaching into realms high above myself. I felt certain, that God does in fact exist.
Now I have stepped back a bit, and I feel overwhelmed by what I see. Not just in myself, but on this planet.
So, I’ve come back to center, or perhaps a bit left of center. It is always much more of a struggle to believe in a loving, all compassionate Divine Master, when life is going roughly, and I shut my eyes to the chaos in the world.
I don’t know that I can do this anymore. I don’t want to become jaded, or bitter. I don’t wish to give up hope on myself, and the universe.
At times I’ve been comforted by the 23rd Psalm, in the Torah. Recently I haven’t been.
It goes something like this,
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He maketh me lie down in green pastures,
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His names sake
Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil,
for though art with me,
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me…..
This psalm attributed to king David, continues, but I feel I’ve written enough.
Whether you believe in God, or you don’t there is something lovely and nourishing about many of the Psalms. King David went through it all, but he never gave up on God.
I wish I were more like David. And not dragged down to the depths by the pain and suffering I experience. At times, I wonder if I will ever surface, or if life is just a constant dance between pain, and some measure of freedom from it.
Of course, it is different for each of us. It is also, very much the same.