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Visiting the other side


First, an acknowledgement that what’s really on my mind this morning is the Israeli raid on the “Freedom Flotilla” and the deaths of 9 civilians. I’m not going to write about this, but I didn’t want to pretend. What a freaking mess.

Second, a brag and advertisement: I’ve had pieces published in the last couple weeks on 2 very cool websites. Check out The Jewish Writing Project and New Vilna Review. In both cases, my stuff is just an easy scroll down the page…

Third, and finally, a thought experiment.

You’re hanging out with several thousand of your nearest and dearest, waiting to hear the first-person report of a gaggle of scouts who have set foot in the promised land. What will the future look like? What awaits you on the other side? Here they come… and the news isn’t good. There are giants there, mean and hungry-looking. Yes, there’s milk & honey as advertised, but giants! Holy #*%@*!!!!

Are you nervous yet? Afraid? Or do you listen to the minority report from Joshua & Calev who urge no fear: surely God will disappear your enemies before you? Will you stand with the minority of 2 and take on the impossible odds or will you freak out with the majority of ten who, without embarrassment, proclaim we looked like grasshoppers to ourselves and so we must have looked to them? Would you weep and beat your chest and cry out for the surer oppression of Egypt? Would the uncertainty of the future prove too much for your imagination?

From the safety of wherever you & I sit now (I’m in Rachel’s Cafe), this seems like a gimme. Of course you’d trust the Power that has brought you this far with signs and wonders. Of course – but, really? In every adventure or mass movement or self-improvement scheme there comes a moment when the wisdom of a particular course of action comes up for question. Was it such a good idea to go backpacking in bear country? Learn how to parasail in a thunderstorm? Stand against water cannons and tanks? Can I go home now?

I can’t blame the majority for gnashing their teeth; neither can I blame God for the consequent Divine Wrath. The incessant kvetching… viewed from above, 40 years wandering in the desert seems a reasonable response for all the doubting. But what a tragedy: the generation that is liberated stopped from viewing the land. Their children can enter, but they are to be left behind, carcasses in the desert. There’s just too much of the old ways embedded in the flesh.

This story got me to thinking about the ultimate journey, the one that has no returning scouts and draws more than its fair share of speculation. You know of what I speak. This week’s poem, If We Could Have Back Our Dead, uses imagery from the Torah text (you’ll recognize it, I promise) to examine what we do and don’t want to know about the other side. I also struggled with the notion of “our” dead, how we might draw lines well past the time it is necessary.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Herb permalink
    06/08/2010 6:27 pm

    He Sue: I finally am catching up from being in N.Y. and the aftermath. Korach–rebellion has its place, but are there no limits? Yonit–A psychologist would be intriqued by comparing and contrasting Yonit[‘s tatoo] with Sue[‘s]. I enjoyed your provocative and imaginative speculations regarding death and the dead. I admire the fertility of your mind and your practice of searchful thinking that enables you to write so regularly with such profundity. But most importantly, congraulations on your recent publications. It’s nice to have a famous daughter-in-law. I look forward to seeing you this week and hearing about what else your doing, including J St. Love, Herb

    • sue swartz permalink*
      06/08/2010 6:55 pm

      Wow, wow, wow. Thanks and thanks for the admiring and congratulations.

      Limits? I’m sure they are — where and what they are is the question. And what do you suppose the psychologist would say about the differences in our tattoos?

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