I woke up this morning around 4:45 a.m. to eat before my day of fasting. To keep myself from passing out into my leftover veggie omelet from the night before, I turned on the TV. It was about 4:55 a.m. The first thing that confronted me as I scooped food into my mouth was the destruction of Haiti. People standing in mud, broken. Helicopters dropping off bags of food, long lines, the complete absence of buildings. The government has apparently stopped counting the death toll. Without numbers, the reporting on Haiti is going to end up even further down from where I found it: the last report of the hour.

Following the report, the beautiful, dark-haired host smiles with her moist lips and signs off, wishing me a good day. A good day? Are you mad?! I’m ready to intentionally deny myself food to try vainly to understand where I stand in this world. As I’m eating, there are people on the other side of the glass who are traumatized after three (or four?) hurricanes. And the host has the gall to wish me a nice day? Did she even watch the segment that just aired? The cognitive dissonance was a bit much, but there I sat with my leftover veggie omelet, my juicy organic yellow peach, my full glass of milk, and my disgust of the human race, cursing at the screen. I heard Heschel blaring at me, at the newscaster: “Some are guilty, but all are responsible.”

At 5:30 a.m., I went back to bed, to catch a few more hours of sleep before heading off to work. I lay there wishing for a red cape and blue tights and the chance to fly across the continent and do something. But you never see Superman fighting systemic poverty, or downgrading hurricanes by flying in a counter-Coriolis trajectory. He fights Lex Luthor.

It’s the afternoon now. I’m still hungry, but come 7:23 p.m. tonight, I’ll eat. I can. Yet today, my life feels like the platitudes of that news anchor. I saw something horrible, yet I got on with my day.

In conversations I’ve had with friends on this subject, the answer is invariably that it’s my duty to live my life more fully and more appreciatively, that the more tempting response of sullenness isn’t going to help anyone. Instead, bring your earnestness into whatever else you do. Working here is important to me because I can integrate my skills and energy toward something that is, in my view, part of some larger solution. And that’s good. Still, every time my cheeks stick from thirst, they drag my thoughts back to this morning, faithfully as a dog on a leash.


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Reflections

Shiraz, many many thanks for this thoughtful piece. I appreciate your faithfulness in your fasting, and your faithfulness in your questioning - I've thought about a number of times in the last few days. Mary Oliver speaks of nature being at least predictable because you either get good luck or bad luck, but never intentional cruelty. However, in light of multiple hurricanes piling on top of already under-resourced areas, it can be difficult to know what to do with such seeming arbitrary cruelty. The integrity in your articulation of faithfulfasting and uncomfortablequestioning is one that I hope to echo, and find the courage and wisdom to do something with too. Pádraig.

Pádraig, I'm happy to share and yet I'm wary because I just can't seem to come to any complete or applicable answers to these questions at this stage in my life. This issue of hurricanes, for one, is going to get worse throughout my lifetime. I feel it's all big, too big. There must be a thin line between feeling grateful and feeling guilty.

I struggle to get myself to meditate daily. I love meditation, but allow things to get in the way. I am learning much, and am thankful for your frank reminder of the importance of getting on with it.
In thanks,

apples