Difficult Ascent

AscentAs impossible as it sounds, as absurd as it may seem: The mandate of darkness is to become light; the mandate of a busy, messy world is to find oneness. We have proof: for the greater the darkness becomes, the greater the confusion of life, the deeper our souls reach inward to discover their own light.

How could it be that darkness leads us to find a deeper light? That confusion leads us to find a deeper truth?

Only because the very act of existence is set to know its own author. That is the cosmic drama, its theme and its plot: That otherness should come to know oneness.

And we are the players in that drama.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
“The Mandate of Darkness”

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.

-William Shakespeare
“As You Like It”
Act 2, scene 7

I’m still trying to drag my thoughts and feelings out of Tisha b’Av and the time of mourning. I don’t know why I can’t shake this off. After all, life moves on. Tisha b’Av comes every year and it goes every year. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is going to arrive in less than two months and there will be ample opportunity to fast, pray, reflect on my short comings, make amends to those I have hurt, and attempt to pull myself up out of the mud and up to the heavens.

What am I waiting for?

Why do things sometimes seem like this?

If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, however many they be, but his soul is not satisfied with good things and he does not even have a proper burial, then I say, “Better the miscarriage than he, for it comes in futility and goes into obscurity; and its name is covered in obscurity. It never sees the sun and it never knows anything; it is better off than he. Even if the other man lives a thousand years twice and does not enjoy good things – do not all go to one place?” –Ecclesiastes 6:3-6 (NASB)

Rabbi Freeman says that the purpose of living in a deep darkness is to find a deeper light and the verses from Ecclesiastes say that a soul should be satisfied with the good things. If not, life itself is futile. Yet I continue to feel somewhat like this fellow:

How long, O LORD?
Will You hide Yourself forever?
Will Your wrath burn like fire?
Remember what my span of life is;
For what vanity You have created all the sons of men!
What man can live and not see death?
Can he deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? –Psalm 89:46-48 (NASB)

Christians cry out to Jesus to return and Jews bare their souls in anguish to God and ask how long until the Moshiach comes? As people of faith, we know that life is not lived in vain, but how long until the King reigns in full, O’ God, how long? How many people have been born, lived, and died waiting for you?

I quoted the following parable about two weeks ago in another of my blog posts:

A father answers the questions of his child and they are happy together, in joyful dialogue.

Then the child asks a question, and the father must think deeply—not just for the answer, but to reach to the essence of this answer so he may bring it to the world of his child. For a long while, the father is quiet.

And so, the child becomes anxious and begins to cry. “Father, where are you? Why do you no longer talk to me? Why have you deserted me for your own thoughts?”

And then the father begins to speak, but this time it is the deepest core of his mind that flows into the mind and heart of the child. Such a flow that with this the child, too, may become a father.

The child is us. The time of silence is now.

When the spirit of Man is dark, when the flow gates of Above seem all but sealed, prepare for liberation.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
From the wisdom of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory
“A Time of Silence”

As difficult as it can be sometimes, a good portion of the nature of faith is to wait. I believe that while we are waiting, we aren’t supposed to be passive and inactive. We still have a life. The very first prayer an observant Jew says upon awakening is:

“I gratefully thank You, living and existing King
for restoring my soul to me with compassion.
Abundant is your faithfulness.”
Modeh Ani

Even if life doesn’t make any sense, and even if life seems cruel, unjust, and merciless, we are here by the will of God. If we believe He guides our steps, then even our existence isn’t a random event. Our purpose then, is not to surrender to futility, but to discover the reason we were created and then to live that reason out every day that we draw breath.

However, some days are better than others. We ask for mercy, God, when we seem only shallow characters reciting our lines in a badly written play. We know our lives must mean more than that. Struggling to ascend from the dark abyss, when will we find the deeper light?

The road

The road is long and often, we travel in the dark.

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