Tuesday, June 27, 2006

reading psalms

r. steve said if you cannot sleep try reading tehillim. it just so happened that for some reason yesterday i brought home a handy paperback selection of psalms sent to me by the ny board of rabbis.

i said to steve that i didn't think a bunch of poems talking about how god would save me if i trust in him could be much help to me at the moment. steve said if one didn't work try the next.

i'd finished my free copies of go ny & the advocate. i'd read every handout and flyer that made it home with me from pride weekend. i was too tired to do sudoku and couldn't remember where to find a fresh ink cartridge for my favourite pen to do ny sunday times crosswords. i didn't want to get out of bed because there are carbs in the kitchen and it was the wrong time in every time zone to call anyone. so i just read a bit in the handy paperback. and wrote. this is what i wrote:

first up under "help when struggling with loss, depression and general woe" is psalm 27.

"when evil men assail me to devour my flesh -
it is they, my foes and my enemies, who stumble and fall."

no, this is not one for tonight - nobody has stumbled or fallen yet and i'm not in the mood just now to wait any longer.

next is psalm 42. verse 4 is promising:

"my tears have been my food day and night;
i am ever taunted with, 'where is your god?'"

but then the psalmist tells himself to:

"have hope in god;
i will yet praise him for his saving presence." (v. 6)

and i am not yet ready to stop being angry. neither is the psalmist, who asks god:

"why have you forgotten me,
why must i walk in gloom, oppressed by my enemy?" (v. 10)

but s/he has to end up with the glass half full, repeating verse 6. i decide this section is not helping my depression and inner woe. i look at the other sections - not into repentance tonight, nor joy & praise, nor yahrzeit reflections. the nearest i can get is "seeking hope and inner strength".

first option - psalm 3. i like verse 8:

"arise, o lord, deliver me, o my god
for you slap all my enemies in the face,
you break the teeth of the wicked."

i'd like to ask for that but

a. i don't think that's how it works, otherwise there would be a whole lot more spontaneous combustions and dentists

b. i am extremely conflicted between my initial emotional demand for revenge, i.e., causing pain to those who hurt me, so they will know what they have done to me and how it feels ... and my follow-up rational response that wants to preserve my sense of my integrity by not entering the fray and perpetuating the violence. my sister told me once that sometimes it just makes you feel better to be mean back. i might be able to do it, except i cannot handle the guilt!

next offering - psalm 15 - a fine description of an ideal world, which just serves to remind me how far we are from that. psalm 34, verse 12:

"come, my children, listen to me;
i will teach you what it is to fear the lord."

i wish i could believe this, i do i do i do i do i do (cue cowardly lion). on the other hand, how do i know that i have not already been offered this teaching - it's just that i cannot yet hear it?

getting fed up with all this, i resolve to try for one more. psalm 142.

"5. look at my right and see -
i have no friend;
there is nowhere i can flee,
no one cares about me
6. so i cry to you, o lord;
i say, 'you are my refuge,
all i have in the land of the living.'
7. listen to my cry, for i have been brought very low;
save me from my pursuers,
for they are too strong for me."

certainly sounds like how i feel.

last week, a student asked me if i call on god when i am in distress. i told her that, like a child, when my parents were sick i lay in bed and said aloud, "please god don't let her/him die." god's average is currently 50%.

last night steve asked me what my relationship with god was like. i told him i thought it was in a very early stage. i also said that the strength i've found in these last sleepless stressful sugar-high days had to come from somewhere and i would not necessarily argue that god would not be an explanation for that.

but i am embarrassed to say that. especially after my glbtq-pride infusion of the past few days. it it possible for me to have faith and still be a realist? is it possible for me to accept a god that, if god does intervene in human affairs, does so randomly? what role is there in my life for a god that may be with me when i despair; but does not, cannot make it better? i tell people all the time that for a child god is like a parent who *can* kiss and make it better. pediatric theology. when we grow up we realise there are many things our parents cannot fix. hopefully, we forgive them, and continue to love them. why don't we do the same for god? superman and his ilk are wishful thinking.

so what might an adult view of god look like? after the shoah, my father told me many times that god sits and weeps with us. this is what our friends do - stay with us when the pursuers are too strong for us. their love helps us get stronger. how may i learn to see god as a friend like that?

a lesbian independent catholic minister sat at our table at the gotham comedy club on saturday night (we went to see judy gold. we really needed to laugh). we saw her again at a booth at pride, and there was a sign proclaiming mychal judge as a saint. i asked about praying to saints and the minister said that one makes specific requests and the saints intercede with god on one's behalf. i didn't want to be rude and ask what happens if you don't get an answer. still, i sometimes wish i could believe that completely.

starting to get light outside - will try and sleep now.

1 comment:

  1. R. Steve11:13 am

    Try Psalm 118 "Min hameitzar karati "YAH!"

    I was in a hole, looking down. I hollared "YAH!" which whipped my head upward.

    "Vanani v'merchavyah". S/he answered me with a shift in perspoective.

    I realized that the hole wasn't deep enough to prevent me from climbing out.