The beginning of this week brought the beginning of a new year: Rosh HaShanah, the celebration of the Jewish New Year, began on Monday. I had in mind a few thoughts I wanted to share, and every intention of doing so on Tuesday.
Then on a Monday a student at NC State completed suicide, and on Tuesday I had homework, and on Tuesday night I fought to finish my homework due Wednesday.
So in the midst of all these things, I never even realized I hadn’t welcomed the new year on my blog, and being on campus, in classes, the most I had been able to do to celebrate this occasion was share some apples and honey with others in the community. On Monday, a fellow math student had shared challah in the graduate lounge. That had made my day.
The truth is, death is a great occasion to think about life, and a new year is a great occasion to think about what we’re doing with our lives. So, naturally, I did.
Black clouds. Rain clouds. Grey clouds. Large black dogs with floppy ears and wobbly feet. Shadowy hands holding you back. Globs of dark fur, drenched in the rain, peering at you through an alleyway as deep as dreadful. All these things, and I’m sure many more, have been ways that people have tried to visualize depression.
For me, I’ve always considered it a bit more comically, more commercially even. Do you remember that little guy from the Zoloft commercials? It’s so cute, but so sad, so small yet so poignant, altogether insignificant.
It’s a frown, a sigh, an expression of anguish or uncertainty as the weather darkens, but you look outside and it’s still sunny and warm.
Perhaps it helps to visualize depression. Perhaps it helps to make it human. Or perhaps putting a face to these feelings isn’t at all what we need.
On Monday I indirectly witnessed a motorcycle accident, and it left me feeling entrenched in shock. I wrote about my experience and my loss of words, my loss of feeling, when I learned the man had not survived. Yet still I felt numb when I woke up yesterday morning, and then I wondered if I should’ve posted about it at all–here I was, turning tragedy into an opportunity to increase page views and site traffic.
But it wasn’t like that: I was relating an experience that had a profound impact on me, that had left me in a state of apprehensive uncertainty, and sharing it helped me process it. On Monday night, as I typed out the last words of my post, it came to an end only because I’d written up to the point when I sat at my computer and started writing–but the story itself was still incomplete. It ended too soon. Too abruptly.
It’s hard to believe this year was, in fact, no longer than last year–it just felt that way. The journey I’ve taken from January 1, 2013, to today has been among the most adventurous I’ve ever had–blessed with confusion and clarity, strewn across two continents, and featuring my life-long highest and lowest points, it’s certainly been anything but expected.
And yet I’ve survived and stand here today a changed man. I’ve learned a lot along the way–a lot more than algebra and analysis, conservation and creative writing, policies and politics–things that fill me with more wisdom than Zelda with her Triforce piece (I’ve been playing again lately), and as my last act of 2013, I want to share these lessons with you.
In another universe I am not the one writing this. In another universe I am still who I am, but wholly different–the personification of another facet of myself. In another universe I am the same man but different, a secondary, tertiary–an nth degree version of myself wholly unknown yet wholly undifferentiated.
That’s a good way of saying it.
Where all these universes meet–a place in time or space, removed from either or both–there is an integral self that exists beyond all possibilities.
The act of reality forming from thought differentiates these forms, causing universal constants to slip behind subliminal ideals, each variable taking upon itself a new manifestation based upon those factors that surround it.
Today I feel undifferentiated. It’s an integral part of my identity.
When news of the Royal Baby’s birth broke on Monday, I was listening to Anthony Lake, executive director of UNICEF, talking about the 6.9 million children who die before their fifth birthday. As a proud uncle of an energetic and adorable little five-year-old, I couldn’t help but feel my heartstrings struck by the thought of having missed any of these amazing past few years–or the thought of not having any more years to look forward to.
No doubt the young Prince George Alexander Louis will receive the premier healthcare in the world and all the love any child could need or ever want, but for many children whose faces will never grace the front page of international news, this future is a dream yet to be imagined–and their present suffering is a nightmare for all of us.
For the last three year’s it’s been tradition to read a chapter of the Pirkei Avot–the Jewish Ethics of the Fathers–every summer. Except last summer I never finished the third book. And this summer I haven’t touched any of them.
Unfinished business delights no one, and I’m fond of tradition, so with these last four weeks of summer, I’m returning to the Pirkei Avot and bringing it to completion.
Should the world end tomorrow, today will have been my last day to live. But what should my thoughts matter against the multitude? There were millennia before I existed, there shall be millennia after I exist, and what bit of information I contribute to the whole shall only be conserved according to the laws that govern it.
Against the multitude, I am nothing.
Yet in this instant I am something–and so I have been for eternity.
I knew it was raining when my class was interrupted by the squeaking from the hallway. By the time I left the building to cross a small breadth of campus to my second course, it was merely a light rain, and when after that course I crossed to the bus stop, the light rain hadn’t picked up a great deal–but on account of now standing in the rain, by nature it seemed heavier.
I got on the bus, the standing crowd moving slowly toward the back to make room for the new recruits at the front.