There is nothing worse than some do-gooder-new-ager telling you there’s no such thing as a victim. I mean everyone knows we’ve been victims forever. One thing after another, it’s enough to make you wonder if you were put on earth to suffer. Imagine you could sell your suffering (Oh! I guess that’s what Woody Allen does)
Well it seems as if the economic meltdown has made everyone Jewish. Suddenly people who were going along their merry way being optimistic about life’s opportunities suddenly got whacked upside the head.
Now we could have told them to “be prepared.” Suddenly all those Jewish words have become incredibly relevant to the world condition. Andy Ross, who writes a business column for the San Francisco Chronicle was recently asked to explain his use of Yiddish to summarize our current economic plight. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/06/21/BUQ5189TUU.DTL. Read it yourself, and I think you’ll get the drift.
Our Jewish heritage supposedly prepares us for the next disaster we’re sure is coming our way. Even if there isn’t a snake in the grass, it’s always a good idea to keep your eyes peeled. At least that’s what a lot of mothers said. I don’t think there’s any reason to apologize for the generalized nature of the angst that accompanies many on their path though life. Probably we originally had just the same percentage of happy people as any other group. But I think North American Jews in particular now share in a gene pool with a significant skew towards what Woody Allen called being an “alarmist,” in a recent interview on Fresh Air: www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=105400872 )
I totally understand why. In all likelihood there’s a good reason many Jewish people worry about getting sick, the future, the state of their toenails or their daughter’s new boyfriend. Imagine all the laid-back Jewish folks in 1480’s Madrid when the Spanish Inquisition was announced, or 1880’s Lithuania, or 1930’s Germany. The mellow ones all got knocked off probably just as they were telling stories about their paranoid cousins who couldn’t relax and instead left the family for some God forsaken place across the ocean.
But worrying about circumstances does isolate us, it makes us sure that vigilance is the key to survival. And often it takes some kind of catastrophe to break the veneer of safety that’s so precariously constructed. One potential beauty of the calamities we’re all facing is their power to work magic on us.
I just read a piece in Leah Garchik’s column also in the SF Chronicle. In it she cites an article that appeared in the Pacific Sun by Ronnie Cohen that reflects the experience of several of Bernie Madoff’s victims http://www.pacificsun.com/story.php?story_id=3182. A number of them, while certainly not excited about losing their money, point to an “acceleration of their spiritual growth and how awake an alive they were feeling at the moment”…
Now I know what you’re going to say. Anyone not from the Bay Area is rolling your eyes right now just imagining folks in their hot tubs exploring personal growth opportunities. But I don’t come from Marin County. And I too had a horrible financial disaster. And once it happened each day realized I had the choice to be miserable or happy. Once in a while I was actually able to laugh at the irony of it all. But that was only possible when I realized I couldn’t change the outcome. The most remarkable part is how often I still choose to be miserable, even though it feels worse. Think about it. How does being on alert feel to you? Think about losing your job or the threat of it. Think about your home being foreclosed. Think about not being able to get a job. Think about losing all your sense of economic well being. Many of you have written to me about your circumstances and they suck. I imagine you’re pretty miserable too. Sometimes all that’s left is our sense of humor.