Monday, June 27, 2011

June 27, 2011 – Hope Will Find You

Saw a real gem of an entry on Dr. Wendy Harpham’s On Healthy Survivorship blog (June 2). Exploring the subject of hope, Wendy quotes Rabbi Naomi Levy, whose book, Hope Will Find You: My Search for the Wisdom to Stop Waiting and Start Living, chronicles her journey towards a deeper spirituality after her 5-year-old daughter, Noa, was diagnosed with a rare, fatal and degenerative neurological disease.

In a magazine interview, Rabbi Levy shares an anecdote from the time when Noa was preparing for her bat mitzvah, that rite of passage for girls crossing into the teenage years. With Noa’s learning disabilities, her mother didn’t quite know what she was capable of absorbing, when it came to studying the scriptures.

The Rabbi asked her young daughter what a particular Bible passage meant to her, and she replied, “‘Mom, I think what it means to me is, if you don’t like your life and things are not going well, if you try very hard you can find hope.’ Then she stopped and corrected herself. She said, ‘No…hope will find you.’”

Her mother reflects: “Noa was saying…that hope would find me, that hope was searching for us and that goodness and mercy and all these lessons are actually seeking us, tracking us down, and too often we are running away from them. We’re thinking it’s a struggle, but in reality what we can do is relax a bit and let all these blessings in, because they are all around us.”

Relax a bit.

Relax? Are you serious? When the bad news is coming so fast and furious?

Yes. No one said it would be easy, but there’s simply no other way.

In the medieval spiritual classic, The Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis teaches: “To sum up, dear friend of Mine, unclench your fists, and let everything fly out of your hands. Clean yourself up nicely and stay faithful to your Creator.”

So much of spirituality is about letting go. And the first and greatest thing our desperate fingers are clasping is the illusion that we are in control. For a few seasons of life, most of us can carry off that charade to some degree, but eventually reality catches up. With a bang. Some hard piece of news may first turn our minds in that direction. Perhaps it’s a cancer diagnosis – or, in Rabbi Levy’s case, the unspeakably sad realizaton that she will one day bury her daughter. Even the most fortunate of strivers can’t keep the illusion going indefinitely. Eventually, even those titans who sprint relentlessly into the final lap must one day lean into retirement. Then, soon enough, come the gasping infirmities of age, and finally the awareness that Death will soon come calling.

The drunken Welsh poet Dylan Thomas counseled,

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Noble words, these, and not without a certain desperate bravery. Yet, in the end, the brash author of those lines succumbed to pneumonia, after imbibing huge amounts of whiskey on a bender lasting several days. It was by no means his first. Thomas was a tortured soul, who wore himself out in his frenzied pursuit of hope. Rage, however poetic, is hardly conducive to the discovery of inner peace.

We simply don’t have it in us to manufacture the variety or the quantity of hope we need. It can only be gathered in, and then only by those who have ceased to pursue it.

Young Noa Levy was wise beyond her years. Would that we all could be so perceptive.

1 comment:

Ronni Gordon said...

Thanks for pointing this out. Very thought-provoking.