A few months ago, before this all started, I was thinking about my ancestors and all the struggle and horror they survived, and was wondering how to relate to them—how to speak with them from such a different space of safety and privilege.
It’s ironic to be thinking about this all now, during Passover season, because the “forty days and forty nights of wandering through the desert” sounds almost exactly like the duration of this quarantine time, home in our own static pilgrimage of uncertainty. I’m called to remember the ancestors who were persecuted and driven out of their homes, the ones who were shovelled into a mass grave in the forest of Vilnius, or even my grandmother who, when her husband was off at war, insisted she would throw her infant son in a river in order to get a place to live (calling their bluff on “no children.”)
The million dollar question to any of them is “How do you experience joy in the midst of all that? How do you go about living your life in a meaningful way? How do you respond authentically to suffering that dwarfs us in its immensity?”
The ancestors, mine at least, I find are comforting in their brutal practicality. Nothing is guaranteed, except that life is hard. They’re almost zen—it’s basically “chop wood, carry water, stir the goddamn borscht.” They have the liberty, now, of being free from the concept of time (it’s a lot easier when you’re dead) and offering pure wisdom minus the pain of the mortal skin. Do what you can do right now, and don’t expect anything. The joy in one moment is lost in the next. There’s no holding on to anything. But experience as much joy as possible.
Moments are timeless and magical if you can experience them with the appreciation of the heart instead of judging them with the expectations of the mind. The swirls of the universe lie in the stirring of a cup of tea, and a kiss is as beautiful as Venus in the sky. Stir the goddamn borscht.