Dune by Frank Herbert
Can a person overcome the weaker elements of their own personality? Is it possible to overcome great odds and retain the basic elements of humanity? These are questions that I faced throughout my life as I tried to face difficult situations. In some situations I failed and those failures led to major problems in my life. Yet, I believe that even with our faults our struggles can become like a refining fire, and it is in this struggle we can often find out who we really are.
I recently became a fan of Joss Wheadon's Firefly series after seeing the movie Serenity. In one episode called War Stories, there is a discussion about a fake Chinese ruler named Shan Yu. In this discussion Shan Yu was purported to be a warrior poet who wrote volumes about torture and the limits of human endurance. A saying of Shan Yu was quoted as the following.
“Live with a man 40 years. Share his house and meals speak on every subject. Then tie him up and hold him over the volcano’s edge and on that day you will finally meet the man.”
Some of us are defined by the tragedies of our lives. The hurt, the pain, and the loss shapes us and molds us in ways that are often hard to define. We sometimes don't even recognize these things within ourselves unless we spend time in reflection on who we are and who we are becoming. When we are not focused on the mirrors of our lives it often becomes hard to see the person within us, and we may become prone to ignore the realities that exist within us.
It is important for people to understand that we can either be a victim of the past, or we can be someone who says, "I have been victimized, but I am no longer a victim. I can fight back, I can be motivated, and I can overcome the hurdles that are currently before me." Through change, pain, and adversity we often learn who we really are. If a tragedy happens, what is my reaction? Do I loose faith, in what I believed? Do I cringe in terror? Do I become lost to the realm of logic and not know where I am going? Do I face the reality seeking a path that will help me deal with that reality?
Sometimes in order to know that we are not truly facing our problems in life, we need to feel lost and alone. We need to face failure in order to realize that something is missing and that we may not be seeing the bigger picture. This is why it is important to stop and seek, or be willing to listen to wisdom in order to regain our balence. The other option is to live a life based on chance, and to be blown one way or another by the winds of life. Never knowing where we are going next, never fully becoming who we were created to be.
There is a saying that misery loves company, but what I believe is that misery hates those with hope. People who see glimmers of hope in the darkest situations and who choose not to dwell in apathy are sometimes some of the most despised and hated people. They are often scorned for not truly being empathetic to the harsh realities of life. Yet, could it be that this hatred is due to the person who actually decides to face down the reality and challenge it, no matter the cost. Whether they survive to tell the tale, or they fall to the ground maybe they are the ones who are living in the real world.
After the devasting and horrific tsunami in Asia Rabbi Avi Shafran wrote the following:
What Judaism teaches is that adversity -- wherever it strikes, whomever it takes and whomever its spares -- always has a reason, even when it cannot easily -- or at all -- be discerned. And so, the Jewish response to all disaster is to regard what has happened as, even if entirely confounding, somehow still entirely just -- the essence, in fact, of the Jewish blessing recited upon personal tragedy: "Baruch Ata...Dayan Ha'emet" - "Blessed are You... the true Judge." And to engage in introspection. No one but a prophet can associate any tragedy with any particular sin, but sin is not difficult to discern in our world, or in ourselves. Materialism and immorality are pandemic in our world; tribal and religious strife, terrorism and claims of divine directives to kill and maim are embraced, even celebrated, by large swaths of humanity.
Might a message about any or all of those things lie in the sorrow sown by the recent waves of destruction? One hopes that those whom the shoes may fit elect to wear them. But then there is the fact that each of us is a microcosm, with failed challenges of his or her own -- which Jewish sources in fact consider to feed larger societal failings. We may not personally act immorally or murderously, but there are more subtle realms of evil. The Talmud, for instance, speaks of malicious gossip as a sort of murder, and considers unwarranted hatred to be a wildly destructive force. Which is why the response of many rabbis who represent the fullness of the Jewish heritage has been a generalized call to repentance. Let us recognize, in other words, that God guides the world, and that, despite the appearance of randomness or capriciousness, nothing happens without a reason. (source)
There are two choices in life when it comes to challenges. You can either accept them and let them overcome you, or you can fight and do what you can to the best of your ability to overcome them. The next few entries are examples of this in my life.