Well, I am sort of sitting, and sort of writing.
It is Halloween, and actually I am leaping up about every 2 minutes to open the door and give out candy. I am wearing a glittery robe and a glittery bow in my hair. I’ve commented on every child’s costume and I think I’ve already given out about 50 mini-candy bars.
I also have an eye infection and it hurts to blink. That’s a pain about every 6 seconds. I feel a little like Harrison Bergeron in Kurt Vonnegut’s story – like I’ve got a little mental radio that is beeping every six seconds and destroying my concentration.
It’s just trick or treaters, and the stream of children will last only about 90 minutes.
It’s just an eye infection, and (God willing) it will last only a few days.
But I hope my little window into being nearly unable to concentrate will stay open forever. I hope this short time of distress will open a little metaphorical space in my metaphorical heart. When I recognize that someone’s concentration is lost to pain or anxiety, I will be able to enter my little heart space, and resonate with them there.
I do not mean that I will substitute my experience or story for theirs.
I do mean that as I listen to their story it will be more vivid for me.
I will recognize the story and its teller in a deeper way than might previously have been possible.
This is one of my strategies for coping with my little physical challenges.
Each challenge is a chance to walk a few feet in shoes someone else might have to wear for miles.
Each one helps me understand life from a different position.
Each one broadens my knowledge, and knowledge broadens my empathy.
Halloween, my kids have always said, is a time to make light of scary things.
This Halloween, I’ve had another opportunity to turn something painful into light.
* Not the poem recited on Yom Kippur, but an earlier, more complicated midrash that may have served as one of the poet’s sources. This midrash tells the same basic story of the ten Jewish sages tortured and killed by Roman authorities during the Hadrianic persecutions, adding scenes of confusion & disarray in the heavenly court, fetishization of a sage’s body parts by a princess, and more.