Unintelligible, I KNOW.

The agony of deciding in favor of there being merit to indecision, of committing to a life philosophy that will never not evolve, so that your philosophy can never definitively be anything. Of deciding you know everything there is to know, and by that I mean the one thing you need to know is that you can never know everything, pretty much next to nothing, that any more gain in knowledge is infinitesimal.

But also that life is really good.

I wish I could be Roxane Gay except as me. Because I don’t need therapy and I do need to articulate my thoughts but I don’t want to share them and I definitely don’t need to share them but I also want someone to know them? Preferably, ____.

And, like, drowning in fucking red wine is the most self-pitying thing you could do but also is it wrong to have self pity? Is there anything constructive I can make of this anyway? I don’t know much, I mean I think I do but I don’t, but I’m pretty confident that — fuck, I can’t write the word, I won’t write the word — it is not meant to be constructive in any way. And not that respect is a thing that should be demanded [ahem, not to be disrespectful, lolright?], but there is a certain line you must draw in the assumptions and conclusions you decide to make when evaluating the impact of this on your life. Meaning: don’t turn it into a story. Like, narratives are super nice in fiction but you gotta be real careful with them otherwise and if anyone is gonna learn anything from Serial (not from it, but from it, which is highly unlikely, lolright?), narratives are for the suckers who aren’t directly affected and want to feel like they were affected (which is what we discussed). Not that I wasn’t affected (?? was I??? Nobody was, actually, I mean technically, if we admit to ourselves that emotions can be completely and totally and utterly manipulated by our minds).

But making a story or reviewing things sequentially or considering alternatives, it all just is a serious hardcore waste of time (unless you’re a liberal white lady who just needs to wrangle the Innocence Project into your back pocket, lolright?), and the closest you can come to disrespect is what I guess I would call, I don’t know, impertinence (?). Because there is reality and there is life and that’s just the way it is, things will never the the same, so that as a result of *events* and *changes* we’re either meant to change everything as well, or else nothing, and I tend to lean toward the latter and I don’t think that’s unfair or uncool? I think that’s just being a human who’s committed to themselves and their personal growth and simultaneously their personal stability, and also being committed to not having unexpected things fuck them up, which is either a sign of mental illness (everyone is at least a little bit after all, right?) or a sign of not being in a good (lol, not “goof”, keyboard!) place, which is a very valid situation to be in as a human. But what I do mean by that is a “good place” is a space in which you are never gonna be in total shock, which is [shock, I mean] something that could perhaps be a fault evolutionarily, and if we consider faults to be… not good… then, let’s just say this: every human should try to put themselves in a place where they can be shocked, they can have sad things happen, and they can deal with it (sunglasses gif).

So.. Conclusions I have reached:

  • I’m being selfish in my internalization of this, but honestly, that’s the only way anyone can be and it’s not a bad thing because try as many might, it cannot be made useful.
  • It just sucks and that’s it. There’s no more to it.
  • Sadness is a real emotion that I actually have never felt and I am grateful to feel it and loss is a thing that happens and that’s okay, and maybe not just ok, but good, I mean not for those who were lost (sucks to be them, amiright?), but for those who, having no way of reversing events, must move forward?
  • Except the loneliness I have felt over the past month compared to the months prior during relative normalcy is so much more desperate.
  • And seeking companionship feels so right now. And also so.. not wrong? maybe disrespectful? Perhaps just… off? because nobody will ever be the same and I can’t figure out if I’m supposed to fill that gap or formally and permanently renounce those feelings and experiences and declare that they will never be found, for me, in anyone I ever meet again.
  • And when you have a unique and rewarding relationship that nobody else knows of or you share nothing similar with anyone else then that’s the most desperate and empty and hollow feeling and it FUCKING SUCKS.
  • So the only way I can and should put this into perspective is just to say that I had something so fucking good and now it is gone and that is sad and bad.
  • And I’m putting less pressure on myself than ever, which, you would think the opposite? You would think get everything in while you can? But I’m just realizing the most beautiful thing, which is that you will never fit anything OR everything in and you will never achieve perfection and cross everything off the list and you need to feel positively about the day to day and actively contemplate the changes you make and if they’re not improvements then turn around and do something else and that’s all you can ask for. And I can’t take mundanity but the only person who could get down with putting everything in that kind of perspective is…
  • was…

I wish we could talk about this Bill Cosby bullshit.

FUCK.

I swear I’m not stoned. I’m just sad.

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What we owe to Survivors

I hope you didn’t read this Gawker piece and I hope even more that you never read Anna Breslaw’s Tablet piece. Please do not click on either of these links if you’ve been able to avoid them thus far. I shudder at the thought of each but believe we ought to take a moment to attempt to digest them:

Andie Karras writes for Gawker “His Story Repeats Itself” about the grandfather she met too late in life. He overcame great odds as a Holocaust survivor and was later reunited with his sisters. Ms. Karras is a young woman whose mother was ashamed of her Judaism, who was offended (discriminated against?) as a Jewish American, dated a terrible man who was not ok with her being Jewish, had an abortion,  was manipulated by her mother to the extent that she crippled her financially, and, finally, was reunited with her brothers. I can’t begin to explain, because I can’t comprehend it myself, how she ties these unfortunate affairs to her grandfather’s heartrending and all-too-familiar torment at the height of his youth. Take this sample as my testament to you, reader, that this is a shoddy piece of writing:

“I saw that he [her terrible ex] was married to a woman with a seemingly Jewish-sounding last name on last year on August 4. August 4, 1944, a brown-eyed Anne Frank wrote about the trainloads of Jews, too. Maybe she heard my grandfather whir by. Maybe the train shook the bookcases in front of the annex alive. Maybe when typhus got hold of her a year later, it was she who my aunts and great-grandmother tripped over on the way to the woods.”

In Anna Breslaw’s piece, she defends her gut instinct that people who have a will to live, and are fortunate enough to do so, should not be trusted – for why does the act of survival deserve to be lauded? She refers to the moral ambiguity of Breaking Bad’s central character, Walter White, who, according to almost everyone involved in the production of the show, has gone so far off the deep end that he can no longer be considered good. [The only thing she does get right is her analysis of the show by reading it as a text exploring ethical complexity.]

(Aside: this ought to always be up for debate despite what Gilligan, Cranston, etc. say, because consumers of art have the right to derive alternate meaning from it, but… morally ambiguous is a bit of a generous way to describe Walter White.)

But Breslaw wants to attack us for being inherently sympathetic to those who have clawed back from adversity. She says we are wrong for pooh-poohing Walt’s behavior since he did bad things only when he began to suffer. However, she fails to refer back to her opening about her distrust of Holocaust survivors before concluding her article. Aside from a single survivor’s psychological trouble, she doesn’t even attempt to tell us what any man or woman who lived through it had done to compromise, or even complicate, their moral cores. For an article titled “How the cancer victim at the center of the AMC series justifies my skepticism of Holocaust survivors,” this is a gratuitous, naive perspective (if it can even be allowed to be called a perspective at all).

The Holocaust was the type of incomprehensible destruction that elicits a tricky challenge to those of us in the generations following it. For the first generation, relating to those who survived is personal: it is to be probed within the relationship of parent and child. (Furthermore, a child appears to be one of the best ways to reconstruct a survivor’s sense of meaning, personhood, and legacy.) For the second generation, developing a connection to the Holocaust is more difficult, and, can be argued, more important: this is the generation that ties the future to the past. We’re the last generation to hear firsthand testimony and develop personal relationships with survivors. We have an obligation to carry on the relationships that anyone might normally have with their elders. And yet there is, in a sense, a burden: we have the last opportunity to extract testimony, stories, any part of this history that is otherwise bound to be lost. Similarly, we are the only generation to not just have the privilege to develop valued relationships with these remarkable people, but to become their advocates and carry on their lessons in a world that does not have them around.

These two articles fall on opposing ends of a spectrum. Breslaw distances herself from survivors through a mistrust that is the result of her inability to relate to a human who has faced any challenge at all, whether that be cancer or oppression. Karras creates a false (to put it nicely) equivalence between personal hardships (somewhat legitimate, to a point) but comes out with the weak conclusion that both have been caused by antisemitism, which is the most offensive thing she could have done.

What we, the grandchildren of survivors, must take the time to admit to ourselves, is that there is no way to relate to that misfortune, and we are doing them a disservice by trying.  They don’t want us to. They tell stories, or they avoid that, and hope that whatever aspects of themselves or their histories they wish would carry on will not be forgotten. Our job is not to explain away their struggles as “just like ours,” nor is it to conclude that anyone whose life has been undermined by struggle is partially responsible for it. We are here to make sure such a thing does not happen again, without victim blaming, without false empathy.

Sympathy is a valuable human quality, but none of us look good when we compete to prove our emotions go deeper than that when they very often do not.

Hatufim

The symbolism behind the names of some of the show’s characters:

[*major spoilers ahead*]

Amiel is the name of the remaining Israeli hostage in Syria, but he is Yusuf to the Syrians. The Israelis see him as still part of ‘my nation’ – Ami – while the to the Syrians he is very much like the Biblical Joseph (Yusuf), who was taken from his home against his will but became a political leader and manipulator in a foreign land, who, when approached by his brothers again in his new territory, was holding all the cards on both sides. It was ultimately up to him to choose who to betray: his old brothers or his new ones.

Amiel’s last name is Ben-Horin: “son of free man.” On Passover we are called “b’nei horin,” children of freedom. When the Israelites left Egypt they became free men. Only when Amiel Ben-Horin returns to Israel will he be able to assume this name safely, and thus be considered a “free man.”

It is interesting to consider his wife’s name as well. It is Leila, meaning ‘born at night’ – he is completely devoted to her despite having met her in the darkest times and married her under false pretenses.

Then, there’s Ami’s sister, Yael, who last saw him as a young girl. He called her “Lali,” which sounds a heck of a lot like Leila. At season 2’s end, (*spoiler alert*) we see him trade one “Leila” for the other.

Appropriate

I had this funny thought today, driving past JFK with an EgyptAir plane thisclose to landing on top of my car. The women who work at their desks wear these beautiful I Dream of Jeannie – esque hats – beige caps with a gorgeous long red scarf attached. They are so cliche and so inauthentic and so potentially stereotypical but seem harmless.

And when I first saw them, I thought how it could make for a potentially sad life to go to work each day to sit behind a desk typing at a computer, but to have to wear a costume while doing so that is meant to play up one’s imagination of what they will find when they arrive in Egypt, however misleading.

But then today. Now: dreariness of life aside, you may say that it’s dishonest to lure someone into a country (ok, they already bought the ticket) with false impressions of what the culture will be when they get there. But that’s not how it seemed to me when I realized that (due to unemployment-brain perhaps) I might enjoy this job.

It’s not much different from any other form of fiction. While mourning an upcoming soap opera loss (contract expirations are tragedies) it hit me that I voluntarily struck up a fabricated sense of care and compassion with this character via the soap’s plot devices and access channels, and that my choice to take part in such a commitment was completely one-sided. He didn’t have to renew his contract, the show made no promises about the character’s future, and the network (probably even the daytime department) gives zero shits about who is cast on the show at this point. But there I was, watching his scenes, getting to know his character, using a story to gain emotional satisfaction. Creative work is made to be consumed and appreciated on an emotional level, but is filtered through a bunch of outside factors that care very little about how people process it.

This investment was all my own, and I knew the drawbacks. That’s what fiction does. You decide what something represents, and interpret it how you choose. I could sit there, wearing that hat day in and day out, appropriating it however wrongly, fantasizing about the experiences travelers to Egypt may have. It’s not up to me to build up their expectations, and I cannot be blamed when they’re let down. But the perk of that job is being present while, um, perhaps some of the passengers who are actually traveling to Egypt on leisure these days get to fantasize about what they’ll encounter when they arrive.