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"All shared an acceptance of the mystery of existence..."

CHAPTER 4:
The Connection

I had not ceased trying to make a connection to the world. Constantly I had been searching for ways out of my predicament.

I read self-help books and books about depression and about death and the stages of grief. My symptoms were recognizable in them but they had contained no solutions to my disease. The authors all related their remedies to a world of which I no longer felt part.

A friend suggested psychotherapy and therapeutic drugs, and I considered them once again. Years before, when circumstances made coping difficult, I had tried these methods without lasting success. After any of the treatments ended, life loomed up again. They proved to be closed systems which only delayed dealing with the essential questions. Bandages for lethal wounds, they got me up and running; but all that running had gotten me nowhere.

Now there was nowhere to run. I had no choice but to try and figure this out. My concern with death led me naturally to works of philosophy and religion and mysticism. And through reading them, I realized that I had removed myself from God.

It was not so much that I was a non-believer. Something in the Jewish tradition I had been raised in had made the idea of a Creator an indestructible part of my outlook. I felt there was a First Cause to all of this; we will argue for eternity about what name to call it.

The Deity I had grown apart from was the One who was supposed to watch over me and answer my prayers and yet had allowed the su:ering and the agonizing deaths I had witnessed. If God were intervening in history, it was not my history. And if there was a reason behind the suffering -- a punishment or retribution -- it did not seem to fit the crime. Divine justice appeared to have no logic and I was not able to make up excuses for it anymore.

I had withdrawn from my relationship with the God of my childhood -- more out of disappointment than disbelief -- but I was still drawn to the Creator. If there were explanations to be found, it would be here. I had to begin again in the beginning.

I decided to explore the Kabbalah, the mystical teachings at the core of my own religion. Since I knew very little Hebrew and no Aramaic, my reading was confined to interpretations and translations of the original texts. I accepted that I was at a disadvantage; each writer had his or her own slant on the subject. Nonetheless, there was for me an immediate connection. Common to all the books were realistic probings of the questions that were closest to my heart: all shared an acceptance of the mystery of existence.

The usual explanations were avoided. The Kabbalists acknowledged that at the centre was the Unknowable. All we could ever comprehend was what was here, in what they called Creation. And if we fully realized it, if we were totally in the place of Creation, then we would be connected to the Creator.

Now I felt drawn to the idea of Creation, this point of connecting, but once again I was at a disadvantage. The Kabbalists spent years of study in the original languages to learn various methods of prayer, using meditation, even music and weeping, in order to achieve the proper state of being in Creation. I was a novice, a dilettante who lacked even the basic firm grounding in the world that the Kabbalah said was necessary to approach this study. It demanded that you have humility and I was too self-obsessed. The place it spoke of, what it called Creation, could only be an intellectual concept to me. In my state, there was no chance of a direct experience.

I was stymied; I needed something, a link, and I did not know how I would ever find it or even what it was.

Copyright 1997 by Phillip Schreibman

Photo 1997 by Phillip Schreibman

Chapter 1/ Chapter 2/ Chapter 3/ Chapter 4/ Chapter 5/ Chapter 6/ Chapter 7/ Chapter 8/ Chapter 12/ Chapter 15/ Chapter 22

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