|Holding on for dear life - or enjoying the climb?|
As I travel my personal Life Journey, I constantly scrutinize, examine, and sculpt myself. My inner dust is cancer. It’s always there floating around. It’s been known to me since July 22, 2012 and ever since I've had to face the reality of my mortality daily: when will my climb to the peak end? When will I permanently fall from my tree of life? I'm thankful to experience another Spring season, sunshine after the winter cold and rain, and rediscovering G-d's perfection creations; blossoming trees and fruit, wild flowers, and new life.
In the past, I looked forward to finally shaking off the persistent side-effects of tumors and chemotherapy. This year, I'm coming to terms with a different reality. Chemo didn't work so well last time and I'm at the starting line again - Chemotherapy Part 4: grasping and flailing, hoping for the best and fearing the worst.
With the Passover holiday nipping at our heals, it’s time to purge our homes and souls of chametz (leaven, or food mixed with leaven, prohibited during Passover). Dust, dirt, and clutter are NOT chametz.
While my friends and family countdown to the upcoming holiday of Pessach (Passover), I countdown to a day of dread. It’s that-time-of-the-month for me - CHEMO-time! (Can't Touch This....).
Every 3 weeks I’m scheduled to have a dose of Taxol and a dose of Avastin. My current situation invites an abyss of uncertainty for my loved ones and me. Right now, it’s compounded by Pesach (Passover) preparations and purging the house of every last crumb, and I no longer fear the purge.
One marvelous difference between other animals and humans is our ability to deny. Our denial allows us to live, breathe, and function as forever-creatures in this temporary life. Life is short so we cannot internalize the reality of our fragile short existence Here or else we would live in a constant state of paralysis and mourning.
Wealthy or poor, privileged or deprived, every being is equal in our short existence. From birth, the ONLY thing promised to each and every one of us is eventual death. As we grow up we learn to deny and ignore our impending end and for those who get side-tracked, anxiety and intense fear can feel like a heart attack; imminent death. We focus on frivolities like birthdays and parties, celebrities, sports, sales at the mall, and politics. If we’re spiritual, we find meaning in faith and the Divine. If we are intellectual, we study, learn, and teach. Every project or focus is a distraction. Every breathing minute we spend on earth takes us that many minutes closer to the inevitable end. We are born with the gift of ignoring that fact because it’s the only way possible to survive the pain and anxiety that would accompany the truth of our fatal human condition.
Life’s fragile reality gets broken by near death experiences and survival beyond expectations, for example tragedies, accidents, traumas, losses. For me, it’s living with cancer. Being forced to stare death in the face for nearly 5 years freed me from the imaginary infinity of life. The boundaries of existence are clear. I know that it's impossible to survive This World. I can't care about the casual. I can't focus. I can’t sit through fiction. I'm incapable of viewing Life or cancer as a fight or a battle. My physical Life is numbed and my focus is limited to this moment as it happens. I seek happiness and meaning in trying to improve how I act, bonding with meaningful relationships, and fulfilling my purpose on earth, and arriving at my Exodus - may my soul be juicy!
The illusion is that illness and death deprives us of freedom. Human slavery is the deception that youth, physical pleasure, beauty, and perfection amounts to freedom and successful happy lives.
We are all slaves to Life. I know my freedom will come someday - the ultimate Exodus from Egypt.This will be my 5th Passover holiday since cancer. For the first 2 or 3 years, I counted off milestones and holidays accordingly, and clung to my metamorphosis from the slavery of illness into the freedom of remission (a decrease in signs and symptoms of cancer, although cancer still may be in the body). Not anymore.
Every year, we tell the story of our ancestors’ slavery and delivery from Egypt. We celebrate the transition from slavery to freedom. I was sick and then healthy. I was dying and then revived. We were slaves in Egypt; now we’re free but are we really free?
The first Passover since cancer, I experienced a spiritual personal Exodus because I’d just finished chemotherapy and was hoping to be cancer-free. My denial magic made me hope I was cured until the cancer recurred and persisted year after year; treatment after treatment. For nearly 4 years I lived with the possibility that treatment wasn’t going work. This year, the time has finally come and the last treatment didn't work well enough. Am I a slave to cancer? Am I back in Egypt stuck in the 9th Plague of Darkness? The Plague of Darkness was complete absence of light weighed down by a tangible thickness so immense that it blocked physical movement.
I’ve been carried out of Egypt again and again. The symbolic deliverance from slavery to freedom in everyday life, whatever they might be, can inspire us to unchain ourselves from our own personal Egypt. Everybody has an Egypt. We are all slaves to Life. We all dream of freedom.
|Life's path to Exodus - lined with flowers and thorns|
We are constantly reminded that G-d took us out of Egypt. We pray on it. We learn it. We teach it to our children. G-d delivered us from slavery in Egypt to freedom; physically and spiritually. My epiphany about existence is that life on Earth is the metaphorical Egypt. We struggle. We work. We search. We strive to grow and become better, and we seek freedom from the slavery of financial burden and worry, freedom from work, and freedom from illness. Humans are slaves to life and life’s boundaries whether physical, emotional, spiritual, or metaphysical. As long as we live and breathe on planet Earth, we are not free; that’s the point of life. We must live it to its fullest, yet within tight frontiers, which constantly remind us that we are still slaves in Egypt.
No matter which journey we choose, in the end, it will be The End. The End has to come sometime. People die and the world will keep on spinning. Those who remain mourn and hopefully they move on. We don’t have to go-there or deal with it until it happens. We can be in a healthy state of denial because we’re humans. Every person lives their own personal Testament, their own Torah (Bible). G-d put us here to live and experience the physical world and I believe that this life is not the end-game. There has to be a reason for all of this and I’m sure it’s to teach every generation the core of our existence; the Exodus.
I feel compelled to publicize the miracles that G-d gives me. I’m not afraid of The End but I worry about how my Exodus will effect my loved ones if I’m not here to drink the wine or taste the symbolic food on the Passover Seder plate. The bitter herbs and the charoset, the egg, and the bone all have dual meanings that reflect slavery and deliverance to freedom.
Heaven, Gan Eden, is eternal freedom from slavery. Back in Genesis, G-d told Abraham about the epitome of our existence: living for Exodus, before the Jewish People even existed. For over 400 years, generations lived and died under extreme conditions of pain and torture without ever enjoying redemption. The Exodus was anticipated by the Jewish People and G-d yet, only one-fifth of the Jews left Egypt and most died during the plague of Darkness. It was a miracle that any of us left Egypt at all and even though we were prepared for the miracle that would save us from slavery and grant freedom, most of the people were too terrified or unwilling to recognize the value of leaving Egypt.
The original Exodus defined the Jewish Nation. Human history happened with Divine guidance and intervention, and still we fear death and question the existence of the Afterlife. Redemption. Heaven. The finality of death is so terrifying that most of us will do anything to avoid thinking about it. Denial keeps us safe.
During the Seder, we are obligated to tell the story of leaving Egypt, but why are we commanded to see and feel ourselves personally experiencing the Exodus and why the requirement to tell the story of Passover every year for as long as history can account for? Through telling the story, and reviewing it over and over again with every generation, we are reminded of the heart and soul of Judaism.
There are no coincidences and no miracle too small to merit our prayers. We are not just a religion or a nation. We are a People who had no chance of survival in the first place, yet again and again we experience Exodus. We’re saved from near death experiences and we survive beyond expectations. This is the ultimate message of Judaism, Life, the truth of Passover, the Haggadah, and Exodus. Egypt symbolizes slavery; spiritual, physical, material, and psychological so eventually and ultimately, we must strive to break free from them all.
From slavery to freedom, we must live for the Exodus. During our lives we may experience many allegorical plagues like darkness. With love and absolute faith I made the choice to live Life joyfully while taking comfort in knowing that all living beings are slaves to This Life and death is the absolute Exodus to eternal freedom.The End.