Monday, June 17, 2013

Back to the Megilla Project

I know, it's been months.

And here I am, returning to a blog that mostly documented a time of extreme confusion and disappointment for me. I suppose my return to it could indicate another such spiral.

Not this time.

Thus the new look, and the new description, and even the subtle change in title from "Arbitrator" to "Arbiter". This may be a return to a blog and an internet domain, but it's definitely not a return in any other way, shape, or form to that part of my life. Things are very different now.

Of course, some things haven't changed. I'm still technically in the same chapter of life, a mid-twenties grad student navigating whatever this time may mean to me. But I'm starting a few new things. A new summer, a new apartment soon, and ultimately a new year. And, perhaps most significantly to those who might be interested, a new Megilla Project.

Last time, I spent almost three months on a careful cut documenting my confusion and disappointment in Megillat Kohelet. Fitting, I suppose. Which is why I assure you that this time, the choice of Megilla has little to no relevance (Bli Ayin Hara and all) to my life right now.

It's Megillat Eicha.

I felt it was time to do another Megilla. I never start a piece (unless it's on commission) unless I'm truly feeling it, feeling like THIS IS IT, time to do THIS project. A few weeks ago, while in Hungary with my family, I felt that feeling. Megilla time. Though honestly I had no idea which one I would pick.

Then why Eicha? Why, you might ask, out of the four remaining books, did I choose the harshest, the most depressing, the most tragic piece right here, right now? Well, for several reasons.

1) Because, as someone very close to me advised, "If you're going to cover all five, eventually you're going to have to do Eicha." It was a quip to me sort of in the vein of that one from The Little Prince: "I must endure one or two caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies." Fine, they have entirely different meanings. But the point is, I've got to plow through the depressing ones if I want to say I did them all. Better get those over with now and have only Excitement (Esther), Love (Shir HaShirim), and Fulfillment (Ruth) ahead. I don't want to go through all my fun favorites and end on a low note.

2) Because it's the beginning of the summer, and Observant Jews know what that means: the three weeks. The saddest part of the Jewish Calendar, culminating in Tisha B'Av, when we actually read Eicha out loud. I figured the timing was appropriate, and my goal is to finish this cut, this Project, by Tisha B'Av.

3) Because to me, it's a psychological step up from Kohelet. A lot of people disagree with me on this. Kohelet, after all, is not entirely negative, while Eicha is mournful throughout. But to me, Kohelet has this terrible ring of loneliness to it, like an air of clinical depression. I was depressed reading Kohelet, and it was during a time when I just couldn't pull myself out of my funk. Things really did seem to me like "vanity of vanities" and that everything was pointless. My sadness led to my decision to study and depict Kohelet, not the other way around.

Eicha, on the other hand, is a joined suffering. It is a tragedy endured as a people. It is a sudden whiplash, a fire, and need to recover, not a slow spiral into darkness. It was composed following the destruction of the First Temple. To me, Eicha is an outcry following a sharp pain. There is recovery. After the darkness, there is hope. The Temple will be rebuilt, with the whole nation pushing together.

Not so with Kohelet, which is a lonely rumination on one person's depression, a funk from which there is no escape and no recovery, at least not in the foreseeable future.

And so last week, I found myself in a confusing and stressful spot again, suddenly needing to find a new job, a new school project, and a new place to live. It was overwhelming, and I was scared. I genuinely feared falling into this dark hole again.

But then something cleared in my head. Something that said simply, Nah, you'll be fine. It'll all work out somehow. You're not going to end up alone, unemployed, and homeless. You've got too much potential for that. No depression spiral this time. You had your cry and your panic attack. Now it's moving forward time.

What do you know? Sometime in the past week, my long dormant self-esteem came out to play. And so I'm tackling Eicha, for the calendar year appropriateness, because I've got to get through it to complete all five, and because I've got to get through Tisha B'Av if I ever want to see Shabbat Nachamu (Sabbath of Comfort).

And so I began, and I've been working a lot faster than I did during Kohelet (which I take as a good sign). Here's what I've got so far:

We've already seen the flames of the Temple. Now it's time to rebuild.

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