Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Messages in the Destructions

Yesterday I came across a meditation on Noah and the Ark in Rabbi Rachel Barenblat's blog post

"And God tells Noah: make yourself an ark out of gopher wood, and cover it over with pitch: "וְכָֽפַרְתָּ֥ אֹתָ֛הּ מִבַּ֥יִת וּמִח֖וּץ בַּכֹּֽפֶר / v'kafarta otah mibeit u-michutz bakofer." Interesting thing about the words "cover" and "pitch:" they share a root with כפרה / kapparah, atonement. (As in Yom Kippur.) It doesn't come through in translation, but the Hebrew reveals that this instruction to build a boat seems to be also implicitly saying something about atonement.

Rashi seizes on that. Why, he asks, did God choose to save Noah by asking him to build an ark? And he answers: because over the 120 years it would take to build the ark, people would stop and say, "What are you doing and why are you doing it?" And Noah would be in a position to tell them that God intended to wipe out humanity for our wickedness. Then the people would make teshuvah, and then the Flood wouldn't have to happen. God wanted humanity to make teshuvah, and once again, we missed the message."

Later in the day, I had wine, cheese, artichoke-spinach dip, and crackers with friends in the neighborhood.  We're still talking about Hurricane Irma and the implications for the future.  Should we stay put and fortify our houses against future floods that are surely coming?  Should we move inland and/or upland?

This morning, after seeing some Facebook posts, I spent far more time this morning exploring artist Aurora Robson's website than writing poems or repairing storm damage, two activities I have not been paying as much attention to as I should.  She makes breathtaking sculptures out of trash, mainly plastic trash from what I can tell--and much of it is making a point about where that trash winds up.  She makes sculptures that look like exotic sea creations, and it's hard not to be aware that plastics and oceans are on a collision course, with oceans coming out on the losing end.

Last night I dreamed I was at our church's pumpkin patch to get some little pumpkins for school.  Most of the little pumpkins were gone, and the ones that remain had started to rot.  Not hard to interpret that dream.

Today is the anniversary of the day that Hurricane Wilma swept across the state.  That day seems like a demarcating point, a time of before and after, just the way that Hurricane Irma's landfall seems to us in South Florida.  That day seems a demarcating point between our carefree late summer visits with family and the autumn of our discontent.  We are luckier than many--our decisions about what to trash, what to keep, and how to repair can all be delayed.  Our leaking roof was fixed by pulling wads of leaves out of the gutter system.

I feel a bit like I've fallen out of time.  I wonder how many others feel similarly.  On the surface, all looks normal.  Underneath, we're making our calculations:  what to save, how much to spend, and further out, where it makes sense to live.

Right now, many of us don't have the information that we need.  We haven't heard from our insurers, so we don't know how much repair money we'll have.  We don't know how much or how quickly our rates will rise in the future.  Will we face powerful hurricanes every year or just once a decade?

I remind myself that most of us are living this reality--many who don't live in ravaged areas don't realize that they are living this reality, but those of us who are younger than 65 will have lots of decisions to make because of our changing planet, decisions that weren't part of our calculus of younger years.

But for today, those decisions will wait--again.  Today we must get back to work.  Tomorrow--or some later day--we'll think about those larger decisions. 

No comments: