Thursday, September 04, 2008

Why Do Things Go Wrong?

Dedicated to myself and to all the other people who recently experienced seemingly wrong-going things. Yalla.

By Tzvi Freeman

Question:

I am living the wrong life. I should have done sciences in college, not humanities. And even in humanities, I should have gone for a law degree, as my parents wished and not a major in basket weaving. I was supposed to marry Jessica, not Ellen and we were supposed to live in Atlanta, not Atlantic City. From there on, it only gets worse... What do I do now?

Answer:

You may not want to hear this: All your fears are justified. You are not paranoid. You are probably right on every point. How do I know? Because this entire world is operating on Plan B.

Of course, there is The Plan. Plan A. The way things are supposed to go. But in the history of the world, there hasn't been a single thing that went the way it was supposed to go.

Adam wasn't supposed to eat from that tree. Cain and Abel were supposed to talk things out. Everyone was supposed to get along. Things got so out of hand the first time around, G-d drowned all the specimens and started all over. But things never stopped going wrong.

Take the story of Esau and Jacob. Esau was born with certain challenges, but he was supposed to have gotten a hold of himself. He was supposed to grow up as "El Macho Fearless Provider" while Jacob would sit and study. Esau got carried away with the El Macho part and Jacob ended up having to do the job of two brothers in one life -- including getting Esau's blessings and marrying his wife. It took Jacob twenty years to get those two wives out of Laban's lair. Esau could have taken care of it in a day. Nobody messes with Esau. Laban would endure some discomfort pinned up against the wall of his tent but Leah would be Esau's no sweat. But Jacob? Wrong man for the job. But that's Plan B.

Then there's the balagan with Joseph and his brothers -- an exercise in just how many things could go wrong in one story. Joseph miscommunicated. His brothers misinterpreted. Judah miscalculated and Reuben missed the boat.

The Exodus seems exciting, but keep in mind that the first meeting with Pharaoh was a complete, counter-productive disaster and nine out of ten plagues were effectively failures. And then, when we finally make it to the high point of the story, at the Giving of the Torah, the people make the grandest blunder of history with a dumb golden calf. That calf just wasn't according to script.

There is a script, but it never gets played. That's why the Torah starts with the letter Beit -- the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Because everything in this world works according to Plan B. In fact, if you study the six days of creation with the classic commentaries, you'll see that not a day went by without something coming out not quite the way it should have.

Apparently, before this world began, in a time continuum that does not infringe upon ours by a nanosecond, there were other worlds where things went right.1 There were worlds where Adam and Eve were good little kinderlach and didn't even touch the fruit of that tree. Where Cain and Abel were the best of buddies for all their eternal life. Where Esau married Leah and supported his kid brother, Jacob, so he could earn his degree in transcendental enlightenment by meditating in the wilderness. All people were so good and nice, the world was filled with light, and evil didn't have a chance. Those worlds in G-d's grand imagination were all Plan A. The Plan.

What happened to all those worlds? Well, G-d looked at each of those worlds His supreme wisdom had conjured up and He said, "Blech." And He scrapped them one by one and went on.

Until finally He made this world, where He invested His Infinite Consciousness into the confines of a frail being that takes one step forward and falls on its face, where Murphy has more credibility than Newton, where Dear Derailed marries Ellen instead of Jessica and all the progress of life and history is nothing but grand rescues from big blunders.

And He said, "Now this is what you call a world!" And He chose the world of Plan B to become a real world, not just a fleeting imagination like the other worlds, and here He gave His Torah.

So, you may ask, what is so exciting about a world of blunders, mess-ups and downright sins? What's up with a G-d Who creates beings who flagrantly obfuscate His Divine Plan? If it's goodness, beauty, light and wisdom that He wants, why choose a harsh, dull, dark and stupid world to have it in?

The answer must be that there's something deeper than The Plan. There's the Master of the Plan. There isn't just a script -- there's a playwright. There isn't just a score of music -- there's a musician.

Let me put it this way: Let's say you pass by a room and you hear a piano playing. You stop to listen. You think, "Maybe it's not a piano playing. Maybe it's a pianist playing."

How can you know? How can you know if you are listening to a piano or to a pianist?

So you listen a little longer and then you hear it: A blunder. The music stops. A pause. Then the same bars repeat themselves. Perhaps several times. And then the music goes on.

"Aha!" you say. "It's a person. There's someone behind the music." And you know what? The music takes on a whole new depth.

Same with The Plan. There's a G-d behind The Plan. If everything just went according to The Plan, there would be no room left to discover Him within it. We would only know a G-d Who is limited by the themes and plot of The Plan.

But when G-d chose The Plan, He didn't choose it because He had to or because this defines Him in any way. He chose it freely. And He wants that essential aspect of Him -- that which is free and beyond any form or definition -- to be revealed within that Plan. He wants the musician to be heard, and not just the music.

That's the opportunity that comes with every failure -- the opportunity to reach deeper into the essence of things, into your own self, into Truth. The failure itself may be a bummer, but the fruits of cleaning it up are more precious than gold.

That's why Torah enters only our world and no other. There is the wisdom of creation, there is the wisdom of beauty, there is the wisdom of light. But the Torah is deeper than all that. Torah is the wisdom of healing, of cleaning up messes. And that's a wisdom that touches G-d himself.

So, dear Derailed, take advantage. The angels are jealous. They're still stuck in Plan A.2

FOOTNOTES
1. The Kabbalists call this the "First Shemittah." A Shemittah is seven years, or, in this case, seven millennia. This world has six millennia of progress and one of rest; so did those. But they were built on Chessed -- kindness and goodness, whereas ours is built on Gevurah -- harshness and severity.
2. Inspired by a deep reading of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's Kuntres Yud Shvat 5751 and Likkutei Sichot, vol 4 pp 1340-1341.

8 comments:

Mindy 2 said...

Yep. Read this one. It's quite sad, but this is the faculty of human choice. Devastating to live with, no?

the sabra said...

Sad? Devastating?
Uh, try awesome!

Mindy 2 said...

Arrggggghhhhhh... Are you sure about that???

the sabra said...

Sure about what? That I'm not depressed to be born in this world? Sorry, could be I'm not understanding what you're getting at...

Mindy 2 said...

Yeah, well, pretty much. :) Pardon my harshness, I was just in a moment of despair.. :)

the sabra said...

Hey it's not me that has to pardon you. It's you that has to.

Good luck, sista.

Mindy 2 said...

Thanks. :)

Rachel said...

Mmm. I'm sorta also leaning towards "sad" on this one. Plan A ALWAYS fails (at least when you're me and living my age).... Sometimes B and C also fail. When C fails, that's when I start yelling at Him.(What!? Stop looking at me that way!)

(Ooh, posts abound.)