"You should go to shiurim more," Ma was telling a friend of hers, who was midway in her weekly diatribe of all her frustrations in life. "Sometimes, you just have to get out of your own head."
I adore torahanytime.com for just this purpose. There are times when I wallow in self-pity, in the same futile, ruminative loop, immobile in petty contemplations.
Then I click on a shiur, and whether it be something I agree with or something I don't, it provides that necessary reminder that there is a big world out there, there are many people in it, and they don't all share the same thought process.
Instead of delving on the individual, one is nudged towards the communal whole. Instead of obsessing about how the world should be serving me, I am prompted to focus on how I should be serving the world around me.
That is what I thought of when I read Akhil Sharma's "The Trick of Life," about how, as an author, he was able to lift himself from the despair of the unfinished novel by looking outside of his mental confines.
I sat on a bench by the river and rested. I stared across it to the tall apartment buildings in New Jersey. Thinking of how people were living out their lives in those buildings comforted me somehow. I looked at the gray rushing water and its movement, the fact that it was coming from someplace and going someplace else also consoled me. It was then that I realized that I needed somehow to always be outside myself. My mind had become uninhabitable . . .
So, sitting on the bench by the river that day, I remembered having read in Reader’s Digest — a periodical my family has undue reverence for — that when you are feeling bad, one way to make yourself feel better is to pray for others.
I began to pray for the people who were passing by. I prayed for the nanny pushing a stroller. I prayed for the young woman jogging by in spandex. I prayed for the little boy pedaling his bicycle. I prayed that each of them got the same things that I wanted for myself: that they have good health, peace of mind, financial security. By focusing on others and their needs, my own problems seemed less unique and, somehow, less pressing.
The world population is currently over seven billion, which I can't wrap my head around. If we all remained glued to our own lives, where would we be then?
The three kidnapped boys, nebach, has drawn us all closer; they are now part of our own families, now our own sons and brothers. But why must we wait until children are abducted for us to feel commonality in our nation? For every joy, for every sadness, we are, always, one.