Friday, December 21, 2007

Nekudah

I approach this post with a sense of purpose, yet wondering if I'll be able to articulate it how I really feel it inside...

I've been thinking about this topic for years. It's been such a significant part of my conscious thought for so long that I don't think I can remember how or when it began to be so important to me. It's only just recently that I've begun to come terms with the entirety of it, but even now I feel like I'm missing something, and maybe someone reading this will have some insight for me.

Here goes....

For reasons I don't fully understand, I've noticed that I gravitate towards certain people. There are some that I'm drawn to, fascinated and intrigued by, so curious about, and I feel like I'm able to resonate with them better than with their peers. They are a riddle to me, and in a way they silently reach out, pleading to be understood, respected, and validated.

These people are those who have suffered. Whose souls have ached. Whose insides have been torn apart. Who have been through the dark and have emerged, sometimes broken, sometimes resolutely bolstered, to tell their stories.


So what is suffering, I ask? What is the defining line that determines who has suffered and who has merely been inconveneinced?

Obviously, there are multiple levels and facets of pain. There is no person alive who has never cried, who has never tasted the bitter tears of loss, never been burned or spurned or wounded. Even small suffering is painful, and thus marginally worthy of being called suffering.
But yet, not every pain can be called suffering, because (to my mind) suffering in it's complete form is something big, excruciating, impassably intolerable. What determines whether or not whatever a person has been through is considered suffering?

Every person has their own pain threshold, their own perception of how great their pain or discomfort is. None of us can ever understand how painful or pleasurable anyone else's feelings are, because we are too removed from eachothers' inner workings. Considering that fact, it is impossible to gauge or measure what we each individually feel on a communal scale. While that doesn't bother me per se, it makes me feel like perhaps I'm feeling things "wrong"... like as much as I can rate my feelings against the other feelings I've felt, maybe I'm interpreting them as different than they are, or they should be...


But it doesn't matter, really. What I feel has nothing to do with what you feel. I may feel strongly about something you don't, but that doesn't make either of us wrong. We are each right in our own contexts and situations. For years I couldn't understand this; for some reason I grew up thinking that there was a right reaction or feeling to every stimulus, and I became increasingly frustrated when I just couldn't find the universal response codes... Comparing myself to others simply made things worse for me because it set unrealistic expectations for my already too-high goal of self-perfection.

By now I've heard the responses more times than I can recall: Each of us is presented with the challenges we can surmount. We are given the tools we need, the resources and facilities to help us in our quest for Answers and Growth. Our struggles are tailor-made for each of us at the exact time and place they're presented to us. They stand at the exact midpoint of our ability to pass them, that very fine line between too difficult for us to pass and too easy for us to work hard enough. Our nekudas habechirah is programmed into our very beings by the One to Whom lies the Knowledge...

But I've also learned something that scares me.

We're told that if our current challenge seems too big, too hard, too impossible, we should rest assured realizing that we're only given what we can handle, and that big challenges indicate big people... He gives us only what we can surmount. All our current challenges and painful times are somewhere in that nekudas habechirah and somehow we have the tools and the abilities and the courage and the strenth to get through them and emerge stronger, better, more beautiful people.

The big people are faced with big problems. Big people can handle big problems. They are strong and brave and capable and will grow bigger and bigger....

But...

But what about those people who are not tested with big challenges...? What about those who are not faced with death, illness, poverty, childlessness, unemployment, handicaps? Does that indicate that they are not strong enought to handle them? That they are...little....?

I suppose I should answer my own question with what I've already said. Each of our individual perceptions of our pain are subjective views that must not and cannot be compared to those of others. Big to me is not necessarily big for you, and vice versa. I cannot gauge my level of suffering based on others' experinces. After all, the Gemara details how merely reaching into one's pocket for change and retreiving the wrong amount is considered suffering, as is the need to have a garment rewoven because it was made too small.... But for some reason it's so difficult for me to accept that my challenges--whatever they happen to be at any given point--are real and big and hard... I need to see that whatever I am presented with now is a huge hurdle for me. ...Corner, these things are big! They're big...believe it...and they're meant for you to grow stronger, better and more beautiful......

And maybe that means I'm big...

For some reason I feel worse having written this. Sometimes blogging lets off steam, but now I think I just made things more tzefloigen in there. I'll post this anyway, though, because maybe someone will have something to say that will help clarify things to me a bit....or a lot....

Please comment :)

17 comments:

Ezzie said...

I think you're answering your own questions quite nicely, actually.

One quibble on the end: That someone doesn't think of their challenges as big does not make them so; perhaps they've simply prepared well, or are handling them well. This makes the problem seem smaller. There is no need to make a problem seem bigger to feel big - take pride in that the problem seems small, that you put yourself in a situation to make it so.

Have a wonderful Shabbos! :)

BEHIND A SMILE said...

So many questions..so many answers but you can't seem to make them fit to your satisfaction, sorry you are so frustrated.

Before I start my rambling let me apologise cus I have a sneaky feeling that this comment is gonna end up almost as long as your blog, I'm just answering in my own way stating my own opinion. Also please note that I am in no way directing these comments at you but rather myself, in albeit a bit of a public way ;)

(As usual) your blog set me thinking..I personally don't think that there is one reason why i'm drawn to certain people but I do believe that there is a reason why paths cross, but each has it's own reason and is sent specifically. Yes, when you see someone silently asking you to help you do get involved and yes, some people are drawn more to others who have suffered but I think that again there are a few reasons.

It is a basic human need to feel needed and wanted and reaching out to those who silently call us fulfills this need. Undoubtedly it gives us a good feeling to be in the position to help others. Although it may develop into an equal standing, 2-way friendship, could it be that some relationships started out on a 1-way, I'm so good for helping you, boost-my-ego, selfish footing? (Ouch)

Another reason I may be drawn to a person who has suffered is that many who have experienced suffering and come out the other side are not only stronger people but often are more sensitive to others, they recognize when another is in pain and offer that listening ear in a non-judgemental way, and that is definately an appealing trait.

Also if people are sent to us at certain times for certain reasons that may mean that they can help us gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and either help us directly or help us help ourselves through helping them.

When it comes to challenges, sometimes many 'small' are harder then one 'big'. It is also worth remembering struggles can include all those daily frustrations. As one friend said - some people wouldn't be able to handle being childness so instead they have to wait to marry while for others waiting to marry would be inconceivable.

Hashem alone knows which is the best method to bring each person closer to Him - we just have to listen to those messages before it gets so difficult that we are 'screaming' and not just 'asking' Him for His help.

I wish you Yishuv Hadaas (and hope I didn't overstep the mark)

corner point said...

Ezzie--
Ichs...I knew the last paragraphs sounded confusing...
What I meant to say is that my whole life I've been downplaying the severity of things that happen to me. I didn't know how to acknowlede that things I passed were indeed hard, and so I never gave myself the credit I deserved. I'm working now on trying to see things as objective and as if someone else is dealing with them. Now that I look back I see that a lot of what happened in my life was really big, and it sorta made me proud that I'd handled it so well. But still, I think it would have been better for me to have acknowledged then that those things were hard. So now I'm trying to see that what I have in my life now is big (since that's what others have told me, and because I'm starting to see it somewhat as well) because I think (hope?) it will help me handle it better...
I just hope that I'm not one of those weak ones...

Smile--
(Now you just need a blog to post blog-sized comments on :-D)

if people are sent to us at certain times for certain reasons that may mean that they can help us gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and either help us directly or help us help ourselves through helping them.
It's amazing how life works like that... That's one of the things I tell myself when a chapter of my life comes to a close--that I was able to get whatever I got from those people, and now I have the chance to meet new people and learn from them...

It is also worth remembering struggles can include all those daily frustrations.
Good thing to remember...

Thanks! :-)

The Dreamer said...

Everything can be as big or small as the person experiencing it, in any situation.

For great people, in the smallest things, be they good or bad occurences, can be big or small.

And I think people who experience pain and deal with it are that much more accessible to others, because their hearts are different and we feel it. That must be the connection you feel.
:)

badforshidduchim said...

While I can't say I've ever felt drawn to people who've suffered, I do sometimes wonder, "So this is the most I can handle?"

But, I humbly assert that some people actually do have 'issues' while other people invent 'em. Meaning, some things are objectively a problem, but many are only a problem if you blow them up.

I make this assertion in a defensive crouch, because the last time I announced that I had no issues I was pinned down into a chair and poked with plastic forks while urged to abandon my denial and confess my deep dark problems.

If you don't think your life is full of problems, then maybe it isn't, or maybe you just roll with the punches and rock with the waves. You aren't required to go emo.

halfshared said...

My first reaction was "spare me from those big nisyonos that would make me look big". We daven every day "Lo Liday Nisayon". But should a nisayon come my way, I know I'll be given the strength and tools to withstand it. I can think of some incidents in my life that at that time I thought tragic or unbearable and then it really did end up being for the best. The best part was that I got to see how it was so good for me in this world. Very nice, clear post CP.

Chaya said...

To me, suffering is something that changes you...that makes you stronger...that, looking back, you don't recognize the person you once were..before...
No matter what level of suffering it is..whether everyone would feel it in the same way..it's how it affects YOU that qualifies it as suffering.

Scraps said...

Sometimes, when things in my life are especially difficult, I say to Hashem, "I know you don't give people tests they can't handle...but do You have to have so much confidence in me?!"

But on a more serious note...

Everyone experiences pain in different ways, on different levels. (Side point--I, too, find that I relate better to people who have been through a lot of difficulties in life.) Some people are tested with illness, both personal and with those they are close to. Some people are tested by failure. Some people are tested by being poor in a rich society, or by riches in a society that is supposed to strive against materialism. Some people are tested by being born without an emotional "skin" that lets them filter out other people's pain and intensifies their own to levels that other people cannot begin to comprehend and therefore trivialize...and the trivialization of that pain is also a test, because it's adding the element of doubt. "Not only do I feel this horrible pain, but I must be either crazy or making a big deal out of nothing, because no one else thinks it could be this bad."

You simply cannot measure or quantify pain. There are people who have lived through pain I can't begin to imagine or comprehend, and there are people who cannot begin to imagine or comprehend how I've lived through things in my life. It's all relative; there are no "universal response codes".

Also, keep in mind that even though Hashem doesn't give people tests they cannot pass, He can and does give people tests they do not pass. So sometimes He'll send the same one again and again, giving us second and third and umpteenth chances, so at last we can perfect our response to the challenge. For Hashem is the G-d of second chances--if the world was judged only by din, we'd all be goners. Also, when this life is over, Hashem will put all of our tzarot on the same side of the scale as our mitzvot, weighing those in the balance in the fight against the yetzer hara.

Okay, this answer has been long and a little rambling, and I feel like you've heard me say some of this before, but I did want to respond, so I hope I've done a good job.

chav said...

I've been following your blog for a while... you write so eloquently.

Just because a person is faced with what seems to be insurmountable tasks doesn't mean that they cannot do it... Hashem gave us all we need to work with - it's already in our hands.

Also, the fact that He gave us these nisyonos doesn't mean that the "big" ones are better... or that the "small" ones are lesser people. Like you said, who are we to know? It's only going to be when we cross over, hopefully after a life free of such hurdles, that we can know for sure...

And your neshama knew that coming down here, in your specific situation and family and location and stimuli... etc... that this would be the best possible place for it.

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

hello. just 'browsing' by...pretty deep thinker..

David_on_the_Lake said...

Hmmm
food for thought...

I think..everyone has moments of joy and heartache..
We are shaped by the majority of our emotions.
Are we consumed by pain to the point that it's the dominant emotion?
Some people have everything and yet they're bitter because they focus on what they don't have...and although it sounds rediculous to us...their nekudas hasuffering is way off what we commonly think of as suffering..yet their homemade suffering is very real to them.

But..I don't know about the correlation between Big tests and Big people because our nekudas habechira is constantly in flux...and the more we fall..the bigger the test becomes soo

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Well, once I'm around I just feel the need to make a bit more of a substantial comment, and that is; of course, this is an important idea you raise, one which I'm pretty sure everybody fathoms once in a while to some extent.

But my personal opinion is that most people tend to blow their troubles way out of proportion, and overlook the good they benefit from, because that's what they're used to (and this is obvious).

Now, I'm not trying to imply anything (G-d forbid) but look at some people like that famous 'Amnon' of the 'u'ntane tokef' prayer of Rosh Hashana. Now he had problems. Not having money, not having friends, not having a spouse for example, pale in comparison to some peoples real problems. So again, not to minimize them, not to suggest that we should do anything but beg G-d for all our needs, and not to say that many a time most people around us have more than us, but just -of course- so we could see things in a more positive 'cup-half-full' kind of light.

Thanks for reading.

corner point said...

Everybody--
Your comments were amazing. They gave me a lot to chew on, and I've come up with a lot of answers for myself... Thanks!

Dreamer--
You're right...maybe...
Thanks :)

B4S--
Eh. Too bad I wasn't there to do the poking. That'd have been fun
:-P

Half--
Thanks :)
But you've never had an experience where in hindsight you still didn't understand?

Chaya--
Wow...good, good point.
To me, suffering is something that changes you...that makes you stronger...that, looking back, you don't recognize the person you once were..before... So true...

Scraps--
How do you always know exactly the right thing to say?
Some people are tested with illness, both personal and with those they are close to. Some people are tested by failure. Some people are tested by being poor in a rich society, or by riches in a society that is supposed to strive against materialism. Some people are tested by being born without an emotional "skin" that lets them filter out other people's pain and intensifies their own to levels that other people cannot begin to comprehend and therefore trivialize...and the trivialization of that pain is also a test, because it's adding the element of doubt. "Not only do I feel this horrible pain, but I must be either crazy or making a big deal out of nothing, because no one else thinks it could be this bad."
...you know me too well.......

Chav--
Thank you! :-)

And good point about neshamos. If you haven't read it already, here's something else I wrote containing that point: http://thecornerpoint.blogspot.com/2007/11/breaking-out-of-box.html

David--
yet their homemade suffering is very real to them.
See? That's what I was afraid of...that the feelings I feel are made up...that I'm too soft and weak and that the little things bother me...
*sigh*
Except I think I figured it out by now. I'm okay with the whole idea...I think... :)

Shlomo--
Good points
But my personal opinion is that most people tend to blow their troubles way out of proportion, and overlook the good they benefit from, because that's what they're used to That's what frustrated me so much...cuz I was never like that, but I thought that maybe I was, because that's what everyone else was saying about the rest of the world... It just thoroughly mixed me up...
Ah, the wonders of the mind :)

Scraps said...

How do you always know exactly the right thing to say?

Halevai. I wish I always knew the right thing to say, and when I do, it's purely because Hashem gives me the words.

But I often know what to say because I've been in the same place. I know what it feels like to doubt my own sanity, to castigate myself for "making something out of nothing" when I was in so much emotional pain that no one could possibly understand how or why. And I also know how big a relief it is to know that someone does understand, and that the pain is real and I'm not crazy for feeling it.

Does that answer your question?

corner point said...

Yes. It does. It also explains the connected feeling to those who have suffered in the same way you have...

when I was in so much emotional pain that no one could possibly understand how or why.
hmmm...or yourself....

heartOfire said...

Wow! but it seems there are certain people, only a few that are drawn like you are to these people, there is something more, no, even greater in you. It is called a special Neshama that actualy connects to someone who actualu needs the connecting. I am sure you have some emotional ability to see and understand someone elses pain and suffering even when the whole world doesn't see it . Thank Hashem there are people like you in the world. Please continue! I promise you it will come back Lebracha for you!

Bas~Melech said...

Hey kid -- sorry for not commenting on this, I didn't feel that I had anything in particular to add. But you planning on posting again someday?