Finding pat­terns in ev­ery­day life brings com­fort

Times Colonist - - Religion And Spirituality - FIONA PRINCE

A few weeks ago, I at­tended a course from the Jewish Learn­ing In­sti­tute called Wrestling with Faith. In the last class, I had to read aloud an ex­cerpt from philoso­pher Ge­orge Steiner’s book, ti­tled In Blue­beard’s Cas­tle: Some Notes To­wards the Redef­i­ni­tion of Cul­ture.

It was a chal­leng­ing piece to read aloud be­cause along with wrap­ping my mouth around com­plex aca­demic lan­guage, I had to wrap my mind around com­plex philo­soph­i­cal ideas at the same time. Sim­ply put, Steiner wrote that the emer­gence of the be­lief in one G-d in­stead of many gods was for­eign to the hu­man psy­che, and dif­fi­cult to grasp be­cause this one G-d’s name was (and is) un­speak­able, there were (and are) no im­ages to rep­re­sent this one G-d, and peo­ple were not even sup­posed to imag­ine an im­age of this one G-d.

This G-d was and is the G-d of Moses, the G-d who gave us the Ten Com­mand­ments and the To­rah, the G-d who is some­times called the G-d of the Jews. I was raised to be­lieve in this in­vis­i­ble G-d, and al­though dur­ing my teen years I was ag­nos­tic — a doubter — I was never a non-be­liever. I have al­ways be­lieved in a Cre­ator, some­one or some­thing that is ev­er­p­re­sent and re­spon­si­ble for all that ex­ists. But … if our G-d has no name and no phys­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion does he/she/it re­ally ex­ist? It’s easy to see why the course was named Wrestling with Faith!

I know you have prob­a­bly read or heard many ex­pla­na­tions and ra­tio­nal­iza­tions about the ex­is­tence of G-d so I am not even go­ing to try to pro­vide that per­spec­tive. In­stead, I would like to share with you through a story how I ex­pe­ri­ence G-d in the world, no mat­ter whether I am hav­ing a day full of beauty and won­der, or a day full of chal­lenges and dis­ap­point­ments. I see pat­terns and ev­i­dence.

My fa­ther (of blessed mem­ory) suf­fered from Parkin­son’s dis­ease. It bent his spine, caused his body to shake un­con­trol­lably, and took away so much of his dig­nity. As a ded­i­cated physi­cian, he had al­ways fo­cused on ways to heal oth­ers and lessen their suf­fer­ing, yet he was un­able to stop the pro­gres­sion of this ter­ri­ble dis­ease. He passed away when he was 77 years old.

In Ju­daism, there are pre­scribed mourn­ing pe­ri­ods for dif­fer­ent fam­ily. We mourn a par­ent for 12 months, and there­after, read spe­cial prayers on the an­niver­sary of the par­ent’s death. At the end of the mourn­ing pe­riod for my fa­ther, I de­cided to make some­thing in his hon­our.

I love to knit, so I went to a lo­cal wool shop, found a pat­tern I liked that re­quired two types of yarn and asked a young sales as­sis­tant to help me. As we searched through the store, I told her what the pro­ject was for, but I didn’t tell her any other per­sonal in­for­ma­tion about my­self of my fam­ily. Later, when I was un­pack­ing the yarn, I read the re­ceipt that had the name of the sales clerk and the names of the yarn.

I was so shocked at what I read that I took a pic­ture of the re­ceipt: the sales clerk’s name was the same as my fa­ther’s; one of my cho­sen yarns was the same as my mother’s. There, on this lit­tle piece of white pa­per that doc­u­mented my pur­chase for a pro­ject ded­i­cated to my fa­ther was his name and my mother’s name. For me, what some would call a co­in­ci­dence is ev­i­dence of the ex­is­tence of G-d.

Do you have a sim­i­lar story?

Fiona Prince, MA is a coach, fa­cil­i­ta­tor and teacher who pro­vides fun­da­men­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion and writ­ing skills to help peo­ple suc­ceed in their pro­fes­sional and aca­demic lives. She wor­ships at the Chabad Fam­ily Shul, where she vol­un­teers teach­ing chil­dren and adults how to read He­brew. Sign up for weekly com­mu­ni­ca­tion tips at prince­heron.com. To learn to read He­brew, con­tact her at morah­[email protected] (Mo­rah means teacher and Faiga is her He­brew name).

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