I enjoyed seeing Robert Alter speak about translating Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) last night, but two things disconcerted me a little. First, I was a bit taken aback that Professor Alter viewed translating Tanakh as a purely cultural/literary task, with no religious overtones whatsoever for him. I’m not sure how I felt about that. Not upset, exactly, but maybe disorientated, more than I would have expected, because I think I knew he wasn’t frum (religious) and I don’t think you have to be religious to take Tanakh seriously. But ever since last night I’ve been thinking of the quote by T. S. Eliot about seeing the Bible as great literature, that the Bible’s influence on Western literature was only because it was seen as the word of God and now it is viewed as great literature, its influence will soon end . The other thing that upset me, but didn’t surprise me, was the fact that the audience was mostly twenty to thirty years older than me. I saw a few people my age or younger, but not many. That fits with the demographic data on Anglo-Jewry, that the population is aging, and the younger generation is polarising between the Charedi (ultra-Orthodox) who won’t go to a talk by a secular Bible scholar and the assimilated (by far the larger group), who won’t go to a talk by a Bible scholar at all. I’m not quite sure where I’m supposed to go.
I struggled to get to sleep afterwards, perhaps because I had a good time and find it hard to ‘come down’ after that, even though I was hardly high (it was good, but not that good). I probably have some kind of introvert or autistic issue with coming from a public event and then trying to go to sleep without ‘alone time’ by myself to calm and self-soothe. Or maybe I just struggle to switch off generally without explicit and fairly lengthy ‘alone time.’
I did manage to get up on time this morning for work despite only having about six hours sleep. Work went slowly as I was doing some fairly tedious, repetitive tasks. My line manager was very pleased with the work I did last week when she was off sick, but it seems pretty clear that there isn’t any budget to employ me after the end of the month. This job has at least boosted my confidence in my ability to work after two very difficult jobs, even though I suspect I’m overqualified for it (and I am aware that many autistic people are unemployed or underemployed), but I am worried about working in a less friendly environment.
On the way home today I was thinking a lot about the mental health book I want to write. If my Doctor Who book is simply (“simply”) a matter of expanding existing blog posts, the mental health/autism book is more like getting this blog, tearing it into tiny pieces and sticking some of the pieces together again, with many new additions. It’s going to need a lot of work to make it coherent and meaningful. But my real question is why I’m so desperate to write it in the first place – aside from privacy issues in baring my soul (here and in a book), if I hate my thoughts so much, why do I want to spend so much time with them? Aside from the very real and disturbing possibility that I think that this is a good way to meet women, I suspect it’s a bid for sympathy and understanding. I worry that I think that if I get my misery memoir published, I’ll never have to talk to anyone ever again, I’ll just hand them a copy of my book. None of this is terribly sensible.
On a related note, in the book I’m reading, 13 Minutes, a school story/murder mystery, the only character I could empathise with, the geeky awkward girl, just got murdered. She wasn’t even important enough to murder, but was collateral damage in an attempt to kill a more popular girl. Which makes me think of the book Sunbathing in the Rain by Gwyneth Lewis, a depression memoir I read when I was first diagnosed with depression. Lewis says that depression is like a murder mystery: you have been murdered; by finding out why you became depressed, you can solve the murder and return to life.
This in turn illuminates the problem I’ve been struggling with for a while. I want to tell the story of my depression, to solve and relate the murder mystery. Thanks to a lot of therapy, I have a fair idea of what made me like this (whodunnit), but I worry that I can’t tell the story without ‘naming and shaming’ people who hurt me and “made” me like this (I should probably add that I’m one of the guilty people, on some level). I don’t really want to shame anyone. I know some people hurt me, but some of them were children at the time and others didn’t intend to hurt me and most of them didn’t know what they were doing and the effect it was having. Certainly I don’t think any of them deserve to be named and shamed. But I’m still not sure I can tell the story of my depression coherently without it. In some cases I can allude to things, but in others even a hint would make things too obvious. Sometimes I think I’ve said too much even on this blog. It’s difficult, especially as I have a deep desire/need in me for confession, in the broadest sense, to confess my sins, but also to tell my story, the story of how people/life hurt me. I don’t know what the way out of this is. I’ve contemplated fiction, but I don’t think I can do it and I’m not sure that pseudonymous publication would work either, for reasons I can’t really go into here.
 “I could fulminate against the men of letters who have gone into ecstasies over ‘the Bible as literature’, the Bible as ‘the noblest monument of English prose’. Those who talk of the Bible as a ‘monument of English prose’ are merely admiring it as a monument over the grave of Christianity. … the Bible has had a literary influence upon English literature not because it has been considered as literature, but because it has been considered as the report of the Word of God. And the fact that men of letters now discuss it as ‘literature’ probably indicates the end of its ‘literary’ influence.” – T. S. Eliot, Religious and Literature.