I was very depressed today. I couldn’t really do anything all day, other than cook dinner, but I had to go out in the evening as I’d booked to hear Aviva Gottleib Zornberg lecture at the London School of Jewish Studies and I wanted to hear her; she lectures there before Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), but I’d always felt too depressed or too busy to go before now. Her shiur (religious class) was really good, although slightly strangely was about Moshe (Moses) rather than Rosh Hashanah. She focused on his speech impediment and how important it is that he talked to the Israelites despite it. She felt it signified the fact that he felt more comfortable alone on the mountain with God than at the bottom with the people (not in an elitist way, in the sense of struggling to connect with people rather than the Infinite), and that his impediment was necessary for him to verbalise the feelings of the Israelite slaves who had no voice in their slavery. It resonate with me a bit. I’m not sure that I’m comfortable talking to God per se, but I don’t feel comfortable with people at all. And part of the reason I’m so determined to try and write is to give voice to parts of society that are left voiceless: religious Jews in general Western society as well as marginal figures within the Jewish community (e.g. the mentally ill, victims of domestic violence, people with unconventional or unacceptable opinions).
Also on the subject of language, Rabbi Lord Sacks, in his WhatsApp Elul thought for the day today, referred to the anthropologist Malinowski who saw speech not as a way of transferring information, but as a way bonding regardless of content. I think it’s this that I struggle with, being on the autism spectrum, the ability to talk to other when there isn’t actually anything that needs to be said and the conversation is just a way of creating or affirming social bonds. I’ve just joined a new autism WhatsApp message group, and this was something that people were saying today, that people on the spectrum don’t know what to talk about and worry about saying the right thing, whereas neurotypical people do it instinctively.
I suppose this is also about words as bonding versus words as communication, but I’m struggling with something at the moment. When I’m very depressed, I want to avoid politics and conflict, yet I also want to be well-informed. There are some blogs I like that are partially or primarily political and I feel I should not read them, but also that I should read them. In particular, I don’t want to be stuck in one of the echo chambers of which we hear so much these days (although I’m not sure they are entirely new; most people have long read newspapers they agree with), but sometimes people write things that I think is specious or poorly informed or a half-truth or just plain wrong and I don’t know what to do. I don’t like to get into fights, so I usually let it go, but then it echos around in my head all day (“Someone is wrong on the internet!”). But if I get dragged in to a fight, it’s a hundred times worse. So I end up hiding my views and trying not to get involved, but I do carry it all around with me, which may be worse.