I was given more to do at work today. Lately I have been researching about 120 names a day; today I was given 300 for today and tomorrow together. I couldn’t reach 150 by the end of the day, although I was close (145). In the late afternoon I got faster at researching, which always happens, but this time I got a lot faster and hyperfocused. I also experimented with listening to music again to blot out the open plan office noises; it helps a bit for nearby noise (the people next to me on the phone), but the music gets just as irritating as low level background noise while I’m trying work. I do listen to music, but usually when doing something menial and sometimes I find it oppressive and prefer to do without. The other thing that happened when hyperfocusing was that my blood sugar level dropped after a while. I ate an apple and a cereal bar, but I still felt a bit shaky. I worry that I was going too fast, hyperfocusing, but with poor quality concentration and making mistakes. I guess I’ll have to wait and see, although it’s possible that any mistakes might not be found until the data is used, which could be long after I’ve left. On a selfish level this won’t affect me, but I want to do a good job because I have a sense of integrity in my work. I want to do the job they are paying me to do to the best of my ability.
I found myself feeling envious of the high-powered lawyers I was researching. I don’t know why. The law has never struck me as an interesting career and I could not cope with the stress and disruption of my life that a high-powered job would entail. It would be nice to be more financially secure, but I would have to sacrifice too much that is important to me (leisure time, relationships, spirituality/religion and probably conscience) even if I was well-enough and neurotypical enough to do such a job (which I’m not). But I don’t feel that I’m better off than they are. They at least are having a good time (possibly). I have God, but a lot of the time I feel He wants to hurt me and let me deprive myself of Olam HaBa (Heaven). As Faustian pacts go, it looks like I did badly. Maybe I’m wrong and it’s the depression talking. I hope I am. It’s hard to believe that, though.
When I went to the rabbi’s house for dinner on the first night of Rosh Hashanah, the person next to me said she heard an online shiur (class) where a rabbi said that the current Jewish generation is the strongest since the Akedah (the Binding of Isaac) in order to resist the lures of the outside world. I’m not sure that I agree with this. I think the people who lived through the Holocaust, the pogroms, the Crusades, the Hadrianic persecutions and so on were pretty strong. Even if we’re talking about a different kind of strength, I don’t feel that I personally am doing all that well at resisting temptation. In fact, I’m doing pretty badly. But the statement reminded me of a passage from Martin Buber’s Tales of the Hasidim and I’ve been thinking about both recently. This is the passage from Buber (translated by Olga Marx):
The Time to Come
It was on a sabbath and the rabbi of Rizhyn [Rabbi Yisrael of Rizhyn] sat at his table surrounded by his hasidim. Then he said to them: “The days are near when all will be well with the common man both in body and in soul, but all will not be well with the extraordinary man, not in body and not in soul, and he will not even be able to recite one psalm.”
And he concluded: “Why do I tell you this? So that your hearts shall not grieve: it ought to be so, it must be so.”
Another time he said: “In the last three hours before redemption it will be as difficult to cling to Jewishness as to climb a smooth wall of ice. That is why in the Hoshanot prayer we say: ‘Three hours – pray help!’ Those are the last hours.”
Obviously, it would suit my vanity to think of myself as an extraordinary person, but I suppose beyond that I want to feel that there is some meaning in my life. If I can’t do something meaningful, I’d like my suffering to be for some kind of eschatological purpose. I suppose it would be a strange form of revenge, but still revenge, if my suffering helped redeem the people who treated me badly (when I was very ill, at Oxford, a couple of times I briefly thought that I was Mashiach (the Messiah). I still don’t know if that was technically a psychotic episode and probably never will). And I suppose I hope that the redemption will come soon, because I can’t cope with this world and if I can’t commit suicide, then I want everything to be magically sorted out without my having to do anything because I don’t know what I can do that I haven’t yet tried. I suppose I feel that it would take the final redemption and the end of history to get rid of my depression and to get me married. But I really am finding it hard to cling to Jewishness. I have that part of it alright. Just not the good bit, the redemptive bit.