You (don’t) only live once

This evening I was contemplating the frantic modern aphorism YOLO – you only live once – in juxtaposition with today’s psalm (Psalm 90) which says, “So teach the number of our days, so that we shall acquire a heart of wisdom.”

The verse that I found most striking from this psalm, however, is this one: “Cause us to rejoice according to the days that You afflicted us, the years that we saw evil.”

Rashi’s commentary offers: “Cause us to rejoice in the days of our Messiah according to the number of days that You afflicted us in the exiles and according to the number of years that we experienced evil.”

Or, in other words: Redeem whatever time we spent not truly living. As many days as were sorrowful, give us glorious ones.

How natural is it to pray: As many days as we lived during the pandemic, give us in health and freedom and adventure.

Sometimes we don’t only live once. Sometimes we live affliction, then rejoicing. Sometimes we live exile, then return. Sometimes we live desolation, then hope.

Sometimes everything that wasn’t truly living can be somewhat redeemed, even in this life.

And when that happens, it’s like living (at least) twice.

Simone Weil on Suffering and Transformation

Simone Weil, who died on this date in 1943 at the age of 34, was one of the most audaciously creative writers and earnest spiritual seekers of the past century.

In her aphoristically-styled Gravity and Grace, she has these words about suffering and affliction:

Suffering: superiority of man over God. The Incarnation was necessary so that this superiority should not be scandalous.

I should not love my suffering because it is useful. I should love it because it is.

[…]

Suffering, teaching and transformation. What is necessary is not that the initiated should learn something, but that a transformation should come about in them which makes them capable of receiving the teaching.

Pathos means at the same time suffering (notably suffering unto death) and modification notably transformation into an immortal being).

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