In Hebrew, unlike English, you face the past: the future lies at your back, like the rower on a boat or half the travelers on a train. But these languages lead us astray, for the past is as distant as the future, and the human soul (at present) homebound and myopic.
When Master Chuang was young, he fluttered back and forth on every decision, exhausting himself. One day, after mounting frustration at his own fickleness, he sat pouting by the roadside as a portly old monk passed by.
— Why are you crying, child, asked the expansive holy man.
— I am a butterfly in the wind. The minute i want something, i begin to want something else, replied the sad, precocious child.
The monk plopped his massive frame on a nearby rock and thought in silence for a good long while.
— You must pray to the God of Stubbornness, he finally declared, and waddled away.
Young Master Chuang had never heard of such a silly god, but wasn’t one to look a gift horse in the mouth, so on the spot he began pestering the makeshift deity for just a little more stubbornness. Lo and behold, the butterfly was soon pinned down! In time it completely petrified, then morphed into a stone, a hill, and finally became an infinitely large mountain. Even now old Master Chuang will say a little prayer on windy mornings, lest he forget to be stubborn that day.
mais n’écoutais pas;
[I could hear you, dear bird,
but wasn’t listening;
so you took off.]
[I’d heard the crows cawing, perhaps for hours, as they wintered on a neighbor’s tree, but only noticed when, passing a window, i saw their harsh tones blacken the sky and vanish.]
Must i beg you into existence?
Have you vanished out of spite?
Or do you still relish sacrifice,
insist on a bit of faith? Perhaps
you are deaf, or gone to pee.
Here i lay dying, and you taunt
Do not presume to know me:
I am not the god of your fathers,
nor will i trade life for faith.
I will save you,
and shatter your existence;
I will grant you joy and peace,
by destroying your mind.
I am the god you crave
but cannot bear; for now
I will kill you, kindly, and transform you,
If faith could create
just enough god to save me —
would you lend me that faith,
friend, before i create…?
Perhaps, when Elijah returns as promised, he will stand outside our stores with a handful of pebbles and pay us to buy nothing. When we object that a pebble is worthless, he might answer: “I brought them from the future. Each one will buy you a little bit of time.” Would that be just enough to save us?