Today was an exciting day: I paid my income tax bill (with a day to spare) and returned my books and CDs to the library. I know, I know – such excitement, how can I contain my enthusiasm? Yeah…
I did manage to polish up Chapter 1 and write a bit on Chapter 2 of The Reconvening. While doing some research on routes from Oraibi to Colorado Springs, I internetedly stumbled on Navajo Times. There was local politics, local gossip, and coverage of the name change for the Washington Redskins. What I found most poignant were the obituaries. They account for them weekly, and the latest ones were dated July 9th. Included in the obituaries was a father and son death notice, the Dahozys, Wilson Jr. and Jason. Wilson was 70; Jason was 42. Jason died first, because his obituary lists one of his survivors as Wilson. I assume they both died from Covid.
The population of the Navajo Nation is 173,667 – or at least it was before the Cvirus. With 401 deaths thus far, that makes the death rate double the world average. It is apt to think about this in the context of the story I’m writing, of people having to move away from this native area because it can no longer sustain them. The same could be said now of the Navajo Nation. Life was tough before; in the age of the virus it’s likely unsustainable. What will become of these people? God only knows.
Speaking of what will become of people, I’ve begun to read Rabbi Naomi Levy’s book Einstein and the Rabbi. The Rabbi in question was Rabbi Robert Marcus, who volunteered as a chaplain in World War II and saved hundreds of children who managed to survive in Buchenwald Concentration camp. He was doing good work for the Jewish people when his own son died after contracting polio when swimming in a lake in the Catskills. Rabbi Marcus was bereft, and wrote to Einstein, looking for some kind of guidance. This is what Einstein gave him.
“A human being is part of the whole, called by us, ‘Universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts, and feelings as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish it, but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.”
Now Rabbi Levy is overjoyed at this message to a bereft colleague; I’m not so sure she is grasping what he’s saying. Her interpretation is that all humans are “intimately connected and that we are blind to this truth.” I don’t think that’s what Einstein was saying at all. Here’s my take on it, one sentence or so at a time.
“A human being is part of the whole, called by us ‘Universe’, a part limited in time and space.” OK..each person is a small part of what makes up the whole of their world, discrete in size and given a certain length of time on earth. Then “He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.” An optical delusion of his consciousness. Does this sound familiar? Think Stephen Hawking, the goldfish in the bowl and how it perceives itself with respect to the rest of the world? Check that out if it’s unfamiliar. Then “The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion.” Okay, if I free myself from this delusion – that I am something separate from the rest – then what am I? Finally, “Not to nourish it, but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.” Rabbi Levy sees connectedness. I see the opposite – if you don’t feed your perception that you are unique – if you recognize that you are – whatever it is you are – then you have peace of mind. No more responsibility. You’re a goldfish in a bowl. Your insignificance renders you guilt free.
I don’t find anything spiritual in any of what he said. I think he’s saying there is no picture- or theory-independent concept of reality. Everything depends on your perspective. That border on nihilism, which got Hawking in a lot of trouble with religiosos. Yet, Einstein says once you get the concept, it is the ‘true religion’. Does that mean you’re free of earthly concerns – like the pain of losing a child? Recall, Einstein abandoned his two children when he left his first wife Mileva for his cousin Elsa. Albert and Mileva also had a child before they were married; the girl either was given away or died of scarlet fever. As such, I think Einstein was probably the last guy I’d ask for solace if I were grieving the loss of a child. His track record wasn’t so good.
Enough about all that – I’ll leave Rabbi Levy to her illusions and go back to research for the trip to Colorado Springs by my intrepid little tribe.
My temperature is 97.9° F. My blood oxygen is 96%. My heartbeat is 67 bpm. I’m good.