Saturday, 4 December 2010

Kindling our Ner Tamid ...

It is day 3 of the Jewish festival of Chanukah, the festival of light, where one aspect that we celebrate is that enough oil to light the "Ner Tamid" (the everlasting light) for 1 day, burned brightly for 8. When we light the candles each night, I believe we are symbolising our internal fire, what makes us unique, our character traits that make us who we are and also who we want to be. These are the parts of ourselves we want to radiate out like a bright everlasting flame, the parts of ourselves that we want others to gain strength from and also the parts of ourselves that we rely on when situations are tough. At times through this bout of ill health, I feel my Ner Tamid has flickered. How can I kindle my internal fire to keep it burning brightly continuously? Or, actually is it healthy or normal for one to have what I claim to aim for? I feel I want strength. I want to be able to always put a brave face on to my family when they see me struggling in pain. When I falter, and I cry or lash out or look too unhappy, I feel weak and feel that I am making a situation, which I know is tremendously tough on them, even harder. Yet, I also think that getting upset and frustrated is a completely normal reaction to a frustrating predicament. I guess I am not even sure what I am searching for.

Whilst I am on the topic of lighting the Chanukah candles, a thought of mine, during yet another sleepless night, was that lighting the Menorah is also meant to be a reminder of every individual's role to kindle the Ner Tamid of every other human being. The light of the candles, as light awakens us in the morning, is also meant to awaken us to injustice in the world and to call on us to act on a cause that pulls at our heart. The night I had this thought was the night before World AIDs Day and despite huge advances in medicine available for people with HIV, only a third of the people requiring ARVs (anti-retroviral drugs) are receiving them. HIV has been a illness interesting me for a long time. I volunteered in an orphanage in Khayelitsha, a township in South Africa, where a significant proportion of the gorgeous children were HIV+ and required ARVs. Today has been a wake up call and a necessary one, it has reminded me of others who suffer. It is so easy when life is tough to forget other people's troubles and yet, when struggling yourself, it is just as important to remember.

A Rabbi, who I admire, told me that some ill people obtain meaning or acceptance of their situation by finding a way that in the future, when they are better they will use their experience to help others. I do not have the foggiest idea yet what that way will be. However, I feel that beginning to brainstorm ways that I can use this experience in a positive way may be the baby steps on the path to this "strength" I so desire and may even help curtain the frustration at the slow recovery process.

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