How Light is your Burden?
I’m writing this on a plane going to Russia. Nancy Pelosi’s plane has probably landed in Taiwan by now, perhaps readjusting the contours of the upcoming world war.
I recently got a few letters from an Israeli American who has joined the Foreign Legion of the Ukrainian army and plans to spend a month on the front lines. He’s a good writer and makes a romantic case for joining the fight. Reading his missives, I realized that my feelings about the war are still unexamined, and my thoughts incomplete. I’m hesitant to accept this man’s no doubt courageous decision as laudable, but I struggle to articulate why.
I am reminded of a note from Leo Tolstoy’s diary from 1904:
The war, and the endless reasoning about why it is, what it means, what it will lead to, and so forth. Everybody’s in contemplation, from the tsar to the last engine driver. And everybody will have to contemplate, at some point, not only what the war will mean for the world, but also: how should I, I, I relate to this war?
Nobody’s doing that contemplation. They even think that they shouldn’t, that it’s unimportant.
And yet, grab him by the throat and start choking him, he will feel that his life is the most important thing for him, the life of his self.
And if the life of his self is what’s most important, then he is, apart from being a journalist, a tsar, an officer, a soldier, also a human being who came into this world for a short while and who will leave it when He Who sent him wills so.
Is there anything more important to him than understanding what he is to do in this world? It’s obviously more important than all the contemplations about whether the war is necessary and what it will lead to.
And what to do about the war is obvious: don’t wage it, don’t help others wage it, if you’re not trying to stop them.
My trip to Russia should last about as long as Haim’s stint in Ukraine. I have zero intention of seeking out heroism. My plans include a burial, two weddings (one of them mine), meeting a friend’s newborn, cancelling my registration as a business entity, and attempting to get a European visa.
I’ll make a bigger deal out of this in some future post, but you and I have just sent $2,000—your PsyPol subscription fees—to a Polish foundation helping Ukrainian victims of the war. I’m very grateful to you for letting me do this. It lightens my load considerably.
The cover of this issue is a product of my continuing experimentation with Dall-E.
A few nights ago, I was on the edge between sleep and waking life, a little high, and I had a vision: two men are carrying a heavy load up an infinite flight of stairs. One of them thinks they should drop this load, and the other believes that they can’t—it would be a betrayal of their former selves that have carried it for something like an eternity up to this point; and besides, it could be that bringing this thing to the top of the pyramid is the whole purpose of their existence.
I was observing this struggle with my eyes closed…
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