The reading and sharing of poetry is a huge part of our spiritual practice at St. Stephen’s, so this morning I share this poem by Joy Ladin with you. Some brief commentary will follow it.
So here we are, alone at last,
With only loneliness
Between us, roses of loneliness choking
Of limbs and metaphysics, the overpowering
Fragrance of loneliness
Overpowering my resistance
To the slowly opening rose
Of your infinitely loving
Indifference — you call it holiness —
As you climb the tiny
Of my humanness.
Joy Ladin is one of my favorite contemporary poets. She’s transgender and an Orthodox Jew, a professor at Yeshiva University, a post she already had when she came out and began hormone therapy. In a short span of time, her family left her, her colleagues shunned her, and she was given a false cancer diagnosis. Alone in her home, thinking that she was dying and would die alone, she began to write a series of poems that were in conversation with the psalms. This is one of them.
It’s addressed to God, and is as honest as the psalms are, which aren’t afraid to call God out, accuse and chastise God, issue a rending cry of anguish and fierce yearning. Here, Ladin accuses God of “infinitely loving indifference.” It’s such a stark phrase. I take it to mean that God is indifferent to the specifics of our suffering. When we suffer, it’s the specifics we focus on — the people we feel have wronged us, the sense that our bodies have betrayed us, the belief that the groups we belong to have turned on us and are out to get us. God, Ladin seems to be saying, doesn’t care about these things. God just cares about the suffering itself. And as God climbs the wounded trellis of our humanness, we’ll come to share that indifference to specifics, and rest within our suffering without blaming anyone for it or needing to do anything about it.
In this moment, I find that oddly hopeful, although in other moments I might not. Still, my pray for today is to be at peace within suffering.