essays kaddish in two-part harmony

a kaddish for the happiest couple in america and really bad books

That’s what he called them.  “The happiest couple in America.”  And as soon as the words were out of his mouth, the spell was broken and she was gone.

I mean, where do you go from there?

Repeat cycle?  Which would mean more of the same.  And if there was more of the same, would that still be happiest-couple-in-America or would that be just plain being stuck again?

Renewal?  This would be constantly reinventing.  Possibly looking for bigger and better ways of being.  Thrill junkies, maybe.  Working at it — and that didn’t sound like fun.

She’d been happy with the struggle.  The process.  Discovery.  Working towards.

But happiest-couple-in-America wasn’t what she’d had in mind.  It felt so static. Besides, what did he know about it?  He wasn’t even an American.

This is the downside of paradise.  It’s what everybody wants, apparently, but me. What I want is the struggling-towards.  I like the work.  Finished products are just a bit of a bore…

Poseidon was his name.  And this is not a kaddish for him, but for them. For the happiest-couple-in-America.  The door had opened.  And with those words, the door slammed shut.  Damn near broke everything else beside it too.  I’m afraid it pissed him off, her letting it go that way, but what else could she do?

Acceptance?  Yes.  Gloating. That’s what he was doing. Hubris.  It made her ill. Should you not work on it because it’s perfect and everybody knows it.  Now that way lies the road to chaos, that’s for sure.  But there it is, we’re-so-well-suited.  We-match.  Taking it for granted.  No, no, no, no. That’s not the answer.

If I can write a kaddish for Eichmann, and one for Osama bin Laden too, then why not a kaddish for the happiest couple in America?  Don’t they deserve a kaddish too?

They were in bed when he said it.  It was pouring outside, and the forest smelled heavenly.  They’d brought every possible distraction to keep her from running.  Games. Drugs. Toys. Books. And they weren’t even camped out this time.  No, it was a cabin overlooking the river.  They’d come really really prepared this time.  Because stranding him at Big Sur in the middle of the night was just a little too much to put up with.  They were going to try it just one more time.  And it worked.

One of those perfect moments when she actually got just exactly what she wanted.  And he had to label it. Happiest-couple-in-America. And where do you go from there?

And she was trapped.  She was ready to run.

It’s not like they did anything important together.  It’s not like their kids belonged to each other, although sometimes it felt that way.  His daughters had taught her daughter to swim like a mermaid.  Another precious moment.

They did push-hands together up in the meadow.  Chi-gung and swordwork at the other end of the lake.  They moved energy together. They dreamed together.

It wasn’t enough for her.

Such a materialist!  She wanted a product I guess.

She wanted not to be betrayed, actually, that’s not so much to ask.

But call it, just call it happiest-couple-in-America, and you take it for granted you can do anything.  You play with the rules. You bend them till they break.  And then laugh and say but I love you, so it shouldn’t matter.

She fired him.

But it took her years to do it.  She fired him when at last she’d gotten tired of all the indiscretions.  Poseidon’s a god, after all. He doesn’t really do accountability too well.

The last straw was exactly that.  One last straw.  The yawning.  Every time she spoke, pretty much.  Any time anyone spoke but him.  Very disrespectful. Not listening.  Not paying attention. The gods, they do that. And with a different excuse every single time.  For a therapist, you’d think he could see the pattern.

He wrote a crappy book.  She couldn’t forgive that.  He cut corners on everything.  Just wanted to make his fortune.  Be on Oprah.  He thought any horseshit he put out there would be a best seller.  He went from scheme to scheme looking for his ticket to riches and retirement.  Funny, for a man who didn’t work. She had lots of complaints about stuff like this.  But most of all, she hated the yawning. Someone tells him a dream in dream group.  And he yawns. It’s unprofessional.

She encoupled elsewhere, and there it was again:  Happiest-couple-in-America.  Just like that.  But this time she was ready. This one had an expiration date right from the beginning. So, okay, no problem, right?  Poseidon, god that he was, just couldn’t stand it.  He had to take it down. If he couldn’t have that happiness, well no one else could either.

She decided that happiest-couple-in-America was surely the worst curse ever to be put on a relationship.  Beware labeling those ecstatic moments — or take them for what they really are, just fleeting glimpses of a paradise that does not linger.

Never give your heart away.  You may never get it back again.  And then where are you? Either that, or give your heart away repeatedly. Expect nothing more than those lovely moments.  Allow yourself to be surprised by whatever comes.

She made rules.  She put up magical protection against such gods as these.  But forces of nature are a little tough to control, don’t you think?  Poseidon laughs.  He shrugs away her protests.  He doesn’t take no for an answer.  He thinks the door is always open.  Gods are like that.  He threatens tidal waves …  He makes a fuss.  He wants his happiest-couple-in-America. He has a tantrum.  Tsunamis! He’s Poseidon.

Fleeting moments.  She’s okay with that.  Hard work, that works too.  Having a good day.  Or maybe just an hour. She thinks it rude to ask for more than that. Sun going down red and yellow on the horizon, and the tide is out.  Dayenu. Climbing the cliffs, walking a beach that doesn’t claim to be spectacular.  Keep it modest.  This is not paradise. This is a small fragment of a moment. Just don’t let those terrible words ever ever ever cross your prefrontal cortex. They’ll disable your hard drive, wreak havoc with your executive functions, and poof, your moment’s gone.

Happiest-couple-in-America is a misnomer.  Stick to wondrous fleeting moments.  They lead to deep appreciation of what we’ve got right now.  No attachment, no grasping, no desire for something more or better.  The door’s wide open — neither looking back nor forward toward anything at all.  Here we are — on the threshold — just being.  Just doing.  This very moment.

Or maybe there is no door.

Maybe happiest-couple-in-America is just plain too daunting for Malkah.  She’s was raised for simpler stuff.  Just that sunset. Just the gurgling of the river. Walking the path, hand in hand, one foot in front of the other. Dogs leaping for joy.  Surely, that’s enough. It’s just got to be enough.


By mira

Mira Z. Amiras is Professor of Comparative Religious Studies and founder of the Middle East Studies Program at San Jose State University. She is past-president of the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness, and has served on the Executive Council of the American Anthropological Association. She is co-founder, with Ovid Jacob, of Beit Malkhut, a study group in Jewish sacred text. She's most attached to the creatures of her body and her household — first and foremost, her kids, of course: Michael and Rayna — and then the other folks large and small of various species, including Roshi and Vlad, a whole lot of hummingbirds, the old parrot who lives next door, and a beautiful garden that does what it will.

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