Pilgrimage: Day 1

For the previous entry, click here.

This evening, I write from inside Gate C123 at Newark Airport, having just crossed through the security checkpoint at the gate (yes, apparently, flights to Israel have their own security at the gate–this should not really be a surprise).

Our group will begin to board the 777 for Tel Aviv in the next half hour; we’re scheduled to depart at 11:00 p.m. local time. I plan to watch Murder on the Orient Express (which I haven’t seen before) and then sleep. We’re scheduled to arrive at 4:20 p.m. Israel time, so I’m straddling the line between being tired now and trying to make sure I’m tired enough to sleep not too long after we arrive. It’s a precarious dance, to be sure.

We arrived at the airport this morning at 10:30 a.m. for a 2:30 flight to Newark. Early to be sure, but not unreasonably so in modern air travel–especially international travel and especially in a group. I must admit that today has mostly been a daze, a mild fugue state of waiting, killing time, and trying to enjoy every minute of the company I can. Nevertheless, it’s exhausting.

And that has me thinking about how spoiled I am compared to the pilgrims of the past. Those whose faith led them to Jerusalem before the luxuries of air travel, before even the luxury of assuredly-safe travel by land or sea, when pilgrimage meant risking everything to embark on a journey from which there was no guarantee of return. And that makes me feel like an imposter, like a tourist of faith in the worst kind of way.

Despite having been fortunate to have traveled internationally many times in my life, and to have flown with some frequency from a young age, I’m something of a timid flier. On the first leg of this trip, I found myself not quite as white-knuckled as I expected, but never quite comfortable hurtling through the air in a metal can that flies only through the magic of massive engines and Bernoulli’s Principle.

Still, that pales in comparison to the hardships endured by the pilgrims of the past, when the journey itself–and the hardships that inevitably defined it–could contain inherent revelatory power and spiritual realization. For me, the journey is merely the means to an end, something that must be endured but with little meaning (reference above my in-flight activities).

But tomorrow, tomorrow I’ll be in Jerusalem.

For the next entry, click here.

What We’ve Learned So Far

Here, in all its brief glory, is what I have learned about children in nearly two weeks of having them.

  1. They cry when they’re: too cold, too hot, hungry, full, getting in the car, getting out of the car, doing things they don’t like, doing things they do like, following instructions, disobeying instructions, waking up, going to bed, too wet, too dry, walking, being carried, riding in the stroller, going to the playground, leaving the playground, starting dinner, finishing dinner, taking a bath, drying off and for no discernible reason at all.
  2. They refuse to be reasonable. They don’t understand what’s good for them or what’s bad for them, nor do they seem to much care. They say “yes” when they mean “no” and vice versa. This is especially difficult for me, as I pride myself on being a reasonable and open-minded human being, most of my social skills are predicated on the other people involved being reasonable, and I generally avoid people who refuse to be reasonable to the extent I can.
  3. They are bad for your health. When food is one of your few remaining pleasures, you give up on all this “eating healthy” stuff. Give me sugar and chocolate; it’s all I have left. Exercising becomes part of your daily routine yes (toddler lifts, baby carry, etc.), but children do not understand that you do a set of reps and then you stop. Worse, when you have two at once, they conspire. When one has started to scream and you’re attempting to diagnose the issue, the other begins to see if s/he can scream louder–the surprise, competition and screaming are all great fun, I’m sure. When this happens often enough, all you want to do is bang your head against the wall until the throbbing pain coursing through your brain drowns everything else out and nothing matters. This is not good for you.
  4. They neither understand nor care that adults have needs and desires. There is only service.
  5. Small children have neither a sense of time nor much in the way of memory. If something caused them great displeasure yesterday, they’re going to try it again today just to see. They never seem to need something until they need it RIGHT NOW!
  6. They suck up all of your time. When you’re not tending to them, you’re wondering about the next time they’re going to need something. When they’re sleeping, you’re dreading the time that they’ll wake up.
  7. Somehow, despite all of this, they’re somehow worth it…