When will things return to normal?
That question got your attention, didn’t it? Internet search engines report that this may be the most asked question during the first half of 2020. This popular question was also asked (although not on the Internet) after President Lincoln signed into law the first income tax in 1862. It was passed as an emergency temporary measure, but you know how that worked out.
During the first few years after the terrorist attacks of 9-11, harassed airline passengers used to ask, “When will things return to normal?” No travelers ask that question anymore. You might think that the brief answer to the question is…never! But it is not so simple. The problem is that the question employs a word with no definition—normal.
What you really mean is, when will things return to the way I remember them back in…er, when? Immediately prior to covid19? One year before anyone heard of corona? Before mobs of Americans defaced and destroyed historical statues? There is no such thing as normal. That is why the Lord’s language, Hebrew, possesses no word for normal.
But Hebrew does have a word for change and it shares a root source with the Hebrew word for year. This is to teach us that just as one year leads to the next, always forward never backward, so change leads to change, sometimes positive and other times negative and never returning to what we remember as normal.
ש – נ – ה ש – נ – ה
The trouble is that change produces anxiety in us. We worry whether we’ll be able to function under the new circumstances brought about by change.
If there is worry in a man’s mind, he should _________ …
That blank replaces a complex and untranslatable Hebrew verb “yaschenah” which is used throughout Tanach in three different ways each of which sheds another ray of light onto dealing with worry and anxiety.
Ancient Jewish wisdom explains the three-component meanings of “yaschenah”:
In other words, when overwhelmed by anxiety, there are three strategies we can employ. Different ones work best at different times, based both on what is causing the anxiety and on our own personalities and circumstances.
1. We should attempt to quash the worry by burying it beneath an avalanche of other more positive thoughts. At this point, it is still in our minds but overwhelmed by competing upbeat messages.
2. Alternatively, we might try to banish the worrying thoughts from our minds. The Tenth Commandment reveals that God expects us to control not only what we do, but also what we think. Commandment number eight already told us ‘Don’t steal’. Yet, number ten asks us not to desire the possessions of others. Simply saying, “I can’t help what I think and feel, the heart wants what the heart wants,” in the words of the illustrious sage, Woody Allen, doesn’t cut it. We can and must control our thoughts and feelings. Therefore one way of dealing with anxiety brought on by change is to banish the thoughts entirely from our minds. Exercising discipline and willpower, we don’t allow the worry-provoking thoughts to linger in our minds, but we instantly suppress them by replacing them with alternate scenarios.
3. If we find that we can’t tackle the anxiety on our own, we can adopt the strategy derived from the third meaning of “yaschenah” by discussing the worry with the right friend. If we choose wisely, doing so should remove the worry and reintroduce joy just as the conclusion of that verse indicates.
…and a good word transforms it into joy.
When will things return to normal, exactly as they were in summer 2019? The answer is — never. But eventually, schools and businesses will reopen. Eventually, the pandemic will subside and the panic will fade. The brazen wearing of masks even on outdoor hiking trails will ease up. Some will wear them and others won’t. Eventually, the economy will bounce back with a roar, and decimated portfolios and savings accounts will get replenished. Eventually roaming mobs of barbarians will fade away; some statues will be replaced and others will be lost forever. Homeschooled children will learn their nation’s history while those children attending *GIC’s won’t. Eventually, universities will reopen while many former students will rethink the value proposition of their expensive ‘educations’. Yes, change. Plenty change.
Much change may be regrettable and we’ll think back nostalgically. However, through it all, wise and happy warriors will focus on their five Fs. They will build and protect their Families, they will maintain Friendships, they will nurture Faith, they will adjust their activities to the times in order to boost their Finances, and they will manage their Fitness.
When all those five Fs of your life are in good shape, oppressive travel regulations, quarantine restrictions, political cupidity, civic cowardice, and a growing canyon cutting through the culture cannot shake up the core of your life. Despite the turbulence swirling around the pilings of our peoplehood, we can still function and be very happy indeed.
When will things return to normal? Wrong question. When shall we live our lives to the fullest? Now.
* government indoctrination camps formerly known as public schools
Things were VERY abnormal before the Flood
What did Noah do that was so special?
What did the rest of the people do that was so awful?