Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Everything Is Possible

On beginning the new book for our School of Community, Is It Possible to Live this Way? by Fr. Giussani, we are talking about the problem of trust. Fr. Giussani issues this challenge: "the more one is moral, the more one is capable of trusting; the less one is moral, the less one is capable of trusting, because immorality is like a schizophrenia or psychic dissociation." Marie and Suzanne have blogged on their impressions of this provocative question.

As far as trust goes, our natural reaction seems to be that it is a matter of being smart more than being moral. Of course, we don't want to be deceived. We would even risk missing out, rather than be duped. This is the problem set out in a wonderful little parable by Isaac Bashevis Singer, "Gimpel the Fool." "I am Gimpel the fool. I don't think myself a fool. On the contrary. But that's what folks call me."

Gimpel is a storyteller, and he tells the story of himself as the most gullible person in his village. He believed any story anyone would tell, or at least would consider it.
I like a golem believed everyone. In the first place, everything is possible, as it is written in the Wisdom of the Fathers. I've forgotten just how: Second, I had to believe when the whole town was down on me! .... "You want me to call everyone a liar?": What was I to do? I believed them, and I hope at least that did them some good.
For example, a yeshiva student came and announced: "[T]he Messiah has come. The dead have arisen." Foolish Gimpel asked why he didn't hear the ram's horn blow.

Like Hosea, Gimpel has the misfortune to have an unfaithful wife. As the schoolmaster told him, "There isn't a woman in the world who is not the granddaughter of Eve." Four months after their marriage, she is delivering the child of another father, and Gimpel does what he must when a wife is in labor. "The thing to do was to go to the House of Prayer to repeat Psalms, and that was what I did." Gimpel is the true realist. He says, "You can't live without errors." Besides, he loves the little boy.

For Gimpel, there's more at stake in believing than outing lies: "What's the good of not believing? Today it's your wife you don't believe; tomorrow it's God Himself you won't take stock in."

Time unravels everything. On her deathbed, his wife asks forgiveness. Gimpel quotes the rabbi: "Belief in itself is beneficial. It is written that a good man lived by his faith."

Now, Gimpel warns us that after his wife's death he leaves the town and becomes a storyteller, so take his "yarns" as you will. Or just accept his lesson on believing.
No doubt the world is entirely an imaginary world, but it is only once removed from the true world... When the time comes I will go joyfully. Whatever may be there, it will be real, without complication, without ridicule, without deception. God be praised: there even Gimpel cannot be deceived.

1 comment:

Freder1ck said...

Interesting. Gimpel believes in everyone else, which is the opposite of believing in oneself. As Chesterton noted: "The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums." (Orthodoxy Ch. 2