The gift of helplessness

Feeling helpless is nothing new for me.

My late wife was diagnosed with melanoma in 1986; she died in 1993. That’s good basic training in helplessness, if you ask me.

I live in the Middle East, where insoluble conflict is the leitmotif of everyday life. I have sat around for weeks with a gas mask next at my side as Saddam bombed Israel. And when Hamas bombed Israel. And when Hezbollah bombed Israel.  I have heard the explosion of 3 terror attacks: the “fridge incident” in Jerusalem, as well as a bus station and shopping centre in the suburb where I live.

And now, Corona!

Everything has changed;  there is absolutely nothing that I can do. Total helplessness. No swimming. No history studies, no Friday concerts, no Wednesday morning lectures on dreams,  my clients are in lock down, and unlike 99% of social media users, I am not working remotely. (Nor do I plan to, nor do I like to)

So where is the meat? Or is there any meat? It really depends on what you call meat.

Being helpless is a very different thing than feeling helpless. Once you accept helplessness, it is an act of spiritual liberation, since you are freed from trying to gain control. And giving up control can help banish worrying.

I have struggled with “worrying” for as long as I can remember, yet the more I experience helplessness, the less I worry. That has been the major gift I have taken away from the present crisis.

I was to have had cataract surgery on 26.3. I waited 7 months for the top surgeon in Israel. My surgery was cancelled two days beforehand. No worry. It will happen, or it won’t. So I won’t drive at night. But what if I have to? Don’t think about it.

Free at last.






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14 thoughts on “The gift of helplessness

  1. Allon,

    Agreed. A spiritual liberation. A long (and painful) journey to get there. But, once there, why worry?
    The Dalai Lama says something like “if you can do something about it, do it. If not, don’t worry.”
    You’ve been through a lot. Thank you for sharing it.
    And, I’m with you on the “working remotely” part too. Who does that?!
    Take care,

  2. Yes, another gem of wisdom. I’ve been researching and writing about generational and collective trauma and certainly in Israel you have lots of both along with direct experience of trauma. You are also a living example of how we have learned to flow with and through adversity worrying all the way, but nevertheless, somehow rising above the worry. After all, we have learned, ‘there’s always something.’

  3. Excellent, Allon.

    FWIW, I had cataract surgery on 1 eye ~18 mos. ago. It’s really made a big difference in my vision. He reduced the myopia in that eye considerably. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to do anything about the astigmatism. For some peculiar reason, the insurance classifies that as cosmetic & wouldn’t cover it.

  4. In today’s email from Fr. Richard Rohr the Franciscan contemplative, he writes about powerlessness. He writes “Powerlessness is the beginning of wisdom, as the Twelve-Steppers say.”

  5. Dear Allon, I don’t know you so well, but this lets me know you better. It is the strength of offering our (your) vulnerability to the world. Thank you. I am sorry about your wife. I am empathetic about your surgery. I cannot grok (nor do I wish) to fully know what anticipating a bomb is like. But you have my love and hope that that never happens again. I read an article with a Buddhist that had a similar perspective in the NYT a few days ago. May we all have the strength to let go. Thanks for your wonderful example.
    Holding you in the light, Martha

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