Of Youth and Spring and Tomorrow and the Future

Rabbi Joshua Bolton
March 27, 2014
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Mysterious narratives unwind themselves through our lives.

Sometimes they have long, beautiful arcs. We guess and glimpse their conclusions – and happily we inherit them.

Sometimes chapters end astonishingly. Sometimes everything implodes, unrecognizable, backwards.

So often the great human task is to courageously weave the disparate, meandering tales of a life into the bolder impressions of a story.

The longer narrative is resilient.

The story is the household of the soul.


It’s been a difficult winter at Penn. The weather has been precipitous and harsh.

And under the moons of Tevet and Shvat, stories with great potential came to surprising ends. Some wrote themselves to a close by the hands of their young composers.

There has been much grief. We reeled from one incident to the next guided by confusion and fear. Sadness and anger too – usually the latter disguising the former (which is almost always true).

There have been calls for more counselors. Calls to take care of ourselves. Calls to change the culture.

The great chapter of youth and Spring and tomorrow and the future – it’s a myth upon which so much depends. How unsettling and terrible it is when an early chapter reveals itself as the book’s last.

When you cannot depend upon stories, for a short while, everything is totally lost.


Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, a lover of people, wrote, “To every place that a person goes, he ends up at his root.”

Nothing is pre-determined – no story is told before we tell it – but every chapter of life, from the ecstatic to the tragic, is capable (with God’s and good friends’ help) of nourishing and becoming a source of growth.

When my father suddenly died, I said, “This isn’t the story I would have written, but it’s the story that I’m going to live.”

We tell stories in partnership with serendipity and luck and their opposites.

When we gather around us the right assembly of fellow travelers and inner resources, eventually we discern the mysterious narrative. With a little bit more, we begin to tell it ourselves.

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