Lemon tree, very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet. But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.
–Lemon Tree by Peter, Paul & Mary
Have you ever tasted a grapefruit? What about lemons or sour grapes? Your taste buds cringe while becoming ripe with repugnancy from the very first moment your tongue makes contact. What of the less than delectable taste or sour milk or even a sour orange? That unmistakeable burning sensation from the back of your throat that honey cannot lesson. Certainly, nothing beats nausea along with the gagging reflex that sends you scampering to the bathroom when you lean over the toilet to violently expel the contents of your stomach.
Imagine pulling up to a used car dealer where your eyes become transfixed on the sight of row after row of shiny cars glistening in the sunshine. Upon close inspection, not a scratch or dent is to be seen. The whitewall tires are whiter than the first snowfall of the Winter season. Immaculate! Low and behold that magnificent machine even smells like new. The sly salesman dangles the shiny silver keys in front of your bulging eyes imploring you to take the car out for a test ride. That was all that was necessary for you to sign on the dotted line agreeing to pay exorbitant interest rates for a car that retails for far less than what you are paying for it. No matter no worries after all its only money. The skimpy 30 Day Guarantee is slightly unsettling but the car was checked out by their mechanic so it’s all good.
The car won’t start so you have to have it towed back to the lot. What’s wrong with the car is not covered under the guarantee. There goes $200. Next week all the anti-freeze comes pouring out creating a sea of lime green. Once again you have the car towed. Sorry, the radiator is not covered under the guarantee. More money has to come out of your rapidly thinning wallet. The electrical system, the wiper motor, brakes, front end, and finally the motor goes. The motor was covered but since it is after 30 days you are out of luck. In the vernacular of the street your buddies in between hysterically laughing and mocking you blurt out “you got scre— He really fuc—you! Your money has been separated from you quite legally leaving you strapped for cash but worse than that you have to endure that bitter feeling this experience has left you with. All faith in humanity, G-d, family, friends, relatives and even co-workers is exacerbated. You just want to jump into a hole curl up and die.
Your death will not absolve you from the mountain of debt you built that you are now burdening your fortuitous family with. Gone by your own hands. Killing yourself was a cowardly incredibly selfish thing to do. How are they supposed to survive financially as well as emotionally? Children who are now left with only one loving parent who is struggling to cope with the loss of her life partner. His side of the bed will remain empty for an undeterminable amount of time. A father whose warm embrace they used to run to is now gone. A life was traded for a car. Many who struggle for life or freedom begrudge your death. That left a sour taste in their mouths.
There is a story of a man who once had everything a man could want. Women, wine, riches, royal castles, the finest steeds, meals cooked by some of the best chefs in the world. Clothes handwoven by the finest craftsman. He lacked for nothing as nothing was something, in reality, all he had. One day as if by a wave of G-d’s hand it was all washed away to be swallowed up by the ocean whose mouth was wide open in anticipation for what it can turn this matter into. Left with no place to sleep or food to eat with only his shredded soiled garments on his back to his name. He lay down to slumber under a lone shady dream. When he awoke it was then he discovered all of his clothes were ripped from his back. He lay there naked to the world. Not a leaf would fall to cover his distorted body or a shroud of dignity to hold.
This once all worldly man who others enviously looked at was now walking excrement that was blanketed in his own urine. Nobody recognized him or who he was once was. There was not a lower place he could go in life. He was left to grovel in the dirt to lap up any bug that passed near him. He was parched for water but the clear liquid was nowhere in sight. All at once he rose up and started joyously singing and dancing. All the villagers were aghast in horror at the form of this sub-human looking gut-wrenching smelling thing. Why on earth is this thing joyous? He must have lost his mind if there was any mind left to lose they unanimously deducted. There was such joy and revelry in every gyration he made no matter how vulgar they appeared to be. His eyes had not seen with this clarity going back to the days where at the snap of finger his every want was instantaneously put before him. At his highest point, there was nowhere to go but down. Unbeknownst and undetected by him the spinning spokes of life were taking him on a downward spiral.
How can misery bring joy to a beaten downtrodden man? Having nothing left to lose he knew his day would soon come again. But would it? How will it come to be? How would he be willing to peddle against the gusty wind until you can get to the top of that most steepest of hills? Sometimes we can conceptualize how the treadmill had us going nowhere as going nowhere was getting harder to get to. No shortage of landmines will await him as sets foot on a new trip. Will he share a few sips of water from his bucket carrying raindrops? In other words, if we fall into darkest blacknesses of a starless night with the moon’s face well hidden it is the hopelessness of shattered dreams or broken lives of those we deprived of decency that put us there.
The gold you have today is the dust you will have tomorrow. In the end, it is dust you shall once again become. While you stand in place the earth rotates on its axis. Where you are now is not where you were or likely to be for long. A wise man looks down no lower than his shoetops for he knows in an instant he can be crushed under his own foot. A sour fruit can leave the sweetest taste if you take it for the gift that it was.
And you climbed the twilight mountains. And you sang about the view. And everywhere you wandered love seemed to go with you. That’s a hard one to remember. Yes, it makes you clench your fist. That’s right, it’s come to this. Yes, it’s come to this. And wasn’t it a long way down? Wasn’t it a strange way down?
–Dress Rehearsal Rag by Leonard Cohen