Tonight is Tisha B’Av
I recently finished a 2014 work of speculative fiction, which is about Toronto in the midst of, and then soon after, a plague. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel, was recommended to me by my parents. My parents made the recommendation knowing my love of speculative fiction, of the Great Lakes region, of orchestras (one features prominently in this novel), and of this city of Toronto. A friend in England is currently working through the French version of the novel and remarked to me of how delightful the book reads.
But I just can’t get over the main premise – the plague devastating an articulation of the world around us to the point where society is near collapse.
We are on the eve of Tisha B’Av when we remember when God’s most vicious agent of destruction – human beings – brought dark desolation in days both ancient and within the recall of members of our community. When the Temple, cities and ghettos where our people gathered and prayed were utterly destroyed.
Those words ‘dark desolation’ / ‘utterly destroyed’ are hard enough to hear. The experience of reading this novel now was a reminder to me that we are more apt to use words like a shield than like a trowel into the ground we would rather not traverse again.
On Tisha B’Av we remember, in detail, the destruction. Some will go hungry, to remind God of the pain of human suffering.
Station Eleven is as much a novel of the fall as it is of a rebuilding towards a new idea of home. And on Tisha B’Av, as we mark the transition into Rabbinic Judaism, we also take time to remember that hard events can leave space for us to invent meaningful futures.