White Fire on Black Fire

ImageThere has been a great deal of talk about the power of WORDS in the breast cancer blogosphere lately; articles by AnneMarie and Marie are just a few examples, as well as an older one by Nancy. In my response to Marie’s post, I mention that attitude matters as well…

Judaism has a long and rich tradition of interpreting and reinterpreting the text of the Bible and other important books to make sense of them in today’s world. The first five books of the Hebrew bible are called Torah, and are written by hand on a parchment scroll in black ink. It includes our most ancient stories, and instructions as to how we live according to God’s will.

What does this have to do with fire? Or cancer?

There is a mystical tradition that refers to these words as “black fire,” and the space between is “white fire,” Our personal journeys and individual understandings of God, the law, and the universe exist in that white fire…it is our own story that wraps around the text, and it is just as valued as the black fire of the law.

ImageOur attitude toward cancer…be it our own or someone else’s…is the white fire. It is how we each hear and manage the black fire text: “you have cancer.” It is the way our reality impacts and interprets and understands and responds to the particular and personal part of this ubiquitous disease.

When we first look at the text, the Torah scroll, it appears that Black Fire is the subject and white fire is the context. But like any optical illusion, the opposite is also true. In the tradition Black Fire and White Fire can only exist together and as equal parts of a whole, like yin and yang. Unless they converge – the text with our own voice – Black Fire remains external to us. It is the White Fire that makes it a part of us.

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. AnneMarie
    May 30, 2012 @ 10:20:08

    YOU are on fire! This is brilliant (no loose pun intended). You forced me to pause from my normal “million mile per hour” pace to truly absorb these thoughts. Beautiful way of explaining in “black and white” that the world and our lives consist of those extremes AND also, all of the shades of grey in between……


  2. Paul Kipnes
    May 31, 2012 @ 07:10:50

    My (limited) experience – as one who offers spiritual care for those with cancer – affirms the truth of this post. That a person has cancer is the fact, how the person relates to, reacts to, lives with, struggles with or against, is sick or not, is a survivor or just a person who had C – that seems to vary so widely. It is like trying to read and interpret and live Torah.

    Thank you for this insight.


  3. Jayne marx
    May 31, 2012 @ 21:04:58

    Lori…..I am in awe of your depth and intelligence. You are a truly gifted writer and a remarkable young woman. Love you dearly…j


  4. John Rubiner
    May 31, 2012 @ 21:31:00

    Lori….this is an amazing combination of your two passions — Jewish education and breast cancer advocacy/education. Thanks for educating me and all of us on both. You truly are an amazing woman/friend/partner.


  5. Marie Ennis-O'Connor (@JBBC)
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 02:04:16

    Incredible contribution to the debate on words and attitudes – thank you for writing such an eloquent and intelligent post.


  6. Trackback: Weekly Round-Up « Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer
  7. pinkunderbelly
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 05:18:46

    I’ll be pondering this for a while.


  8. The Accidental Amazon
    Jun 02, 2012 @ 11:19:53

    White fire is sometimes a state of grace, at least for me lately. I am cherishing that. xoxo


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