But beyond faulty equipment and a lack of chocolate, today has been generally alright. Earlier this morning I met with Prof. Fox regarding my independent study/capstone for Jewish Studies. I barraged him with comments concerning the substantial amount that God is mentioned in the Bible passages generally regarded as comforting - mainly, the Psalms.
Examples of God's mention in verses of various Psalms:
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."
- Psalm 23
"The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.
The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid."
- Psalm 18
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;"
- Psalm 46
I borrowed a book from Prof. Fox, 'The Healing Power of Psalms', which discusses the importance of the Psalms in creating comfort. This book's context was the framework in which I was examining the Psalms (that is to say, I was using this book as a guide and wasn't just looking through the Bible and reading various psalms). My main complaint about the book/its viewpoint centered on God. Specifically, why is God a necessary part of feeling comforted? What about folks who do not believe in God? Are these texts, ridden with praises for God, still comforting to those who do not believe in God?
A woman made a lovely youtube video called "How to be Alone" (it's wonderful, watch here). It's not quite applicable to this situation - regarding God, that is - in the way that I would like it to be, but it does touch on the concept of alonedom, specifically the woman's comment that "society is afraid of alonedom". And I wonder, in the context of death/dying/the Psalms, why feeling alone is not conducive to comfort. I'm assuming that even if one chose to not believe in God, comfort would be drawn from friends, from family, from members of society in some form. But can one be alone and also feel comforted?
'The Healing Power of Psalms' also touched on the concept of poetry as comforting. But why? Prof. Fox suggested that poetic expressions are innately comforting because their expression of emotions is executed in such a succinct and beautiful way. In other words, he suggested, they express how you're feeling, but more accurately than you likely could.
So, poetry. Poetry as a theme for comfort, in addition to the theme of God/not feeling alone. What else is comforting?
Prayer, apparently. In the introduction to 'The Healing Power of Psalms', the authors wrote of a prayer-study, in which patients with similarly severe heart conditions were broken into two groups; one group was prayed for (by strangers), whereas the other was not. Supposedly, according to the study results, the group that was prayed for had smoother stays in the hospital, with overall fewer complications.
But is there another explanation for this?
Newer prayer studies are showing that prayers from strangers had no effect on the recovery of patients.
But regardless, prayer could be comforting in that it allows people to go through the motions of a traditional act, an act done for generations. Which could create comfort regardless of its seeming lack of ability to improve health; simply going through the motions of something you've done (and others have done) many times in the past could create comfort in itself.
I borrowed another book from Prof. Fox, a collection of essays and thoughts regarding death and dying in Jewish tradition. Perhaps I'll find some other Major Themes of comfort inside.