I pass AND Fail the Israel Test
October 30, 2014 by Thomas Wictor
An Israeli alerted me to George Gilder’s Israel Test. Although I pass the test as Gilder lays it out, I fail it miserably in other ways.
First the test. You won’t regret the four minutes and thirty-seven seconds you invest in watching this video.
I’ve never been envious of anybody for any reason, because as far back as I can remember, I knew that others’ circumstances had nothing whatsoever to do with me. Each of my siblings is blessed in a way that I’m not.
In the top photo we have me, Pat, Carrie, Tim, and Paul. Underneath that image is Eric and me.
Pat is a musical genius. Though I love music too, it took years of brute repetition and practice before I could play the bass the way I wanted.
And then in 2002, I developed osteoarthritis in both thumbs due to injuries I sustained while working on a shore-support base for oil platforms in the North Sea. I lost the ability to play. It was ten years before I accepted it. But I was NEVER envious that Pat could still play. His musical abilities exist separately from me.
My sister Carrie has about a 290 IQ. There isn’t a single topic that she can’t talk about with ease, right off the top of her head. You can’t stump her. She breezed through classes that I failed repeatedly. The only reason I got out of high school is that the teachers at the Stavanger American School—now the International School of Stavanger—took pity on me and let me squeak by with D-minuses in math and chemistry classes that I should’ve failed.
Tim has the wit I’ve always wanted. Once when we were discussing how unhappy we were twenty years ago, he suggested we go into the laundry room and drink the lacquer thinner he’d just bought for repainting his car. He improvised a sketch in which we clinked glasses and gulped down a cocktail of lacquer thinner and caustic soda on the rocks.
As his vocal cords dissolved and he sank to the floor, he said in the voice of a mummified, three-thousand-year-old frog that smoked ten cartons of cigarettes a day, “It’s the dreamiest!”
Remembering that made me laugh so hard that I have a headache now. Tim also became a fully formed poet in February of this year. I’ve always wanted to write poetry, but I stink at it.
Paul was blessed with wide shoulders, narrow hips, supreme athleticism, and a razor-sharp mind. He’s also the only one who got the Mexican genes.
The rest of us are paste-colored Germans. When we were growing up, girls introduced themselves to me so that they could meet Paul. “His eyelashes are just like a doll’s!” one told me.
But I wasn’t jealous. Nauseated, yes; envious, no.
And Eric has it all too: athletic ability, an analytical mind, a deranged wit that allows him to effortlessly point out the absurdity of any situation—and he’s a brilliant writer. In his second language. His e-mails are stunning miniature novels.
All I feel for their gifts is happiness. Good for them! So in that sense I pass the Israel Test. Where I fail it is that I wish destruction on the destructive. That shouldn’t be part of the equation, but for me it is.
In the summer a feral cat had kittens in the back yard of Tim’s former house. One kitten disappeared, and then the mother abandoned the two survivors when they were this big.
I spent all of 2013 dancing with death, so I didn’t have it in me to catch them and take them to the pound. Instead, I began feeding them. I thought they were retarded, because they kept hissing at me, no matter how many times I fed them. Their chances were just about nil, I figured, but I’d give them food and water until they fulfilled their destiny.
But a funny thing happened: A month ago they lost their fear of me. I decided that at some point I’d have to take them to the vet and see if they have feline leukemia. If so, then I’ll have them euthanized. We went through that with Syd the Second; there’s nothing humane about letting the disease take its course. If they’re healthy, I’ll have them spayed—they’re both females—and I’ll try to adopt them. I took this photo today.
In preparation for taking them to the vet, I’ve been feeding them inside my house, in the hallway that leads to the back door. I’m trying to get them used to the indoors. Other cats were coming around and eating their food anyway, so the ritual became me going out and calling them twice a day (“Puss-puss-puss! Puss-puss-puss!”) and feeding them in the hallway.
Well, a week ago their mother showed up. Not only did she show up, she began attacking them at feeding time. They still think of her as their mother, so they keep approaching her. She roars at them and scratches them. Then they won’t eat. The mother’s behavior traumatizes them. They think that from now on, every time they try to take a bite, someone will roar at them and scratch them.
Because of the mother, the cats started losing ground. They ran from me again and wouldn’t enter my house. I tried putting their food in the hallway, going out the front door, and coming around to the back to keep the mother away, but she’d already scuttled inside to eat their kibbles and shreds-in-gravy. She came out with her cheeks full, like a chipmunk. It’s a dominance thing: She can’t bear to let them have their own food, even when she’s got hers.
This is how it’s been for a week.
With slashing claws.
I now hate the mother. Today I made a decision that many of you will find appalling. I tried one more time to feed the cats inside, but the mother’s aggression panicked them. They scrambled off to hide in the yard where they were born. While they were out of sight, I threw a rock at the mother. Pegged her right in the side. She ran away so fast that her legs were blurred, like spinning wheels, and then it took me an hour to coax the cats into my house to eat.
If the mother comes back again tomorrow, I’ll throw another rock at her. I’ll keep throwing rocks until she gets the message.
In that sense I fail the Israel Test. Predation, abuse, selfishness, implacability, and savagery make me crazy. They shouldn’t; I ought to be able to deal with such facts of life dispassionately. Much more work is required.
Listen to your Grandpa Tom: Don’t be angry at things you can’t change. I spent most of my life in that state, and now this is how I end every day.
All I did was blow up my immune system. The slightest amount of stress makes me senile. Since I’ve experienced this particular ruin many times before, I can tell you that the people you’re trying to reach will never, ever listen to you. Here’s the “tell” that your effort is doomed: “I just don’t see it.”
That means, “I see it as clearly as the full moon in a cloudless sky, but I’m pretending that I can’t see it because I’m threatened by what you’re telling me.”
The threat has many components, but the main element is envy. They didn’t think of it, so they can’t publicize it. Envy overrides everything. When someone is envious, you’ve lost the war. Don’t waste another second fighting; don’t end up like me.
You can avoid my fate by bracing yourself for the worst. After my parents died, all my friends dumped me. I expected it, having studied the dynamics of death. When I began writing my Pallywood and Gaza beach posts, I knew nobody “legitimate” would cover them. But I wrote them anyway. My motivations aren’t human.
I mean my motivations are different from those of most people. Fame, success, and credit don’t interest me. All I care about is personal improvement, thinking, writing, collecting old postcards, protecting my two feral cats, communicating with kindred spirits, and enjoying the successes of others.
in the fall
in the dry tall grass,
gusts of wind
crackling to a mutable pattern
remind me of the
thousand derelict days
I should’ve known for flying instead:
a bird small but strong
soaring across the far curve of the west
his tiny heart beating calmly in his progress
toward some unknown compass point,
at last disclosed by the sun.
Birds with tangled wings can’t know the stories
the air has to tell them,
so they stay closer to the ground
the other ones on high
and in mourning
and with joy.
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