Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

Never give up. The alternative to suicide.

The great Dutch psychiatrist Professor Piet C. Kuijper told sophomore medical students patients’ life stories. To teach us that there was nothing crazy about people gone crazy.

A boy who never knew his father. Was born to a heroine prostitute. Who died early in his life. He had no further family and was put in an orphanage. Where he was sexually abused by staff. When he dared to complain, he was sent to another orphanage where he had no friends and was sexually abused by the head of the orphanage. He finally escaped and even got himself a job and a wife. But she was a sadist who made every minute of his life like hell and his boss went bankrupt. He still managed to find himself a loving wife and started a successful business with his best friend. They had a child. But then the child died and then his wife. And his best friend took off with all the money. And then he got a debilitating chronic illness. And then he came to us with serious psychiatric problems.

His moral: would you not have snapped? Won’t you have respect for such a person? Can’t you feel for him?

I think it was the renowned author Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits who wrote regarding the Holocaust that craziness is the normal result of a crazy situation. I found that all craziness is only in the ear of the beholder.

My teacher, Harvey Jackins, reported that he was at the deathbed of a Black woman who said to him: I’ve been terrified all my life and I’ve never let it stop me.

I have had my own amount of unfair misfortune and misery in life but I was also very lucky to get tons of support. If this post was about me, I would list all the support I found.

I saw people whose character was broken by life. They had turned bitter, impatient, angry, selfish — you name it. I didn’t blame them but I decide not to go that route.

To the contrary. When I discovered I had no patience, I decided to grow it. When I found that I was not humble enough, I grew it. When I found I did not love myself, I did not just maintain myself by loving others.

When Israel started as a State and the broken returned from the camps, the attitude was: help and shut up. That was not good but there was no alternative. But that situation is over. We have space for complaints and many have discovered that. Complain, whine, moan, and harp about everything. How hard it is. But never say: “I give up, take me away.”

One of the problems of being overly pessimistic (and of it’s mirror image being overly optimistic) is that we may miss seeing what goes well. Just imagine that this would have happened when we had no mobile phones yet. Tracing contacts would have been impossible.

And when I seemed trapped in life, I did not give up. When no hope for a good future existed anymore, I said: This is only temporary, I won’t give up.

I remembered the story — true or false — how Nazi Germany had given up on bombing London because it saw no effect. Thank G^d, they didn’t know that England was three weeks away from surrendering. (We can even learn from mistakes by evil empires.)

I could not spare my children from going through unbelievable suffering. That hurt. But they survived.

I had taught them early in life to tell all their friends what to do when suicide would knock on their doors. And I added: it could happen even to me and you. You don’t know where life will take you. Suddenly you turn a corner and life seems over. So, it’s good to learn it when all seems still hopeful and fun.

The trick is: Don’t diminish that life seems over, that there seems no light at the end of the tunnel. Believe it and acknowledge that. In yourself or your friend, whoever is under fire. However, also believe that things will get better. In the end, you will see light at the end of the tunnel. You’ll get a new lease on life. Just hang in there. It actually saved one.

Some people decided to live under precondition. They will go one on condition that … certain goodness would stay of be — or they would end it. But that is just waiting for life to get too hard and then what do you do?

Don’t say you want to stop living. When you’re young, everyone will think you’re crazy. But when you get old with that, people will ‘understand’ and it could get you dead (‘compassionate’ killing).

It was not easy to dedicate so much to communities that then turned against me. I gave more than I got back and evil on top of that, but at least I could extract myself. When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.

I remember reading in Kohelet that when you find yourself living with someone who doesn’t love you, life is darker than hell. But the commentary said: but if you are pious, you will escape her claws. So I was patient and looking forward to it coming true. And it did.

When my second wife stealthily befriended my ex, I decided to never let anything get me down. To never give up. I stayed jolly despite the pain and lack of perspective. And when love didn’t seem part of my life, I decided that I would resign myself to a lonely but happy life that if that’s G^d’s unfathomable wants from me. He can take my company but not my happiness. And then, when I stumbled upon a partner who truly loved me, life was so sweet. And when G^d ended that relationship, I just looked forward to the next apotheosis. I would never give up.

When I made aliyah, it was scary, from peaceful the Netherlands. But I got used to terrorism. It wasn’t as dangerous to everyone as it seemed in the news and with all the brave bystanders, it was actually safer here.

Then started the Second Intifada. My neighborhood got under daily fire. I said: Even if they will start shooting rockets and I need to live three months in a bomb shelter, I will not leave. I didn’t come to Israel to flee it. We’ve seen worse in history. This too will pass.

Every time I decide that nothing would break me, it was like another diploma on my life’s resume. It’s not true that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It can make you crazy. But if you ask and find enough support, life will be sweet no matter what.

It’s very sweet how young people around me now are very concerned about me feeling lonely and isolated under lockdown. But actually, I’m in great shape. I have the age to look ahead and know this too will pass. And I’ve survived much harder hardships.

A part of the above is autobiographic, a part is fictional.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach and lehavdiel bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff and Rav Meir Lubin. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, GLBTQAI, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quit a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500st blog post with the ToI. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having a peek outside of your cultural bubble. * NEW: To see other blog posts by him, his overspill blog you can reach by clicking on the Website icon next to his picture at the head of every post. There you may find precursors to later TOI blog posts, addition or corrections of published TOI blog posts, blog posts the TOI will not carry and some thoughts that are too short to be a TOI blog post. Also, the TOI only allows for one blog post per blogger per 24 hours. Sometimes, he has more to say than that. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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