Friday, March 9, 2007

a french proverb

Death takes the poor man's cow and the rich man's child.

Like so many proverbs, this one is profoundly ambiguous. Is it the equivalent of "G-d tempers the wind to the shorn lamb," that is, we only lose what we can afford to lose? (Which reminds me of a friend of mine who has a severely handicapped child, and, when told by someone that she had been given this child because G-d, in His infinite wisdom, knew that she had the strength and courage to handle it, responded, "Unfortunately, I'm afraid He's confused me with someone else.")

Or perhaps the point of the proverb is that what we value most, what is irreplacable, is what will be taken from us? After all, the rich man can presumably afford another cow and the poor man may well have too many children to feed.

Or, does it simply mean that we all must suffer, each in our own way, and that there's nothing to be gained by weighing grief against grief?

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