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Listening to the Nevermind Generation

A man sits in front of a torn down house during the demolition and evacuation of 10 structures in the Ma'ale Rehavam community on Wednesday, May 14, 2014.

A man sits in front of a torn down house during the demolition and evacuation of 10 structures in the Ma'ale Rehavam community on Wednesday, May 14, 2014.
Photo Credit: Nati Shohat/Flash 90

I was having a particularly difficult day last Friday, so when I went out to the local organic store, I was probably all grumps and grimaces. But despite my funk, I decided to strike up a conversation with a worker at the store.

One of the things you learn early on after making aliyah is that, for some reason, there are Israeli radio stations that play almost exclusively English songs. Some are from my mother’s era (60s), some my own (90s) … then the rest is Gen Y stuff (I guess … it’s now long after my secular listening escapades).

In an effort to convey something uplifting (usually a good way to get out of a personal funk), I started discussing an article I read several weeks back about Kurt Cobain.

For those who don’t know, Kurt was the lead singer of a band called Nirvana. The article was about the day he took his life twenty years ago in Seattle, written by a reporter who had just arrived there to cover a local music festival.

I mentioned to my newfound friend at the organic store that I found the article to be disappointing. When he asked me how I would have written it differently, I responded that I would have written about the “nevermind generation,” instead of a story about one person.

When writing about the tragedy of one individual, then even twenty years later, the story remains focused on the life of that one individual. But while Nirvana was never my favorite band, the “nevermind” sentiment still resonates for me to this very day.

Since the release of Nevermind in 1991, arguably the Gen X generation (and now Y and Z) have plenty of outlets for our voices to be heard. Presumably then, now that we have Facebook, Twitter, and so forth, we shouldn’t feel so alone and ignored anymore. Right?

The Nevermind Meditation

I didn’t mention this to the worker at the store, but there was another reason why I had hopes for that article. Because once we abstract the “nevermind” concept beyond the life of an individual or title of an album, to include the sentiments of a generation, then we can begin to appreciate the other “nevermind” moments of the early 90s.

One advantage of being involved in the Torah world is that it allows us to connect the dots. While the world at large may report on an event in the same manner for twenty years, through awakening ourselves to sense the Divine Providence in everything we see, we can shed new light on even old stories. Thus while many have spoken about “nevermind,” our challenge today is to meditate upon “nevermind.”

Feeling of Abandonment

The Torah world in the early 90s witnessed the passing of several important leaders including the Lubavitcher Rebbe (Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson), the Rav (Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik), Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, the Satmar Rebbe (Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum), Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and so on….

But each passing was met with a challenge; whether the followers, students or hasidim would make positive resolutions for the future, or God forbid, feel silenced and downtrodden. Once we divorce the “nevermind” concept from belonging to any particular author, we begin to appreciate that this word captures the sentiments of an entire generation.

There are many ways people cope with emotional anguish. For some alcohol, drugs, gambling, compulsive eating, and other responses seem the only resort. At best though, these activities temporarily cover over or distract a person from some deep pain. While the best remedy is to articulate their pain and feeling of abandonment in therapy, oftentimes the initial response is to pick up a bottle and start drinking, etc…

About the Author: Yonatan Gordon is a student of Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh, and writes on his personal blog at CommunityofReaders.org.


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