Sunday, March 16, 2014

Esther and the Black Swan


One of the things I love most about Esther's heart is this…on the night she was sent to the king, "she asked for nothing except what Hegai, the king's eunuch, advised."  Where is the pride, where is the greed, where is the human trust (confidence) in one's own beauty and strength?  Our heroines today are smart, capable, and prepared for all possibilities.  They think on their feet and creatively apply their knowledge and experience to the problem at hand—eventually gaining mastery over it.  Heroism often consists of the bravery to creatively utilize and deploy resources (be they intellectual or physical) in the face of fear.  

Never, ever, do they step back and say: “I don’t know what to do here.  Will you, who I consider wiser, please make the choice for me?”  That, we all know, is not the definition of a hero.

But this Esther—she trusted one who was wiser than she, believing that he knew what would best please that king.  It's this kind of trust we exercise when we lay down our own self-lives in favor of what the Holy Spirit says (even when, and particularly when, laying it down means real felt-loss).  And it's this sort of trust that paves the way for Him to place us in positions of power (not only does it make the opportunity, it makes us the sort who could handle that power well).  And it's only this sort of trust that creates a woman who will fling her life into God's hands and abandon herself, when the stakes are so high, and everything she’s gained is on the line. 

I had forgotten today was Purim when my thoughts slipped to Esther this afternoon.  In fact, I had spent the last hour learning about Nassim Taleb’s concept of “antifragility” and wondering what God thought; was there scriptural basis for the idea that the best way to live is to benefit from stresses and chaos, rather than to just be resilient to them (which he calls being “robust”) or negatively impacted (which he calls “fragile”)?  That we need these stresses, in order to fully live?  And if he was on to something true, what was the full truth?  Even if extraordinarily intelligent and perceptive, he is limited to the scope of human sight.  What does Divine sight see? 

It seemed there is scriptural precedent.  This came to mind immediately: For our light affliction, [referring, ironically, to our bodies being abused and dying!] which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,”  (2 Cor. 4)

That doesn't imply just surviving, but gaining.  How is it possible to actually gain from the “Black Swans” of history (unexpected and unprecedented events that change history) and the tragedies of life?  (Or, for that matter, from the smaller "tribulations" that history wouldn't call Black Swans, but that definitely rock our personal worlds!  Esther endured more of these than many of us ever will.)

Businessmen reviewing Taleb’s book pointed out one great flaw: it’s great philosophy, but how?  How were they to practically implement the concept of “antifragile” into their businesses and economics?  You can’t just become antifragile by wanting to.  You can’t just turn affliction into glory by wanting it.   

What is the how in the equation?  Esther answered me. 

Trust.  Humility and trust in someone outside herself made it possible for her to turn the worst genocidal event of her lifetime into one of the greatest deliverances ever.  The road to that victory was paved with small-scale personal-sized “Black Swans” of Taleb’s definition (improbable and unpredictable events), the “trials and tribulations” of ours, and it ended in a great upset (ethnically and economically) for that nation.  A great Black Swan.  How Esther responded each step along the way—with trust—is what defined the outcome of her predicament.  Her life has become the story of an unlikely girl who rescued an entire nation, rather than a helpless girl who endured the injustice of human-trafficking.  (After all, that’s how the first chapter of her story plays out—snatched from the possibility of a real life, to populate a pagan man’s sexual harem.)  And it was trust that made the practical difference.

That scripture I mentioned above—it doesn’t stop where I ended it.  It also gives a how:

“…while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.”

Anyone who’s ever done a trust fall will make the connection.  Looking at things you can’t see is technically impossible.  It takes faith.  It takes trust.  It IS trust.


Celebrating Esther and the great deliverance today with all my Jewish friends!  And may God use our trust to perform miracle after miracle in the coming days--to make us not just resilient, but anti-fragile, thriving in the middle of the world's chaos, and using every Black Swan we encounter (for we will encounter them) to display God's glory.