Idioms and expressions that come from other languages can be fun. If you go to Israel, you will hear people say in conversation “Ma Pitom!” Literally from Hebrew this translates as “What? Suddenly? but when they say it, it is an really an exclamation of disbelief like “No Way! Really?” In English it might best be translated as WTF. Expect the unexpected.
There is a series of kids’ books my daughter had, called “And Then it Happened!” They all build up the plot in the same way. Life is ticking along like normal, and then, BOOM, something happens. I think I would describe it as a Ma Pitom moment. What, suddenly? WTF? Ma Pitom! Everything switches up. It is just like those scenes you see in Harry Potter where floating staircases come out of the walls and suddenly you are in another world.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said that we find “enlarged powers” and “poetic creativeness” in these transitions from one thing to another.” He called these experiences “croisements” – crossings. You cross over.
It’s the old saying. People who make things happen, people who watch things happen, people who say what the hell happened. I think the last part of that equation is the most common. No way, Ma Pitom, WTF?
I always have been fascinated by the kind of people you observe in a train station if you are a people watcher. They are in a state of planned transition, yet always seem to be anticipatory, and bored at the same time. That might be the very state that precedes any Ma Pitom kind of moment. Life’s like that. You won’t be bored for long.
We try to plan for Ma Pitom. I have observed that life is a series of mini struggles to pull yourself up to the next strata, whatever that is… marriage, buying house, the job you want, et cetera. Then there are the long necessary holding patterns during which we get our bearings, figure out how everything works, and then just perpetuate that thing, at least for a while.
They say that luck is preparation, combined with opportunity. We are, but are not really responsible for the things that happen. That is why so much has been made of fate. For example in Greek Tragedy, fate. Its when the gods mess with you, but you cannot outrun your own destiny. People watch Shakespeare and nod. Uh, huh, yeah, that is about right. He got what he deserved. It just happened that way despite that he tried to outrun it. Somewhere out there is a bullet that has your name on it. You had better not look for it. It will drive you crazy.
People try to predict though. That is why things like fortune cookies, palm reading, and Tarot Cards will always be popular. It is flirting with a like-to-know-but-can’t-really sense that we all share. So we play at it, like some kind of cosmic guessing game. The torture of not really being able to predict, can account for some of the distractions we build into life. We don’t know how to be properly alone and dissatisfied. I think, not allowing a lonely place for that holy discontent to do its work, is killing our society. We quench our Ma Pitom, instead of feeding it. It is the necessary soul work for change. Without it, you will stay perpetually in one state, feeling bored and dissatisfied. Ma Pitom helps you to grow.
Those liminal moments are great points for personal reflection. There is a suspicious itch on the underside of your soul that you don’t really know how to articulate. It is healthy. Your soul is striving…. in a good way, trying to reach up and realize things we cannot yet see. It’s always that way, our reach will always exceed our grasp. It keeps us moving along and it keeps us from being stagnant.
Jesus said that if you are planning to build a tower, you had better count the cost. Yet still I think life is a lot more like Ma Pitom. Expect the unexpected, they say. You would be surprised. Literally.