A Cracking of the Heart: A Journey to Transcendence–Review by Cynthia Yockey
By Cynthia Yockey
December 23, 2009
Originally published at PJMedia.com
For those of us who didn’t have the honor and pleasure of knowing Sarah Horowitz, her father has collected her work, insights into her spiritual journey, and his thoughts on his late daughter’s life into a new book. David Horowitz’sA Cracking of the Heartrefers both to the pain of the death of a loved one and to the opening of the heart to transcendence.
One of the greatest blessings of A Cracking of the Heart is that it also is a dialogue between two insightful souls: an ex-leftist, conservative father and an idealistic, progressive daughter, each wrestling with the questions of how to be good and how to do good from the point of view of their respective philosophies. Both recognized that neither side could hold a monopoly on goodness because, as the author quotes Solzhenitsyn, “the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through the human heart, and through all human hearts.”
Sarah was born with Turner Syndrome, a genetic condition in which a female is born with one X chromosome instead of two. It is usually associated with short stature and multiple disabilities, including progressive deafness. In addition, Sarah developed arthritis in one hip as an adult, limiting her mobility.
Nevertheless, as someone possessed of great intelligence, great strength of character, towering determination, and unbounded compassion, Sarah lived her life, as Horowitz quotes Yeats, as someone who “was blessed, and could bless.”
Horowitz relates that at the age of 18, Sarah moved out of her mother’s home — her parents divorced when she was a teen — to rent an apartment with friends in a neighborhood that frightened her parents (she didn’t move to a neighborhood her father thought was safe until her early 30s) and to attend San Francisco State University. Her adventures in bohemian San Francisco are a delight to read.
When Sarah was in her late 20s, she became her autistic niece’s caregiver using the Lovaas method, and Horowitz includes a description Sarah wrote of her experiences of working with the child.
Sarah also was active in the Turner Syndrome Society, wrote an influential article on intersexuality (aka hermaphroditism), demonstrated against the death penalty, traveled to Israel and climbed Masada twice, and traveled to El Salvador and Mumbai to work with the poor on behalf of the American Jewish World Service. She also lived for two months in Uganda with the Abayudaya, Africans who converted to Judaism during World War I.
For me, the soul of the book is expressed in (1) Sarah’s work to love herself just the way she was, as she was able to love all the rest of the world — a struggle that her rabbi, Alan Lew, called learning one’s “divine name”; (2) in the definition of suffering — again, Rabbi Lew, using a Buddhist concept: “all suffering is caused by tana, the selfish desire for something other than what is …”; and (3) in her dialogue with her father about tikkun olam, the Kabbalistic idea of a “repair of the world.”
If I understand Horowitz’s life’s work correctly since leaving the left, the liberal’s greatest fault is that its true believers direct their efforts toward changing the world when their real problem is the emptiness in their souls. What puts Horowitz at odds with his daughter is that she embraced the idea that we are all one, while he had come to reject it. As he quotes from his book The End of Time, which he sent Sarah in manuscript form for her opinion:
I feel no kinship with those who can cut short a human life without remorse; or with terrorists who target the innocent; or with adults who torment small children for the sexual thrill. I suspect no decent soul does either.
In one of the most poignant parts of A Cracking of the Heart, Horowitz writes that he only found Sarah’s comments on The End of Time after her death, which was after the book was published. Sarah’s comments were rooted in her spiritual life, which began to flourish in her 30s.
At 33, Sarah joined the Congregation Beth Shalom, which was then under the direction of the late Rabbi Alan Lew. He had studied to be a Buddhist monk before becoming a rabbi. He also started a Zen meditation group, which he called Makor Or(“Source of Light”). She was a charter member at age 36. So in Sarah’s comment on TheEnd of Time, “practice” refers to her Buddhist meditation and the Buddhist and Jewish principles Sarah applied in her daily life to grow spiritually:
Back to the practice: If you see someone in the fullness of their humanity, you see how they are acting out their own confusion and suffering. This does not justify hurtful or evil acts. It doesn’t even always inspire forgiveness. But if you see someone this way, you respond more in sadness than in anger. And that is simply a more excellent state of being. Even if you’ve never had this experience (and more’s the pity), respect the experience of those who have. I’m not talking about an idea either. This practice has in fact transformed all my relationships, including ours by the way.
Regarding Sarah’s relationship with her disabilities, Horowitz writes:
During the “shloshim” service which follows a funeral by thirty days, Elissa [his ex-wife, Sarah’s mother] was struck by how many people in attendance mentioned Sarah’s disabilities and praised the way she overcame them. Sitting among these mourners, Elissa thought how Sarah would have been mortified, if she were alive, to hear herself talked about as “disabled.” The thing Sarah hated most about herself, she thought, was her disabilities. At that moment, she remembered what Rabbi Lew had written in his autobiography about “divine names.” … [Rabbi Lew]: ‘This is perhaps the most profound psychological transformation it is possible to undergo: the realization that the very thing we can’t stand about ourselves is our divine name, our uniqueness, the way God has made us, the quality that gives our life its shape and meaning.”
Later, going through Sarah’s journals about her meditation practice, Horowitz discovered his daughter had learned her divine name — Disabled (although he doesn’t explicitly use the word) — and come to terms with it:
Norman prescribed a Buddhist practice … to have a “big mind” in her day-to-day life, to observe her anger and frustration. And to let it go. … Fischer’s counsel about the practice struck yet another chord [as Sarah writes in her journal]: “No one has ever said that to me. Not just that spiritual practice in general is a good idea, but that it’s a good idea for me. Not only do I feel in meditation that I am exactly who I am supposed to be, exactly where I am supposed to be, doing exactly what I am supposed to do, but my fellow meditators see me this way too. This is truly chein [beauty], gratuitous grace.”
Sarah died suddenly on March 6, 2008, of causes that an autopsy could not determine, although Horowitz notes that Turner Syndrome can be a life-shortening condition. Ironically, the day before she died, Sarah gave an interview in which she talked about the sudden death of her favorite aunt and the advice Rabbi Lew had given her: “Pay attention to the ways in which your relationship continues.”
For Horowitz, his relationship with Sarah continues in his opening to transcendence and finding his way to see the unity of all humanity as his daughter did. It will be well worth your while to read his book and join him on this journey.
Article printed from PJ Media: http://pjmedia.com
URL to article: http://pjmedia.com/blog/a-cracking-of-the-heart-a-journey-to-transcendence/
URLs in this post:
 David Horowitz’s: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Horowitz
 A Cracking of the Heart: http://www.amazon.com/Cracking-Heart-David-Horowitz/dp/1596981032
 Turner Syndrome: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turner_syndrome
 Turner Syndrome Society: http://www.turnersyndrome.org/
 American Jewish World Service: http://ajws.org/
 Abayudaya: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abayudaya
 The End of Time: http://18.104.22.168/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=8545
 Congregation Beth Shalom: http://www.bethsholomsf.org/
 Rabbi Alan Lew: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/01/15/BAEM15AFBD.DTL
 Makor Or: http://www.everydayzen.org/index.php?option=com_location&id=14&task=viewLocation&Itemid=63
 his relationship with Sarah continues: http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/11/a_cracking_of_the_heart_interv.html
David Horowitz Honors His Daughter’s Life: Review by Sonny Bunch
By Sonny Bunch
November 25, 2009
Originally published in The Washington Times
“You can lose people through death – and you can lose them while they’re still alive,” David Horowitz says.
The conservative author and activist is no stranger to losing friends over his political views. As his autobiography “Radical Son” details, the one-time leftist theoretician angrily rejected liberalism in the wake of a friend’s murder by the Black Panthers. His reaction cost him friends, allies and, for a time, even members of his own family.
Now, in “A Cracking of the Heart,” Mr. Horowitz examines his sometimes strained relationship with one of his daughters, Sarah. Born in 1964 with Turner syndrome, Sarah stood less than 5 feet tall, had poor hips and a weak heart, the last of which killed her in 2008. The book recalls the struggles and triumphs of her life – and reveals Mr. Horowitz’s regrets about how he let his political stridency drive father and daughter apart.
“This book was therapy for me; it was a remembrance of my daughter and her extraordinary courage,” Mr. Horowitz says in a recent phone interview. “It’s a lesson to all of us who complain about much lesser frustrations and obstacles that we face. We often feel utterly defeated by them. This book should inspire people. Her life should inspire people to face those problems and not let [the problems] get them down.”
Heartened by the reaction he received to the eulogy he delivered at Sarah’s funeral, Mr. Horowitz decided to write a book that would bring her extraordinary story to life and give others a glimpse into her world.
“A Cracking of the Heart” is also a tale of family struggles, a reminder that blood is more important than whatever political differences may come between us. Mr. Horowitz is a fire-breathing conservative whose confrontational style often comes across as abrasive; his daughter, meanwhile, attended a liberal synagogue and traveled to Iowa to support Barack Obama’s presidential bid.
“Consider that these are your children, and remember your parents and the influence that they had on you,” Mr. Horowitz would advise others who sense family bonds fracturing under the weight of clashing worldviews. “Even when they are rebelling, even if they seem to be embracing values or views that are alien to you, look inside them for your influence and use that as a point of connection.”
Mr. Horowitz relates in “A Cracking of the Heart” that Sarah was often reluctant to share her writings with him. After her death, Mr. Horowitz dove into those writings – including poems, an unpublished novel and writings about her personal life – in order to find out what he could about his daughter.
He learned about more than just his daughter, however. In the course of researching the book, Mr. Horowitz also discovered that there were lessons he could have taken from his daughter’s views.
“My daughter was very generous with homeless people even though she had no money,” he says. “She would always give change to the homeless, and of course, as a conservative, at first I reacted and said that these people have substance abuse problems, they should be taken care of, they should be institutionalized.”
Then he came across a journal entry from his daughter in which she wrote about being approached by a once-homeless woman who had since pulled her life together. The woman thanked Sarah for her kindness during a rough patch and said that she had never forgotten the help.
“I realized then that we may have our policy positions about homelessness, but the reality is that … it would be worth it, even if there’s only one person that you help – even if there’s just a chance of there being one,” Mr. Horowitz says. “So my daughter really taught me a lesson there.”
He just regrets that she had to die before he was able to learn the lesson – and hopes her life can be an example to others.
“It’s impossible to read about my daughter without becoming a more compassionate, better person,” he says. “And I hope also that since we all have to endure terrible losses – they’re part of the process of life, really – that people will get strength from my book and find comfort in it.”