A friend left a message on our phone the other day. She said she was in New York City, and wouldn’t have access to her email. So if I got any good news about my book in the next 24 hours, I should call her, rather than email. Why? She wants to celebrate my good fortune by eating lots of desserts, and New York City is a great place to indulge a sweet tooth.
The online magazine Tablet recently ran a piece about the Hebrew word firgun. Never heard of it? Neither had I. According to the article, firgun is ungrudging happiness at another person’s good fortune. The author describes the sentiment in purely positive terms, as an ideal most of us can only strive to achieve. (A reader commenting on the story takes a more jaundiced view, calling firgun the opposite of schadenfreude. It’s the refusal to judge the good luck of those who don’t deserve it, the commentator suggests.)
Do I think my friend wants to hear about my success out of pure firgun? Of course not. Sure, she’ll be happy for me. But she also craves, for example, a certain seven-layered cake, some particular donuts, those big almond cookies the Jews call Chinese and the Chinese call Jewish, you know, the ones with a nice dab of chocolate in the middle? She wants an excuse to feed her passion. And that’s fine by me. I wish I could have given her that excuse while she was in the city. But it didn’t work out that way.
As I wait, do I have firgun for other writers’ success? Not really. But I do take comfort in the thought that if it happened for them, it can happen for me. When it does, I’ll be sure to let my friend know. And after I have my own celebration, I’ll enjoy hearing about all the decadent delights she consumed in my honor. We’ll both have our cake and eat it, too.