Thursday, February 24, 2005

Fate waiting around the bend...

I was thinking about what to write today because the subject of my latest irk is getting old. Not too long ago, I saw a friend's blog, and out of nowhere he met a girl and got engaged. The thing that I found so interesting is that by looking at his blog the day before, you would have never guessed this was around the corner for him. I don't think he even expected to meet someone, and the reason I believe he is engaged is because fate put them together at that specific moment. He was in exactly the right place at the right time, and she was there to become his wife. Their life paths converged exactly at that point, just as it was supposed to. You would never guess that these two people who live in different parts of the state having completely opposite jobs could connect, when the moment before, the connection did not exist.

It is the awe that I see in this, how one person can never know what is in store for them just around the bend. I am humbled by the thought that we can plan all we want to, but we never know what will happen -- that next split second, all life can change forever. One decision. One phone call. One action. One thought.

Maybe that's a reason why I wrote this blog. I wanted to have a record of my thoughts in an organized fashion, so that when something waits for me around the corner, I will be able to put my finger on my timeline and say "it was at this particular moment in this particular place that my life was changed forever."

I often walk with anticipation and caution, wondering what will happen in the next split second. When nothing happens and my life stays the same, I sometimes get depressed. I feel that I live a carefully planned life; I walk my path and make adjustments along the way. I roll with the punches, and change with my environment. One day I was to be a doctor, another day a sovereign, another day a speaker, another day a banker, and today I am to become a patent lawyer. I certainly have never flip-flopped -- each step was a carefully planned goal, and within each goal I gave it everything I had. But I am limited in my knowledge of what is meant for me, and I can only do the best that I can with the knowledge and foresight that I have been given. I thought for years that I was a brilliant investor, and today I feel like a chump. I never invested carelessly; each of my hundreds of market trades were carefully planned, organized, analyzed, and executed with precision. I would venture to say that I never do something half-heartedly; if I make a decision, then I stick to it and persevere until either I succeed, I fail, or it fails me.

There are those that lie in wait for religion to fail me. They wait for my big fall not because they want to see me fail, but because they want what they think is best for me. They see me weakened by my toils in the unknown, and indeed I am. What they don't yet grasp is that I am on a search for truth, and the answer, as glorious and as majestic as it is, does not feel all that glorious because our senses are dulled to the point where we find our life's meaning in the material equivalent of a shiny penny.

I would say that everything in life has a physical part and a metaphysical counterpart. I personally am not that excited by the concept of a king in his throne ruling a country. More so, the concept of a G-d in the heavens ruling over his creation doesn't excite me that much either. It is hard for me to picture "truth" as being the spiritual version of George Bush, who I would say is the modern-day equivalent of a king. However, the more I learn, the more I realize that while the concept of a king of the universe is said to have truth to it, it is an analogy for a greater concept I cannot grasp because I am bound, tied, blindfolded and gagged in the physical world, and hence I can only think in terms of physicality. After all, remember that G-d had to constrict and lower himself to create our world -- lower himself from what? Is he in his unconstricted form just a big blob made up of spiritual stuff, floating in the heavens comprising of all he creates without space in which to manifest? This logical result forces us to realize that we cannot comprehend the answer because it is beyond the limits of our rational thought. And if there is no G-d or divine creator, what are we? What started the existence that we call reality? Are we really just bodies living out lives in search of gold, power, love, and pleasure?

If there is no G-d, our life's meaning would be what we make it, yet it would be arbitrary because we could change it at any moment. I used to think that reality was pliable because from my experience I could have changed the meaning I gave to events and things around me. Being confined to my perceptions, I could conceivably imagine any meaning, and then believe it were true by convincing myself, and I did exactly that. Yet I now think it would be a confusion of our senses to believe that reality is empirically confined to our perceptions.

I would venture to say that it is entirely possible that the "I" that I am discussing is even a limited concept because if I change my point of reference to the spiritual, unbound by space and time, another “me” materializes; that “me” has a life longer than my flesh-bound-120-year-trip to the grave. And who is to say that my only existence is the blind fool whose words you are reading right now? Who is to say that here is the only place we exist right now? I don't sense you, but you exist, don't you? This requires deep contemplation.

If there is any validity to anything I've said above, then the only way to get some sort of grasp on reality is to find someone or something that seems to have a clue on what is going on. Through fate and help from those G-d has put in my way, I found Torah, and through Torah, I found a Rebbe, a Rabbi, a Rav and a mashpia (in lay terms, a spiritual advisor).

A mashpia's role is to facilitate the growth of the individual to adhere more strongly to Torah principles. They give answers to moral and practical questions that are based on Torah and jewish law, not based on their own opinions and desires (for this reason it is very important to choose your mashpia wisely). If Torah is true, meaning that it contains the deepest secrets of existence and following it is the true path, then logically it makes sense to connect myself to it and seek it out; a mashpia can be a useful guide to accomplish this end.

In my opinion, it is a big deal to be asked to be a mashpia, and it is an even greater responsibility to be one. Yet in life, there are those who intrude and try to be my mashpia when they have not been invited nor appointed, nor do they have the qualifications. Only a fool tries to learn how to be rich from someone who is struggling financially. Only a fool asks a depressed person how to be joyful. Contrary to what most people would believe, I have sought out various teachers and mentors, and I have attached myself to them so that I can learn from them what they have achieved. The last person from whom I would want to learn about religion is from someone who doesn't believe in it. I would be a fool to act otherwise. This is the path I have chosen, and that has been chosen for me.

So as with anything, I am on a path that is made up of my choices, and the influences of fate that have moved me in certain directions by allowing me or denying me certain results from my efforts. It humbles me to think how different life might be if I didn't go into the Eichler's bookstore on that faithful day to acquire the book that started my journey which has led me to where I am today. I always have to keep in mind that while I make the choices how I act, the path that results is not mine to determine. The conditions that were set in motion that led me to go into the bookstore were set long before I made the decision to read the book. The author had to write the book; the store had to open up years before. One could say that I might have become religious anyway, and this fated argument I do not dispute. We never know what lays in wait for us, good or bad, around the bend. Nor do we know what conditions have been set by our decisions and our actions. For that, we have a responsibility to be the best we can be, to hope and pray that we make the right choices at each moment. This is also one reason why I pray daily and on high holidays that things should turn out good. Because even if we have made the wrong choices, we ask for divine intervention to correct our mistakes and bring us closer to the truth.

I used to think I was fully in control of my environment, my decisions forming the way the world would turn out. To some extent that is true, but in addition to all of us humans planning and making decisions, there is a CEO that reviews all decisions and plans, and approves them or denies them. As they say, "man plans, and G-d laughs." We are not masters of the universe. In general, if people thought about it, they would realize that they are really literally nothing, and yet they are plagued with delusions of grandeur and self-importance. If we saw how small we really are compared to how we actually see ourselves, worlds would crumble.

I do believe each act is significant. We have been taught that is a divine plan, and by doing the commandments and acting in the ways we have been instructed by G-d, we further that plan. Just as we can affect our own lives, so too do I believe we can affect the world. As I said before, but now in a new context -- we never know what catastrophic effects may follow as a result of our actions -- that next split second, we might do something or say something that forever changes life for ourselves and for others. One decision. One phone call. One action. One thought. That is all it ever took.

1 comment:

kermitt10 said...

"In my opinion, it is a big deal to be asked to be a mashpia, and it is an even greater responsibility to be one...Only a fool tries to learn how to be rich from someone who is struggling financially. Only a fool asks a depressed person how to be joyful."

Well said. Yet again we face the deep duality of life - on the one hand we need to be able to rely on to count on our mentors, those we look to for guidance.

In Star Wars - Obi Wan made the mistake of trying to teach Anakin Skywalker. Obi Wan was not on the level to teach, and Anakin paid the price by succuming top the dark side and becoming Darth Vader.

On the other hand we have a rather crude and cynical way of looking at teachers: "those who can, do; those who can't, teach." And as people we are constantly associating with many different folks, and have no choice but to learn something for them.

But as jews we are urged to look differently at life.

In Pirkei avot - ethics of our fathers - One of Judaism's most prized works, Ben Zoma is quoted as saying "who is wise? he who learns from everyone else."

Not only are encouraged to learn from "everyone," but it's really the only way to become wise.

Choosing a "mashpia" - is very difficult but so is remembering not to limit yourself to learning only from that person.

I'd like to re-define the term mashpia (you called it "spiritual advisor") I think it is more accurately "principle spiritual advisor" the main one - but not the only one - we should be open to learn from anyone willing to teach.

The same goes in the reverse - not only should we learn from everybody, but we should all realize that EVERYONE has something to learn from ME!!! I have something worthwhile teaching others!!

There are two levels implied in this thought:

(1)You don't have to be shakespeare to teach a child to spell; you don't have to be lance armstrong to teach someone to ride a bike; you don't have to be Moses to teach the torah. All you need is a better grasp than the student.

(2) More subtly, we EACH have something SPECIAL, something UNIQUE from which others CAN learn from us but NOT from ANYONE else.
That's why the wise person is he who learns from "EVERY" one else.

What is it that Obi Wan did wrong? it's not that he tried to teach young Anakin; but rather that he tried to be the principle teacher, Anakin needed a master Yoda for that role.