Thought Of The Week
Being and Sacrifice
The civility part is only the base of the pyramid, the foundation. For many of us, the oath to respectful and conscious communication raises peculiar demons, and the struggle with those demons, those emissaries from the destructive patterns veiled in the unconscious, shapes our moral character. How we conduct that struggle is the foundation, the Yesod, in Hebrew. When we can feel the urge to criticize, complain, speak unkindly, be defensive, stonewall, cold shoulder, and we instead exert an intervention and do something different, we establish the foundation for the work that rests upon that foundation. For others, obviously, the foundation to be built is in the struggle against the more subtle demons of avoidance, fear of confrontation, and fear, guilt, and anxiety in general. All of us struggle at times with all of them. We engage the struggle when we become conscious that they are there, and that they are resisting our vision toward greater wisdom and conscious living. This work of Yesod, of foundation, never ceases.
The work of Yesod shapes our relationships with others, and with the world. Buber was right; there is no "I" in isolation, there is only I in relation to You. The I in relation to You creates our inner sense of self. Are we at war with the world or striving for wholeness? Have we settled with fear of the world or are we striving for courage? Back to parents, for a moment. When I quiz the parent stuck in the rut of over managing a child's life, to ensure "success" (remember: best school and best grades for the best college and best career making the best money for the best plot in the best graveyard) they fundamentally fear for their child, and don't trust that their child has wisdom and resilience. That wisdom and resilience is quashed as the parents communicate to the child that their inner resources for life are severely lacking without the parent's life plan for them. Instead of parenting them toward wisdom and resilience, we communicate our fear and conviction that they lack wisdom, and that our children must borrow our often fear motivated advice.
The parents' main job, in my mind, is, among other things, to teach the child how to be moral (including respectful) and safe, to know how to love and be loved, to be industrious, to allow for creativity and play, to know the self and others, to find meaning, joy and purpose in life, to thrive in community, and for some of us, to know God.
A level above the foundation of wisdom and conscious living in the world, built mostly through relationships with others, is the ability to hear a call to full being. A life committed to virtue can remove confusion. Living with some set of principles helps us know what to do, and not follow the confusion that the hidden destructive patterns suggest. We can't rid ourselves of the urge toward the confusion of values, but on the other hand, we typically don't fall for it, either. The ego-self whines. We don't have to give in.
In the occasionally found calmness built in the level above foundation, we find not only some wisdom and clarity about life, but also about our own journey upward, a journey that opens up in front of us. In the Chasidic tradition, as in many others, we use the image of a calling, a voice beckoning us forward. Oftentimes, the first thing we discover is what we have to sacrifice in order to climb the ladder of Being.
Rabbi Mordecai Finley