Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sameach B'Chelkoh

A comment on the posting "A Word About Real Life" got me to thinking. What is it about the two words "real life" that seem to set people's teeth on edge? In that posting I made the point that the holidays are a part of real life, not separate from it. Perhaps we should also look at how "Just you wait" correlates to "real life."

Children are always being told that everything they learn now is first going to be of benefit to them when they get to "real life," as if they are not now alive and living. We tell them "Just you wait." Singles seem to be told by their young married friends and by their "elders" that they are not yet living a "real life." Balderdash!

Just you wait for what? From first breath to last, we are all alive, and therefore we are all living a "real life." Are our lives identical at every point? No. We go through stages. But each stage is "real life." And one stage is really not more privileged than another. For those who are in a different stage to mock--gently or otherwise--those who are not yet at that stage is a patent absurdity.

The pasuk asks: Aizeh oshir? The answer is "sameach b'chelkoh." Who is rich? The person who is happy with their portion. We can, of course, interpret the posuk literally, and assume that it is talking about money and possessions. But there is another equally as valid application of the posuk. We can talk about our portion of life, that part that we are living now, that level we are at. Who is the rich person? The one who lives life to the fullest, who appreciates all the aspects of the level of life they are at. The one who explores all the ins and outs of the level, who takes advantage of all the opportunities of that level, who doesn't waste time in talking about the "what ifs" of the future, but who acts on the opportunities present now. The "oshir" is rich in the possession of experiences. The "oshir" understands that another level of life will come along later, but he doesn't waste the time he "owns" now.

While it is true that we change levels in life over our lifetimes, we take the "possessions" we have collected along with us. What we have learned in one level is useful to us as we move through other levels. No knowledge is every truly wasted, for it enriched us at the point when we acquired that knowledge, and it is there for us to use if we need it later on. To pass through a level of life and to do nothing during it, that is not to be "oshir." To find no beauty, no purpose to a level we are living in is to be an "evyon." To look only at what others have but not see what could be ours now, that is to be an "evyon." And yes, to look at what we have now and then at what others who have not yet experienced our level and station in life have, and to pass judgement that their level is less valid, less good, less worthwhile, that too is to become an "evyon," for we lack the riches of understanding what life really is.

We are all dreamers at one time or another. We think ahead to what might be in the future. But to live as if today doesn't count is foolishness. If today were to be the last day of life alloted to us, whatever stage or level we are on, what would our "cheshbon" consist of? Would we be able to say that we took advantage of every minute and did all that presented itself? Or would we say that we did very little while we were waiting for "real life" to begin?


Bas~Melech said...

OK, I guess I don't need to worry about being too tired to blog -- you're doing it for me. :-P I was SO going to follow up your "real life" posts with one of my own. There goes another one...

The prevalent attitude seems to be that there is supposed to be a "prime of life." When exactly this happens is somewhat ambiguous. But it's damaging to at least three people:
1. Kids (because it seems like forever until they will be old enough for "real life");
2. The elderly, especially frail ones (what's left if "real life" is over?);
3. People who think that they should be in the prime of life but aren't (Too busy taking care of aging parents to enjoy your nachas? Unmarried at 40? Problems at home?)

If you go by the above description, most people at any given time are not doing "real life." Perhaps this is a sign we need to redefine "real life" or even retire the phrase.

It is time to realize that life on this Earth is designed to be a constant series of growth opportunities, and the "prime" will come after 120 years. When one realizes and accepts this, one can live each moment fully instead of waiting for some vague sign that they have reached "real life."

Bas~Melech said...

I might also add that despite all my preachiness in blogland, it's really, really hard to escape the influence of society. Although I live an extremely full and productive life, I still can't shake the feeling that my married-with-kids peers are living a more meaningful existence. I mean, I don't walk around gloomy about it, but there's this pang whenever it gets rubbed in my face...

Aviva said...

Bas Melech, I know all about that face rubbing. But I have my own solution. When my friends start up with the look at what I have and you don't have type of conversations I tell them about the vacation trip I am planning to Europe. I mention all the places I'll be going, and all the things I'm going to see and all the shopping I'll be doing. I tell them about sleeping in late and eating in restaurants for every meal. I tell them about all the personal pampering I'm going to do. Trust me, they shut up really fast, and then they turn green with envy. It doesn't matter if you are actually going to take that trip. It's the idea that you can and they can't that gets to them. I know it's a nasty thing to do but so is their waving their marriages at me like they did something no one else has ever done or will do again. And a friend and I are really planning that trip together. Why not, we are single and have the time. Sure won't be able to do it later.