Friday, February 10, 2012

Choice vs. Journey


Parshat Yitro
17 Shvat, 5772
February 10th, 2012

I suppose I do not have the bona fides to the critique the plethora of choice in our world, as I am certainly a child of choice. I live a half-extremely religious, half-secularly engaged lifestyle unthinkable in centuries previous. I am defined by the ability to choose, minutely and freely, the exact kind of life I want to live. So who am I to talk?

But at the same time, I am sad that we are so glutted with choice. The amount of it is overwhelming. There’s so much of it that our brains have dropped other faculties (memorization, calculation) and function as eternal selectors:  not just private or public, but which private? And should we go charter? Not just Apple or PC, but which of these 13 billion little apps do I need to download to my i-pad to make sure I survive the weekend?

What makes me sad is that I believe our ease of selection preempts the possibility of real internal search. It’s as if all of us are art critics, none of us artists. We choose constantly, but do we have the chance to journey towards meaningful choice? Are we allowed to reap the rewards that come from internal struggle and the necessary rigors of finding our place within systems that seem foreign to us?

The Talmud in Ta’anit has a piece of advice for teachers: “if a student is ready, ‘bring water to the thirsty;’ if a student is not ready ‘let the thirsty come get water.’” This means that there is a journey each student must take before s/he is ready for Torah. But our world treats us as if we are eternally ready, dropping all the knowledge and wisdom and opportunity that can be found in a heap at our feet, whether we are prepared for such or not.

So I say: make space for yourself not to be ready; make space not to know or understand; make space for everything not to be revealed right now. Give yourself the chance to journey.

1 comment:

  1. Rabbi Perlo,

    I"ve been thinking about this quote from the Talmud and your mahshavot for the past couple of weeks. With so many choices in the secular world, we need to learn to make good choices. This is where the journey comes in if I understand what you are saying. What about people that live in places where there is a drought?