Mourning with Purpose

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Tonight begins a major fast day on the Jewish calendar when we mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple. Part of our commemoration of this period is the act of feeling deep sadness that we, as a people, are so far from our essential selves and G-d.

While we read the horrific news in Israel of innocent people recently slain in their own home among other atrocities, some of us feel ironically further from the tragic pain we are supposed to embrace during this time. From a global perspective, it is clear that we are in a state of disconnection, loss, and mourning. But what about our own personal perspective? What ‘first world problem’ could we possibly face that would ever provoke such a dramatic reaction?

All sadness is rooted in an estrangement of some kind. In the words of Lamentations, the text read ritually tonight, it says poetically, ‘On these things, I cry. My eyes, my eyes pour down tears. Because You are far from me.’ Traditionally that “You” refers to our Higher Power, the Creator that put us into this world alone- just me- and will take us out alone- just me. We may think our family and friends can hold us up and support us, but in the end, it’s just us individually all by ourselves.

We know that every human being in this world has a soul and that soul is created in G-d’s image. So, the pain a person feels can also be an estrangement from his/her essential selves.

We live in an age that reflects a genuine obsession with the Self. We compare ourselves to the perfection we see online in social media. We see how ambitious, happy, rich, powerful, fulfilled, noticed, intelligent, beautiful, or athletic someone else is and feel bad about ourselves. Sometimes we turn on our partner or other people close to us who don’t measure up to Internet Perfection. We feel alone, distant from our true selves, distant from anyone around us or anyThing Higher.

Self-care is a term that is less a fad and more a descriptive reality. We live in a profitable time (200% more profitable in contrast to our Boomer parents according to a Pew 2015 study) for those who dedicate their lives to one-on-one coaching in fitness/nutrition, business, and general living. The Selfie is the photo of ourselves that requires a substantial number of ‘views’ and ‘likes’ to feel important. We drip with desperation to be loved, to be recognized, to feel special.

The faster we run toward self-obsession, the further we run away from our essential selves. Our fragility and low self-worth is not something we boast about on Facebook, but it is something we live with day to day. Our lives are filled with blessings and we sit, afraid and anxious, about our next move. What will people say? Will I be praised? How do I measure up to everyone else?

I speak from personal experience, one that is very much a present journey. But the Jewish way to mourn is my teacher. We mourn our deep disconnection from our Essential Selves and, consequently, a Higher Power. So, to a generation of self-centered beautiful people, with perfect lighting and all the right filters, embrace the lows, embrace the pain, embrace the sadness. We must fully commit to our mourning, so we can finally be attached to our True selves, and rejoice.

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