Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Guest Posting By Yitz - Nine Years Ago

(Picture by R. Hamid)

In the months before I left university and made aliyah, I realized that I was having the same conversation with so many different people. Every time I got to talking, it revolved around the world and God's place within it. Every discussion would wander from one novel point to another without any apparent order. It often got dizzying. So, for my own benefit and the benefit of those with whom I was conversing, I decided to put my thoughts in order.

The result was an intense collection of short ideas, the longer ones a few thousand words. There are always a number of projects that I'm in the middle of starting -- only a precious few ever reach completion. In my attempt to at least garnish some college credit out of all my extra-curricular pursuits I combined these ideas into a somewhat cohesive whole which I published on the web titled "Words: Initial attempts at expression."

Just so you understand, I spent many many months falling in and out of the depths of what might have technically been described as depression. For me it wasn't depressing at all, it was an intense obsessive struggle to understand and grasp the smallest part of the depths of creation.

Along the way I was honing a skill which would take further years to master, but something I believe is ultimately accessible to everyone. The ability to focus your sub-conscious thought on an idea or a problem and examine it thoroughly without conscious awareness of the act. It took a long time before I even recognized what it was I was doing. From the symptoms it seemed as if, for long stretches of time, sometimes months, I couldn't focus or think in a coherent way, or with any depth, about anything at all. When this period of deep processing came to an end, my train of thought would wander to a particular topic and suddenly I would have a profound insight into the matter, something which I could never have grasped before. Without any effort a new found well of ideas and understandings would pour fourth.

In this way, over a number of years heavily steeped in depression, without even really knowing what I was doing, I worked through a number of different questions I had about the world. The end result was the beginning of a framework from which I could discuss Hashem in a meaningful context. At that point, age 22, I realized that I had completed a mission I had set for myself one summer in Israel when I was about eight years old. [Apparently there are a number of levels of sub-conscious processing upon which we operate.] When I was a child I was told that the Avraham Avinu saw Godliness in the world, and was able to learn the entire Torah from his observations, even before it had been given. Once I was told that, what need did I have for books? I too would look out upon the world and see Torah. That was the plan, and at age 22, I acknowledged, if not defeat, then the acceptance that it was time to hit the books, I'd learned all I could from the world. So I set out on my next mission, to be a talmid of Chazal, to negate my view, my understanding in order to obtain theirs.

That was then. This is now. I'm still working, I pray diligently, to obtain Chazal's view of the world. In the interest of holding on to that initial attempt at understanding I recently re-published those ideas in their original form (mostly untouched and still in need of adaptation) as a blog. The blog gave me the opportunity to revisit the ideas and assess where I am and where I've been.

In part, I envy the raw hunger and brilliance of the youthful me. I say that without any ego, and partially tongue in cheek. I wish I could lose myself in those ideas and fill notebooks and websites with them. It's tempting and tantalizing, the world of pure thought. Still, there's a deeper and purer world out there. One that takes so much more commitment and bravery, perseverance and a willingness to give up everything to attain. A world of sweetness that I don't think most people even know is possible, except maybe grandparents watching their grandchildren.

It's a world of closeness to Hashem, closeness by constant association, and the only map to get there of which I'm aware is the derech of Hassidut. I'm sure there are others, each Neshamah needs its own way; but I know Hassidut goes there, straight there.

It's not the culture of Hassidut, or the Torah of Hassidut, but the derech, the Torah she'b'al peh of the combination of the culture and the Torah of Hassidut, that's it. That's what life is about for me. I've come full circle. Now, I know that experiencing the world just as it is is a wonderful way to discover God. All of His deepest secrets He hides in the open, in the most obvious parts of life which we are all glossing over while we rush to find the hidden things. I don't claim or pretend to hold any of the secrets, but I do, finally, have a clue.


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