The selfish DoctrineMost of the Western world today is consumed with entitlements. The primary question is how many of my rights am I getting and to how many more am I entitled? When we see others enjoying prosperity, power, fame, happiness, family or good health, all we can think about is how much of it we’d like for ourselves.
Children today are consumed by the fairness doctrine. They can’t imagine the possibility of others earning more than them. The cardinal rule is that no one should have what I don’t have, and if they do, they must give it to me. Anything less is unfair and woe to the person that causes unfairness.
Is it a wonder that we are so unhappy? According to www.healthline.com one out of every ten Americans suffers from depression. And the number of people diagnosed with depression goes up by about ten percent each year. You can’t be happy if you are consumed with yourself. When you measure every one else’s bounty against your own, you leave no room for happiness.
In the MomentWe are happiest when we are fully and wholly in the moment. When we experience the moment utterly, freely and completely, when we are entirely unaware of ourselves and completely aware of the moment, we are happy. When we become aware of our own presence in the moment, when we begin to asses and measure how effective or successful we are in this moment, we lose what psychologists call, “the flow,” and our happiness evaporates.
It is counterintuitive, but true. The less we think of ourselves, the happier we are. The more concerned we are with ourselves, the less happy we are. When we surrender to the moment and enter the “state of flow,” we transcend ourselves and make space for happiness. When we reclaim our self awareness, we drive happiness away. We have only so much head space. We can use it for joy or for self absorption.
Adam and EveG-d’s first human creations lived entirely in the moment. They were unclothed and never noticed it. They never stopped to consider what pleasure they might derive from another’s nakedness or how it might affect them. They simply weren’t thinking about themselves. They were consumed with what was before them, not with the feelings inside them. And surprisingly, they were healthy and happy inside.
When Eve set out to eat from the forbidden fruit, she experienced self awareness for the first time. She became aware of the fruit’s allure and of her attraction to it. She began to assess how pleasurable the fruit would be considering it was pleasing to the eye, delicious and fragrant. She became aware of her longing, of her stirring desire, and of her general disposition and with that she developed an agenda.
It is not surprising then that when they ate of the fruit, Adam and Eve’s first reaction was to notice their respective state of undress. They suddenly became aware of impulse, they began to experience desire in a conscious manner rather than the holistic and wholesome sentiment that had pulsed through them before. With their own lust, came awareness of the other’s lust. When they realized that the other was thinking the same luscious thoughts that they were thinking, they learned to feel vulnerable.
Now they were saddled with a whole range of broken emotions that they never had to contend with before. They suddenly experienced self consciousness. Then came insecurity. Then came fear. Then came entitlement. Then came betrayal. Then came outrage. Then came regret. And the only way to deal with these concerns was to hide their vulnerability and get dressed.
The Modern DayWe have never since experienced the wholesome “flow” of living purely in the moment. We are plagued with self awareness issues, self esteem issues and insecurity issues. We are hyper aware of ourselves and self conscious of the way we interface with others. In this climate, public vulnerability, the naked exposure of self on any level, is unfair to ourselves and insensitive to others. We don’t expose ourselves in the physical or in the emotional sense. We hide behind physical veils and emotional shields to nurture our delicate sense of self and to protect against abuse.
But there must be a middle ground. Worrying constantly that others might take advantage or get the better of us, robs us of the ability to enjoy life. Not worrying about it at all, can lead to disappointment and even abuse. Where is the middle ground? Enter Chayei Sarah–Sarah’s incredible life.
EquilibriumUnlike Eve, Sarah was very modest. But unlike many in today’s generation, Sarah never lost her equilibrium. She experienced wonderful times and terrible times. She was taken prisoner by two different kings and threatened with rape. She was confronted by a co-wife with superior airs and her husband’s son threatened her own son physically and spiritually. On the other hand, she experienced marriage to Abraham and the miracle of childbirth at ninety. She couldn’t be happier.
the Torah testifies that at age twenty, Sarah was as innocent as she had been at age seven and at a hundred she was as beautiful as she had been at twenty. All her years were equally good. She had wonderful highs and terrible lows, yet in her experience they were all equally good. She didn’t live in denial. She was firmly rooted in her life’s experiences both the good and the bad. She responded to each challenge to the best of her ability, but she never let a hardship ruin a day or a challenge ruin her life
Our sages taught that Sarah experienced her highs and lows with the same equilibrium because she didn’t live inside her head. She lived fully and freely in the moment. Sarah was in “flow.” When you are in flow, you don’t get stuck on the hard parts, the difficult challenges of life. You take them on and move along. When you are in flow, you don’t get hung up on whether things are working out. You don’t overindulge in thoughts of self, you simply live. In the moment, not in yourself.
And if you live, you can laugh. You can be happy, genuinely happy, when things go well for others, even if they don’t work out as well for yourself.
Sarah did not need life to work out for her, to be happy. She knew the secret and introduced it to us. Stop worrying about your part in the experience and simply experience. Stop worrying about life and simply live. Stop worrying about happiness and simply be happy. The amazing thing is that when we try it, even for a minute, we experience a rush of freedom and an exhilaration that makes us want more.
And being free, free from self, enables us to serve G-d in the best way possible; with joy. That is the incredible secret of Sarah’s life.