Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Should I Be Revered - Worshipping The Ego

The problem of our youth is not youth. The problem is the spirit of our age: denial of transcendence, the vapidity of values, emptiness in the heart, the decreased sensitivity to the imponderable quality of the spirit, the collapse of communication between the realm of tradition and the inner world of the individual. The central problem is that we do not know how to think, how to pray, how to cry, how to resist the deceptions of too many persuaders.

The problem will not be solved by implanting in the youth a sense of belonging. Belonging to a society that fails in offering opportunities to satisfy authentic human needs will not soothe the sense of frustration and rebellion. What youth needs is a sense of significant being, a sense of reverence for the society to which we all belong. The mainspring of tenderness and compassion lies in reverence. It is our supreme educational duty to enable the child to revere. The heart of the Ten Commandments is to be found in the words: Revere your father and your mother. Without profound reverence for father and mother, our ability to observe the other commandments is dangerously impaired.

The problem we face, the problem I as a father face, is why my child should revere me. Unless my child will sense in my personal existence acts and attitudes that evoke reverence—the ability to delay satisfactions, to overcome prejudices, to sense the holy, to strive for the noble— why should she revere me? Reverence for parents is the fundamental form of reverence, for in the parent is incarnated the mystery of man’s coming into being. Rejection of the parent is a repudiation of the mystery. Only a person who lives in a way which is compatible with the mystery of human existence is capable of evoking reverence in the child. The basic problem is the parent, not the child. We are all conscious of a supreme crisis in history. We are all exposed to a progressive corrosion of our moral and spiritual sensibilities, in the process of which we may lose our freedom, and even our lives.

Hard-won insights of the Western tradition are falling into oblivion. Timeless values are going out of fashion. The joys of inner living are denied to most of us. Sensitivity is a luxury, but entertainment is becoming a compulsion. Home, inwardness, friendship, conversation are becoming obsolete.

The Greeks learned in order to comprehend. The Jews learned in order to revere. The modern man learns in order to use, accepting the maxim which declares: “Knowledge is power.” This is how people are urged to study: knowledge means success. We no longer know how to justify any value except in terms of expediency. Man is willing to define himself as “a seeker after the maximum degree of comfort for the minimum expenditure of energy.” He equates value with that which avails. He feels, acts, and thinks as if the sole purpose of the universe were to satisfy his needs.

According to an ancient Jewish teaching, the world rests upon three pillars: upon learning, upon worship, and upon charity. Learning meant having a share in divine wisdom; the object of worship was the Creator; charity meant both openness to and active sympathy with our fellowman’s suffering.

In our civilization these pillars become instruments. Learning is pursued in order to attain power; charity is done not because it is holy, but because it is useful for public relations. And the supreme object of our worship and adoration is our own ego.

An extreme crisis calls for radical efforts, for a radical reorientation. Power is an instrument, not the end of living. Learning, worship, charity are ends, not means. It is wrong to define education as preparation for life. Learning is life, a supreme experience of living, a climax of existence.

The teacher is more than a technician. He is the representative as well as the interpreter of mankind’s most sacred possessions. Learning is holy, an indispensable form of purification as well as ennoblement. By learning I do not mean memorization, erudition; I mean the very act of study, of being involved in wisdom. Genuine reverence for the sanctity of study is bound to invoke in the pupils the awareness that study is not an ordeal but an act of edification; that the school is a sanctuary, not a factory; that study is a form of worship. True learning is a way of relating oneself to something which is both eternal and universal. The experience of learning counteracts tribalism and self-centeredness. The work of our hands is private property; the fruits of the intellect belong to all men. The ultimate meaning of knowledge is not power, but the realization of a unity that surpasses all interests and all ages. Wisdom is like the sky, belonging to no man, and true learning is the astronomy of the spirit. Learning, education, must not be equated with a curriculum we complete upon graduation. No one ever thinks that entertainment is a stage in one’s life which is completed once a person has passed the test of being entertained. The meaning of existence is found in the experience of education. Termination of education is the beginning of despair. Every person bears the responsibility of the legacy of the past as well as the burden of the future.

[Insecurity of Freedom]