The problem of living … begins in the relation to our own selves, in handling our physiological and emotional functions.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, in Man is Not Alone

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Rabbi Heschel makes a very important point: to live well – to live in a healthy and stable and contented manner – we must confront ourselves.  The task of living is personal.  Yes, even sacred – especially sacred.

Called into being, it is best to know why you are here and how you are called to be – not in a vocational sense, but rather in the fullest manner of human existence, which is in essence spiritual existence.

When you think about the absolute importance of this task of intimate knowing of self (and in the doing – knowing of God our Creator and Initiator) you might look around and ask: if we are to know our self, how is it that so many focus on knowing themselves by being part of a group?  A political group?  A herd of one sort or another?

Are we just feminists?  Homosexuals?  Democrats?  Socialists?

Are these identities not just superficial?  Are they not reductionist?

Do they not say so much less about us than what we might actually and accurately say about our self by simply saying: I am a human being, a spiritual being?

American author Midge Decter commenting on feminism offered that freedom created the contemporary “women’s movement” insofar as the broad range of freedom and opportunity in American society “frightens … [today’s woman] and disorients her and burdens her terribly … (and that) the movement offers her the … escape contained in the idea that she is not free at all.”  [Emphasis added.] (See: “You’re On Your Own, Baby,”  The Women’s Quarterly, Winter 1996, p. 4.)

If you think Ms. Decker is wrong, ask yourself this simple question: Is it not the case that the disordered people you know frequently have ignored knowing fully who they are in favor of some concocted notion of a life image that they alone design – a false and unexamined identity, frequently a “herd” identity?

Is not our age one in which people avoid the hard work of critical and honest self-examination in favor of group identity?  Do we not from this see the reduction and destruction in “identity politics” and all the idiotic and childish folly and division that such hollow, plastic, much-to-do-about nothing “identity” discourse brings us?

Neglecting the task of knowing self has its great costs – and they are personal, interpersonal, familial, and societal.  We seem to live in age of foolish and sick distraction.

Think about it.

Shalom.

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