Our society has a mixed attitude towards individualism. On the one hand we are all in favour of self-expression with multiple ways to share our personal aspirations whether it is through arts, music, business or other means. At the same time we live in a culture of fear and self-judgement, with the majority of people continually trying to fit into other people’s expectations, trying to give the image of looking as good as possible and portray the image of perfection for their latest social media update.
There is a balance between being an individual and playing our part in the collective community, but frequently we can crush ourselves and our own aspirations to fit in with societal expectations. Over the years I have seen friends who began with big dreams, artistic or otherwise, slowly contract themselves so that they fit in with conventional norms. Worst of all, I occasionally look in the mirror and find myself doing it. The cost can be great when we restrict ourselves – disappointment, frustration and even accelerating the ageing process.
There is a Biblical counting process that numbers the working sons of Levite families and then categorises their work. A certain poetry occurs in the process of taking stock where the families are counted and their official role is then listed (Numbers 4:21), as if to say “know who
you are, and know why you are here”. What interests me is the two passages that they follow: the command for people to leave the camp if they have become impure through sexual misconduct or coming into contact with a corpse (Numbers 5:1), and the seemingly juxtaposed command; “This is the law of jealousies, when a woman shall go astray with someone other than her husband and become defiled” (Numbers 5:29).
We sang along to this in the 80’s but didn’t realise the play on words until a good few years later (Hi-Fidelity = HiFi stereo & staying committed in relationships. Oh! The hidden profundity of 1980’s pop…).
To summarise – 1) know your role 2) leave town if you have become impure and 3) here’s what happens if you suspect adultery. But what has this got to do with knowing our purpose?
From an energetic and Kabbalistic perspective, the ‘doing’ part of ourselves is traditionally seen as the masculine or right-side of our body, and the ‘feeling’, emotive or intuitive part of ourselves is the left-side or female part of ourselves (this is masculine and feminine in an energetic sense. To clarify, we are not talking about boys wearing dresses)(1). In this light we can read the whole sequence in a very different way;
‘Take stock of who you are. Know why you are here. Do not defile your goals by coming into contact with a ‘dead’ energy or you will have to leave the arena of achievement. Most importantly, do not commit ‘adultery’ – that is, allowing your intuitive, passionate (think: feminine) side to serve somebody else’s big goals (think: masculine side).
For purposes of clarity, I shall boil this down into one sentence: If you ignore yourself, if you ignore your inner talents and unnecessarily squash yourself to fit society’s needs, like forcing a square peg into a round hole, you will pay the price! This is like committing a form of adultery against yourself (that was two sentences, but you get the idea).
Still with me? Let’s take the thesis a bit further as the cost gets worse the longer you do this. If you continue to ignore your G-d-given talents then you will pay a greater price – you will lose vitality, joy, and you will age more quickly. The Kabbalists teach that there are two ways of living – one is out of fear, the other out of love(2).
One problem with our schooling system is that for the most part it perpetuates fear and limitation. Last week I saw a fabulous Billy Joel concertat the Hollywood Bowl, and was struck by the profundity of a couple of his lyrics for ‘Allentown’ that I had been singing along with for years:
_“For the promises our teachers gave_
_If we worked hard_
_If we behaved_
_So the graduations hang on the wall_
_But they never really helped us at all_
_No they never taught us what was real”_
The words chilled me. In an earlier article I shared the idea of having an [Achievement Wall](http://marcusjfreed.com/get-lost/), and the more I look at the creative projects I used to pursue with a reckless love-of-life, the more I am aware how I have taught myself to hold back out of fear and the desire for fitting in, just like some of my teachers taught. When I list the amount of projects that I have not brought into the world – books, plays, films, teaching courses – it is a painful to look at. Why? Because the only person I have to blame for not doing these things is myself.
I will leave you with one question today. You can apply it to a meditation, to a physical practice, to your working week – this is a question to sit with and allow the answers to unfold:
**Where have you allowed somebody else to dictate your dreams?**
Today, count your gifts, do not defile them, stop being unfaithful to your passions, and bring your unique light into the world.
1) According to the Tree of Life/Sefirot in Lurianic Kabbalah, the masculine sefirot are grouped on the right side (Hesed, Netzach, Yesod) and the feminine one the left (Gevurah, Hod, Malchut).
2) This is discussed at length in Sefer Tanya, explaining the Zohar.
– Based on Parsha Nasso, and exhilarating (and sometimes painful) personal experience. Enjoy!