Monday, November 19, 2007

Eyes wide open


Every so often it suddenly occurs to me how amazingly awesome this world is.

I remember sitting in a high school classe hearing, "Girls, this world is a microcosm of the olam ha'elyon..." and although I understood the meaning of each individual word of the lesson then, I simply could not comprehend what exactly a microcosm was, let alone understanding it in relation to the Upper Worlds...

I still don't. Of course I understand what it means literally...but what does it mean that we live in a world that's a mini representation of another, higher world? Maybe it's not for us to understand--at least not in the way I'd like to understand it--but G-d has presented us with this concept here in our world so that we can learn something from it.

So what can we learn from it?



Here's one thing I was thinking of...

Just as the world we live in is a miniscule representation of the lofty one up there, our world contains within it smaller "worlds" through which we can better understand it; microcosms to better understand our own microcosm...

Everything in our world is designed with the capacity to assist us in our quest to become better avdei Hashem. There is something we can learn from every creature, every creation, every invention, every person, every situation. Fortunate are those who live life with their eyes wide open, drinking in every detail of the world around them, trying to glean lessons from every person, thing, and situation they encounter.

When I was about 15 years old in camp one summer, our shiur division head posed a challenge to us; she asked that we come in to shiur the next day with as many lessons we can learn from the mundane things around us. The next day we spent the entire hour describing what we had learned from CD players, mosquitoes, too-tight shoes, wet towels, pillowcases, shower stall doors, and hundreds of other seemingly insignificant aspects of our world. After the lesson, (which to our chagrin was not enough time for each of us to give over all of our examples), we each walked out with real food for thought. I remember thinking, "Oh my gosh...it's such a huge world...and everything in it really means something..."

It's a daunting task--to see every individual thing in this world as an opportunity for learning--but one that is so rewarding and meaningful...

I once ate a meal by my seminary madricha's house, and a ba'al teshuva who was eating there as well made a comment at the meal that I don't think I'll ever froget. Referring to a bit of an awkward situation that had just occurred, he happily exclaimed, "Good! I love MDOs!" We looked at him, waiting curiously for an explanation, to which he replied, casually spearing some string beans on his fork, "Middos Development Opportunities. They're all around us. Everywhere. The question is, will you know one when you see it?"

A thrill ran down my back...oh, my...he's right......but will I...?

How many MDOs do we pass up every single day because we forgot to look for them...?
They're everywhere...in the long line at the bakery, the perfectly round, ripe, glossy apple, the malfunctioning computer, the casual game of chess, the ripped page of notes, the window overlooking the park...everywhere. Knowing that everything we see was purposely put there so that we could see it makes every blink meaningful...

I always thought I lived with my eyes open. But I never realized just how open they could--and should--be.

And how breathtaking the world is once I really learned how to see...

20 comments:

Ezzie said...

Amen... it's also good to remember that not everything need be scrutinized; and that even the times which are bad are simply another lesson to learn. Beautiful post, Corner.

Scraps said...

I try to do this, though I certainly don't always succeed. Sometimes it's the little things you learn from the most...

bad4shidduchim said...

love the picture.

REminds me of something we had to do in high school: take an ordinary experience, turn it into a mashal, and learn something from it. You look at things entirely differently after that.

halfshared said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
halfshared said...

There are extra-ordinary lessons to be learned from perfectly ordinary happenings.

G said...

Maybe it's because I'm a guy or because I spent a number of years listening to yeshiva speeches (what is the plural of a shmuus written in English anyway, I couldn't come up with how to spell it?) or perhaps it is because I'm just not wired this way.

Whatever the reason, this type of outlook always seemed almost counter productive to me. To be sure there are lessons to be learned in life and they are not always tied to obviously meaningful events. However, to me, the track that tries to learn something from everything no matter how insignificant always makes me roll my eyes. In a way it almost diminishes the idea being taken away. It may be because at times the idea seems a bit of a reach, or that it is not "real"; c'mon I'm supposed to learn from a CD player or a pair of shoes? (I'll give you the pillow case as anything associated with the venerable Pillow, the only thing in life that will never let you down, certainly has what to offer). As your teacher proved, one can learn almost anything they want from anyplace they want if they try hard enough...to me that takes away from the legitimacy of the message.

--Again, this could all just be me. Wouldn't be the first time.

~ Sarah ~ said...

nice post, something to remember :)

corner point said...

Ezzie--
True to the first point; we have to be attuned, but not supersensitive to the point of overkill. (Hmmm...rings a bell :P)

And true as well to the second.
Thanks :)

Scraps--
Sometimes...

B4S--
Google image at its finest :P

Half--
Exactly.

G--
First of all, it's shmuezen :-)

Okay.
to me that takes away from the legitimacy of the message.
If you're not looking into the sitch or thing to take a message from it, then what legitimacy of what message are you talking about?

In a way it almost diminishes the idea being taken away.
How does finding a message in something take away from that message?

Okay, I agree with you that something should not be overanalyzed ad nauseum, but if you agree that there are meanings inherent in life situations and items, then you gotta be willing to find them. Unless you hold that they'll find you...

the track that tries to learn something from everything no matter how insignificant always makes me roll my eyes
I totally see how you'd roll your eyes, I do too sometimes when people get overtly passionate about things that seem so insignificant to me. I was referring more to things that one should note to onesself while observing the world.

Could be you, too. :P But I do see your point. Maybe my post wasn't clear enough...

David_on_the_Lake said...

Great post...
I love observing the world...
today no one has time to stop and look and wonder..
tis sad

G said...

"if you agree that there are meanings inherent in life situations and items"

Agreed. I was more dealing with the idea of...
--microcosms to better understand our own microcosm
--There is something we can learn from every creature, every creation, every invention, every person, every situation
--many lessons we can learn from the mundane things around us
--it's such a huge world...and everything in it really means something..."
--They're everywhere...in the long line at the bakery, the perfectly round, ripe, glossy apple, the malfunctioning computer, the casual game of chess, the ripped page of notes, the window overlooking the park...everywhere.

Again, this is me. That all seems a bit much, seeing something that you want to be there rather than what really is there. I do realize that the whole thing is highly subjective. It just rings false on some level, as if we are making stuff up just to give it or find in it meaning.

-In a way it almost diminishes the idea being taken away.
--How does finding a message in something take away from that message?

Well if the route to the message seems a bit contrived...

the apple said...

I think there is a difference between a "middos development opportunity" and seeing a lesson from an electronic device, for example. The former to me is when you are presented with a situation or person who tests your patience, self-control, etc and you try to overcome the initial negative reaction and to react in a positive way. This requires you to actually work and to struggle. The latter is more passive, something that you can observe or acknowledge, but that doesn't necessarily change your essential character. And I would agree with G that sometimes straining to see meaning in everything can cheapen seeing real meaning in events/things that are more significant. Not that you shouldn't learn from things around you - but keep things in perspective.

G said...

In short, just not a big fan of tearning everything into SOMETHING! just for the sake of doing so or because everything must(!) have a deep meaningful message for us.
I think it takes away from the impact that meaning/message/idea could have when it is truly deserving of being recognized.

G said...

That's right "tearning", for those of you not aware this is a combination of "learning" and "turning".
Poetic license...deal w/ it.

Lvnsm27 said...

G, tearning, that's cute :)

CP, interesting food for thought

Erachet said...

That's right "tearning", for those of you not aware this is a combination of "learning" and "turning".
Poetic license...deal w/ it.


IT'S A PORTMANEAU! :D

Oh how I love Lewis Carroll and his influence on the world.

corner point said...

Sarah--
Thankee :)

David--
Yeah. They may look, but they don't stop, and barely ever wonder... For me the wonderment is the most important part

G--
I hear ya. I agree with you somewhat, because it is a bit pointless (and annoying) to become all mushy and passionate about things which don't deserve reactions like that. But there really are things to learn from most of what we have in our lives. We don't have to proclaim everything out for the whole world to hear, but I think it's appropriate, wise, and sometimes important, to be conscious of all this from time to time.
And you're right, not everything has to be deepified. That's overkill. But there's a lot to learn for those who wish to.

I think it takes away from the impact that meaning/message/idea could have when it is truly deserving of being recognized.
Agreed.
So I guess the bottom line is everything in healthy moderation :-)

Apple--
Funny you should mention it. I was debating that right before I posted, but in the end decided just to lump them together because the topics were so similar. Good spotting :-)

Lvnsm27--
Make sure to chew carefully :P

Erachet said...

I think it's hard to find meaning in everything because that might be too intense for every day living. But, at the same time, this post reminds me of the book The Phantom Tollbooth. Have you ever read it?

corner point said...

Interesting. Blue cover, clock on the side of the dog? :)
Never read it, always wanted to. What's it about?

Erachet said...

It's about a boy named Milo who is utterly bored with everything. He rushes to school and then wishes he could go home. At the end of the day, he rushes home and then sits around doing nothing, bored of all his toys. One day, he gets a mysterious gift: a toy tollbooth and car. He gets in the car, drives past the tollbooth, and ends up in an entirely different world which teaches him to actually appreciated the real world he lives in.

In a nutshell. :P

corner point said...

Sounds good...
It's on my to-do list

Maybe when I'm retired...like in my eighties...
:-)