As a child growing up in Belarus, I was alone much of the time. It was not that I did not have friends. On the contrary, I had many. But I would often leave them playing ping-pong in the backyard of my house while I went off to swim in the lake. I liked my childhood friends, but since I had questions I could not resolve with them, I would often take off on swims that sometimes lasted over two hours nonstop, from shore to shore and back.
The questions that troubled me the most, even at age ten or eleven, were about life. I had everything, but I was unhappy. As I was growing up, I kept searching. I looked in science, in religion, and in philosophy. But nothing; the answer was not there.
Even my immigration to Israel was part of my search for meaning.
Eventually, I found the answer. And like all true answers, it was simple, accessible, and hidden from the eye until I was ready to discover it.
Now it is my life’s mission to teach it to anyone who wants to listen.
In a word, the answer is “Giving!”
If you want to be happy, give.
But when I looked inside myself I saw no giving. To become a giver, so I learned, I had to actually practice it. And the funny thing is that the more you practice it, the more you realize the nature of your true self. But in the end, the reward is always there.
When I first came across this key to happiness, I thought, “Who wants to be a giver?” But gradually, I learned what Arianna Huffington wrote in a recent post, “Become a Gift”: “when we are engaged in service and volunteering,” we are “widening the boundaries of our being.”
Now it all made sense. Giving is great: it makes you feel good about yourself, and it makes the beneficiaries of your giving feel much better, and especially, feel loved! But what if you were so inherently self-absorbed that you could not possibly view giving as desirable? Would you then be destined to a life of confinement within your ego?
And how are we to mend society and heal the crises befalling the world at an inconceivable rate, if some of us are incorrigible and will never be able to change? Then are we doomed?
Not at all. For such people, the message of widening the boundaries is the key.
It is a very simple concept: We are all connected on every level of our being—physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. Science has proven this numerous times. Just look at Christakis’ and Fowler’s ground breaking book, Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives—How Your Friends’ Friends’ Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think, and Do, and you will see that we cannot avoid the shared responsibility for humanity’s fate.
But what is even more interesting is that when we give, we reverse the direction of our connections with each other, so that instead of constantly searching where we can benefit, we start searching where we can benefit others! Gradually, we become more aware, more in tune with others’ needs and even thoughts. In short, we widen our being.
To understand what a valuable asset this widening is, think of your own body. In your body, some ten trillion cells work in perfect harmony to allow you to read this post. Had they not, you would not be reading it. In fact, you would not be; period. The cells would disintegrate from a single organism into a pile of struggling cells, much like today’s humanity.
Now think of a cancerous tumor. The cells of the tumor grow unchecked, “snatch” blood vessels from nearby organs, disrupt the functionality of the affected organs, and eventually inflict death on the person whom they exploited, leading to the eventual death of the tumor, too. And yet, cancerous cells are so self-centered that they cannot “understand” that by killing their host, they are killing themselves. If this sounds unpleasantly similar to our own society, it is no coincidence.
In a healthy body, it is just the opposite: the cells all work in harmony, the body provides each of them with abundant oxygen and nutrients, and removes the waste products of CO2 and other chemicals swiftly and easily. When the brain gives a task to the body, such as to study, exercise, or speak with friends, the cells in the body work to support the execution of the task so that the person will enjoy it as much as possible.
The reason why we can do all this is that the cells do not focus on themselves, but on the body they inhabit, that colony of cells known as Mr. or Ms. X. The cells, it seems, have a wider perception than their own existence. Yet this is only possible because they concentrate on giving, rather than receiving.
There is a maxim that love is like an apple: pick it when it’s ripe, or it will soon rot and fall off. We, the human race, have been blessed with the ability to make such choices consciously, thus becoming aware of the profound process of growth we undergo. But we must work to take advantage of this blessing or it will turn into a curse just like that too-ripe apple.
Quite so, we have no time to waste. We need to pick the fruit of giving while we still can, because our world is desperately in need of it.
But most importantly, if we give not only for the sake of giving, but for the sake of connecting to our wider whole, to all of humanity, everyone will get on board, and human society will forever change for the better.
Michael Laitman is a Professor of Ontology, a PhD in Philosophy and Kabbalah, and an MSc in Medical Bio-Cybernetics. He was the prime disciple of Kabbalist, Rav Baruch Ashlag (the RABASH). Prof. Laitman has written over 40 books, translated into dozens of languages; he is the founder and president of the ARI Institute, and a sought after speaker. His latest book, Like A Bundle of Reeds: why unity and mutual guarantee are today’s call of the hour, explains the root, cause and solution to anti-Semitism. He can be reached through: www.michaellaitman.com.
Facebook: Michael Laitman