We live in such a complicated world, and it seems to be pretty off-kilter these days. Things often seem so unfair, unjust, untrue, unforgiving, uncaring, selfish, incorrect and immoral. To quote Shakespeare’s Macbeth,“Fair is foul, and foul is fair.”
I just taught a class in Jewish Philosophy the other day where we studied a piece of Maimonides’ Shemoneh Perakim. He explains what happens when your soul gets sick: you cannot distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil, much the same as a person who is physically ill cannot distinguish between bitter and sweet. There, as you can see from the quote above, he discusses the remedy for such a spiritual illness – the need to find a moderate, balanced, middle road in our lives. Although he wrote those words more than 800 years ago, I think he’s onto something for our global society.
We need to take a step back, take a good look in the mirror and ask ourselves: What are we doing, on an individual, national and global level, to help find that balance between:
Being a citizen of the world, and yet retaining one’s identity and heritage.
Being generous and humanitarian, but looking out for one’s own self interests.
Being honest and truthful, but tactful and empathetic at the same time.
Telling too much vs. saying too little (especially the media!).
Being critical and giving rebuke, while being loving and encouraging.
Restraining from violence and having respect and sympathy for all living things, but being able to defend oneself by using force and waging war when necessary.
Indulging in all of the physical pleasures in this world while remaining a moderate, upstanding, upright, spiritually uplifted human being.
Being careful to live by proper principles and values without being too stringent or too lenient.
Giving the benefit of the doubt and assuming another’s innocence, while punishing those who need to be brought to justice.
Being open minded without losing your own values and beliefs.
Being strong and standing firm, while being kind and gentle.
Being modest and humble, and at the same time putting one’s self forward and asserting one’s own needs and abilities.
Being a loyal team player and a devoted part of an organization, group, religion, or nation, and yet remaining distinct and able to retain one’s own individualism, opinions and self-worth.
Compromising without being stepped on or stepping on others.
Diplomacy vs. dishonesty.
And finally, seeking to understand and be understood.