“For those who like that sort of thing, I should think it just the sort of thing they would like (Abe Lincoln)”
Archetypical Uncle Abe, witty and sarcastic in a subtle (or not so subtle) way, and downright on the ball. But what was he talking about? He was responding to the solutions Americans found at the beginning of the 19th century for the exact same feeling you are probably experiencing during these long winter nights.
Do any of these thoughts seem familiar to you?
“What happened to all that inspiration from the holidays?”
“I will make sure to give more charity, spend some time with Bubby, I will attend shul more, I will take better care of myself”
What happened? The winter is moving along and I have the same “blah feeling,” or lack of pleasure and satisfaction in my identity as a proud member of the Jewish people. I experienced it a few short months ago before the chagim, and now that the excitement of Tishrei has worn off, I feel it’s just another part of that dreary cycle.
“Has anything changed? No! I am right where I was last year!”
How can we dispel our feelings of loss post-chagim? How can we maintain a sense of mission through the ups and downs of the year?
First off, I am not here to make you feel good. I am here to give you solutions to these issues.
Yes, a historically proven, creative solution. Here is what worked during what is known as “The Second Great Awakening,” which was a loosely defined period of deeper spiritual awareness in the USA (primarily, but not solely spread by Protestants). This was a time when the awareness of their perceived role of establishing God’s kingdom on earth through the spreading of a virtuous and just society grew. It became a driving force on a communal and individual level (Paul Johnson, A History of the American People. 1997)
Right here in Kentucky, many people were feeling discontent with the way the newly formed states were developing. They were losing their sense of mission and purpose due to the spread of the frontier and everyone’s concern with materialistic opportunities (Urban religion and the Second Great Awakening : church and society in early national Baltimore / Terry D. Bilhartz.).
Here is what they did to fight negativity and cause their communities to thrive!
First, revivalists all got together and they created inspiration! Inspiration is defined by the Cambridge dictionary as “someone or something that gives you ideas for doing something (dictionary.cambridge.org/).” Notice how the “someone” comes before the “something.” To create inspiration in your community, get out there, find others who feel the same way, form a growth group (I have one myself), share the idea with others, and make it grow with a group of like-minded folks. I know, it’s work, but hard work will pay off.
Know and share your emotions
Second, revivalists used their emotion. They were passionate about their mission, their role, their ability to join together and be part of a bigger picture. What are you emotional about? What NEGATIVELY affects your energy levels? Is the “blah” feeling you have right now an emotional downer? “In most cases, the episodes (of seasonal affective depression and Bipolar) begin in fall and winter and remit in spring (DSM IV-TR, 2000). Do you believe others share it as well? In my private practice, I have found that people with a passion or greater purpose are more able to overcome obstacles and achieve a happy and fulfilling life.
Third, revivalists were passionate about stuff! Do you feel that you spend to much time on social media? Do you feel that this year is slipping by like all the others? Are your years ticking by too quickly? Do you believe others share these feelings as well? Bring that up and bring that passion out to others as well. Emotions are spread without even saying anything (Proverbs). Why be shy? If you want to grow this year, resigning yourself to shyness may stand in the way (Ethics of the Fathers)
Share your emotions and passions and bring them to the table. Emotionally expressing shared feelings together is what propelled these groups to do great things and it will help you too!
Practices which accentuate the use of shared emotion and passion as well as the use of inspiring and heartfelt sermons are currently held in what are called “Mussar Chaburas” or “group ethical training sessions,” which are still held in some traditional Yeshivot.
The most important one by far! The “revivalists” loved community gatherings and made them fun. Their time together created an incredibly healthy outlet. In the past, places of worship and communal gatherings were the primary sources of socialization and the spreading of news and ideas. Now, we stare at social media, we might post a comment, we experience no inspiration … we feel no real connection with others.
How could you make it fun for yourself to meet your Bubby? What charity or community assistance program would involve your personal passion, emotion or skills? How would you accentuate the FUN in FUNDAMENTALS? Fun and pleasure are two different things. Have both in your personal and spiritual quest.
Instead of giving in to the winter doldrums, gather a few friends and bring light to your community, and your life. What are you doing to brighten up your winter this year?
As Abe Lincoln would have said, “In order for you to do the sort of thing you want to do, you must do the sort of thing you want to do.”