Life is a tough journey to traverse, at times even scary. There are moments when life becomes too overwhelming and we create proxies to act in our place, to live out our lives for us. This form of surrogacy, of living through the actions and achievements of others, manifests itself in two ways.
Firstly it is common in areas where our goals go unfulfilled and our dreams unsuccessful. It may be due to a lack of opportunity or perhaps fear, but the result is that we aren’t the people we would like to be. Struggling with this disappointment can be, and often is, overcome by means of proxies. These proxies scale the heights we cannot and achieve the goals we weren’t able to, and by attaching ourselves to them, we, in turn, are somehow elevated alongside them. We share in their victories as if we were victorious and despair in their defeats, as if we were defeated.
These proxies are often sports teams, but more often than not they are our children. We try to live our unfulfilled dreams through our children, hoping that their success will bring us, by proxy, similar joy.
The second form of proxy is the outsourcing of actions and deeds that we, personally, are not prepared to practise, but also cannot live without. This form of outsourcing is different to the first because here we are attempting to live a life of morality and spirituality through proxy, rather than one of integrity and esteem.
For me, as a child this manifested itself by my tagging onto the coattails of the Rabbi. Although I did not keep Shabbat, somehow by affiliating myself with an Orthodox synagogue I felt it made me a better Jew than my reform counterparts − even if our day-to-day religious observance was identical.
In modern times it manifests in different ways; “Rabbi, can you pray for my…?” “Can you say a special blessing for my…?”
It is not that the individual thinks the Rabbi’s prayers are in some way more potent than their own. Rather, it’s that the effort to pray and go to synagogue is too cumbersome and difficult.
Why do yourself what others can do for you?
Perhaps the worst manifestation of this illness is the outsourcing of decisions. When people are scared to make hard choices, they outsource them. “What should I do?”
This can be asked of a parent, a friend or a spiritual guide. Any way we look at it, it is an attempt to excuse ourselves from living our own lives.
The greatest gift we have is the ability to create our own destiny. We should cherish the opportunity and cheerfully accept its responsibility. Unfortunately, we often view gifts in general, and this gift in particular, as an unwanted burden.