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Isn't it pretty?

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Lines and Ladders

There is a person in my life right now, that every time I talk to him, he gives me something to think about. Sometimes it is about something I have read, sometimes it is about human nature, sometimes life in general, sometimes it is about my own life. The last category are the ones that keep me up at night.

Yesterday I was trying to give him an overview of how the Orthodox world exists. I was trying to illustrate the spectrum of Jews who consider themselves Orthodox, what binds them all, and what separates them. I tried to explain how so many people can consider themselves Orthodox, from the Modern Orthodox set to the yeshivish and Chasidish sets. From my explanation, he drew a line across the table and showed me where he saw me on the line. I didn't think he was terribly accurate, and I showed him where I would put myself.

He said something that was interesting, though. He pointed to where he saw me on the line, and told me that he sees me moving in one direction on that line every day. I told him that I agreed with him on that point.

It made me think about growth in life. I have always been fond of the idea that it doesn't necessarily matter where you currently are on the ladder of growth, what really matters is how far you have climbed up the ladder.

It made me wonder if the ladder has any real relation to that line that we drew on the table. If you go left or right, does that mean you are going up or down the ladder also? Does one necessarily correspond to the other?

I think a lot of people would say that the farther right you move on that line, that the higher on the ladder you are climbing. I don't agree.

I think that you can move left and right on the line, and if you are not integrating Torah into your life while you are doing it, if you are not treating others with respect, if you are not trying to grow as a person, to refine your character, then it doesn't matter how far right or left you are, you are not going to be going up the ladder at all.

Conversely, I think that if you are learning Torah, and finding how it fits into life, and incorporating it into everything you learn, whether it is something that is traditionally Jewish or not, as long as you are climbing the ladder and improving yourself, then where you are on the line is unimportant.

I guess I feel like a lot of people would think that the line is more important than the ladder, or maybe that position on one necessarily dictates position on the other. I don't think that is true, though I think that I sometimes find myself accepting it without digging deeper. I hope that, in the future, I can train myself to look at the ladder rather than the line.