At the threshold of a new world where matter and spirit converge, this book proposes spiritual principles that unite people as opposed to the materialism that divides them.
Toward a Meaningful Life offers every individual — regardless of background — fresh perspectives on every aspect of life; from birth to death, youth to old age; marriage, love, intimacy, and family; the persistent issues of career, health, pain, and suffering; and education, faith and science. These perspectives empower us to bridge the divisions between accelerated technology and decelerated morality, between unprecedented worldwide unity and unparalleled personal disunity.
If you are like most people, it is made up of countless bits and pieces of fragmented activity: exercise, work, eating, conversations, entertainment, sleep. Add up the pieces day after day, year after year, and you end up with an entire life split into millions of fragments, with no connecting thread. Fragmentation rattles our peace of mind, creating untold tension and anxiety. Over time, the fragments pile up and begin to suffocate your soul, the inner you that craves focus, purpose and direction. Is it any wonder that after forty or fifty years of slogging through such disjointed days we wake up and suddenly wonder, “Is this what life is about? Am I really happy?”
A happy life is synonymous with a meaningful life, and we all want to live meaningful lives. We constantly strive to make our mark on humanity, to contribute something worthwhile to our world.
By acknowledging that within your body is a G-dly soul, a soul that can give your life purpose and lift it above the mundane pursuits of everyday life, you begin to put the pieces of your fragmented life in order. You see your life from a larger perspective, sanctifying every moment of your life — not only while you are studying or praying or doing charitable deeds, but while you are eating and sleeping, at home or at work, while traveling or on vacation. Instead of carrying out your daily activities by rote, you discover the G-dliness within each of them.
To be a happy, wholesome and healthy person, your body and soul must work in perfect harmony. This means uniting the body and soul to fulfill the mission for which we were all put on earth: to lead a meaningful, productive, and virtuous life by making this physical world a home for G-d.
The body and soul, however, are in constant conflict: the body basically looking to satisfy its needs with the soul looking for transcendence and unity. The first step in dealing with this conflict is to acknowledge that the struggle exists, and be aware of the two distinct forces. Thinking that we are a single entity leads to confusion and despair: One day we are virtuous and the next we are selfish; one day we are motivated, the next we procrastinate.
The only way to unite body and soul is to accept that G-d is far higher than our limited selves. The soul, because of its transcendent nature, can rise above selfishness more easily than the body, and can discipline the body, through study and prayer, to recognize its true mission. Only then can the body rise to its true prominence — when it serves as a vehicle for the soul instead of acting under its own power, with its selfish wants and needs. Once the body recognizes the soul’s dominance and makes peace with its twin sister, the tension can be properly harnessed.
It is not enough to acknowledge your soul, you must actualize it by partnering it with the body to help a neighbor in need, to listen to a friend in distress, to help provide food or clothing to someone who cannot afford it. These become more than simple good deeds; they become vital nourishment for your soul and a means of putting your physical body to good spiritual use.
True happiness is the fusion of body and soul dedicated to a higher cause, a cause that benefits humankind and gives meaning and inner peace to the individual in the process.
When you awake in the morning, while you are still lying in bed, think for a moment: What does it mean to be awake and alive? Begin each day with a prayer; thank G-d for the new day. Acknowledge your soul. Think about what you would like to accomplish that would make today a meaningful day. If you train yourself to do this every morning, you will immediately begin to see your life in a new, sharper focus.
You should end your day just as you begin it. As you prepare for sleep, review the day and how you used it opportunities. Recognize that G-d has put you here for a purpose, and that all your activities should express that purpose. Go to sleep with the resolve that no matter how good — or bad — today was, tomorrow will be better. By doing so, your sleep will be more peaceful, and your waking more meaningful.
“Every person has both a body and a soul,” said the Rebbe. “It is like a bird and its wings. Imagine if a bird were unaware that its wings enabled it to fly, they would only add an extra burden of weight. But once it flaps its wings, it lifts itself skyward. We all have wings–our soul–that can lift us as high as we need go. All we have to do is learn to use them.”
THE WISDOM OF THE REBBE
Epilogue: The Rebbe as The Messiah?
References and Notes