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Take Root & Keep Growing
Knowing Yourself Nourishes & Fortifies You For a Lifetime
During our last regularly scheduled edition of XL, we introduced the idea that knowing ourselves and our unique mission in our corner of the world is literally the foundation of all major decisions over the course of our lives. These decisions are only as sturdy as they are based on this knowledge.
Today, we will introduce the complementary sister-idea of Rabbi Moshe Chayim Luzzatto (Ramchal):
Knowing and emotionally internalizing who we are (and who we’re not), fortifies us to stand up to the winds of life, and nourishes us with motivation and perspective — exactly like the roots of a tree.
I was journalling in a hammock in the Costa Rican forest at the age of 20 when I first articulated to myself that I wanted to be a rabbi. I “came out of the rabbinic closet” to my dad about this aspiration a few months later, while riding shotgun on the way to synagogue on Shabbat. My father kindly pointed out that we were violating Shabbat as we spoke and that I may have to think about these dreams a bit more. I would estimate that some 10 major times, and countless more minor times, I’ve had to return to my roots and reaffirm that this is who I was and this is what I wanted to do with my life. As the “sages” say, “you only live once” (YOLO). Each time, my roots grew deeper, my resolve stronger, and my motivation more mature and more lucid.
Whereas knowing oneself intellectually is foundational for thinking through the decisions of life, having a more internal, emotionally-rooted knowledge of oneself is increasingly essential as life gets more complicated and external pressures ramp up.
On the other hand, like any organic growth, there’s only so much one can speed up the process. Internal growth takes time, patience, love and dedication. This said, as long as we ensure that we are planted in good soil around us, access to the waters of spiritual wisdom, and have unobstructed access to the clarity of the Light that fills the universe, we can be confident that we will grow into better and better versions of ourselves.
Next time you walk by a tree, use the opportunity to contemplate your roots. Are you giving expression to your deepest aspirations?