The Two Sides of a Single Interaction
How One World Can Be Created for Many People
We’ve been exploring the foundational outlook in Jewish consciousness of every person seeing the world as created for them personally. We also spent time thinking about how we are meant to treat others as if the world depended on them alone.
We saw how this way of looking at ourselves is ironically humbling if we take it seriously, and how a world in which people see themselves as negligible is doomed to fall apart.
There’s one last step into this topic that I wanted to explore with you:
What do the mundane events of day-to-day life look like through these lenses?
Do a quick scan of the past couple of days. Did you bump into someone? Did someone unexpected enter your life? Or reenter your life? Did you have a phone call or text-exchange with someone that was a bit out of the ordinary? Maybe challenging on some level?
Have you identified an interaction?
What did it do for you? Did it make you think anything that perhaps you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise? Did it push your buttons in ways other interactions that day didn’t “succeed” in doing?
The doctrine of “the world was created for me” trains us to think about how every single thing that happens to us was custom-designed for us to grow. After all, we’ve been instructed to look at the entire world as if it has all been orchestrated entirely with our best interest in mind, and we’re meant to train ourselves to strive to not miss all the opportunities for growth that come our way.
At the same time, the doctrine would hold to be equally true for the other person on the other side of this interaction as well. Their run-in with you was exactly what they needed in their lives to grow.
How is this possible? Who could coordinate such high-level coincidences?
Imagine two characters in a role-playing video game, where the algorithms that orchestrate the events in the game are constantly recalculating so as to provide both characters the optimal experience. Complex? Yes. Impossible? No.
Of course, as one ponders this and expands its scope to include all interactions of all characters, it becomes mind-bogglingly complicated, but it certainly remains within the realm of the possible, and definitely not beyond the Infinite.
Aside from being an insanely cool thought, this way of seeing the world can change our lives. It can open up our minds, hearts and senses to experience more fully every moment of life.
What are we meant to see here? Hear here? Learn here? Taste, smell, and feel here?
If we encounter a difficult person or just have a challenging experience, we can reframe it as a “growth opportunity.” This itself becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy since the growth mindset is the one which best primes one to grow.
At the same time, we can learn to appreciate that every interaction has two sides to it. When we take care of others, we’re meant to grow from that interaction as well. The Sages teach that “more than the rich do for the poor, the poor do for the rich.”Similarly, when we inevitably hit our limits in our ability to give, either because we physically or emotionally can’t anymore, or because we can’t compromise a moral standard, we can take strength in knowing that the world was created for the other person, and although they are meant to not receive from you in that interaction, they will get what they need from another interaction.
There is no Greater Good than the good of a single person who uses the gift of any given moment to connect and grow, but the Greatest Good is that everyone in the world can merit to live this way.
May we merit to work towards this true Greatest Good together.