Do not change. Change, change.
Twitter, one of the most popular modes of self-expression on the Internet, offers the user two forms of communication. Every twitter account has a “bio” – a personal statement – and “tweets” – the stream of comments the user makes throughout the day. They serve fundamentally different purposes.
The bio is a statement which usually stays the same for a sizeable period of time, if not forever. Tweets, on the other hand, are a constant flow of thoughts, remarks, insights and jokes. People tweet numerous times a day (some even every hour – I do not follow those tweeters).
In the short story, Bni Mitgayes, My Son is Enlisting, the famous Israeli poet, Yehuda Amichai, tells of a father imparting sage advice to his son upon his entry to the army. He tells him,
Al tishtaneh. Do not change
…Tishtaneh, tishtaneh. Change, change.
Contradiction? I think not. Twitter thinks not.
Actualizing your potential to your fullest requires you to be grounded and consistent. Jumping constantly from one community to another, one profession to the next, or one religious orientation to a different one results in a patchwork of randomly assorted starting points with no journey ever completed. No book would ever be published, no business deal ever signed, and no medicine ever successfully developed.
We each have our own unique style of looking at the world. Some people are more critical and analytical while some are more accepting and easy going. Some people are motivated by constructive criticism and some by praise. Some people are lifted up from an inspiring lecture and others by a philosophical discussion.
Some people thrive off highs and lows while others produce with the consistency of equanimity. Some people enjoy the spotlight and others find their comfort on the periphery. Some people think big and conceptual while others pay more attention to the details and the nitty-gritty.
There is an endless list of different personality traits and preferences. The unique form that they take in each of us is what defines us as individuals. And while those traits can often use some tweaking and improvement, their basic form makes up the very essence of our being. To deviate from those traits too much is inauthentic, unstable and prone to breakage.
Ingredient number one: A personal bio. Consistency to your true self.
While consistency is imperative, too much consistency can be detrimental. To live all your life on one exact path is limiting to any sort of development. How many times have you resisted trying a new experience because, as you reasoned, “that’s just not my style”?
But what if everybody always thought like that – where would the world be? If people were never willing to step out of their comfort zone, their status quo, no change would ever be effected. Would we have social justice and equality? Would we have medicine for those in need? Would we have the IPhone 4S? Any advancement in the history of the world was generated only by the courage to step out of the previously accepted understanding – personal, cultural or global – and look at things in a whole new light.
Ingredient number two: Tweet. Openness and eagerness to learn.
We are advocating for the ability to change and open up to new ideas and experiences without sacrificing loyalty to your essential self. But really, what does this mean?
You’re a cerebral person who generally avoids emotional experiences. So you stay true to your strengths – you read, write, discuss and generally make the most of your talents. But the next time you hear about a Carlebach minyan or a book on spirituality, pause. Don’t just dismiss it as “not your style.” Perhaps it will give new design to one dimension of your personality. The invigorating and transformative power of music can become a new mode of comfort and relief in the middle of a long stressful day. Or the inspiring and soul capturing ideas of Chassidus may be an added source of joy and enthusiasm in your life during monotonous or difficult times.
If you’re a person who usually takes pleasure in being a follower, continue in your path – give strength to the group by actively following through on the initiative set by others. But the next opportunity you have to step up and take on a leadership role, give it a shot. It doesn’t mean you always need to lead. It means you may find the strength to speak your mind more often. Say “no” when necessary. Make personal decisions with confidence.
See what other aspects of yourself are brought to light with your new experiences.
“Do not change” – do not change your structure. Do not change who you are, the very core characteristics that define you are yours to keep and develop. “Change, change” – change their expression. Channel them. Be eager to improve the usage and the beauty of that structure. Always be open to new experiences and new growth.
The golden path is the path of balance. The golden life is the life of heralding the good aspects of both extremes and settling in on the happy and productive medium. To be overly spontaneous is to forfeit your life to a tale of beginnings without ever creating the body of the story. To be overly steeped in one route is to leave yourself – and the world – stuck right where it started.
Your life is automatically writing a story. What it says is up to you. Make it a bestseller.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.