Understanding the Time in Which We Live
Chapter 1 How Can We Make Sense Of This Difficult Time?
To understand ourselves and find meaning in our lives, we must first understand the unique times in which we live.
This can be more difficult than it sounds.
Because we are so immersed in our everyday lives, we find it hard to step back and cast a clear eye on our chaotic surroundings.
On one hand, we are experiencing breathtaking technological advances.
Hardly a day goes by when we don’t hear about a new development in medicine or communications or industry.
Global affairs are fast changing, too – consider the bloodless fall of communism, which until just a few years ago was considered a great threat to mankind’s well being.
Because of these breakthroughs, the world is ever more united.
But on the personal level, there is unprecedented disunity.
Our value system lies shattered; each day another taboo is broken.
We are in the midst of a crises, desperately seeking happiness and fulfillment.
It is a sad paradox: The more technological wizardry and material comforts we pile up, the more steeply our values seem to decline.
Our spiritual standard of living is being sacrificed in favor of our material standard of living.
The breakdown of the nuclear healthy family structure is no longer a new problem – it has extended into a second and third generation – but we are just now feeling its full, brutal force.
Unfortunately evidence is all around us: physical, psychological, and emotional abuse of every sort.
There is a psychological crises at hand – a spiritual crises.
Many are so resigned to this fact that they don’t dare hope that things can get better.
How can we possibly make sense of this strange difficult time?
By understanding the spiritual forces behind human progress.
Chapter 2 Why Is This Generation Different From All Others?
Practice and Theory
Why This Generation is Unique
History is a process, with each generation growing out of the ones that preceded it.
Hundreds of years ago, before mass communication and world travel, people were hardly aware of anyone outside their own village.
Monarchs ruled with an absolute authority.
In the Middle / Dark Ages, people’s lives were controlled by institutionalized religions and an inflexible society that imposed a profound values system, though often at the expense of individual freedoms.
During the so called Enlightenment of the early eighteenth century, a new breed of free thinking began to flourish, and democratic ideas began to sweep Europe.
Napoleon, following the French Revolution of 1789, espoused the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity, promising emancipation to the oppressed.
But this newfound freedom exacted a severe spiritual toll, leading to a state of permissiveness, moral anarchy, and G-dlesness.
All too often, freedom translated into lack of boundaries; set free from the bonds of authority, man often gravitated to his most base desires, abandoning many of the healthy traditions of a G-d fearing society.
The Enlightenment, coupled with scientific revolutions, and a new liberalism, divided people into two groups: those who embraced science so absolutely that they rejected G-d in favor of atheistic dogma leading to a wholly materialistic lifestyle and those who rejected science and reason in favor of religious dogma leading to a wholly religious lifestyle.
Both groups essentially sought to answer the same question: What is the meaning of our existence and of truth?
This conflict would rage until science – and technology its afterbirth – would render established religion practically irrelevant for many people.
In the mid twentieth century this tide began to turn.
People began to realize that the technological, political and cultural advancements of the previous two centuries were hardly a solution to the human condition and search for truth and meaning of life.
The upheaval in the wake of two world wars led many to query whether the path that mankind had chosen would lead to happiness.
Materialism, which had seemed to be the means to a fulfilling existence, suddenly began to look very very empty.
As the century wore on, our soundings began to look less and less familiar.
Whereas in previous generations people’s lives followed clearly mapped out patterns, nothing seemed certain anymore.
Every area of modern life – economics, politics, science, medicine, – seemed to be in a state of flux.
Since the information explosion, there has been even more change, resulting in a constant revision of past attitudes.
The only thing that hasn’t changed throughout these centuries is mankind itself and our search for meaning, purpose and truth.
But as the twentieth century draws to a close, we have learned (this was written a few years ago) that we can no longer look for solutions from without – that we must begin to look within ourselves.
Even though we have never been so materially prosperous, we feel a deep unease.
Where are we headed?
What are we to teach our children?
What has become of the world we thought we knew?
Do not feel alone if you ponder such questions, for tens of millions of people are feeling the same way!
Why do we feel so restless???
Because it has become more and more apparent that no amount of materiel comfort can truly satisfy us, that no amount of reason can truly answer our questions about the meaning of life, that the greatest technological wizardry cannot comfort our souls.
This realization has created an intense void in men and women around the world.
Whenever there is an imbalance between conflicting forces in our lives, a deep inner tension emerges.
After experiencing major changes in our external world and being faced with the challenges and catastrophes of our century, a new demand for balance beckons.
The shifting reality in which we are living, upsets our existing frame of reference, creating unease and restlessness.
We now live in a place that is split between materialism and spirituality.
Most of us live in one world or the other, and are unable, or afraid, to straddle the chasm that divides them.
If you live primarily in the material world, you might consider the spiritual world too demanding or rigid.
If you live primarily in the spiritual world, you might consider the material world too self-serving or rootless.
Both attitudes are the result of the same philosophical flaw: that G-d and the universe cannot coexist.
This flaw was the undoing of the two extremes of belief in previous centuries – atheistic materialism and dogmatic religion.
We now have the luxury of hindsight to appreciate the shortcoming of such a compartmentalization.
The challenge we face today is to truly unite the forces of matter and spirit.
This means acknowledging the dichotomy between body and soul within ourselves; and creating a harmony between our materiel and spiritual drives.
Our unique generation offers a unique challenge: to find a language that can reach deeper into the soul, an unconventional language to deal with an unconventional problem, to apply eternal spiritual truths to contemporary life.
Chapter 3 Where is our generation headed?
Where our Generation is Heading
As we approach the end of this millennium, we are all well aware of the sweeping changes that have taken place in the world during the last several generations.
The very landscape of our world has been radically altered, and we can anticipate even more revolutionary changes in the coming years.
After mankind’s long search for unity and meaning, the world is ready for deep and meaningful change.
Clearly, a revolt is under way. Never before has there been such public discussion of unhappiness, such an obsession with therapy and self-help, such a deep hunger for anything or anyone who can sooth our weary souls.
Throughout America and the world, people are genuinely searching for spiritual meaning.
When we don’t find relevance in what we are being taught, we look elsewhere.
The rebellions and transitions of the last decades testify to the disillusionment in old value systems.
There is no doubt that much of what we learn today is spiritually irrelevant.
We have been trained for materiel success – by our schools, by television and by our peers.
It is only natural that materialism has become the magnetic north of our moral compass.
But this is not the workings of some evil demonic force; it is simply a state of default.
Darkness is often not an enemy, but simply the absence of light.
So the solution to today’s spiritual crises lies not in slaying some dragon on the outside, but in battling the personal conflict within.
This requires a grassroots awakening. We each need to make a new commitment to kindness.
To spread a massage of love and cooperation, of moral and spiritual values.
A message that this world is changing and we are poised at departing the age of materialism and entering the state of unlimited wisdom coming from G-d Himself in the messianic soon-to-be era.
This wisdom will unite mankind rather than materialism which divides it.
And with today’s technology we can reach and unite with people everywhere.
Imagine if all seven billion people on this planet chose to be unselfish for one given moment, everyone united in the pursuit of true and meaningful knowledge.
Just think what we could accomplish!
This then is the current challenge; Though it may seem insurmountable, but remember this process began long ago and its energy accumulates from generation to generation!
History is one generation standing on the shoulders of the previous one, like single bricks that together form a might fortress.
We may think of ourselves as a meager generation, but when we stand on the shoulders of our predecessors, we have the potential to become the mightiest of structures.
The birth of the modern era has brought about a triumph of freedom over authoritativeness.
We have learned that freedom presents various challenges, but we have also been taught that G-d would not place an obstacle in our path unless he provided us with the abilities to overcome the obstacle.
Past generations have abused their freedom. Taking advantage of it mainly for personal and selfish gain.
It is the challenge of this generation to redefine the meaning of freedom, to bring about a liberation of the soul, to embrace a life that answers the soul’s deepest yearnings and realizes its Divine purpose, of dedicating our lives selflessly toward charitable, familial and societal needs.
We have been challenged to introduce to the world a freedom that does not challenge the sovereignty of G-d’s authority, but which is its ultimate compliment.
Our sages tell us that there will come a day when our earthly reality will be a flawless mirror of its Divine source, G-d’s architectural blueprint namely the Biblical and Jewish Mystical wisdom.
We are now on the threshold of that day.
There has never been a better time to reach people, for their hearts and souls are thirsting for nourishment, understanding, love and guidance.
Instead of using modern technology simply for personal and business means, we must learn to use it to spread inspiration and goodness.
None of us are excluded from the monumental responsibility of learning and teaching what G-d wants of us, and our generation.
It is up to each of us to open our eyes, our minds, and hearts to this new awareness.
Every era has its calling.
Every generation has its mission.
We must recognize that we live in a special time and that we have been groomed for this moment; You must ask yourself “Am I fulfilling my calling.”