Saturday, July 9, 2011

Growth, Joy, and the Star of David I

Hebrew for 'joyful' is Sameach, and 'growing' is Tzameach. These two words are near identical except that one begins with the letter Samech and the other, a Tzaddik. However, Kabbalah divides the Hebrew letters into five categories based on the part of the mouth used to articulate them. Here is a list of these 'five faculties of articulation', their technical names in contemporary speech therapy, and examples of letters produced by each of them:

1. Lips [Labial]: B,M
2. Teeth [Dental]: Tz,S
3. Soft Palate [Palatal]: G,K
4. Throat [Pharyngeal]: A,H
5. Tongue [Alveolar]: D,T

Letters pronounced with the same faculty of articulation are considered interchangeable. And since the 'Tz' and the 'S' [the letters that differ in the two words mentioned above] are both Dental letters, they are thus interchangeable. Based on this, the Hebrew words for 'joyful' and 'growing' are veritably the same. This indicates a very strong connection between the two. 

The link between joy and growth is straightforward: when a person grows - progresses - he swells with joy. And there are few greater triggers of joy than the success that follows an effort filled struggle to progress. However, the relationship is actually double sided; joy also effects growth. When one feels dejected or even  unenthusiastic, his ability to advance and grow is diminished. After all, one lacking energy isn't going to put himself fully into the task and is also prone to being defeated by obstacles in his path. He'll sigh and exclaim, "Ich hob nisht ken koyach!" [Yiddish: I don't have the energy!] On the other hand, one who sets out with optimism and joy is significantly more likely to effectively tackle any difficulties that arise and to meet with success.        

In summary: growth fosters joy and joy fosters growth.

But what can be done for a person who has repeatedly failed in many areas of his life, lacks joy, and feels incapable of growing? It's wise for such a person to find an activity in which progress is easily measured, is frequently experienced, and, of course, is readily attainable. This way he'll have regular experiences of growth and the joy that accompanies it. And hopefully this will transfer to other areas of his life, injecting a sense of self efficacy, and the elation that both accompanies it and follows its fruition.   

Skateboarding is an excellent example of such an activity for several reasons:
- the progress experienced is tangible and openly visible;
- there are so many tricks to master of varying levels of difficulty, and one feels growth upon mastering each individual trick;
- it keeps one physically fit and healthy alongside the psychological benefits that it offers;
- it can be practiced at any time of day and almost anywhere;
- one can skate on one's own and is thus not dependent on others to engage in the activity.

In this context, I view my skateboard as a shield that helps me deflect feelings of stagnation and despondency...     



  1. The assertion that one who has failed to grow in one area of life should try to find another field in which he can grow to boost his spirits is true only when the success in the latter pursuit does not actually detract from the former.

    However, say one is trying to diet and not succeeding. Would, then, trying to become a sumo wrestler — where gaining a lot of weight is a must — help him achieve his former goal?

    Imagine someone is failing to succeed in ballet dancing, where a lithe, agile figure is of necessity. Should that person now try to become a body-builder on the side, which would only make all his movements heavy and clumsy?

    If a person is not succeeding in glass-blowing — making delicate figures out of glass — which requires fine, dextrous hand-movements. Would it be helpful for him to take up wood-chopping, which would train his hands to make gross, powerful maneouvres?

  2. In response to Black Holes:

    What I've discussed is a rule, what you're presenting is one exclusion to the rule.