Monday, March 5, 2012

Jekyll and Ride

Recently, I had a few ugly experiences at skate parks.

On one occasion, a young child was riding his scooter on an obstacle that an adult skater wanted to use. Instead of being patient or polite, the skater verbally abused the child.

In another incident a rollerblader fell over and injured himself. An onlooking skater laughed and sarcastically said, 'Oh, a blader fell down, what a pity!'

Interestingly, in both instances, the skaters involved are usually nice people. So what caused them to temporarily degrade into monsters?

The two cases are both the same and yet, different.

Let's begin by discerning the differences between them:

The first case is like road rage, where hurrying to be somewhere, people become hostile towards obstacles in their path, including other drivers. Similarly, the skater mentioned above was keen on landing a particular trick and thus saw the child as a frustrating hindrance.                       

The second case relates to appraisal. When we make judgements we draw on internal rules and criteria and try to determine where a subject lies in relation to them. Sometimes they receive many ticks and are deemed worthy of our praise, and sometimes they fail our test and are criticised. Clearly, the above mentioned skater who was sitting and observing others, applauding skaters at times, fits into this category (as do I right now). According to his criteria, bladers clearly have little virtue and hence he was harsh toward them.

In the language of Kabbalah, the former skater was in a state of Netzach - pursuit of victory/success - while the latter was in a state of Hod - praise/ adoration.

Now let's bring the similarities into focus:

In both cases the skaters lost spiritual balance by fixating on peripheral psychological qualities. In contrast, when centred, one feels herself - and thus others - to be primarily living, conscious, and spiritual beings. She thus treats all people with respect, dignity, and compassion. All other perspectives remain subordinate to this central one. Hence, the pursuit of success or one's appraisal of others would never lead to the mistreatment of a fellow human, created in the Divine image.

In Kabbalah terms, one's spiritual centre is Tiferet - beauty/compassion/balance. As long as Netzach and Hod (which, in essence, extend from Tiferet; see diagram above) remain subordinate to Tiferet, they express themselves constructively, humanely and profoundly. Upon detaching from Tiferet, however, they degenerate into destructive, inhumane, and ugly shadows of what they're meant to be.                 


  1. I really like this and the clear and straightforward way it was explained. Thanks, Dovid

  2. You become like the people you associate with. Better be careful, Dovid...