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Depression Can’t Hit A Moving Target

I hope you remember the Yiddish saying we discussed last week. In case you don’t I will remind you…

About 20 years ago, my wife’s grandfather told me the following old Yiddish saying. “There are three things that we must learn from a baby: a baby laughs when he is happy, cries when he is sad, and never stops moving.” He would go on to explain that we need to learn how to be in the moment enough to smile and laugh when things are good, and we also need to allow ourselves to cry when they are not. Additionally, we need to stay productive and “never stop moving.” Last week we discussed the lessons of laughing and crying, and this week I would like to focus on the third: “never stop moving.” What is the lesson and why is it true?

A dear friend of mine is a recovering alcoholic and is sober for 16 years. He taught me many of the lessons he learned through the 12-step program. One idea he shared is that depression can’t hit a moving target. When we are unproductive we tend to lose emotional energy. That deflating feeling can, in turn, trigger a dangerous downward spiral. Inaction leads to inaction. However, when we keep moving and stay busy and productive, our mood and feelings stay positive as our momentum breeds more momentum. But why does that happen? While I am fairly certain that modern psychology has an answer for this, I would like to look at it from a Torah perspective: why did God create us with this psychology?

Engineered For Toil

In the Book of Job (5:7), we are taught, “mankind was created to toil.” Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato writes in the first chapter of The Path Of The Just: “mankind's primary existence in this world is to work, toil, and to withstand tests.” The Torah teaches us that we live in a world of spiritual productivity and work; there is an afterlife— The World To Come—where we rest and reap the benefits of that work. If we are not always moving, our spiritual side knows that something is off. In order to be at peace with ourselves we need to be doing what we have been programmed and engineered to do. As an illustration, imagine driving a Ferrari at 55 MPH in the right lane on the highway. In a sense, that Ferrari is not at peace and is not experiencing equilibrium. Leisurely highway speeds are not what a Ferrari is engineered for. Similarly, leisure is not what human beings are engineered for. We feel the best and perform the best when we feel that we are moving and being productive. We are driven to excel. Each of us is driven to excel in different areas and in different ways, and we all have an appreciation for excellence. When we never stop moving we are in harmony with our inner self and our soul.

Busy Doing What?

About 14 years ago, I was studying Torah with a successful businessman. One day we were scheduled to study at 11:00, but he kept me waiting in the office lobby until about 11:20. When he invited me into his office he was extremely apologetic about the wait and explained that he had an unusually busy morning. Armed with the above Yiddish saying I told him, “thank God you are busy, busy is good.” He looked at me, smiled, and said, “No. Busy is good when you are making money. I am busy losing money!” This is a great analogy to spiritual success as well. Sometimes we are busy, yet happiness and fulfillment still elude us and depression reaches us. We need to be busy doing the right things. If the spiritual effect of being busy is that it fulfills the part of us that knows we must be accomplishing, then that effect will only be fully realized when we are busy doing the correct things.

When we learn to keep moving and never sit still we become in sync with our spiritual inner selves. When we take that momentum and focus it on things that we know are in line with our spiritual mission, we begin to truly soar.

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