In a previous post I stated that my first love was not for a person, but in fact, for dear old Herzl Camp. I was a camper there for 5 years and a staff member for 3 more. This past weekend, I returned to camp to visit and spend Shabbat in Webster, Wisconsin.
Nothing has changed. The events and spirit that had inspired me years ago still remain, just that the roles now have different faces. My campers of yesteryear are now staff members creating memories for the campers of today. I did a good amount of thinking during the weekend, and one thought that kept pervading all others was how fast time has gone by.
One of the greatest fears I have is not being remembered. For years, my motivation to be great was to be better than others in order to "establish"(and I do use this word lightly) myself in the hierarchy of life. Camp used to serve as a vehicle for me to leave my footprints in. The idea of being a Herzl Legend was always something of great meaning and worth to me, and was constantly something that I was striving for during my younger years. Rather than focusing on strengthening the bonds of friendship I had formed during my camper years, my attention shifted to being the legend that everyone would remember, thus solidifying my experience, and adding to the meaning of my life...or so I thought...
During my visit this weekend, I was reminded of how quickly all things fade. On my ride home, I was with a friend, and we spoke about this. I couldn't help but think further once I got home. How do we find meaning in our lives? Is being remembered by others fulfilling? Well, it can be, but I must add that it is an extremely dangerous way of living as well. Once we become dependent on others for our sense of meaning in life, we lose all meaning.
It reminds me of when I played for the Gophers. When I wasn't playing, no one cared. I was a nobody, and it didn't matter that I was working my ass off so that I could eventually play. Suddenly, once I was starting, I became an "inspiration" and a person to look up to, yet I hadn't changed at all. People only acknowledged me once I had attained something, but never praised what was truly worth praising, that being the sweat and tears that I put in in order to achieve that goal. I made a pact then that I would no longer listen to critics or fans, because they both come and go as swiftly as the wind flows, and thus neither can be relied upon. Ask any professional athlete, and they'll tell you the same thing. People never see what goes into athletics, only the performance, hence, when people praise athletes for their great accomplishments, there is never truly a feeling of satisfaction, because the wrong element is being looked up to.
So, why was being a camp legend never satisfying? For the same reason that athletes never feel satisfied by praise. Where does all this praise go to? The EGO, which happens to be the most destructive thing in our minds-the need to be better than others, the competitive drive that says, "If I out do him, then I will be a better person"-The truth could not be further from this primitive outlook. Rather than trying to beat people down, why don't we attempt to pick people up? I would guess it is because we are scared that people will become better than us, thus taking away from our personal legend, and leaving us with a feeling of uselessness, which once again is false. If you help someone, and they become better at whatever skill you are practicing, then you have taken your proper place in the universe by helping that person to reach their potential. That person may go on to be known for centuries, and you may not, or it may be the other way around, who knows? Does it matter who is known for longer? In 200,000 years, will people know who Jesus Christ was?
We all fade eventually. So how does one find meaning in our futile yet beautiful lives? I think we all have to add what we can every day. Help someone through a situation that you have already been through, provide someone the mental freedom by reminding them that they have a choice in all situations, and allow human evolution to occur as it will inevitably do, with or without you.
I do not fear being remembered any longer. Whether or not others view my life as a success is no longer important. If in my life work ONE PERSON is inspired to think, feel, or live more freely, then that is where I will find my meaning, and I can live with that. Given, I aim for more, yet this simple truth has saved me many a night, and I can only hope it will help some of you.
5 years ago