Someone recently told me about a seminar she went to where the group leader told the participants to go up to ten different people on the street and say something outlandish to them, so that they will knowingly and willingly get a response of “Are you out of your mind??!” and not care. This is classic Novardok musar, – something the group leader didn’t divulge to them, but it is. The approach to ethical refinement as it was practiced a generation ago in Novardok was to go into a store that sells groceries and ask for nails or go into a store that sells nails and ask for groceries, and the like.
Clearly the purpose of this instruction was meant to train them to be rid of their people-pleasing tendencies. In and of itself, that’s not a bad thing. I would only question the method. Doesn’t God send us enough signs and opportunities without needing to make up our own?
Anyway, my point in relating this is that the upshot of this seminar was that when these women did the exercise they didn’t get ‘no’ for an answer, and that defeated the whole point of the exercise! One seminar participant had asked a truck driver if she could drive his truck and the answer she got was ‘yes!’ So she got in and drove the truck a bit. Another person asked a shopkeeper if she could sweep his stall at the market, and he gave her the broom!
I thought this was hilarious. Why? The seminar leader’s response to what transpired was, “You see, people don’t know how to say ‘no.'” In contrast, my automatic response upon hearing the story was “You see, people are so kind, so very kind. They want to help you no matter how crazy it sounds.
As synchronicity would have it, the section of Alei Shur I had just been studying was discussing the question of how we see things. (I had clearly seen the results of the exercise differently from the way the seminar leader saw it.) The author explained that what makes the difference in how you see the world is your closeness to or distance from God. If you are close to God you will simply see the world differently!
I’m not interested right now in exploring the meaning of closeness to God. The author discusses elsewhere that closeness to God is defined as being a person who reflects God’s qualities of compassion, patience and so forth.
What stuck me is that having God-like qualities effects how you see reality, meaning to say there is something very deep about how we see things. Seeing from close-up spiritually-speaking looks different from seeing from a distance. It’s not simply a decision to be “positive” or “negative.” We don’t need to wear rose-colored glasses. We need to be rose-colored people. It’s not a function of the “color glasses” you wear, but of the you that’s seeing through your eyes. You see what you are.