Needing, wanting, asking

One little three letter word in the Talmud that comes up frequently is ba’ei, which means to need, want or ask. One word follows the next. What you need you want and you consequently ask for.

These concepts are inseparable. As isolated ideas we can imagine wanting what we don’t need. The advertising business thrives on creating wants where there is no actual need. This is a complete deception. It dulls our sensitivity to knowing what our needs actually are.

In an ideal world there will be no more wants-needs. For now, we live in a world of growth. On one hand we are missing things. On the other hand we picture the ideal situation as it should be. Frankl refers to this dichotomy as the tension between what is and what ought to be.

This is what Frankl says:

Man does not need homeostasis at any cost, but rather a sound amount of tension such as that which is aroused by the demand quality inherent in the meaning to human existence. Like iron filings in a magnetic field, man’s life is put in order through his orientation toward meaning. Thereby a field of tension is established between what man is and what he ought to do. In this field existential dynamics is operating. By this dynamics man is pulled rather than pushed.

In other words tension creates the conditions for growth. Feeling this tension between the ideal and the real I will do what I ought to do in the situation in order to change what I’m capable of changing. When I am suffering but unable to change the situation I can still take a stand towards what is happening and change myself by the attitude I take towards the situation and say “This is not right. This should not be!”

We can hear this clearly echoed in the words of Rabbi Natan of Nemirov, student of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov:

We must know that all of life’s challenges stem from the coercive force which tries to distance us [further away from our goal]. Yet, when we overcome the force and pull ourselves back always to our soul root, which is our point of truth…then it becomes simple to overcome…The reason why this is so is because the gravitational force is much stronger than the coercive force. The gravitational force is always in an active state, as opposed to the coercive force which is present only momentarily for the duration of time that we are distanced. But as soon as the distancing force is removed, the gravitational force will bring us back…because the nature of the soul is to always be pulled towards its true source …We have come into the world only for this – to be engaged in this arena of conflict and exercising of skills whereby the gravitational force will triumph over the coercive force, and as a result we will gain incredible strengths and bring true healing…similar to the process of tension in a clock with springs that are held back and then released…(Likutei Halachot Orach Haim Vol III p. 177)

Rabbi Natan elucidates that this tension is a force in creation for the purpose of gaining strengths in the process of taking on life’s challenges and struggles. But this struggle does not have to be as fraught with difficulty as we sometimes think. The soul has a natural gravitational pull towards its source.

Thus Viktor Frankl and Rabbi Nachman (through Rabbi Natan) each in his way explain that tension is a positive force in life that stimulates and propels us towards growth.

The tension is what makes us ask.


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