“Do you love your creator? Love your fellow-beings first”—Muhammed
“A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.”—Buddha
“Love thy neighbor as thyself.”—Jesus
Spiritual leaders for centuries have taught the idea of putting someone else’s needs before one’s own. What is it about this common thread—the act of giving of one’s self—that is so valuable?
Giving Rather Than Getting
The real purpose for which we have each come to this life is to live in complete joy and fulfillment. How do we achieve this destiny? By transforming the foundation of our being from getting to giving.
Kabbalah explains that every instance of happiness, whether the small satisfaction of a task well done at work or the great joy that accompanies the birth of a child, has its source in a universal energy, what the Kabbalists call the “Light of the Creator” and what most call “God.”
Therefore, the answer to the ultimate question—“How do I achieve fulfillment?”— is simple: Connect to the Light of the Creator. We can accomplish this through what the kabba lists call, “similarity of form.”
Similarity of form with the Creator depends not on how well you know the Bible, where you worship, how much you suffer, how often you pray, what you eat, or how much of your income you give away. It depends on what’s in your soul, and how your soul expresses itself in the world.
Consider, for example, two people who hate one another. We say that they are “far apart.” And if they love one another, we say they are “of one flesh.” Here we are not speaking of spatial proximity or distance. Instead, we refer to an inner similarity of form.
It is the same with spirituality. The one thing we know of the Creator is that all of its actions are geared towards imparting and helping. In the same way, when all our actions are focused on imparting and helping others, we achieve similarity of form with the Creator.
Closeness to the Creator offers us something exponentially greater than closeness in human relationships. It offers oneness with the source of all goodness, abundance, protection, and unconditional love. Therefore, when true spiritual leaders advocate the path of giving, sharing, and loving thy neighbor, they are leading people towards forming an affinity with the Light of the Creator that will allow them to draw and receive lasting fulfillment in their lives.
This is the only purpose for spiritual work: To go through a process of transformation from our natural born self to a higher self. Giving becomes easier when we are always aware of the real goal toward which all positive change is directed—the expansion of our own joy and fulfillment when this transformation takes place. In this way, it’s self-interest in the highest sense.
Our root is the Creator, whose essence is sharing—but our daily lives can distance us from our own true nature. Getting instead of giving can become an ingrained reflex. We are thus born to challenge and question that reflex. We need to move in a counterintuitive way from what we’ve been taught by the material world to what we know in the foundation of our souls. We need to reeducate ourselves from the idea that joy comes from receiving to the understanding that real joy comes from giving, which is the essence of our very souls. This is the key to making lasting fulfillment the foundation of our lives.
Keeping up with the contemporary art scene can be both intimidating and overwhelming—plus, it moves fast. To that end we asked some friends in the know to walk us through this summer’s MFA Thesis exhibitions.