The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

The necessary tension

The idea of a “necessary tension” was once described by a Polish rabbi in the 19th century. Rabbi Simcha Bunim invited his followers to step into the tension of opposites humans inhabit. To do so he asked people to write “The world was created for me” on a piece of paper and put it into their pocket. On the second piece of paper, they were supposed to write “I am but dust and ashes” and place it into the opposite pocket.

Both papers together are there to remind people of their place on earth. A place that requires as much of a sense of self-worth as of humbleness. A sense of self that reminds of the good as well of the harm humans can generate. And an ability to doubt as well as trust oneself.

What dominates depends on the context as well as on the people receiving one’s presence.

Tension is a necessary condition of life. Life depends on it.

Life thus isn’t a question of which side of the tension dominates. It is a question of how we use the tension, that is how we put it to contribution.

Resistance to change comes from the focus on either side of the tension.

Change, on the other hand, is either forced upon us or chosen by us by leaning into the tension.


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