Directing everything we do to a higher ideal is one of the top qualities encouraged by Swami A. Parthasarathy in his book, Governing Business and Relationships. I teach it in my classes and I strive to approximate it in my own work. Some days, I simply focus on helping others, period. General, broad sweep help.
Other days, I focus my efforts on helping people find their voice and use it. That’s what communication is all about. Using one’s own voice and using it for the greater good. My late grandmother used to say, “Out of your mouth, printed.” Meaning that once you say something, you can never take it back.
She was a feisty lady, Grandma Sarah. Short, squat, voluminous fine white hair and a pursed smile most of the time, as if to say she couldn’t waste her moments with most people. I remember her plastic-covered living room couch, the salted peanuts in a china candy dish on the coffee table, her tuna on toasted bread for Sunday lunch and the Keebler cookies she kept in the top kitchen cupboard.
Her entire life’s purpose was to support others. But that was the role of women a century ago.
The other day, I had lunch with an old friend and we chatted about the various roles of women in Judaism. I recalled how, when I was orthodox, it was the twentysomethings who balked at mention of a religious feminist, a dirty word they wanted no association with.
It was incredible to me, that young dynamic women with strong voices would shy away from exerting them. But then we choose our roles based on our goals – and for some, melting into the background and having someone else direct their lives is comfortable. It sure is easy.
If any of you know me even a bit, you’ll know that I fly close to the surface of the water, never ducking beneath but not quite cresting the clouds. I go at my own speed, travel and velocity, hitting bumps and righting myself in the wind. Deferring to others? I end up feeling lost.
Why is it that society wants to put women in a hole, in a defined role? I am writing an article about silly girls, asking the questions of whether the sexualization of popular clothing, music, superstars and the like isn’t making our girls rather silly. What do you think?
Higher ideal. That means striving for a purpose, a goal, an outcome outside of oneself. Of helping others and making the world better. With every step we take. At once, an incredible challenge and, seemingly, the only way to go.