The Empty Chair: Finding Hope and Joy: Timeless Wisdom from a Hasidic Master, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, aside from having the type of title that gives a cataloguer like me a headache, is a collection of short thoughts from Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810), who is very important to me. I’m slightly suspicious of the book, as most of the thoughts seem to be sentences taken from much longer teachings and I wonder what the full context was, but I’ve read the book twice and flicked through it many times. I’m currently reading two pages a day. Each page has one or maybe two thoughts on it, so reading them take mere seconds, but I was hoping I might connect with Torah here when I seem unable to do it in other books. To be honest, nothing much has clicked, until today. These were today’s quotes:
Go carefully: Spiritual growth must proceed slowly and steadily. Too often we want to improve ourselves and our relationships so quickly that we make ourselves frustrated and confused.
Never insist that everything go exactly your way, even in matters spiritual.
Believe that none of the effort that you put into coming closer to God is ever wasted – even if in the end you don’t achieve what you are striving for.
These spoke to me. I have a tendency to push myself too fast, although at the moment I don’t feel like I’m going anywhere at all. And I do want things to go my way spiritually, even if not in other ways (although I really want them to go my way there too I suppose). But I think it’s the last one that resonates most. I wonder sometimes if the effort I have put into trying to be frum (religious) was worth it – not that I really want to be non-religious, but that I feel I haven’t achieved any kind of spiritual growth at all. I hope it is not wasted. Certainly in this world I don’t feel that it has led directly to good results, except inasmuch as it might have prevented me from adopting elements of secular Western millennial society that I might have adopted and been the worse for, but even then I’m not sure what the practical outcome would have been, whether I would have done those things if I had had the option. I just hope the effort I put in was justified, given how much of my life I’ve dedicated to it. It’s not about reward so much as feeling that I haven’t wasted my life on an impossible dream. That I’ve managed to do something with my life, because at the moment most of the time it doesn’t seem that way.