Thursday, December 30, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
It is your soul I am talking about, I’ll say it again. And if, upon examination, you find your soul inadequate to the task of great writing, then improve it, or borrow someone else’s. Commencement speakers are forever telling you to be yourself. I say, be someone else, if that other self is superior to yours. Borrow a soul. I am not in the least being facetious. In The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, Nabokov says that the soul “is but a manner of being,” not a constant entity. Dissatisfied with the makeup of your old soul? Trade it in. But always trade up...
- Roger Rosenblatt
Saturday, December 18, 2010
In 1964, a twenty-three-year-old poet was arrested by the Leningrad K.G.B. and charged with the crime of “malicious parasitism.” His name was Josef Brodsky. One Communist Party newspaper denounced his poetry as “pornographic and anti-Soviet”; another noted archly that he wore “velvet pants.” The authorities permitted him to testify in court, but they soon regretted their decision, and their failure to prevent a brave woman named Frida Vigdorova from taking notes on the proceedings. Vigdorova wrote down this exchange—the most famous legal exchange in Russia since Stalin’s show trials—and the transcript was smuggled to the West:
JUDGE: And what is your profession?
BRODSKY: Poet. Poet and translator.
JUDGE: And who told you that you were a poet? Who assigned you that rank?
BRODSKY: No one. (Non-confrontationally.) Who assigned me to the human race?
JUDGE: And did you study for this?
BRODSKY: For what?
JUDGE: To become a poet? Did you try to attend a school where they train [poets] . . . where they teach . . .
BRODSKY: I don’t think it comes from education.
JUDGE: From what, then?
BRODSKY: I think it’s . . . (at a loss) . . . from God.
The judge sentenced Brodsky to five years of internal exile. Living in a village near the Arctic Circle, he crushed rocks and hauled manure by day. At night, he wrote, and he improved his English by reading Auden and Frost. Brodsky’s mentor, the great Silver Age poet Anna Akhmatova, laughed at the K.G.B.’s shortsightedness. “What a biography they’re fashioning for our red-haired friend!” she said. “It’s as if he’d hired them to do it on purpose.”
Akhmatova was hardly naïve about the capabilities of Soviet justice—she had lost a husband and countless friends in the Gulag—but she could see that the state was providing a linguistic genius with an aura of heroism. By the time Brodsky returned to Leningrad, he was a mature poet, whose brand of dissidence was an implacable disdain for the Soviet regime and an enduring devotion to the Russian language. The state soon found it necessary to exile this untamable creature abroad. - David Remnick
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Religious experiences are so powerful and positive a moral force, [William] James argues, because they have an ability to overcome the inhibitions that prevent most from behaving in morally exemplary ways. "Few people who have not expressly reflected on the matter realise how constantly this factor of inhibition is upon us, how it contains and molds us by its restrictive pressure almost as if we were fluids pent within the cavity of a jar." Moreover, inhibition is typically a subconscious force. So counterbalancing subconscious forces, such as those that are religious, are required to release the individual from their withholding impulses.
Religious experiences are not alone in being able to do this. A soldier will perform extraordinary acts of bravery on account of the training that leaves them closely identified with comrades. However, religious experiences are different. They release subconscious forces that are involuntary. A soldier decides to join the army and submit to the training. James' study of religious conversion has led him to conclude that they are experiences that radically change someone. "The man who lives in his religious center of energy, and is actuated by spiritual enthusiasms, differs from his previous carnal self in perfectly definite ways." - Mark Vernon
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
- Dwayne Betts, former inmate who now teaches poetry at the University of Maryland
Monday, December 6, 2010
- Jonathan Sachs
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
When it comes to freedom and choice, he notes that our problem, in the West at least, is not having no choice, but is having too much choice. He realised that true freedom comes not from making choices, but from making commitments.
Think of the business of falling in love. In a city like London, the choice of potential lovers is almost infinite. And yet, the proliferation of online dating sites suggests that anxiety about finding a partner is booming. Why is there this contradiction? Illich would diagnose that we’re trapped in a cultural confusion: we’re encouraged to think relationships are about making the right choice, when actually they’re about making a commitment.
More broadly, he came to think that there’s more freedom to be found in giving up some of this excess of choice. He called it renunciation: discovering what you can do without. That’s liberating in a consumer society because to discover you don’t need what you’re being told you do need, is to be freer of the tyranny of choice.
Clearly, a certain amount of choice is good. But perhaps a contented life is one that requires far less choice than we might be disposed to imagine. - Mark Vernon
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
And that which should accompany old age,
As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends,
I must not look to have, but in their stead
Curses, not loud but deep, mouth-honour, breath
Which the poor heart would fain deny and dare not.
I'll say no more than this: it simply would not be the same, would it, if Shakespeare had written it out more straightforwardly: I must not look to have the honour, love, obedience, troops of friends which should accompany old age. Nor would it be the same if he had not suddenly coined that disgusted phrase "mouth-honour" (now a cliche as "lip-service").
Shakespeare will often use one part of speech - a noun or an adjective, say - to serve as another, often a verb, shifting its grammatical nature with minimal alteration to its shape. Thus in "Lear" for example, Edgar comparing himself to the king: "He childed as I fathered" (nouns shifted to verbs); in "Troilus and Cressida," "Kingdomed Achilles in commotion rages" (noun converted to adjective); "Othello," "To lip a wanton in a secure couch/And to suppose her chaste!"' (noun "lip" to verb; adjective "wanton" to noun).
The effect is often electric I think, like a lightning-flash in the mind: for this is an economically compressed form of speech, as from an age when the language was at its most dynamically fluid and formatively mobile; an age in which a word could move quickly from one sense to another, in keeping with Shakespeare's lightning-fast capacity for forging metaphor. It was a small example of sudden change of shape, of concomitant effect upon the brain.
In other words, while the Shakespearian functional shift is semantically integrated with ease, it triggers a syntactic re-evaluation process likely to raise attention and give more weight to the sentence as a whole.
Shakespeare is stretching us; he is opening up the possibility of further peaks, new potential pathways or developments. Our findings show how Shakespeare created dramatic effects by implicitly taking advantage of the relative independence, at the neural level, of semantics and syntax in sentence comprehension. It is as though he is a pianist using one hand to keep the background melody going, whilst simultaneously the other pushes towards ever more complex variations and syncopations.
Shakespeare's syntax, its shifts and movements, can lock into the existing pathways of the brain and actually move and change them - away from old and aging mental habits and easy long-established sequences. It could be that Shakespeare's use of language gets so far into our brains that he shifts and creates new pathways, not unlike the establishment of new biological networks using novel combinations of existing elements (genes/proteins in biology: units of phonology, semantics, syntax, and morphology in language). Then indeed we might be able to see something of the ways literature can cause affect or create change, without resorting to being assertively gushy.
Shakespeare's art is no more and no less than the supreme example of a mobile, creative and adaptive human capacity, in deep relation between brain and language. It makes new combinations, creates new networks, with changed circuitry and added levels, layers and overlaps. And all the time it works like the cry of "action" on a film-set, by sudden peaks of activity and excitement dramatically breaking through into consciousness. It makes for what William James said of mind in his "Principles of Psychology," "a theatre of simultaneous possibilities." This could be a new beginning to thinking about reading and mental changes.
- Philip Davis
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
“A human being is a synthesis of the infinite and the finite, of the temporal and the eternal, of freedom and necessity.” Despair occurs when there is an imbalance in this synthesis. From there Kierkegaard goes on to present a veritable portrait gallery of the forms that despair can take. Too much of the expansive factor, of infinitude, and you have the dreamer who cannot make anything concrete. Too much of the limiting element, and you have the narrow minded individual who cannot imagine anything more serious in life than bottom lines and spread sheets.
Though it will make the Bill Mahers of the world wince, despair according to Kierkegaard is a lack of awareness of being a self or spirit. A Freud with religious categories up his sleeves, the lyrical philosopher emphasized that the self is a slice of eternity. While depression involves heavy burdensome feelings, despair is not correlated with any particular set of emotions but is instead marked by a desire to get rid of the self, or put another way, by an unwillingness to become who you fundamentally are. This unwillingness often takes the form of flat out wanting to be someone else. Kierkegaard writes:
An individual in despair despairs over something. So it seems for a moment, but only for a moment; in the same moment the true despair or despair in its true form shows itself. In despairing over something, he really despaired over himself, and now he wants to be rid of himself. For example, when the ambitious man whose slogan is “Either Caesar or nothing” does not get to be Caesar, he despairs over it … precisely because he did not get to be Caesar, he cannot bear to be himself.
In America, there is endless talk of the importance of having a dream — that is, a dreamed-up self that you will to become: a millionaire, a surgeon, or maybe the next Dylan or George Clooney. But master of suspicion that Kierkegaard was, he goes on to note that while the man who has failed to become Caesar would have been in seventh heaven if he had realized his dream, that state would have been just as despairing in another way — because in that giddy self-satisfied condition, he would never have come to grasp his true self.
- Gordon Marino
Monday, November 22, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
"If I read a book [and] it makes my whole body so cold no fire ever can warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only way I know it. Is there any other way?" This visceral, concrete, and highly personal definition of poetry is the most fitting way to view Dickinson's own work. Whether a poem is true "poetry" does not depend for Dickinson on its use of meter, rhyme, stanzas, or line length, but on the almost physical sensation created in the reader by the poem's words, the arctic chill in the marrow of the bones or the stunning blow to the mind that the reader experiences in the act of reading. - Wendy Martin
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Monday, November 8, 2010
When Ferenczi said the patient is not cured by free-association, he is cured when he can free-associate, he was acknowledging the very real difficulty everyone finds in sustaining and making known an internal democracy. People literally shut themselves up in their speaking out; speech is riddled with no-go areas; internal and external exchange, as fantasy and as practicality, is fraught with resistance. Psychoanalysis reveals just how ambivalent we are, to put it mildly, about freer forms of association (from a psychoanalytic point of view there is no such thing as a free enterprise.). And this must surely be where the analyst comes in. If the so-called patient is deemed to be suffering from one form or another of association-anxiety, presumably the analyst has something up his sleeve, so to speak, for precisely this predicament. - Adam Phillips, on psychoanalysis
Friday, November 5, 2010
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Monday, November 1, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Monday, October 18, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
Saturday, October 9, 2010
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Monday, October 4, 2010
Friday, October 1, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Monday, September 20, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
You want a social life, with friends.
A passionate love life and as well
To work hard every day. What's true
Is of these three you may have two
And two can pay you dividends
But never may have three.
There isn't time enough, my friends--
Though dawn begins, yet midnight ends--
To find the time to have love, work, and friends.
Michelangelo had feeling
For Vittoria and the Ceiling
But did he go to parties at day's end?
Homer nightly went to banquets
Wrote all day but had no lockets
Bright with pictures of his Girl.
I know one who loves and parties
And has done so since his thirties
But writes hardly anything at all.
- Kenneth Koch
Monday, September 13, 2010
When I was a younger man, art was a lonely thing, no galleries no collectors, no critics, no money, yet it was a golden age, for we all had nothing to lose, and a vision to gain. Today it is not quite the same. It is a time of tons of verbiage, activity, consumption. Which condition is better for the world at large, I will not venture to discuss. But I do know that many of those that are driven to this life are desperately searching for those pockets of silence where we can root and grow. We must all hope we find them. - Mark Rothko
Friday, September 10, 2010
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Friday, September 3, 2010
Ultimately, guilt cultures produce strong individuals precisely because they force us to accept responsibility. When things go wrong we don’t waste time blaming others. We don’t luxuriate in the most addictive, destructive drug known to humankind, namely victimhood. We say, honestly and seriously, “I’m sorry. Forgive me. Now let me do what I can to put it right.” That way we and the people we offend can move on. Through our mistakes we discover the strength to heal, learn and grow. Shame cultures produce people who conform. Guilt cultures produces people with the courage to be free. - Jonathan Sachs
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
"When Sunday came, Van Gogh would go to church three times, either to the Roman Catholic Church, or to the Protestant or Old Episcopal Church, which was commonly called the Jansenist Church. When once we made the remark, 'But my dear Van Gogh, how is it possible that you can go to three different churches of such divergent creeds?' He said, 'Well, in every church I see God, and it's all the same to me whether a Protestant pastor or a Roman Catholic priest preaches; it is not a matter of dogma, but of the spirit of the Gospel, and I find this spirit in all churches.'"
"God perhaps really begins when we say the word with which Multatuli finishes the 'Prayer of an Unbeliever: O god, there is no God!' For me, that God of the clergymen is dead as a doornail. But am I atheist for all that? The clergymen consider me so - so be it - but I love, and how could I feel love if I did not live and others did not live; and then if we live, there is something mysterious in that. Now call it God or human nature or whatever you like, but there is something which I cannot define systematically, though it is very real, and see that as God, or as good as God." - Vincent
"I think that everything which is really good and beautiful - of inner moral, spiritual and sublime beauty in men and their works - comes from God, and that which is bad and wrong in men and in their works is not of God, and God does not approve of it. But I always think that the best way to know God is to love many things. Love a friend, a wife, something - whatever you like - you will be on the way to knowing more about him." - Vincent
Monday, August 30, 2010
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Friday, August 27, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
David Selbourne has got it right. In a recent pamphlet, Moral Evasion, he lists the eleven arguments now regularly deployed to sabotage any attempt to make moral judgements. They are: There's nothing you can do about it. It's never been any different. There's no quick fix. It's the price of a free society. You must move with the tide. You can't turn back the clock. The problem is much more complex than you think. It's beyond the reach of the law. You are focussing on the wrong issue. Who are you to talk? Everyone's doing it, so how can you object?
The result is one of the strangest cultural moments in history. What other ages found offensive - crudity, incivility, obscenity, blasphemy - are today so commonplace as to be routine. Meanwhile, what other generations saw as essential to civilisation - moral judgement, the capacity to discriminate between right and wrong - has become not just controversial but taboo. Merely to suggest that there may be some ways of life more gracious, honourable, decent, benign or just plain good than others is to risk accusations of judgementalism and moral panic. Hell hath no fury like a relativist scorned.
So it's worth reminding ourselves why every other age than ours has cherished moral wisdom. It's not because people wished to interfere in what others do in private. That may sometimes have happened, but it's not what morality is about. It's because life is short, and the bill for our mistakes is long. A child may bear the scars of a broken family for a lifetime. Trust, once broken, is hard to repair. An impulsive word can destroy a friendship. A single act of folly may wreck a career. Not everything we want to do, ought we to do. Our own happiness - let alone civilisation itself - depends on our ability to hold desire in check, restrained by thoughts of long term consequences and consideration for other people. That is where the moral sense is born.
It doesn't come naturally. Morality is not genetically coded. It is not hard-wired into our brain. That is what gives us our unique evolutionary advantage. Homo sapiens is the animal that learns. And we learn cumulatively, by not having to start afresh in each generation. Instead, through families and schools, we pass on the wisdom of the past, experience often bought at a high price. What makes humanity different from other life forms is our ability to think beyond the present. We remember what worked and what failed. We are capable of envisaging a different and better world. We can tell the difference between what is and what ought to be. We also know that, whatever world we seek, we can't make it alone. Therefore we need to create a shared language of the imagination together with relationships of trust.
So, at most times most societies have invested vast energies in the institutions through which children learn how best to behave - families, schools, public codes of behaviour, together with the stories, songs and canonical texts through which a culture conveys its memories and ideals.
Reducing morality to private choice is as absurd as the idea that we can each invent our own treatments to cure disease and that the existence of doctors is a threat to our autonomy. So ignore the critics. David Selbourne is right. Moral wisdom is never certain or complete, any more than medicine is certain or complete. But it is something we inherit and learn and share. Above all it is something we are right to teach our children. - Jonathan Sachs
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Friday, August 13, 2010
ex. "these are but shadows" & "the play did begin to write itself"
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Friday, August 6, 2010
The empirical fact is that even for the most G-d fearing person living a virtuous and spiritual life does not come easily. Life for most of us consists of a battle between good and evil, spirit and matter, self-indulgence and transcendence – between selfish cravings of material narcissism and commitment to a higher calling, with the former more often than not winning out.
Indeed, modern secular thought sees the human being as an evolved beast, a billion year old bacteria, whose primary drive is survival (“survival of the fittest”). From biology to psychology, from genetics to archeology – from Darwin to Freud – we have been taught that humans are driven by the irrational and emotional primitive “id,” which is all “want, want, want,” self-gratification driven by one rule – the “pleasure principle: “I want it and I want it all now”.
Moses however saw the human being in quite a different light. While its true that every person has a selfish inclination, we also have a Divine side, which is capable of the noblest behavior. Indeed, Torah sees that the deepest part of the human being is the “yid” rather than the “id.” The essence of the soul is like the letter “yud,” a dot, a spark of the Divine.
The easier route may be the narcissistic one. But a person always has the choice to overcome his/her primitive temptations and access the transcendent soul within.
The soul is a rich resource, with layers and layers of potential. And in the soul lies a dimension that is a “spark” of Moses. At this level it is as natural to connect to G-d as it is for a fish to be in water. The challenge is to recognize and draw forth this dimension, which can lay concealed beneath the outer shell of material survival.
It is critical that we believe in ourselves to be able to achieve anything in this world. But we must also know that our psyches are under a constant assault of many forces reminding us time and again about our limitations, feeding our insecurities and fears.
Comes Moses and says no! You have the power to be Divine, and with ease! You only need to believe that it is possible.
In essence, one can say, that this is the ultimate battle in life: How much we believe in ourselves; how much we believe in our possibilities.
When things sometimes seem impossible, think about Moses’ words. Think about the fact that by virtue of the “Moses” within” your soul you are within reach of achieving virtually anything you set your mind to.
So now that we know that the great Moses believes in us, the question we each much ask: Do I believe in myself?
With a leader like Moses the impossible may just be possible.
- Simon Jacobson
Friday, July 30, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Preschool children, on average, ask their parents about 100 questions a day. Why, why, why—sometimes parents just wish it’d stop. Tragically, it does stop. By middle school they’ve pretty much stopped asking. It’s no coincidence that this same time is when student motivation and engagement plummet. They didn’t stop asking questions because they lost interest: it’s the other way around. They lost interest because they stopped asking questions.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and University of Northern Iowa’s Gary G. Gute found highly creative adults tended to grow up in families embodying opposites...not because they’re dark, depressed, anxious, or neurotic. It’s a myth that creative people have these traits. (Those traits actually shut down creativity; they make people less open to experience and less interested in novelty.) Rather, creative people, for the most part, exhibit active moods and positive affect. They’re not particularly happy—contentment is a kind of complacency creative people rarely have. But they’re engaged, motivated, and open to the world. - Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
The fundamental structure of Shakespeare's sonnet is the evolving inner emotional dynamic, the fictive speaker is shown to see more, change his [or her] mind, pass from description to analysis, move from negative refutation to positive refutation, etc. The proffering and hierarching of several conceptual models at once is, as I see it, Shakespeare's main intellectual and poetic achievement in the sonnets...the successive emotional tonalities of the sonnets, from abjectness to solitary triumph, from perplexity to self-loathing, from comedy to pathos. The issue of a good poem must be urgent to the poet.
Most of the sonnets lend themselves to more than one schematic representation...the self-lacerating intelligence in the later sonnets produces a voice so undeceived about reality and himself (his perjured eye) that the reader admires the clarity of mind that can so anatomize sexual obsession while still in its grip, that can so acquiesce in humiliation while inspecting its own arousal, that can lie freely while acknowledging the truth. To represent such a voice in all its paradoxical incapacity and capacity is the victory of Shakespeare's technique. - Helen Vendler
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
- Simon Jacobson
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
– Meister Eckhart
“It is highly significant that each of [Hitler’s mistresses] committed suicide or tried to do so, and more than a simple coincidence. He would ask them to shit on him you see. It might very possibly be that they could not stand the burden of his perversion in its shattering absurdity and massive incongruity with [his] public role. I would say that this discordance between private and public esthetics is possibly too much to bear, unless one can get some kind of commanding height or vantage point from which to mock it or otherwise dismiss it.”
– Ernst Becker
Existentialism holds that you can only truly change the way you think and feel about your life by behaving differently, by acting rather than simply reacting, by asserting your will rather than simply allowing yourself to be swept along by circumstances, by always taking responsibility for yourself and what you do. - Gary Cox
So solitude can mean introspection, it can mean the concentration of focused work, and it can mean sustained reading. All of these help you to know yourself better. But there’s one more thing I’m going to include as a form of solitude, and it will seem counterintuitive: friendship. Of course friendship is the opposite of solitude; it means being with other people. But I’m talking about one kind of friendship in particular, the deep friendship of intimate conversation. Long, uninterrupted talk with one other person. Not Skyping with three people and texting with two others at the same time while you hang out in a friend’s room listening to music and studying. That’s what Emerson meant when he said that “the soul environs itself with friends, that it may enter into a grander self-acquaintance or solitude.” - William Deresiewicz
Monday, July 19, 2010
Some modern philosophers (Heidegger, Kierkegaard) have argued that existential anxiety proceeds from being unconscious of, or inadequately conscious of, death. True, I think, but I wonder if the emphasis might be placed differently, shifted from unconscious reaction to unrealized action: that is, our anxiety is less the mind shielding itself from death than the spirit’s need to be. It is as if each of us were always hearing some strange, complicated music in the background of our lives, music which, so long as it remains in the background, is not simply distracting but manifestly unpleasant, because it demands the attention we are giving to other things.
THERE IS A DISTINCTION to be made between the anxiety of daily existence, which we talk about endlessly, and the anxiety of existence, which we rarely mention at all. The former fritters us into dithering, distracted creatures. The latter attests to—and, if attended to, discloses—our souls. And yet it is a distinction without a difference, perhaps, and as crucial to eventually overcome as it is to initially understand, for to be truly alive means to feel one’s ultimate existence within one’s daily existence, to feel one’s trivial, frittering anxieties acquiring a lightness, a rightness, a meaning. So long as anxiety is merely something to be alleviated, it is not life, or we are not alive enough to experience it as such.
AT FIRST, attending to the anxiety of existence can seem like a zero-sum game. Any attention turned toward the truth of the spirit is attention turned away from all we have come to think of as “life.” Thus we parcel out our moments of devotion—a church service here and there, a walk in the woods, a couple of hours of meditation a week—all the while maintaining the frenzy of our usual existence outside of those moments. This is inevitable, for the initial demands of the spirit are intense, but it is not sustainable, for the soul is not piecemeal. We are left with this paradox: only by hearing the furthest call of consciousness can we hear the call of ordinary life, but only by claiming the most mundane and jangling details of our lives can that rare and ulterior music of the soul merge with what Seamus Heaney calls “the music of what happens.” - Christian Wiman
Friday, July 16, 2010
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
And this is one of the foundations of man’s service of his [or her] Creator.
It is only that the divine power of tzimtzum (constriction) holds the divine life-force in a state of concealment and obscurity, and we perceive only its outer form (i.e., the physical reality).
Our mission in life is that we should approach everything in life from this perspective. That we should each strive to reveal, as much as possible, the divine essence in every thing, and minimize, to the extent that we are able, its concealment...
So one must take great care that secondary and external matters should not obscure the essentials of life and its ultimate purpose.
A person might experience difficulties, trials and challenges in separating the good from the bad. But these are but the means by which to achieve the purpose of life—that his [or her] soul should elevate itself through its positive deeds in this world... So one must never allow the difficulties in overcoming one’s trials, or even the fact that one might occasionally fail and stumble, to overwhelm the joy that one must feel.