The Coca-Cola Culture

Imagine a person who builds a trivial collection, such as comic books or baseball cards. Where does his desire to build such a collection come from?

If we dig deep, I think we'd have to say that building such a collection is rooted in the collector's inner yearning to build, accomplish, and grow something in a meaningful way.

Judaism says that this yearning is actually rooted in the soul's desire to build a relationship with the Infinite—i.e., to build something meaningful.

Yet, the collector is using the yearning to build something meaningful in order to build something that is not meaningful. The collector takes a soul desire and uses that inspiration and power of assertion to do something else—something "other" that distracts and, ultimately, pulls him away from the true goal of the origin of that soul desire.

So, building such a collection is a manipulation and hijacking of the soul's energy to accomplish, and by doing so, undermines the original intent of that energy—i.e., to accomplish in the arena in which it is truly worth accomplishing, in one's relationship with the Infinite and the expression of one's soul.

Growth and "Growth"
It comes out that there is "holy growth" and there is the "other side of growth." That is, there is growth in areas that are objectively meaningful and purposeful, such as character refinement and one's relationship with God. And there is a "backside" of growth, which feeds off the soul's energy for holy growth, despite its being ultimately objectively meaningless and purposeless.

At this point, it is important to clarify that we are not saying here that there is something categorically or inherently wrong with someone compiling a trivial collection or with someone's involvement with anything else that is not connected to his or her personal development and their relationship with God. Rather, we are pointing out that there is a tragedy going on. This tragedy is the fizzling away of the human being's focus and motivation on that which is ultimately valuable and meaningful by way of pacifying this inner yearning through attributing a false sense of value and meaning to that which is ultimately not valuable and meaningful.

Now, some people will claim that these things are relatively meaningful, that since the individual finds a certain sense of fulfillment in his collection, it is therefore meaningful to him.

The truth is that my intent here is not to challenge that assertion. If a person senses a certain fulfillment or meaningfulness in a particular accomplishment then, by definition, it is indeed relatively meaningful to him. However, what I am trying to demonstrate here is that when you compare relative meaningfulness to objective meaningfulness, it comes out that relative meaningfulness is not meaningful at all.

This is because, ultimately, what is meaningful is that which goes on. For example, what meaningful difference is there between me waking up this morning and building a hospital versus me waking up this morning and filling a hospital by going on a killing spree? Obviously, it would be nicer of me to build the hospital than to go on the killing spree, but what makes my decision between the two objectively meaningful?

Spiritual Overcompensation
Recently, there was an eruption of applause in Geneva's Beau Rivage hotel as a prominent London-based jeweler broke the record for the world's largest buy in an auction at $46,158,674.

And what did he buy with this sum of money that could have fed all of Jerusalem's hungry? A diamond. It was pink.

Congratulations.

And guess whose record he broke with this large sum.

Yes, you guessed it—his own.

A little while ago this same character bought a different rock at a different auction for $34 million.

In this buyer's case, I think it is fair to say that we are not talking about merely living in luxury and with added comforts. And don't assume this is purely for investment purposes either.

In the case of this jeweler, we are talking about something much deeper. There is a search for meaning going on here, for that which goes on for eternity.

By attempting to replace God with rocks, this jeweler thinks that he will satisfy the passion for growth, ascendance, and elevation that burns within him, but, of course, that will not do the trick. And, deep down, he knows this to be true.

While he may be able to create a lasting name for himself and leave behind a legacy for generations, all the rocks, stones, boulders, and pebbles on the planet could never be a substitute for one's inherent personal value and ultimate worth. Compared to that, showboating the value of a rock collection as if it is something of essential objective meaning is like Coca-Cola advertising itself as "the real thing."

Author's Note: Rabbi Eli will be traveling across North America in February 2012 to present his empowering and impactful Kabbalah seminars on Spirituality, Relationships, and Self-Help. For a complete catalog or to book a life-altering event contact rey@lightuntoournation.com.