Last week, a good friend of mine insisted that I borrow a book from her called ‘The Tipping Point’, by Malcolm Gladwell.
I’d heard about Gladwell previously, as he wrote a book called ‘Blink’ which basically explained how the gut reaction we have about people is right almost 100% of the time (if only we would pay enough attention to it…)
The book sounded interesting, so I was happy to oblige her, and the little bit I’ve managed to read so far has been very worth my while. But that’s not what this post is really about.
On Shabbat, I was doing a longer hitbodedut (personal prayer session) to deal with all the ‘stress vibes’ that seem to be pouring down from Shemayim at the moment, when I suddenly started having this strong idea that I’d passed the tipping point, somehow, in my life.
Dear reader, the main way I know if something is from my own imagination (and therefore, wishful thinking) or from a holier source, (and therefore, more worthy of attention) is how much I take it at face value, and how much I argue against it.
The times when I’m arguing, that’s usually when the penny drops that it may actually be true, in whatever sense that word is to be understood, in these contexts.
So I sat there having a back and forth with God for a good hour about where all this ‘tipping point’ nonsense was coming from.
I mean, things are definitely much better, in nearly every way, than they were last year. But last year was so bad, that pretty much the only way it could be worse would be if I was now pushing up the daisies, God-forbid.
My books have tanked; my unlimited ability to keep churning things out has stalled; my excitement about doing mitzvahs has all but disappeared. Purim is two days away, and I still have no idea what Mishloach Manot I’m making for who, or how I’m delivering them. I have guests for seuda, but no idea what I’m cooking. I have zero enthusiasm for dressing up, hearing the megillah, nothing.
Of course, I’m still going to do it all, because mitzvahs are mitzvahs. But I’m not sure where my spiritual joie de vivre has disappeared off to at the moment, and it’s a little worrying.
So in the middle of all this apathy, resignation and doubt that I’m ever going to get anything to actually change, shift or move in my life, in the ways I would like, God sends me a brainwave that I’ve somehow reached the tipping point.
For an hour straight, that’s what I was getting.
“God, how do I know that I’m not just making all this stuff up because I got that book from my friend?” I wanted to know.
“Biti, Who do you think arranged for you to get that book?” came the reply.
I love arguing with God, because He’s always got the soundbites that trump mine, and that’s quite a rare experience for me. 😉
So here I am, apparently past the tipping point, but feeling pretty listless and pointless and aimless about it all.
For the last few years, my life has been so ‘interesting’, in that Chinese curse type way, that I can’t conceive of a tipping point being anything but good. If it comes, it will tip me over from frustration to satisfaction; from losing (all the time, at everything) to maybe being successful; from small-minded mochin dekatnut into expansive-thinking mochin degadlut.
I think I’d like that.
But tipping points are not always objectively good.
If the world tips over into chaos, war and terrorism, that’s probably ‘bad’. If the economy finally succumbs to reality and tips over into massive deflation and depression, that’s also probably ‘bad’ (although then, maybe I’d stand a chance of being able to afford to buy a house again.)
If people wake up one day to a world where Donald Trump is president of the US (how crazy is that?) or worse, Hillary Clinton is, then that would be a pretty big tipping point. (American Jews: buy your place in Israel now.)
But the whole thing with tipping points is that we’re not in control of when or how they happen. They can’t be designed by us, controlled by us, or guided by us. As Gladwell’s book makes clear, tipping points are somehow orchestrated from Above, and they usually catch everyone by surprise.
So, I admit that if my personal inability to get anywhere with my writing tips over into some sort of success, I’d be thrilled. If my family finally gets to settle down and live somewhere happily for more than three years, I’d be thrilled. If my finances would tip over from ‘just getting by’ to ‘financially comfortable’, I think I’d like that.
But if I was on the other side of the fence, and currently enjoying my stability, money and materiality, then the potential tipping points looming on the horizon would be scaring the pants off me.