More than a decade ago, we invited Jacob to do a special evening presentation for our Masters Forum members. His topic was Money and the Meaning of Life.
Since that time, I've made it a point to keep in touch with his work, and early this year bumped into a transcript of a speech he gave at Indian Springs School on January 22, 2004. The speech was about the great unanswerable questions of life; the questions that come from a deep place within us, such as:
- Who am I?
- Does God exist?
- Is there a soul, and is it immortal?
- What can we know?
- What ought we do?
- What is good and evil?
"The great stories and images of the world don’t usually reveal their meaning to us right away. These great stories, these fairy tales, these Biblical images, these myths, these great works of art - sometimes they’re not there to convince the brain, the head which is rational - but they’re there to make a kind of end run around the rational mind, which is sometimes connected to the superficial sense of ego; to do an end run, and go down in the direction of the heart. And later on, as the years pass, and suddenly life does something to you, some shock, some disappointment, some triumph, some extraordinary thing, and suddenly, 'Ah! That’s what the story meant, that’s what the story was telling me!' So try to let these stories come into you and slowly radiate their meaning."Jacob told a story to drive his point home; it's an exchange between a pupil and a wise old rebbe:
"And so, the pupil asks the wise rebbe about a passage in the Bible, in the Book of Deuteronomy, which is part of the Torah, the heart of the Old Testament. There is a sentence there that says to 'Lay these words upon your heart.' The words, which sum up the fundamental belief of the Hebraic tradition, are these: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.' (Deuteronomy 6: 4-6) And the pupil asks the rebbe, 'Why does it tell us to lay these words upon our heart? Why doesn’t it tell us to put them in our heart?' And the rebbe answers, 'It is because as we are, our hearts are closed, and the words can’t get it in. So we just put them on top of the heart. And there they stay. There they stay until someday, when the heart breaks, they fall in.'"He ended his time on the dais by saying:
"The great wisdom: study it in all its forms, and someday when your heart breaks, either in great sorrow or in uncontainable joy, it will fall in, and you’ll understand this other level of human values that every school worthy of the name is trying to lead you toward."Conversation:
- How is your life guided by the deep wisdom of the heart Needleman refers to?
- What words are laying upon your heart?
"Where is the life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?" - T.S. Eliot
"Australian Aborigines say that the big stories - the stories worth telling and retelling, the ones in which you may find the meaning of your life - are forever stalking the right teller, sniffing and tracking like predators hunting their prey in the bush." - Robert Moss, Dreamgates