Each of us has a side that’s attracted to superficial attainments and transitory pleasures and materialism, which in Judaism is called the ‘Evil Inclination’. The evil inclination has many jobs, but it’s main one is to provide us with the free choice to choose between good and bad.
Our ‘Good Inclination’ is attracted to matters of the soul and spirit, and not so interested in materialism. (Btw, this doesn’t mean all materialism is bad, because that’s not the Jewish view point at all. Materialism for its own sake is ‘bad’; materialism that has a spiritual, or higher purpose (and buying yourself a nice outfit and a big car can also count as a ‘higher purpose’…) is actually considered to be a very good, beneficial thing.
So our whole life, there’s a fight going on between our inclination for good and our inclination for evil. One of the evil inclination’s main tricks, especially in our generation, is to keep people obsessed with running after intrinsically worthless things that don’t fill us up, or make us feel even emptier after we’ve got them.
We only truly feel fulfilled, happy and satisfied when we attain something (even something materialistic) that also fulfills a deeper spiritual need. Most things in modern life aren’t in that category. So we kill ourselves running after them, thinking they’re going to feel the ‘hole’, and then when we actually get them, we can feel how worthless and pointless they are, and the whole cycle starts all over again.
The way to step out of this vicious cycle is to give your ‘good inclination’ a chance to make itself heard. That means taking the time to slow down, stop running, stop acquiring, even for just a minute a day, to think about the deeper meaning of life, and to ask yourself some scary questions like:
- What really makes me feel happy and satisfied?
- What is really going to fill the ‘hole’ I’m feeling inside? (The answer is almost never ‘more stuff’. It’s usually things like more love, companionship, meaning, self-acceptance, etc).
- What’s the point of being alive?
- What does God want from me?
- What job am I really meant to be doing in the world? (and it’s not always being an accountant, doctor or lawyer…)
- What changes do I need to consider making to live a more intrinsically satisfying life?
If you honestly ask yourself these questions, and listen to the answers, you could literally transform your whole life.
Once you really feel happy and satisfied, and you know what you’re really down here in the world to do, you’ll stop running after stuff that doesn’t help you to ‘do your job’, whatever that ends up being, or that doesn’t have some deeper emotional or spiritual significance or purpose attached to it.