I have spent my entire life living in the world of formal educational environments. I have learned a lot while doing so, and am immensely comfortable in such a setting. Since high school especially, much of the learning I have been exposed to — western philosophy and in-depth Jewish text study — has had a lot to say about how one should live life in the best way possible. What has not been focused on, however, are the practical steps involved in taking all that theory and advice and living such a life. I want to know specifically about using any number of the blessings that I do not fully appreciate and helping to improve the world in whatever small ways I can.
I am davka not a procrastinator, and, morally speaking, I do not tend to rationalize putting off self-improvement in favor of sticking to the familiar once I am sufficiently convinced that a change in lifestyle is required (for instance, my recent and clearly belated decision to become a vegetarian was not easy, but necessary). However, the problem with this specific change — shifting to thinking of my life as needing to include a much more significant time commitment to helping others — is tough because of the very learning that one might think would be helpful in spurring such a change in action. I can listen to all the inspiring lectures I want, and then simply return to life as it was before, feeling like I am making an investment for the future. That is because it is easy for me to say that since I am learning about how to be a better person, I can leave off actually BECOMING a better person until I am ‘done’ learning about it.
But I have now taken the necessary step back, and looked at the situation a little more objectively. The conclusion is clear: In order to change, I need to think less about the changes that need to be made and just do them; only through making this new lifestyle a part of my everyday life will it become normal. While I would not even be considering this shift in focus if it were not for my learning, and so it is the learning that has ultimately led me to this point, it is equally clear that my learning can stand to benefit immensely from living some of what I learn, and that it is hypocritical to do anything but combine the living and the learning.