There was an old book with the above title, quite rare to find now, whose author was a Jewish Rabbi, a Hasidic master. The book has nothing to do with fortune telling or séance, but it gave very useful suggestions about self-examination, introspection and how to find meaning and satisfaction in life.
The author wanted to give humanity the secrets of the success story associated with the Jews, which accounted for their persecution, including their sad experiences with the Nazi regime.
After several decades of the publication of that book, another Jewish Rabbi, Levi Brackman , gave another version of Jewish Wisdom with specific reference to business success. There must be some wisdom that Nigerians can learn from the Jews by using the mirror, in a figurative sense. Without being acquainted with the Torah, the Talmud, the Midrash or the Kabbalah, we can use the mirror of the wisdom provided by these sources.
Jewish wisdom tells us that life is a journey and that the whole world that we must pass through is a narrow bridge: we must have no fear but journey forth. Fear usually arises from ignorance and wrong actions whose consequences haunt the conscience. Self-sabotage comes about when our consciousness is clouded by fear, and fighting in such a circumstance is a backward motion. We are reminded of a Law of Reversed Effort by which we work against ourselves if we don’t resolve what we fear.
By using the mirror, we can see where there is a need to mend fences, and we are reminded that nothing stands before the will if the volition is earnest. However, because humans usually have an inner will as well as an outer will, the spirit can be willing while the body can be dull. Jewish wisdom recommends that we use the mirror to identify and come to terms with our authentic self. Success in life demands that the inner will must always be the focus of our attention. It generates passion, goodwill.
The Torah admonishes us to fight against any urge to place ourselves above the others. Some falls arise from unfounded pride but, on the other hand, having an unassuming life-style can be an asset. However, we are warned against making ourselves a door-mat for others to walk over. The Talmud admonishes that he who talks too much commits a sin. Along with unassuming life-style is the need to create loyalty. A man must have some deep personal conviction based on values that one is passionately committed to uphold. Loyalty is created through commitment to principles and values.
Since no man is an island sufficient unto himself, life demands cooperation rather than a do-or-die competition with others. There is a need for a balance between looking out for self and caring for others. Despite ups and downs, we must learn to adapt quickly to new situations and challenges. If you cannot look into the Torah to learn that life is all about negotiations, you can look at the mirror to learn such vital lesson; if you laugh, the mirror laughs back too. You can rarely win negotiations without trying to understand the feelings and needs of the other person(s).
If we can be honest with ourselves, we would agree that morality, zeal and motivation among average Nigerians are on the decline. Failed expectations, among other conditions, account for such stats of langnour. But if we use the mirror it would be obvious that the causes lie within us. We are rarely our own friends, with widespread mutual distrust and acrimony. Zoroaster would tell us that human thought-forms take shapes and contain energy that return their contents to their originators, via their invisible radiations and links.
Failure is not failure, neither is a loss a calamity if we learn lessons from them and mend our footsteps. Jewish cosmogony recommends giving back to society through charity, titles, donations, etc as a means of making the earth a better place by purging ourselves of burdens and excesses. Like former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, did with his disengagement booty, let all Nigerian politicians give 10% of their monthly booties to bring some smiles and ease the agonies of a large number of Nigerians. If they cannot use the mirror, they can go physically to the slums and see things.
Wisdom from the mirror suggests that the strong man is the one who conguers himself – his impulses, vanities, pride and long-throat. In the state that Nigeria is currently, a few people that are permitted to see the unseen plead that those who take on the task of leadership should act fast and with sincerity to reduce tension, frustration, hunger and anger too. We don’t need a mirror to see a picture of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.
The example of Venezuela as a developing country demonstrates the kind of problem which Nigeria is facing currently, namely maldistribution of national resources. A situation where 80% of a nation’s resources is in the hands of a small elite cannot fail to breed conflicts and insecurity. Venezuela transited into a democracy in 1958, but without any empowerment at the grassroots level. Corrupt politics, patronage, network and conflict persisted as instruments of sustaining the economic structure. Nigeria goes that way.
Chavez was a strong despot whom the masses believed was strong enough to stand up to the established elite of Venezuela . Nations fail when they have extractive institutions, supported by corrupt practices which impede and block economic growth. A picture of Hugo Chavez is a picture of a country held hostage by despotic and extractive institutions which make it difficult for the masses to contrite meaningfully in nation-building. It is a valid view that humans function at their best if they are in a state of happiness.
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer at the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
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