Hakuna Matata vs. Repair the World

Dear Friends,

Happy New Year! I hope everyone is taking in the new year with joy, small or mighty, and something new to refresh the self and the world it inhabits, a reminder that your path of creation and repair is yours alone, so keep on, joy and refreshment in hand.

Within the Kabbalistic map of the psyche are three pairs of opposites that form the structure of our consciousness. The last of the three pairs had always remained mysterious to me. But in the emptiness of Cape Cod in winter, skimming through a book by Art Green I’d read before, something clicked, and now the teaching is clear. So here it is.

There is a war within us between our yearning to repair the world and Hakuna Matata. Yes, Hakuna Matata -- the “no worries” Lion King tune taught to the prince-cub by a meerkat and warthog duo in the jungle. With a philosophy of Hakuna Matata, the lion prince, not unlike his mythic predecessor, Moses, temporarily relinquishes the sense of responsibility to his pride. In it’s best incarnation in the Kabbalistic map, this sphere is called Acceptance, and it is balanced by the sphere of Striving; these two are the final polarity of the tree. Hakuna Matata is all about acceptance. The Jewish value of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, is it’s opposing force, a striving to repair all the brokenness we see in the world.

The last months were a period of profound tension for me. The culture we inhabit lends far too much significance to achievement, growth, expansion, activity -- to striving. And I was taken by that force. Taken to the detriment of my family, and all of you, who I am so privileged to dwell with, in community. One can strive too much, even in repairing the world. Now I am recalibrating the balance, between striving and acceptance, repairing the world and Hakuna Matata. Where are you swinging on this pendulum? Take a moment. All of the spiritual work is an act of balancing.

I read a story once, in a book about the Tibetan Dalai Lamas of history, and it has never left me. Hundreds of years ago, at one of the invasions of Tibet, a Dalai Lama watched from atop the Potala Palace as the city was being invaded and destroyed. He was peaceful, and at some point he whispered at all of the destruction, “it is perfect.” The story epitomized for me a spiritual metric for acceptance, non-attachment. Can we say, even in the most terrible circumstances, Hakuna Matata, or Baruch Hashem, Blessed is the Name? I’ve always kept the story because I found that kind of spiritual stature tremendously inspiring and profoundly scary all at once.

But the poles of the map drawn by the Kabbalists are not meant to remain distinct from one another. Maybe the Dalai Lama, his ability to accept the reality of destruction, was no sign that he would relinquish his city to the enemy without a fight. You can hold them together, striving and acceptance, left hand right hand, all at once. You can fight for the change you wish to see, even from a place of accepting where things stand now.

The two forces, Striving and Acceptance, find their integration in the image of the Tzaddik, the righteous one, associated with the new moon that will rise in the sky tomorrow, and the Zodiac image of Aquarius, the water carrier. As we temper the balance between the two forces that vie for control of our being, we find their center, as beings who pour our spirits freely over the firmament we wander.

Repair the World. Hakuna Matata. Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Zach Fredman


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