Ki Tissa

There was a time when every second mattered. My childhood birthday parties were captured on Super-8 cine film that my father carefully filmed, before sending off the four-minute reel of tape for developing and waiting two weeks. He then physically spliced the film for an edit, before closing the curtains, setting up the projector and gathering the family for a long-awaited film showing.

There was a time when every shot mattered. We bought rolls of 35-mm film for our cameras, and were careful about how we used those 24 or 36 photographs.

There was a time when every friend mattered. We knew exactly who our friends were, physically wrote their names and numbers in a contacts book and the word ‘friend’ held a higher linguistic currency. Most people couldn’t number their friends in the facebook thousands and there wasn’t the option to add, delete or ignore them at the click of a button.

What is the impact of all of this on our time, our self-respect, our value?

Our Kosher Sutra recalls a system of counting people; “When you take a census..everyone shall give a half-shekel” (Exodus 30: 12-13). Rather than counting them by their numbers, the community was counted by their contribution. Everyone had to give a half-shekel unit of currency towards the communal structure, and the money was then calculated, telling the leaders how many people there were. This was a simple but radical shift. What makes us matter is not how much we have (status, possession, friends), but whether or not we are prepared to give.

As I write, both the Girl Scouts of America and Lady Gaga are running campaigns to help children improve their confidence and sense of self-worth (Time Magazine, March 2012). If we look closely, many of us question our value at some point or other.

Yoga’s overarching goal is for us to become sukha stiram, or ‘stable/secure and joyful’. To find peace of mind and inner joy at every moment. Although joy may be our birthright, it doesn’t always come automatically.

Perhaps we can achieve more by accumulating a little less. Take shorter videos, fewer photographs, collect less friends and instead to focus on each moment and each person we are spending time with. The paths of spirituality, yoga and meditation may demand discipline, but the rewards can be immense.