A teaching from Joel Segel on equalizers of heart and soul
July 13, 2016
On the first day of Big Sky Judaism: The Everyday Thought of Reb Zalman z"l, Joel Segel took us into an imagined conversation with Reb Zalman about rationalism:
"I hear where you're coming from. I understand the appeal of the intellectual. And: you're a musician, so you know what an equalizer is, yes? Imagine that at the bottom of the equalizer, instead of Hz and kHz are written labels that read intellectual, emotional, physical, spiritual.
I'm hearing that your intellectual faders are up, and all the rest of them are down. So try an experiment. Pull up the faders in heart space. What happens in you when you pick up the heart fader? Maybe what happens is that you experience yourself feeling an internal voice chorusing 'Ribbono Shel Olam thank You thank You thank You.' Push down the intellectual fader and pull up the emotional one and see what arises in you."
The four equalizers map, of course, to the Four Worlds about which we so often speak in Jewish Renewal: assiyah (action / physicality), yetzirah (emotions / heart), briyah (intellect / contemplation), and atzilut (essence / spirit.) Everything is always happening in all four of these realms at once, though many of us feel more comfortable in one of these worlds than the others.
At lunch after class I shared this image with a friend who knows something about recording music, and she pointed out that the name "equalizer" points the layperson in the wrong direction. The goal isn't to make all of the faders "equal." For one track one might want more treble; for another track, more bass. Just so, the internal equalizers about which Reb Joel was teaching us. Maybe when I'm hiking in the Colorado hills my physical fader is high, since I'm unusually aware of my body and my surroundings -- whereas when I'm davening, my emotional and spiritual faders might be at peak.
Different moments in the day, different days in the week, require different balances. The goal isn't to perfectly equalize our experience of the four worlds -- or at least I don't think it is. The goal is to cultivate awareness of which world(s) I'm living in, and to learn the practice of adjusting my own psycho-spiritual faders. Just as different instruments speak different languages but they're all needed in the orchestra, just so different parts of ourselves need to be allowed to speak as we inhabit the four worlds in different ways.