The Path of the Just
Chapter 17 (Part 1)
Trying to reassure us that the goal is possible, Ramchal offers that it’s
actually “easy for anyone who has already … obtained the traits discussed to
now to obtain purity, too”. After all, consider what it took to train
ourselves to be cautious, enthusiastic, innocent, and abstinent. We’re sure
to become pure just as well, he avers.
We’d only have to “reflect upon the petty nature of the pleasures of the
world and their supposed (but illusory) benefits” and we’re sure to “despise
them and consider them to be nothing but products of the bad and defective
nature of the dark and coarse state of things” of this world. Then, once
“their very real defects and harmful effects become self-evident to you” he
pledges, “it will certainly become easy to separate yourself from them and
remove them from your heart”.
“In fact,” he adds boldly, “the more deeply and constantly you recognize the
pettiness of physicality and its pleasures, the easier it will be for you to
purify your thoughts and emotions, and to … only be involved in worldly
deeds if you absolutely have to”.
Yet that just doesn’t seem to ring true for the rest of us, the less-than
pious. It doesn’t depict our own inner lives, we’d have to admit. We draw a
lot of comfort from many material things, yet we want to better ourselves
and to be righteous if not pious. What then can we cull from this ideal and
wondrous perspective to put some of its wisdom into practice in our lives?
Here’s what we’re to do.
We too are to “take notice of the pettiness of the world and its pleasures”.
We can do that in fact, seeing how many of the things we’ve craved have
proven to simply not be worth much in the end, and given that they often
take away more than they give. (It would also help us to remind ourselves
that material things were placed in the world in the first place to enable
us to grow in the face of their challenges and to overcome their allure, as
Ramchal said in Derech Hashem 1:2:5 and 1:3:2.)
And we can also reflect upon “the fallaciousness of honor, and train
(ourselves) to flee from it” seeing as how often the pursuit of honor and
pride has drained our own energies when we’ve tried for it (though we
certainly like the feelings at first).
There are other things we can do in the end to stretch ourselves as well,
that involve inward, self-reflective courses of action, as we’ll see.