When I was seven, my parents signed me up for swimming lessons which I dutifully attended. For the first three days, the teacher discussed buoyancy, backstroke, and breathing. We never even got into the water. The next weekend my parents took us to a pool.
My father, eager to see what I had learned, asked me to demonstrate. I explained that I would need a blackboard. This did not impress my father. He walked me to the deep end of the pool deck, picked me up and promptly threw me into the water. After a moment of shock, I began swimming.
This method of instruction, let alone fathering, may not be in favor today. Personally, I remember feeling rather proud of how quickly I learned to swim. But whatever you think of the methodology, there is a lesson to be learned. The best way to own new information is to apply it. Few of us would want to be operated on by a surgeon who aced his written exams but has never wielded a scalpel. There is a reason that driver education courses take place in the car as well as the classroom.
We need both theoretical and practical information. One is mental and spiritual— in our heads. The second, the application of that information, is usually physical and occurs in our interface with the earth and the physical reality it represents.
The mathematics and physics in the head of Sir Gilbert Roberts, designer of the Bosphorus Bridge, is spiritual information. When the Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company then linked two continents with a delicate web of steel, it was practical, physical application.
We humans do best exquisitely balanced between spiritual and physical, suspended between heaven and earth. We must connect to heaven but not to the extent of losing touch with earth. Such people pray all day and neglect their jobs and families.
Likewise, we must connect to reality—the earth—but not so overly connected that we start ignoring spiritual truth. Such people squander their lives in hedonism.
Even animals deemed kosher and suitable as food follow this principle.
Kosher animals must have a hoof lifting them off the ground, giving them a touch of spirituality, so to speak. However, if they are utterly isolated from the ground by having a solid hoof, like a horse, for instance, the animal is not kosher.
All who have a split hoof… you shall eat.
Ancient Jewish wisdom places great emphasis on shoes, the human equivalent of hooves. They serve to distance us slightly from the earth and the suggestion is made that even valuable assets, if necessary, should be sold in order to afford shoes.
However, we must never lose all touch with the physical world. When God called upon Moses, thus lifting him far into the heavenly realm, shoes prevented necessary contact with the earth. So God said:
…take off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.(Exodus 3:5)
The Permanent Principle is that as God’s children we must not live floating in heaven, disconnected from reality, nor should we live anchored to earth and incapable of soaring to spiritual heights. Instead, we must live between heaven and earth—within reach of both but locked to neither.
We need the spiritual as well as the physical; we need information and we need to be accomplished at applying that information in the real world. Knowing medicine but refusing to heal would be an aberration. Knowing business principles but refusing to serve the needs of customers would be equally aberrant.
Like swimming, driving and surgery, learning about something doesn’t mean being able to do it. First attempts to apply the knowledge may be faltering and clumsy. But anything worthwhile in life requires effort and work.
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