Op-eds

While in lockdown, go for excellence

  • RuthBenjamin
How will we fill our time? That’s a question designed for boredom!
by DR RUTH BENJAMIN | Jul 30, 2020

Looking at the lockdown this way, we see a long period of utter boredom, and trying to fill it with things that also become boring after a few days.

And what about the financial side? How does a person live? You are no longer working, and there are bills to pay. More than the boredom, it becomes obvious that you have to try and find a way to make some money.

The lack of money you might see as your biggest problem until you have worked out and set up some sort of side business, which helps, and eventually becomes a life-long friend.

There are many things you can do or make or write that you can sell. At the same time, it’s an ongoing problem, and a constant source of anxiety.

Perhaps now you have real time to look after yourself, to relax or do some of the things you have always wanted to do. Now you can be creative and draw and paint and write and do a whole list of things that you have thought about.

You have time to concentrate on your friends. Even when you don’t see them, you can talk to them. You can have great conversations with them. As there are fewer distractions, you can talk to them more often, and more deeply.

Our children who are having online school are letting us follow their ways and making family study times. They have virtually turned our homes into schools. Here’s our chance to learn and achieve. If we are chess players, we can become excellent chess players. We can write exams that can ensure we get a promotion when we return to work.

There are many online courses we can excel in. Also, if you have ever toyed with the idea of doing a degree, here’s your chance to start. You can also study almost any subject you want more intensively. You can take things from the lockdown that you have learned and studied, but these lockdown achievements have to be meaningful. If they are just time fillers, they are set up for boredom.

Now that there are so many restrictions on shuls, the rabbis have tried to do everything they can to offer Jewish content on things like Zoom (which can be accessed on a cell phone), ranging from the deepest mystical parts of Judaism to the most practical and intricate parts of Jewish law. They have declared themselves ready and willing to answer all your questions.

One of the most exciting and rewarding things to do is to learn a new language, and I’m going to tell you about an older, retired couple who have four children, all married and all in Israel. Between them, they have several grandchildren.

At least once a year, they go to see their children and grandchildren and bring a lot of presents, but they couldn’t communicate in any real way.

They knew they had to do something about it.

The time for the next visit was coming up, and they went to various stores to buy presents. Hypermarket was having one of its DVD sales, mostly of children’s movies, and they found a movie with a Hebrew soundtrack as well as the English one. They immediately bought four of these for all the families, and then the lady of the house bought a fifth.

She listened to the Hebrew version and listened to it again and again, and then listened and watched the English version over and over, almost until she knew it by heart.

They went back and found another Hebrew-English dual soundtrack, and watched and watched or did the things they had to do, and just listened. Day and night, the DVD was playing. Hebrew, then English, English then Hebrew.

The day of the flight was coming up, and they flew to Israel, noticing on the flight that Hebrew was somehow more accessible to them.

Shortly after they got off the plane and interacted with their children and grandchildren, a son-in-law who could speak English turned to them in wonderment.

“Safta, you didn’t speak Hebrew before, and you were here only a few months ago. Why can you speak it now? And how can saba understand me? How did he learn? Where did you learn?”

They had acquired something extremely important. They had gained the means to truly communicate with their precious family. That communication (which they continued to work on as time went on) had now opened up. They had achieved something priceless.

I share that story with you because it was something that, in their case, really worked. It was possibly the most unsophisticated method of learning Hebrew that I have ever come across. But it worked.

In spite of the fact that this method of learning would be essentially boring and repetitive, because it was pursued in a meaningful way towards a compelling purpose, it remained inspiring and motivating. And it worked!

These grandparents pursued excellence and found it.

  • Dr Ruth Benjamin PhD is a clinical psychologist.

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