The Music of the Elastic Band…writes Rabbi Laibl Wolf

September 1, 2014 by Rabbi Laibl Wolf
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Thresholds are interesting phenomena. They are tipping points, transformative moments, when realities swap their identities making humans laugh, cry or stare in awe and amazement.

Rabbi Laibl Wolf

Rabbi Laibl Wolf

An elastic band has its tipping point when suddenly, without warning, it snaps and becomes two, snapping back painfully on the fingers that dared challenge the rubber band’s limits. Humans are like that. They too snap when stretched beyond their threshold and limits.

When humans snap the result is meltdown – of mind, sometimes described as a nervous breakdown. Of heart – sometimes described as a heart attack or broken heart. Of spirit – sometimes described as depression or dispirited. Of belief – sometimes described as despair and hopelessness.

An elastic band has built-in molecular polymer limits. Its properties are determined by the modulus, elastic limits and Hooke’s Law. Humans however vary. Each has idiosyncratic limits. What is extremely painful to one person may only be a disagreeable discomfort to another. What brings joy and happiness to one may be mildly amusing to another. Human beings too are elastic – but variably so.

What stretches your limits? Introspect a moment and you might conclude on terms like uncertainty, insecurity, loneliness and fear. These cause stress. But stress is simply the dissonance between the way you want the world to behave and the way it does; the way you want people to be and the way they are; the way you would like to be perceived but believe the truth to be otherwise.

There are two approaches to maintaining the integrity of the elastic band. Either limit its stretch to its modulus, or increase elasticity by changed conditions such as increase in temperature. The same holds true of humans. Human limits can be extended by raising the ‘internal temperature’ of faith and belief. Consider the great historical examples of human endurance. The first Lubavitcher Rebbe, Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi. They each suffered intense or lengthy curtailment of freedoms, yet restored their ‘shape’, becoming inspirational leaders. Roger Bannister, John Landy and Herb Elliot each practiced punishing and extreme training regimens in their successful efforts to break the four-minute mile. Or refer to the autobiographical narratives of concentration camp survivors who drew on superhuman capacities and become captains industry, Nobel Prize Winners and wizened great grandparents.

What distinguished these feats from the far lesser pressures that break people today who labour under much less constraining conditions? I will posit three operative factors: the abundant presence of love, belief and spiritual stamina – the fuel to raise the ‘temperature’ increasing the elasticity factor. Where could you go shopping for this essential survival equipment?

  • Love: most readily available within you. Share your love with others and you will find reciprocal love flowing endlessly towards you
  • Belief: located within your soul. Allow your soul to sing and hear the melodic strains of personal liberation echoing down the corridors of fate.
  • Spiritual Stamina: deriving from your convictions and commitments. Identify the principles of life that deserve your loyalty and live them no matter what.

Human elasticity is the capacity to return to one’s original ‘shape’ – mentally and emotionally. Life will at times stretch us beyond our subjective tolerance levels. But equipped with love, belief and spiritual stamina, you will bounce back, no matter how far the life-stretch. [Interestingly, prison sentences are often described as a ‘stretch’ in prison.] Beyond the mist and haze of life, the believer can stretch upwards and reach for the sky. The fatalist will inevitably lose elasticity and become a shapeless mess.

Be spiritually agile. Stretch. Maintain the elasticity of mind and heart. Listen and enjoy the music of your elastic band.


Rabbi Laibl Wolf is Dean of Spiritgrow – The Josef Kryss Center, Australia

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