Generation I - Official Kabbalah Publication of the Bnei Baruch Kabbalah Education & Research Institute
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Generation I

In our generation—generation "I"—every person is unique. But the true art is knowing how to be unique

Back in the eighties, Douglas Coupland popularized the term “Generation X,” referring to the new generation. This quickly became a hot topic, and a pop culture formed around the notion, seeking to decipher the unique qualities of the new generation. Going beyond mere curiosity, interest in the new generation was fueled by giant corporations that endeavored to find the right marketing strategy for millions of Generation X youngsters.

Today, we present “Generation I”—a generation that is typically concerned with one thing—itself!

iPod, iTunes, iPhone, iLife, iPhoto, iDVD, iWeb and iMovie all demonstrate that Apple Inc. and its brilliant CEO, Steve Jobs, have figured out the “I” trend of our generation, and more importantly, the way to market products to a generation that lives and breathes “I.” Apple hit the nail on the head by putting the consumer’s “I” at the center of its marketing strategy.

Taking a longer view, it’s easy to see that iPod and other “i-Gadgets” are but examples of a much more comprehensive process that’s taking place today. People are becoming obsessed with themselves, as evidenced by the huge popularity of daily reality shows. And the "I" trend doesn’t just dictate strategies for the mass media and giant corporations; it also appears in every other realm of life.

Why is this happening? Where does such an intense feeling of uniqueness, characteristic of our generation, come from? And is there a way for us to use it as a springboard for positive change?

The Spark

“The quality of uniqueness extends to us directly from the Creator, who is single in the world, and is the root of all Creations.”

Kabbalist Yehuda Ashlag (Baal HaSulam),
“Peace in the World”

In his article, “Peace in the World,” Baal HaSulam explains that the feeling of uniqueness is present in the heart of each and every person. It’s because human beings originate from the Creator, and just as the Creator is One, Unique and Unified, we also feel that we are singular and unique.

But we didn’t always feel this way. Originally, at the point of our creation, all of us were part of one collective entity called “the common soul.” This was the Creator’s sole creation and was inseparably unified with Him through bonds of love. But as this common soul began to develop, it split into individual souls, sparks of the initial soul that “dressed” into physical bodies.

This is how our reality was formed, where every person has a unique, individual spark of the common soul. This spark inspires us to reestablish our prior adhesion with its source, the Creator. But until we become aware of this aspiration and learn how to properly realize it, we only perceive it as a growing quality of uniqueness.

“Since man’s soul extends from the Creator—who is One and Unique and all is His—therefore man, who extends from Him, also feels that all the Creations of the world should be under his governance and exist for the sake of his own benefit... And all the difference between people is their choices: One chooses to exploit others by attaining low passions, the other—by attaining governance, and the third—by attaining honor.”

Kabbalist Yehuda Ashlag (Baal HaSulam),
“Peace in the World”

Baal HaSulam explains that the problem is the way we use our quality of uniqueness—for self benefit, ignoring how it affects others. Often we will use it deliberately at the expense of others. In fact, the egoistic use of our most exalted quality is actually the cause for all the evils in our world!

“Although we have clarified its sublime and lofty reason: that this quality extends to us directly from the Creator... nevertheless, since the sensation of uniqueness had settled into our narrow egoism, its action became ruin and destruction, to the extent that it is the source of all ruins that were and will be in the world.”

Kabbalist Yehuda Ashlag (Baal HaSulam),
“Peace in the World”

At a Crossroads

Is there anything we can do to change our egoistic, destructive use of the quality of uniqueness? Baal HaSulam says that there is.

He explains that the Creator leads us to a crossroads and lets us choose which path to take. On the one hand, we can channel our quality of uniqueness towards giving and caring for others. By doing so, we use this quality the same way as the Creator, and thus eliminate the gap separating us from Him.

However, without even being aware of it, most of us choose the other alternative: using the quality of uniqueness for our own good. In other words, we desire to be greater than others, and by so doing, we increase the alienation between us. Baal HaSulam illustrates the severity of this situation with the following metaphor:

Our body is made of billions of cells, where each cell operates autonomously, realizing its own, unique purpose. Although the cells operate as individual units for “self-profit,” they are united by one common goal—to provide life and energy to the whole body. Each cell has its own self-interest, but it values the common goal even more—and that’s why the body stays alive.

However, as soon as one cell stops working for the sake of the whole body and begins working only for its own good, it starts a chain reaction called “cancer.” The first cancerous cell infects other cells with its “egoistic” tendency, causing a disintegration of the whole body.

And herein lies the problem with our modern society: The “self-interest” disease is spreading throughout humanity’s collective body, even as we speak.

The Way

“Indeed there are two sides to this coin of uniqueness, for if we look at it from the side of its equivalence with the world’s Unique One, it works only in the form of ‘bestowal upon the other,’ as the Creator is all bestowal, and has nothing of the form of reception...

Hence, the uniqueness that extends to us from Him must also act only in forms of ‘bestowal upon the other’ and nothing of self-reception whatsoever.”

Kabbalist Yehuda Ashlag (Baal HaSulam),
“Peace in the World”

We don’t need to repress our inherent quality of uniqueness in order to become “healthy cells” of the collective human body; in fact, we couldn’t do so even if we tried. We simply need to learn how to use this quality the right way. This means changing the intention behind our actions from “self-benefit” to “bestowal upon others.”

By doing so, one becomes similar to the Creator, as the Creator is pure bestowal. One begins climbing the spiritual ladder, returning to one’s source. And the higher one climbs, the more one attains the Creator’s quality of bestowal, until becoming just like Him.

Therefore, the quality of uniqueness is the most wonderful thing that each of us has: When we endow it with the intention to love and bestow upon others, we rise to a completely new level of existence—the level of the Creator.

And when man becomes like the Creator, he fulfills the role of his individual soul in the puzzle of the common soul, and becomes One, Unique and Unified.