Western culture loves recreation and entertainment, and there's certainly nothing wrong with having appropriate hobbies, pastimes, and leisure activities. Everyone needs to relax at times. The Hollywood industry and all of the professional sports leagues thrive on this passion and love for all things engaging and enjoyable.
There are times though that we can take this fervor and enthusiasm for suitable diversions to the wrong destination.
I found myself thinking about Morrie whenever I read anything silly or mindless. I kept picturing him there… counting his breath, squeezing out every moment with his loved ones, while I spent so many hours on things that meant absolutely nothing to me personally: movie stars, supermodels, the latest noise out of Princess Di, or Madonna...
In a strange way, I envied the quality of Morrie's time, even as I lamented its diminishing supply. Why did we bother with all the distractions that we did?... The O.J. Simpson trial was in full swing, and there were people who surrendered their entire lunch hours, watching it, then taped the rest so they could watch more at night. They didn't know O.J. Simpson. They didn't know anyone involved in the case. Yet they gave up days and weeks of their lives, addicted to someone else's drama.
(Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom)
Why do we bother with all the distractions that we do? Why do we give up days and weeks of our lives, addicted to other people's dramas?
Sometimes it is because we choose to live vicariously through the celebrities we cherish. If my favorite actor wins the Academy award for best actor, I feel as if I have won. If my team wins the championship, I won the championship. We 'worship' our heroes in Hollywood and on the sporting fields because it is our way of achieving greatness.
Declare a war on mediocrity and bring out your inner greatness.
In our own lives, we often settle for mediocrity. We don't think of ourselves as living heroic lives in any sense, nor do we consider the possibility that we could ever become great at anything. Thus, we subconsciously live out 'greatness' through our heroes in the entertainment world.
But this is a mistake. We can all be heroes, each of us in our own way. We need to declare war on mediocrity and launch a personal struggle to bring out the greatness and potential within each of us.
"Every person is fit to be as righteous as Moses, our Teacher." (Maimonides, Repentance 5:2)
We won't ever reach the heights of prophecy Moses reached and speak to God face to face, but if we live our lives properly and according to the ways of G-d, and we maximize our personal abilities and potentials, we can be as righteous as Moses.
God doesn't expect everyone to perform superhuman feats, as Moses did, but He does anticipate that all people reach their own personal potentials.
The crown of Torah is prepared, waiting, and ready for each Jew… Whoever desires may come and take it. (Maimonides, Torah Study 3:1)
If we study Torah, perform acts of kindness, and observe the Torah's commandments properly, according to our God-given abilities, we are being as righteous as Moses. Not all of us will become supreme Torah scholars but if we do what we can, we, too, are placing the crown of Torah on our heads. And in God's book, the utmost Torah scholar and holy man and the simplest Jew are equal -- as long as each person maximizes their potential.
Joseph, the son of Joshua, became weak, fell into a coma, and was close to death. When he was revived, his father asked him, 'What did you see?' The son answered, 'I saw an upside-down world. The exalted ones were at the bottom, whereas the mediocre ones were at the top?!' The father replied, "My son, you saw a clear world!" (Talmud, Baba Basra 10b)
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein explains that God judges each person according to his abilities and does not demand anything more from a person than he is capable. So those people who are looked at as second-rate in this world could very well be the true superior ones, as long as they maximize their potential. And those who seem to be greater in this world could actually be the lesser ones if they only rely on their natural talent and do not struggle to reach their supreme potential.
We don't need to be rich and famous to become heroes. If we work hard to utilize the potential God has given to each of us, we are heroes in the eyes of God.