“A fiddler on the roof.
“Sounds crazy, no?
“But you might say that every one of us is a fiddler on the roof. Trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck.”
These are the opening words of the Broadway classic and movie “The Fiddler on The Roof.” They are spoken by Tevye, the Jewish peasant and father of five daughters. The story follows Tevye as he tries to find a way to keep his balance in the tumultuous, changing times of Czarist Russia.
His story resonates because he is like many of us, whether we are Jewish or not, poor or not. In these times, it feels like we are perched on a steep roof trying to scratch out a simple tune without falling off and breaking our necks.
How do we stay balanced?
Should we work harder and make more money? Should we move somewhere easier or safer? Should we chase after a romantic partner? Deep inside, none of these things feel truly safe and meaningful because we know they are ephemeral–they are not lasting.
So, we can’t really hold onto them when we feel unbalanced. Indeed, the prospect of losing them is often what makes us feel unbalanced in the first place.
Here is what gives us a sense of balance under any circumstances: Knowing we live a life based on our values. A life based on giving what we can to those we love and to our local and planetary communities.
In Tevye’s case though, he must milk the cow and sell the milk and cheese to support his family. In his fondest dreams he would spend his days studying the Torah–understanding better his values. That again, is like us. So many of us are forced to do things to scratch out a living when really we want to be playing our tune.
So what Tevye does, he tells us, is he always keeps his head covered and always wears a little prayer shawl to remind himself of his constant devotion to God or–in secular language–to what is really important in life.
It makes me wonder. I have to live life and make a living. But what can I do remind myself of my constant devotion to my values, my constant devotion to wanting a better life for everyone even if I can’t always work towards that all day long?
And what about you? Is there anything you can do to remind yourself of your constant devotion to what is really important to you, to your values? Because, in the end, knowing we are at least trying to live in line with our values is the most lasting life balance we can have.