meticulousness or madness?
As with any regimen, dealing with the physical or spiritual, we have the options to either ignore it completely, comply with it fully, or go overboard with it. Diligence requires us to walk with a level of meticulous and dutiful observance to whatever routine in which we are engaged. But when does that diligence appear as madness, or something gone astray?
Usually, the signs of diligence gone wrong are pretty obvious. We notice that whatever we are applying our efforts to leaves other areas in our lives in great neglect. While we need to concentrate on certain routines (especially if we are sick or in therapy), if we spend too much time on these areas and neglect other parts of our lives — family, friends, home, work — then we are setting ourselves and those around us up for disaster.
Far too many times, I have seen people take the quest for spirituality and religious observance to such extremes that they no longer appear like normal people. Their every breath is consumed by this quest and it isn't long before they start to forget about people's feelings, needs around them, and basic human interaction. This kind of behavior is not only imbalanced, it smacks in the face of diligence as being out of whack.
balance the demands
The key to walking a life of diligence and functional living is to assess all of the different demands that stand before us each day. I like to think of it as the "take a number" approach. In many government-run systems, everyone takes a number based on type of service needed and priority. This not only breaks up the groups by level of demand, but ensures that the lines move in an orderly fashion. One particular clerk isn't bombarded with many different requests; instead, she focuses on one or two types of requests and is efficient in processing them. The successful component in living is to not only prioritize, but give the right time and attention to the tasks at hand. By processing too many tasks, or focusing completely on one to the point of madness, we are guaranteed to come up short.
Rabbi Salanter shows us the balance of adhering to the doctor's orders so as to preserve life. However, when that task was expired, he returned to his other duties so as to not fall short in those. Let us choose to be focused and work with zeal without forsaking all else in our lives. May we take the advice spoken from his example and be meticulous, determined, but balanced in all things.