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It is asked, “Understanding, how it can be attained?”

Understanding does not come of its own accord. It must be pursued, searched out. There are many roads to understanding as we care to explore, but it must start with one’s own self.

It means laying bare our virtues and flaws so we may get to know why we say, and do, and feel as we do, along with the motives that drive us.

It means getting to know other people, their views and reasoning, for through them we get clues and insights into the ways we function.

It means facing ourselves with honesty, and others with eyes not glossed over with prejudice or envy, or ears not shut down with disinterest.

It means sharing the lives of other people, in any small way, so we may know the full range of human emotions, and learn the meaning of empathy and compassion.

The more we travel the roads to understanding, the closer we get to understand the importance of understanding if we are to live in harmony with oneself and others.

I’ve pondered what my grandmother wrote in this innovation for a few weeks. Rather than referring to “understanding,” I think a better word would be “introspection,” the process of carefully examining your own feelings, thoughts, and ideas.

“Understanding” seems too vague, especially when suggesting the need to face oneself with honesty, not glossing over prejudice or envy, or disregarding another because you’re disinterested… or too myopic to consider another point-of-view.

Understanding one’s self is particularly relevant with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, last Thursday, and Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement, on Saturday. This is the time of the year to when God inscribes each person’s fate for the coming year into the Book of Live, and then waits until Yom Kippur to “seal” the verdict.

During the Days of Awe, between Rose Hashanah and Yom Kippur, one tries to amend his or her behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God, and others. The hope is that by the end of Yom Kippur, one has been forgiven by God, and granted another year of life.

As my grandmother wrote, the more one travels the roads to understanding, the closer they get to understanding the importance of living in harmony with themselves and others. But understanding isn’t enough. What’s necessary is recognizing one’s shortcomings, determining if they need to change, and then working towards amending them.

Not all shortcomings are bad. Understanding which ones impact your quality of life, and the lives of others is the key.

My grandmother was known for critiquing other’s writing. If someone sent her a letter, she more often than not, sent it back with “redlines,” indicating how it could be better written. Most people found this habit rather irritating, if not insulting. After all, they took the time to write, and she showed her gratitude, but correcting their grammar.

She was most brutal on my writing, correcting my papers every Saturday when she visited. This trait, however, transformed me into a pretty good writer.

I also understand why she was so critical of my writing. Her dream was to become a journalist or short story author. Even though her native language was Russian, and she was in her teens when she came to America, she’d mastered English, speaking without an accent, and using words that were more typically found in a dictionary than rolling off the tongue.

She’d taken numerous writing classes, writing stacks of articles, observations, poems, stories, and in a play or two. In her later life, she wrote invocations for her senior citizens group. Until she took her last breadth, she was scribbling her thoughts on scraps of paper, most illegible, using crayons because it was too difficult for her to hold a pen or pencil.

I understand myself partially because I understood my grandmother. And with the New Year, I’ll strive to better understand and recognize my flaws, and work towards being a better person to myself and others.

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