WHO ARE YOU?
Each of us has a name by which we have become known, a name given to us by our parents, a name sometimes chosen at random, or from a list of popular names, sometimes by family traditions, and sometimes with special meaning. In some cultures a name has particular significance with regard to a blessing or something sacred. Indigenous people seemed better at this, maybe because they lived closer to nature.
Beyond a given name what do you call yourself as an important kind of identification? It may have to do with your role as a worker, your job title or as some kind of survivor; as a citizen of a particular nation or the member of a group or association. It could be one of the big 8 social identifiers such as ability (physical and mental), age, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and socio-economic status. Think for a moment how circumscribed those may be or how limiting words might be. Even the word “American” can be controversial because when we are south of the border we are “Norte Americanos” and technically so are the Mexican people because they are still north of Central and South America. Some people were identified as members of a particular tribe, a social division of families or communities with much in common.
Rather than define ourselves by what we do, what about defining ourselves by who we are, our essential nature as human beings rather than human doings? The essence or ground of our being brings to my mind the work of Paul Tillich, especially in The Shaking of the Foundations, 1955. He says: “The name of infinite and inexhaustible depth and ground of our being is God. That depth is what the word God means. And if that word has not much meaning for you, (italics mine) translate it, and speak of the depths of your life, of the source of your being, of your ultimate concern, of what you take seriously without any reservation. Perhaps, in order to do so, you must forget everything traditional that you have learned about God, perhaps even that word itself. For if you know that God means depth, you know much about Him…. For you cannot think or say: Life has no depth! Life itself is shallow. Being itself is surface only. If you could say this in complete seriousness, you would be an atheist; but otherwise you are not.”
Perhaps we can call ourselves “believers” and that would require more discussion about where we place that belief. As Tillich says, what is our ultimate concern, the depth of our life, our passion? What are we to be about? Suffice to say here that the next question may shed some light on this first one about what are we to call ourselves.
HOPEFUL OR FEARFUL ?
I have said for a long time is that hope (faith) and fear are perfectly correlated, inversely. The more you have of one, the less you have of the other. What if we were less invested in the outcome and more present and invested in the process, in the present moment? Would that have any effect on our behavior? On our choices? On our relationships with our work and our colleagues? On our connections with family, friends and neighbors? I hope that, at the least, we believe in who we are and what we’re doing and that what we believe, our core values, define what we do rather than what we do defining who we are.
We are living in a time where constant news of tragedies and human suffering seem to cry out for attention and solutions. We are also living in a time of immense progress in many areas that inspire people to do great things whether in developing or already developed countries. Whither education, business, health care, or the environment.? What is it that you care about most?
Do world conditions inspire more hope or more fear within you? Where do you invest your time, your energy and talent? How about living in the future now? How about going beyond work and seeing what it is that motivates you to even consider the kind of work that you want to be about? How about forming your own essential questions that define you? As you contemplate your answers to these questions, and more, you will discover how being who you are is more about being than doing. Thus we become more and more human beings, realizing our capacity to live humanely and help stop the inhumane treatment of other human beings. That is more hopeful than fearful coming from what you can believe and how you can live as being who you are with great hope for the days ahead.