Archive for the ‘identity’ Category

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:8-10

Social distancing is a challenge!

Part of our problem is that many of us feel compelled to be productive. We are works oriented. We want to save ourselves.

This comes from within and without. Within lies the need for self-validation — through doing.

I’ve become habituated to that hard-driving motive to constantly do. Maybe you too. Our house is currently sparklingly clean, floors dusted, toilets cleaned, dishes done and put away, garage organized, weeds pulled from the garden. It makes sense. Order. Beauty. Activity. Busyness. And “I’ve got to do something so I don’t go stir crazy! I need to list at least a few things I’ve accomplished by the end of the day as I fall asleep!”

Yesterday, I scraped the grass out of cracks in the driveway. Scraping — for sanity! I also trimmed my toenails and listed that as one of my big three before I went to sleep. Clippings, to prevent an existential vacuum.

It’s okay. Looks better. The driveway. My toes. I did something! Hope the grass and my nails grow back so I can get after them again soon!

The other thing driving us toward productivity is from beyond the borders of our rooms and yards. It’s them.

I think; maybe you think, “Everyone else must be happier and more adaptive and creative and productive than me! What the heck are they up to?”

And you can find out.

Everywhere online are articles and videos on things to do during the coronavirus lockdown! Even I wrote one! There are the videos of people doing all kinds of cool and unique stuff — working from home, jumping jacks, singing out of their windows, video-chatting, baking, cooking, writing books, alphabetizing their sock drawers.

But this morning listening to a podcast on this issue I heard one woman ask a salient question, “Can’t I just stay in my sweatpants and be anxious?”

Yes! You can!

We workaholics, busy addicts, taskaphiles, list-mongers, chore-junkies, job-hounds, project-freaks, efficiency-peddlers and hobby-jobbies — we need to revisit the value of non-productive leisure.

What about the virtue of salutary sloth? What about the value of productive inertia? Robust indolence? Salvific slackardification? Curative lethargy? Goofoffery? Layaboutery? Or perhaps — meditation anyone?

We have often been preached the virtues of slowing down. Now is our moment, now is our opportunity. This the age of the pandemic flaneur. This is our opportune moment to find balance between doing and being.

Yes, do stuff. Especially to connect with and to care for others. Especially what God made you to do.

But also, could we for a time just be for a while?



Just take a moment to — be.

Take a time out when you don’t have to prove anything or be somebody special to justify your existence or impulsively busy your body so that you don’t have to think about who you are and what makes you valuable and lovable even when you’re not preductable.

I love you, you idleness-experts, loafing gourmands, shiftlessness devotees, aficionados torpid, grace addicts, mercy-mongers, love gurus.

Teach us grace!

Teach us a sweet-potent, leisurely-vigorous, lethargic-salvific contentment.

The bullseye of life — want to hit it? Don’t aim at me!

The bullseye is us! Shoot us!

“That they may all be one!” the wise one, Jesus, prayed, so there you go. He set up the goal of life, the ultimate movement and goal of history. The target is oneness!

My daughter called me this morning when I was still in bed. Her voice traveled out of the holes in the bottom of my mobile phone, hit the sheet, and bumped over my pillow to me: “How are you, dad?” — my ear said to me — from her.

What is precious in a life,  despite the fact that we have overused the word precious?

The small, microphone voice of my daughter in my ears is precious because it is her, her being connected to me, us there for each other, neither one alone.

The exact, perfect center point of all existence lies within us being together.

Exquisite — those not-doing moments, those being-moments — someone else’s existence allowed to come within ours. It has been said by a wise one, Paul “In him [God] we live and move and have our being.” Therefore, there really is no being alone! It’s impossible. Life is inside of another. All life moves within God!

My life isn’t me, or you. It’s us. Your life isn’t you, it’s us. Being is always plural. We go along together or not at all. If you could somehow get out of the divine presence and be alone, you wouldn’t exist.

I have long lived like the crux of my consciousness and my experience was me as an individual, my eyes, my actions, my choices, what makes me stand up and stand out. Silly! It was always all of us. Essential being is a pile of us. We were made to live like kittens drooped and draped and sprawled on each other sleeping and playing and eating together. Consciousness, being, life — it’s a pile of kittens; it’s a pile of presences.

I texted a friend yesterday and asked, “How are you doing?”

She texted back that she has been struggling with her sense of “worth on a deep emotional level.”

“Let’s call and talk on the phone tomorrow,” I said, “We can talk about our it.” So we arranged for the divine moment. And when we talked — bam — we came aware that we live in God for each other, two presences bonded in him with the glue of shared struggle, as it was always meant to be.

Being an individual is good. I love autonomy. My doing is good, but you’ll notice every doing hinges on being, and being requires beings, and good requires being present to each other. If I linger near you, and you listen to me, if I absorb bits of you, and you breath in what I feel, the mystery of our separated being crosses time and space and merges. It’s magic, the fusion. It’s supreme, matchless, nonpareil — when we apprehend the quintessential us and we!

It’s the “when two or more are gathered in my name I’m there.” Two creates a magnetic, drawing spiritual gathering, and three can conjure a whole community of oneness. This is the virtuosic movement of history that was always meant to be — a unified us.

Last night in the same room with my wife, I was writing, she was reading, breathing the same air. It was perfect being!

I “liked” a friend’s picture yesterday on Facebook. A “like” is a validation of existence. The social scientists say social media may raise our anxiety levels, looking for likes, addiction to likes, superficial social media likes, jarring hits of pseudo affirmation, or not, but this popular activity tells us a bit about who we are. We are ones with the need to be liked, to be known, loved, to have another person validate our being, to connect. That why 2 billion people use Facebook.

We always have and always will need each other’s validation of being in some form in order to be more aware that we are a presence.

I stopped on my walk last night to talk to a neighbor. This is better than Facebook. We did some lingering, listening, absorbing, merging. He talked about losing his wife last year, a tragic accident, how he has struggled to go on. We hugged three times before we left each other — and I wouldn’t say that before this we were close — but standing on his driveway in the dark we bonded over shared pain.

A moment together, a call, a text, a like, a love, a hand up to greet, a hand on a shoulder, a hand out to help — that is being. You and I can do nothing better with the time and space we have on this huge, distance-making planet than to be safely and warmly present to each other.

A couple of friends and I were chatting yesterday. One, an artist, said it simply, something like, “We are alone. We only know our selves by ourselves.”

She had a point, and until a person realizes that, perhaps they don’t know who they are. Only you are you, only me, me. We aren’t an appendage; we are an entity.

This is particularly important in the formulation of a healthy personal identity. To star, we can’t fix our wagon to another person’s star. To differentiate, to autonomize, to individuate we must separate.

When I write I do that. I please myself and so I experience freedom, autonomy. So does my artist friend. When she paints she becomes a self-sustaining farm; she nourishes herself.

But in pleasing myself — and in her pleasing herself — we please a few others too. They find in our experience their experience too.

And therein lies the rub regarding individuation.

No one is merely an isolated spec, a disconnected bit, a complete island. We all are dependent, interdependent, connected. We are each one an army of other people  — we come from parents, share life with siblings, we are sustained by farmers, clothiers, doctors and employers. Each one of us is indeed a community; each person is actually a horde. Our DNA was borrowed, our personalities influenced, our behaviors conditioned, our lives sustained  —  by others.

Recently my artist friend taught an art class. She found it extremely fulfilling. She was who she was, the artist, but she was alive and filled with meaning and identity as she shared what she knew about art with others.

Who are you?

Yes, you are a particular, a specific, a distinct, a discreet. But you are more than that.

And you are also a colony, a neighborhood, an association, a world.

We only know ourselves alone.

We only know ourselves together.

Both are true.