Who exactly are we? Does anyone truly know the answer to that question? Who do we think we are?
Now the phrase has taken on new and different meanings in recent years. There is a well-known television series that goes by the same title. Each episode follows a celebrity as they re-trace their family backgrounds and discover interesting facts about their ancestors. The program can be quite moving at times both for those watching and the celebrities who participate in it.
I suspect that this fascination with genealogy grows from our need to know where we come from, perhaps in an attempt to better know who we are. No one person lives a life separate from those around them and the history that they come from. Our lives are not singular cellular ones. The whole history of life has brought us to the point we are at today and who we are has been created from this.
This is beautifully illustrated By Thich Nhat Hahn, who wrote in “Present moment, wonderful moment”
“If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.”
All that has been before is a part of who we are. So who do you think you are?
I believe that most of our human problems stem from our rejection of this "likeness", from our inability to see that we are children of love, formed from love. That this Divine spark is an aspect of our very human being. I know when I look back at my darkest days it is this that frightened me the most and so I rejected it. I know that I am not unique in this thinking about who I am. I feel that so many of us are frightened of this spark of "likeness from which we are formed. Marianne Williamson beautifully illustrated this when she wrote “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually who are you not to be? You are a child of God?”
So who do you think you are? Oh and who do you think that everyone else is? Well I believe that we are all formed from that same love, from that same image. That includes you who read this blogspot and even I who write it.
So how do we begin to recognise this sacredness in each other once again? Well I believe that the answer is simple and it begins with one another, with the person we next meet. Just take a look at their face.
We only really need to look into one another’s faces to truly recognise this incredible sacred uniqueness, no two faces are exactly alike and each face has so much to tell of the person looking back at us. When was the last time you truly looked at someone?
Abraham Joshua Heschel said of the human face.
“A human being has not only a body but also a face. A face cannot be grafted or interchanged. A face is a message, a face speaks, often unbeknown to the person. Is not the human face a living mixture of mystery and meaning? We are all able to see it, and are all unable to describe it. Is it not a strange marvel that among so many hundreds of millions of faces, no two faces are alike? And that no face remains quite the same for more than one instant? The most exposed part of the body, it is the least describable, a synonym for an incarnation of uniqueness. Can we look at a face as if it were a commonplace?”
The face…”a synonym for an incarnation of uniqueness.”…I like that.
Our faces reveal so much of who we are to one another. Think about when you meet up with and old friend or relative, one who you have not seen for many years. How often do they say or do we ourselves say “come on let’s have a good look at you” and how often do they or do we then look into one another’s faces to see how we are? And isn’t the response often fascinating for it either brings immense joy or gut wrenching sadness as we see our loved one as they are, for it is written all over our faces. I remember in my darkest days how I used to hate people doing this to me, for I was afraid that they would be able to see right into my soul and know that things were not ok.
In “Anam Cara” John O’Donohue wrote the following about the face…
We never see ourselves exactly as we are, we certainly do not see ourselves as others see us. We see an image of ourselves a reflection, but that is not who we truly are. We need others, others who we know intimately to even begin to know ourselves as we truly are. We need to look into one another’s face and see what it is that they are, in order to truly know who we are. We need to look into one another’s faces and do you know what, if we do, we may just catch a glimpse of the divine incarnating in life once again.
Do not be afraid of the beautiful light that is in each and every one of us.
So who do you think you are? It really matters you know. It matters who you think you are and who you think everyone else you meet is. Our very lives depend upon how we see ourselves and one another. It matters because life itself matters. Well it does if we believe that we are children of love, formed from love. Each unique and each vital and each with something to offer to life.
We need to pay attention to who we think we are and therefore who we think others are. For if we see that we are formed in the image of divine love we will see that we have a responsibility to this life that we lead and the human story that we are a part of. If we do we can become champions of this life, we can become co-creators of the Love that is Divine.
Let us make it so.
I will end this little chip of a blogspot with this little gem on paying attention by James A Autry.
“Threads” by James A Autry in “Love and Profit”
Sometime you just connect,
no big thing maybe
but something beyond the usual business stuff.
It comes and goes quickly
so you have to pay attention,
a change in the eyes
when you ask about the family,
a pain flickering behind the statistics
about a boy and a girl at school,
or about seeing them every other Sunday.
An older guy talks about his bride,
a little affectation after twenty-five years.
achiever laughs before you want him to.
Someone tells you about his wife’s job
or why she quit working to stay home.
An old joker needs another laugh on the way
A woman says she spends a lot of her salary
on an au pair
and a good one is hard to find
but worth it because there is nothing more important
than the baby.
In every office you hear the threads
of love and joy and fear and guilt,
the cries of celebration and reassurance,
and somehow you know that connecting those threads
is what you are supposed to do
and business takes care of itself.