Carl Sagan said that “We are stardust”.
It’s a beautiful thought, that. It offers us a transcendence, an opportunity to romanticise about our identity, and for a brief moment in time, to be more than just 70 years of stuff. More than human. What is it about us, that seeks to be part of something greater? Something eternal and transcendent?
I wrote recently about being “nothing except what we do”. That had a context, as I am sure you were aware. The question of identity can never be answered by so mere a statement as “what we do”. What we do is laughably short term, and other peoples perceptions of what we do are coloured by everything from their own upbringing, to last night’s pizza. The context was that in a world of interconnected people, the visible and tangible and real investments we make in relationships, are a far more valuable currency than the intangible intentions we have.
But when it comes to who we actually are, the debates are endless. Of course some say we are nothing more than the product of evolution; that we are simply animals. Our genetic makeup is created by chance; by random interaction of circumstance and biology. I am not one to discount any scientific theory, but while there is mounting evidence for aspects of it, in my view there will never be enough evidence to convert the theory into fact.
The many spiritual schools of thought all contain one similarity in this regard – we are transcendent, and we are eternal. We are from before this time, and we will be after this time. A well known musician once titled an album “Beyond Nature” seeking to express musically the mystery of eternity. He said in his liner notes “Nature is mortal – we shall outlive her”. I like that. 🙂
Some say karma influences our eternal destiny, that we cycle through eternity refining our spirituality by increasing our “goodness” until we achieve “perfection”. Others say we are saved by grace – that humanity cannot be reconciled to God without Gods intervention.
Hedonism says we should enjoy the “now” because that is all there is. I guess that works for some, but given the non-negotiable of actions having inescapable consequences, hedonism is rarely fully embraced. Subtly, everyone knows that would be a very short-lived journey.
So who are we?
I have my view, and it is very specific. I am not my actions. I am not my emotions, and I am not the sum of my failures and successes. I believe I am independent of my actions, my emotions and my failures and successes. I can view these things from the outside, and I can change them.
I am a father, yes, but that is a role.
I am a husband, yes, but that is also a role.
I am an employee/entrepreneur/leader, yes, but that is also a role!
I am a friend… you get the idea.
We need to separate who we are from the roles we play. That can be very scary, as it generally is how we define ourselves. we are a good … or a bad…
We are more than that. We are people who have these roles to play, but they are not us.
Our actions make us trustworthy or not, but they are not us.
Our words make us kind or cruel, but they are not us.
Our attitudes make us pleasant or unpleasant, but they are not us.
Who we are can be discovered when no-one else is around. When the role plays are finished, and the responsibilities are done. When the world is quiet, and we are free from chores and performance obligations. There is a place inside each of us, when this outer cacophony is stilled, for long enough, that Truth speaks.
If we are one person when no-one is looking, and another when we feel we are being watched, we have a problem. A big problem. Most of us are at least a little like this. Its kind of natural. But its not right. We all need integrity of heart and purpose. A place where there are no lies. No untruths. No misrepresentations. No role playing to hide our true selves or feelings.
And we need to realise that in this place we will connect with our Source. And through connecting with our Source, we can become what we were intended to be. For me my Source is a Person, and a deeply personal One-on-one relationship. For others is it something else. We will discover we are precious. And beautiful. Loving, and gentle. And humble, and patient and kind. Gracious and peace loving, faithful and true. And irrepressibly joyful.
If we are not those things, then we have allowed them to be stolen from us, or in many cases, they were stolen from us before we had a chance to protect them from being stolen.
Lets get them back.