The Big Me Dances

The universe, the world, is how it all occurs to me as a happening, an event, a contingency.

Recalling the words of Baha’u’llah as I would apply them to myself, “… the world is my unawareness of the Godhead and my absorption in aught else…” and that truth is founded in the primary spiritual attitude of the unfettered search: detachment from tradition; avoiding backbiting, boastful people, and evil-doers; cleansing the heart from love, hate, and pride; and living in prayer, patience, resignation, and forgiveness.

My experience gives me the sense that the Godhead operates for me through my declaration (to myself or others) in abandonment of all untrue considerations, for an enthusiasm, passion and joy.

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I believe that I am living in the world, a universe of elementary materials, from which has derived my organic construction as a capability for the flourishing of a metaphysical being. I am the root growing through the soil of human life, drawing sustenance for that budding fractal splicing and looping through all the dimensions beyond time and space, all the dimensions of eternity. I believe I am both contingent and eternal, always to be “unaware” and “absorbed by”, yet also to be a sense of Godhead through how I am in truth.

And so , I dance.

Being Fearless as Being Human

“O Son of Man!
Thou art My dominion and My dominion perisheth not; wherefore fearest thou thy perishing? Thou art My light and My light shall never be extinguished; why dost thou dread extinction? Thou art My glory and My glory fadeth not; thou art My robe and My robe shall never be outworn. Abide then in thy love for Me, that thou mayest find Me in the realm of glory.”  The Hidden Words.” Baha’u’llah

We grow into fear and shame from the earliest days of our lives. Our childhood environments can either minimise or amplify these affects. There is no judgment here, about these affects, just that they are. We could even say they are for good reason. Nonetheless, in the main, fear and shame can distort our growth into fully developed humans, and retard our growth.

Acknowledging fear and shame seems to me to be the first authentic attitude that can lead to it’s disappearance. The hiding of fear and shame is, I think, at the heart of separation, prejudice, scapegoating and war. Baha’u’llah’s words, then, draw attention to that next possibility, that we could be fully engaged as a human being with others, so long as we are able to stand where we might be killed or die because we have no defenses against such happening.

Even after many years since first thinking about this teaching and working with many people at many levels of society and politics, I find myself just much more aware of my own prejudice and separation from others. I have a great fear of being alone. I have a great fear of suffering that even finds me avoiding the step that might lead to a failure to predict the money I have, the resources for the life I want to live, of anything like homelessness or being a burden on others. My independence, therefore, seems driven by separation and, in that I have to question that independence. Can I be truly independent if I cannot face the a life in which tomorrow may have many unknown outcomes for my personal life, many problems requiring solution. I can only say that I don’t know what needs to show up or let go or otherwise happen, to be the person Baha’u’llah invites me to be in this teaching, and maybe in that “I don’t know” is a conversation opening up with everyone, with Baha’u’llah’s teachings, that will lead me to being human, being fearless.

Justice Requires Basis in Offense of Life

justice“O Son of Spirit!
The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor.” Excerpt From: Bahá’u’lláh. “The Hidden Words.”

Let’s consider that we could, in an adult world, do whatever we choose, without external constraints. We might, in such a world, choose to follow a moral formula. We might choose to follow no formula at all, making random choices in every circumstance that surrounds us. In such a world, we might reasonably question, “what about the social contract?”, “what about harming others?”

In considering harming others, we could consider turning the whole framing of this question around. Consider that, in an adult world, we accept that, in doing whatever we choose we might, advertently or inadvertently, offend the life of another or others. Consider that we all, then, have access to complaining about that offense. It seems possible that a justice system could be developed that is based on the complaint of offense against a life.

To consider what offense against a life might constitute, we can immediately consider those offenses that are often listed as ‘criminal’ such as stealing, assault, rape, murder. Starting from a place of strongest offense, society seems to consider that murder is about as strong as it gets. If we look at murder, we see that, as an offense on the life of others, it creates a conundrum. However it is in unraveling that conundrum that a more enlightened justice system can be established.

The conundrum of murder is that, while the victim has had a serious offense against their life, they no longer have a life upon which to offend, not do they have the possibility of complaint against that offense. However, the victim is not the only complainant in the case of murder. Consider that a murder victim is a 20 year old woman who has living parents, a brother and a sister, a life partner, ten cousins, 30 close friends and work colleagues, an employer, etc etc. If we conservatively estimate that the woman’s close circle is around 50 people, and her secondary circle of acquaintances is 200 people, then a case can be made that each of these have a complaint of direct offense on their lives by the murderer.

Putting that scenario aside for a moment, consider that a complaint-of-offense based justice system would have two roles: to determine that an offense against life had been made, and the degree of that offense; and the recompense, reconstruction, or transformative action required around of that offended life. These three accountabilities can be defined as: recompense (restoring the loss); reconstruction (providing alternatives where the loss is permanent); and transformation (creating complete and radical forgiveness from the offended through a caring relationship). How would we estimate what that would mean of 200 complainants of a life taken? Would it make any sense that the perpetrator spend 15 years in a prison? The evidence is that imprisonment rarely creates recompense for the offended, and even rarer, a transformative act for perpetrator and offended alike.

Consider that we might be able to have an authentic conversation about the degree of offense we believe we have suffered. Perhaps such a conversation, even with 200 people, might be facilitated by specialists in clarifying impact. In the case of the murder, that impact (degree of offense) would vary from the loss to a parent to the shock to a recent neighbour. Nonetheless, it seems very possible to be able to compile the full degree of offense. In each case (rather than as a whole), it is also possible to make a formulation about what it would take to transform that offense from the extreme separation and loss it has caused to a state of forgiveness and recompense. Without going into speculation about how each individual case might resolve, it is relatively easy to imagine that the perpetrator of a murder would be confronted with not being able to recompense for the social loss of any of the 200 people, although financial recompense could be argued by an employer who has lost employer productivity and costs to re-hire. In the case of murder it is difficult to see what could be reconstructed as an alternative to that loss to the close circle. It is then, left that the murderer becomes accountable for fully transforming their relationship to the close circle and the whole 200 people, into radical forgiveness and a caring relationship).

An offense against life based justice system has, as it’s core modus operandus, to create access for the perpetrator to transforming their relationship with the offended. For any similar offense, for some perpetrators such access may take many years, for others, much less, and for a few, the whole of their life. Such a system would necessitate that perpetrators play vital roles in community, and around the offended. While it may require certain restraints of the perpetrator, imprisonment would be far less necessary than the current vengeance systems. An offense against life based justice system would be able, maybe even more able than now, to ensure safety around violent perpetrators who have poor self management around their violence.

An offense based justice system can deal with neighbour’s compaints, family complaints, trading complaints, property theft, loss, and damage complaints, political complaints, and social complaints such as denigration, prejudice, or moral shock. An offense based justice system doesn’t work in prescription but can be completely flexible to the circumstances of perpetrators and offended. It can be imagined that an offense based system might be commonly used for many small offenses in life to cut across simmering resentments and optimise relationships across community.

CHARACTER AND MARRIAGE

Sapiens_neanderthal_comparison_en_blackbackgroundI recently read an essay on character listing the wonderful characteristics that a person should look for in a life partner. It made me think of that fictitious place, Lake Woebegone, in which all the children are above average. It seems to me that Having an ideal view creates useful distinctions as aspiration. However, looking for ideals in a marriage / life partner, apart from as their aspirational view, is entirely the wrong way to go about it.

In the first instance, it would be a miracle if you found someone who fitted those ideals, and especially our individual interpretation of those ideals.
In the second instance, unless you are also perfect in your potential partner’s eyes, there’s already a significant mismatch in expectations.
In the third instance, given that you may have found that perfect person (probably through your rose coloured glasses), and they through theirs, there is little doubt that both of you will change your relationship with the ideal within the first year of being together.
There definitely can be a great benefit to the longevity of companionship, of getting to know each other’s character in a rigorous manner (getting to take off the rose coloured glasses). The first benefit is so that we can get to know ourselves, more clearly, through their eyes. Knowing ourselves, being authentic about who we are for another, is the best way to for them to see your character. Likewise, knowing how we are being as authentic and inauthentic (for the two are constantly in play) gives us access to seeing those areas in which others are authentic or inauthentic. It also subverts our desire to dominate others through judgement because our recognition of how we are when others dominate us, tends to activate an empathetic response, in itself a desirable trait in most people’s eyes. Recognition of the authentic way of being, allows us a certain conversation in inquiry of the other. Without any expectation we can explore the attitudes, commitments, and actions of the other.
The conversation around reality becomes crucial to any empowering conversation. Reality just means how it is in actual living structure, form and action. So, conversations and inquiry around what we are in action about, becomes crucial to an understanding of authenticity and integrity.
A word on authenticity. Authenticity is just saying how you are being around some circumstance rather than covering up or pretending or repressing or condoning. It is not about being right, just showing who you are, what you need, and want, regardless of what others or society might think. It is a stand in courage, for oneself.
Integrity is a function of honouring our word, either keeping our word to ourself and others, or cleaning up when we haven’t. Integrity is not a set thing that we can achieve, but a dynamic in which we are often out of integrity either because we are playing such a big game for our personal capacity or because we are playing too small a game. Much like walking is constantly falling, standing still on one leg is harder that jogging, although both will lead to falling due to fatigue. One, however, will lead to some progress being achieved, the other, not so much.
So where does that leave understanding another’s character, in terms of life partners? Within the conversation in reality, integrity and authenticity, it becomes apparent to the couple that a relationship could either have workability or not, around that each other are regularly out of integrity and inauthentic, as a way of striving for authenticity and integrity.
Does the ideal matter at all? The aspiration around an ideal can be useful in the conversation between two people. In the first instance to gauge how far apart are the aspirations in viewpoint, current achievement, and capacity. While each persons specific visions and goals will be different even when there is a general match in aspirational viewpoint, empathetic responses are less likely to be strained. Secondly, after an aspirational match, a personality-identity match is important. This match does not mean ‘same’ but more importantly, ‘fitted’. For example, an extremely frugal person and an extremely generous person may be a poor fit, while and generous person and a modestly frugal person may make a good fit, neither having to compromise far from their personal range, while their relationship now has twice or more the range of each individual. Inside of the conversation that makes use of that greater range, is an ‘person’ who is a ‘we’ not a ‘me’. And that ‘we’ models and creates a vaster ‘we’ circle of human relationships, the basis of a whole new society.

The Paradox of the Authentic Self

Much is mentioned about our authentic self as, like, we have to know what it is and be true to it.

I worry that I don’t know what mine is and so I’m sure I can’t possibly be true to it.

But, because it seems that a lot of people think it is important, I keep trying to understand what it is. However, pretty much at a stand still on the issue, I decided to make an enquiry into the possibility that an authentic self doesn’t exist. With that enquiry in mind, I found myself getting down to the tin tacs of the issue.

So, finally, my conclusion is that, yes, there is an authentic self, and no, there isn’t.

How did I get to this?

Well, perhaps it is because I like the idea of fuzzy logic, that things can either exist, not exist, exist and not exist (as a way of being) or, exist or not exist (as a way of being). But I also get to the conclusion in realising that an authentic self is a label for something that is in play with another thing that is called being inauthentic.

Those who promote a notion of the authentic self include, Dr Phil; Life Coaches whose idea about this seems rote, like a belief; psychologists; and gurus. Philosophers can be both hazy and clear about it.

This is what the promoters say:

  • There is a composite of skills, talents, wisdom, attitudes, perspectives that, when expressed, are going to be identifiably “YOU” like a fingerprint.
  • That “YOU” might be different from the expectations of those around you, including family.
  • “YOU” are hidden when living by others expectations that drain you of the critical life energy you need to pursue the things you truly value.
  • “YOU” show up as a calling, an expression in action, fulfilment.
  • “YOU” are a complete, whole being in integrity
  • “YOU” as a calling, impacts others.

keepItRealFrom various writers there are a range of characteristics about how you live life that point to you being authentic or inauthentic:

  • Anxiety is a reaction of hiding something or pushing to accomplishing something and is a sign of inauthenticity.
  • Inauthenticity shows up as protection of self
  • Authenticity is action focused on process.
  • Certain habits ‘feel’ inauthentic.
  • It is seen as a peaceful, centred feeling.
  • A calling requires silence, reflection
  • It shows up when you are doing things that make you deeply happy
  • Authenticity is finding friends that go with those activities
  • It is supported by the ‘feels good for me”
  • It is unsupported by fear, doubt, conformity, manipulation, gossip and group misery, pride, shame or guilt.
  • Shows up when you trust your gut and common sense
  • Shows up when you find your talents and explore them
  • Shows up when you appreciate the thing of yourself that are different than most people.
  • Shows up when you ‘enhance’ yourself
  • Shows up when you value your beliefs; forgive yourself; believe your dreams; know you are needed by other; are respecting yourself; make up your own mind
  • Being authentic is how you feel at the moment and you can say it.
  • As action without guarantees
  • You can ask for help
  • You can be okay as rejected
  • You can embrace negative emotions.
  • Is thinking things through independently, arriving at beliefs and ways of living that you can personally take responsibility for
  • Has a connection with what you loved as a child
  • When you own the values you have
  • What you have fun with
  • What about life are you drawn to
  • Is comfortable in your body

As I run down this list that seems so lovely, I find that there are many paradoxes. For example, my ‘common’ sense tells me trust science and that what is ‘common’ belief is rarely true. Likewise, deriving an idea from the common meaning in society is quite at variance with a special “YOU”. Another example is when I am caught in the expression of negative emotions like anger, it could be considered authentic to express that I am angry as long as I do it calmly but would be inauthentic if I expressed my anger, angrily or with in overt physical response. It is, however, inauthentic, to respond that we SHOULD not be aggressive, yet authentic to be peaceful. And to be sure, the former is bound to be inachievable because the effort to contain anger cannot be maintained, while being peaceful achieves non-aggression as a side-effect.

Other paradoxes can be seen in applying authenticity to the pathological mind. In a certain way, a psychopath can never be authentic, even though their psychopathy might be exactly their special identity. To be sure, the psychopath is invariably manipulative, just as the person with anxiety disorder is invariably self-protective. Each are, authentically like that. If they hide their real selves in an attempt to be socially acceptable, then they are considered inauthentic, even though we would all respect the effort.

On the altruistic side of the coin, if a person consciously chooses to serve others needs, they are authentic servants.  Yet if they unthinkingly take on the values of their upbringing to serve others they are, by definition, inauthentic servants. If the latter person is happy, they are still inauthentic, although their happiness is authentic. If the former person is happy, it is a sign of their authenticity.

It might also be noted that our special array of talents etc, are not so much different from everyone else’s, just as all fingerprints are recognisable as fingerprints. And, indeed, there may only be a small range of values that contribute to authenticity such that all humans host them in one way or the other, and as such, their expression may look very close to living by others expectations becasue we might be authentically living within and around each others expectations  So I find myself sitting in this strange web of paradoxes, on the one hand, entirely clear about Authenticity, and on the other, entirely convinced that it we do not have a thing that is “US” that is stable, whole, in integrity, ie authentically me.

In the Baha’i Faith, there is not this issue of an authentic self. There is an aspiration that each person shall become independent in thought and spirituality and the resources for life. There is acknowledgement that there are processes of education in the family and as a life-long endeavour, that this independence will flourish, that the independent person comes from the interdependence with others. For sure, there is “YOU” as an authentic Baha’i who lives as a calling for impact of others. And that Baha’i “YOU” is impactful as open to engaging with all the diversity of the human planet, learning from that diversity and teaching into that diversity, and learning as the response from teaching into that diversity. It has been useful, as a Baha’i to enquire into the authentic “ME” and use tools to check for the signs of authenticity and inauthenticity, on a path to independence and interdependence. That Baha’i path reaches out and catches the hands of everyone, testing what it means to be a Baha’i, to be human, to be in unity. Here, on this path, the “ME” wobbles around among the others, as it goes off on its very unique route, and, so, I can only reckon that this wobbly path is authentic while every individual responses and reactions is awash with authentic and inauthentic drivers. And it is only in acknowledging that there is no authenticity, that I might be indeed, authentic.