Thursday, October 22, 2009

A question from a Friend...

A Friend sent me a link and a question.

The link takes us here.

the question:

"if we acknowledge there is no unitary "self", what does quaker integrity mean?"

I wrote back to him:

I think it means that one doesn't give in to serving that imaginary "unitary self" that is the source of all the noise in our heads. If we acknowledge that it doesn't exist it means that we stop feeding and protecting that made-up self. It means that, in old timey Quaker talk, we nail that insatiable and permanently restless self firmly to the cross and live, instead, in the guidance of the Light.

The point, as Penington wrote describing the "sum and substance" of the religion of Quakers, is to beat down (such violent metaphors from such peaceable people) that unskillful self in us and to raise up instead "the seed" in us--until the one is defeated and the get the picture.


It's why my experience taught me to try to avoid local newspapers and television news; it's all designed to scare me and make me mad and I am scared enough and mad enough, already. I need to "starve" or "beat down" or "crucify" or "make a space to hold" that scared, angry self until it disappears and doesn't make me do crazy things, anymore.

Tolle said that he got to a place one day in his life when he found himself muttering over and over "I cannot live with myself."

I? Myself? Two different things?

Maybe they are.

But the "myself" in this construct is really a conglomeration of "should be's" and "might happens" that our culture gave to me--"should be" and "might happen" to which I spent a good part of a lifetime applying my fears and--voila! I felt inadequate. So I listened all the more carefully, intently, to what Don Henley called "those voices in your head."

Strong stuff.

The "myself" in this sense is not really "my" self, at all--it's "their-self," it's the person everyone with something to sell me or some other way to use me wants me to be and wants me to think I really am.

How much suffering do all of us do because our culture has told us (to pick an example out of the air) "you are a boy/girl and that means you do what's on this blue/pink list and not what's on this other one." How crazy do we make ourselves--and one another--trying to force ourselves and everyone else to be those "selves?"

As we submit to and obey the Light, as our hearts are softened and changed, integrity arises and we lay such things down.

Since "myself" is a destructive phantasm--a reality that becomes clearer as the testimonies of community and equality (but simplicity and peace, too) develop in us--then what could integrity mean except to be faithful to ignoring its guidance and looking, instead, to the LIght?

Integrity demands (and always gets) a grounding in reality insofar as we know it. As we come to know reality better (as we "wake up," sometimes on a pillow, sometimes on the way to Damascus) then integrity dictates that we change our behavior to reflect the new grounding.

Wear it, it is written, for as long as you can.

1 comment:

Hystery said...

Very cool. I really have not considered "myself" a single self for a long time. I have strongly developed and often opposing personality nodes which are highlighted by the fact that people refer to me by different names depending on which element of my personality is dominant within the social/professional context that person best knows me.

This falls within my concept (strongly influenced by process philosophy and standpoint theory) that there is great multiplicity both within and outside of our bodies AND that all this diversity is part of a vibrant whole. Integrity to me is the ability to, as the Desiderata states, "speak your truth quietly and clearly, but listen to others." This means hospitality to the others in one's head as well as without. Compassion is enhanced by our ability to shift perspective. When we are able to welcome the multitude within, then we will hasten the day when we realize the boundaries between "self" and "other" were always an illusion.