Blessed Be. Who Are You?

Who am I? Ever since I was a kid it has seemed a very strange thing to be me, whatever that was. Could I have had different parents? Or would that have been a different kid, not me at all, born to different parents? And if I would still be me, even if born to different parents, then doesn't that make every kid, born to any parents whatsoever, me? That's the kind of thing I wondered about as a kid. Did you? Or was that you wondering it when I was wondering it?

I read recently a column by Cognitive Ethologist Marc Bekoff on whether nonhuman animals know who they are. He begins:
“Did David Greybeard, the chimpanzee who Jane Goodall notably was the first to observe using a tool, have any idea of who he was? Do elephants, dolphins, cats, magpies, mice, salmon, ants or bees know who they are?” (LiveScience, 2013 Sep 19)
I read this, and I’m thinking: Heck, do I know who I am? Maybe elephants and magpies have one up on me.

There's a little exercise you can do -- I've done this. It takes two people. You sit facing each other, looking into each other's faces. Person A simply asks, "Who are you?" For five minutes, whatever Person B says, Person A responds the same way: a phrase of acceptance, and then a repeat of the question. "Blessed be. Who are you?"

Here’s how my turn began:

“Who are you?”

"I'm Meredith Garmon."

"Blessed be. Who are you?"

"I'm the minister at the Community Unitarian Church."

"Blessed be. Who are you?"

"I'm the first born child of Gerald and Lucille."

"Blessed be. Who are you?"

"The father of Morgen and John, and more-or-less of Yency."

"Blessed be. Who are you?"

And so on and on. After five minutes, stop, switch places, with Person B asking "Who are you?" and Person A answering. Try this with somebody. It does something to you. I can't tell you what. There's no substitute for the experience itself. But a kind of insight that can't be put in words begins to emerge as you see the inadequacy of one word after another to identify who you are.

I was doing this exercise and reached a point at which I had exhausted everything I could think of about my family or job, my passions, my hobbies, my commitments, my hopes, fears, abilities, disabilities, gifts, shadows. And each time my partner had said: "Blessed be. Who are you?"

Finally I said, "Exactly right."

Who am I? "Who am I?" is who I am. I am the question itself. I am a walking, continuous, "who am I?" And that felt like a good insight -- for about two seconds.

Then my partner patiently said, "Blessed be. Who are you?"

Then I said: "I don't know." It felt freeing to have no conception to stick to -- no word or phrase or definition to package me -- the liberation of not knowing -- for just a moment.

Then, again, "Blessed be, Who are you?"

And so on, and on.

Try it sometime. Find another person. Take 10 minutes – 5 minutes for each of you. You’ll be interested to see what you find coming up.

* * *
This is part 3 of 5 of "Vocation: Who Are You?"
Next: Part 4: "Joining Self and Service"
Previous: Part 2: "Linji Speaks: Nothing To Do"
Beginning: Part 1: "Proverbial Vision"

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