Wednesday, September 18, 2002
As an artist, I value my integrity and identity - my authenticity – honouring the various aspects of my personality that together make up "me".
I have come to really appreciate the various ways in which my personality can be expressed through my life in general and through my art in particular. For this reason, I sometimes find myself resisting new ideas, because they may be affecting some aspect of what I see as being perhaps uniquely "me". I want to stay true to who I really am - something I have not always been able to achieve.
At the same time, I love to explore – to do what no-one else has tried to do. This then leads to an interesting tension between being open to new ideas and wanting to grow and expand, versus maintaining a deep sense of who I am, and what my purpose is.
In the past this has been expressed through my work, where I have worked at the forefront of microcomputer technology for many years, through working as a volunteer within the church, and through my various creative leisure activities such as modelling when young, and more recently through painting.
Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. - Dr. Seuss
There is always a certain peace in being what one is, and in being that completely. - Ugo Betti
Whatever you are, be a good one. - Abraham Lincoln
Like many people, I have had real difficulty in having a clear sense of who I am and being able to say what I feel. I guess for much of my life I was trying to live up to what I thought were the expectations of other people who were important to me. Now I know that anyone who matters to me will accept me as I really am, and respect how I really feel, so I have everything to gain and nothing to lose by truly being “me”.
So, who am I - really?
Well, I could say that I'm a grand-son, a son, a father and a grand-father, honouring who I am in the generations of my family. But I don't really identify myself that way - in fact I feel quite detached from those labels and roles. I'm just "me".
I am a husband, partner, buddy, house-mate and many other things in relationship to my wife, partner, buddy, etc, Laurie. But that doesn't really feel like "me".
I am a widely experienced and effective IT professional and a painter of landscapes. I am both practical and artistic. But what I do is not really "me".
I enjoy many activities, particularly exploring and experiencing various parts of New Zealand. I am a New Zealander (whatever that is!) at heart. That is not really helpful to describe who I am.
I could list my past achievements, present possessions and future dreams, but they are not "me". I can look at myself in the mirror, and while I recognise myself in that image, it is not the "me" that I know. So where am I going with this?
Well, following several experiences where I very nearly died; lost all my possessions by fire; experienced the failure of a business that I spent more than 15 years of my life building; had to sell the family home and could not replace it; and last but not least endured the failure of a marriage of more than 30 years. In each and every one of these experiences, I discovered that even these important elements in my life did not define me. In many of these experiences, I was surprised at the level of peace that I experienced, as I found my life simplified down to "the essentials". I still marvel at some of those experiences.
I was first truly aware of "me" as a young child. (Perhaps 5 or 6 years old.) I remember getting "lost" in the beauty of a beam of moonlight falling on my bedspread. I remember going very quiet and experiencing a sense of "me" that went well beyond my normal concept of "self".
As a teen of around 14 years old, I went through some deep issues to do with identity. I realised that Descartes' "I think, therefore I am" does not go deep enough. I managed to scare myself through following an existential process of logic, but out of that realised that the real me was totally independent of such thoughts.
It wasn't until quite a bit later, when as an adult I discovered that there was a still, quiet, peaceful place deep within myself where I could rest. I refer to this place as my spirit. It is my personal "Holy of Holies". The place where my own thoughts cease. The only place where it is quiet enough to be able to "hear" the "still small voice" of God.
The Pentecostal / Charismatic practise of praying for people and seeing them "go down under the power of God is considered by many to be somewhat fake and excessive. In my opinion, (having committed 20 years of my life to actively serving in a Pentecostal church) it certainly can be open to abuses of various sorts. But I can vouch for the reality of the experiences that I had.
It took me a while, but I came to realise that during the time I spent on the floor at church, having "gone down", the fantastic feeling of peace, security and general well-being was accompanied by the complete cessation of conscious thought! I was generally aware of activity around me but, just as a passive observer. I was even an observer of what was happening to my own body, as at times the wonderful feeling of warmth brought various reactions, including shaking, and laughing.
So, increasingly since a particularly intense period around 1993, I have been able to define myself, not so much in terms of external things, relationships or activities, but rather as something profoundly personal and powerful. I began to actually like myself, (I didn't always) because I could see beyond my physical appearance, and then I began to see beyond the outward appearances of others as well.
Part of the process of life is gaining maturity. By "maturity" I mean the transition from the attitudes and behaviours of childhood to those of adulthood. I believe that we all face this – all of our lives. I know that I still do, and I'm now in my 60's.
As children, we're encouraged to live according to rules that are imposed on us by our parents, by our school, and by our friends. As we reach adulthood, it is important that we have learned to make our own decisions – decisions that will affect our entire lives. This ability to make decisions for ourselves and to accept the consequences of these decisions is true maturity and an essential part of being "whole".
The ability to make decisions, carry them out and accept the consequences can all be described by the word "authenticity". Another description would simply be "Being Ourselves".
Only through starting to see myself as I really am (take a look at my thoughts on Judgement) am I now starting to behave in ways that are consistent with who I really am, (I'm not perfect, but I'm learning), and as I have been increasingly successful in simply being me, I have known more and more peace, joy and fulfilment in each day that goes by.
I have also become increasingly aware of the mysteries of life, and more contented to simply let them be mysteries. Being a trained scientist, I used to like having a concise answer for everything and have put a lot of time and effort into finding definitive answers. But the more I did this, the more I discovered there was that I didn't know, and even that which I thought I knew was not always so. This is especially so in matters of faith and the deeper issues of life.
I have learned that there is little value in a trite answer to anything. If we cling to some rigid point of view, it is very likely that we are doing so because in reality, we are uncertain of the position we are taking and our inflexibility can be some sort of compensation for our insecurity. What is far more important in all aspects of life is that we can be confident without being certain, in the knowledge (and acceptance) of who we are and who we are not, and in whatever relationship we may have with God.