Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Here I am – the sum of my life experiences. From my earliest family memories of growing up in the late 50s and 60s, getting through school, hoboing, working at many seemingly unconnected jobs, traveling, going to law school, getting married, emigrating overseas to work for four or five years, settling back in America, working on a Ph.D., a dissertation, and now a drifting, independent iconoclast-scholar of sorts – here I am. Through it all, I felt a tiny voice within always murmuring to me, always making me question everything, always feeding my curiosity about the world. With my gaze outward, there was also an omni-present mirror of my self, turning me inward.

Who am I? This question has followed me everywhere it seems, haunting me. Genetically, I am the physical offspring of a long family line. But besides the inherited physical traits, what other familial secrets are encoded in my DNA, in my consciousness? I honor my ancestors but also wonder at the many facets of what goes into making up a human being. Just what does destiny have in store for me? To what extent am I master of my fate? Just who am I?

In my life’s quest to find out who I really am, I first look at those around me. I think back upon my mother and father, brothers and sisters, others. I am the sum total of the love I have received and the love that I have given, the hard knocks I have endured, the choices I have made or that were deftly forced upon me. Did I have a “happy childhood”? I suppose I did, or at least I can say that it wasn’t such an unhappy one. But did I learn who I am from my family? I learned to adjust to being a family member – to help and share.

Next I look around at my peers as a young student and think back on what behaviors they modeled. I consider my teachers and other elders and the lessons that they taught and the values they imparted to me. Resisting all the way, to some degree I have gradually learned to be mindful of others, to overcome depression, to even be cooperative and occasionally deferent, and at times I desperately sought a sense of belonging and a way of contributing to whatever community I ended up in – but alas, I met with limited success.

Perhaps the hardest time I have is wondering who I am in the context of my nation, America. In theory the state or government is set up to help structure the society, to impose law and order, to defend against enemies, and to generally provide for my health, safety and welfare. It seems to me that government is always dealing with issues of power and money. Moreover, as it has dealt in this area for such a long time, I think most if not all governments have been corrupted by the power and wealth they are set up to manage. Hence the old saying: Power corrupts; total power corrupts totally. I watched this with the military dictators in the U.S. client states in South America and Africa and in other spots around the globe, and I see this now with the present U.S. administration. And these days it is hard to see where government ends and big corporations begin. In fact, it appears that they have become one and the same, with the result that the people suffer tremendously. And so I have to say that I am suspicious of government. I am not a patriotic type or nationalist. How could I be if I feel castrated politically – impotent and alienated in what is now a sham political system?

I learned from my working experience that power resides in the boss. Whether the boss is my employer or some kind of government representative (political boss) there is rarely any genuine power at the individual level. However, I believe, as did the founders of America, that the People are sovereign; the people are the rulers of their government. And so the first real awakening I had was discovering that I am self-sovereign and that there is tremendous power if people can organize against tyranny. I think that many natural born American citizens are blind to who they really are, but I am not. Knowing who you are in the context of your American government is crucial to knowing who you really are – a person empowered with unalienable rights and power from the very Source of Creation.

In my view, the final step in apprehending who I am is to know who I really am as a human being endowed with an immortal soul. This is the greatest mystery of all. My life so far has taught me something about this greatest of mysteries. Just being in Nature, retaining some of the innocence of youth, always seeking beauty – these are the most important ways toward self-actualization. The exoteric lessons of religion, with morality and ethics taught in parables, is helpful I suppose. But if one can find the esoteric knowledge behind religion one is, I think, very fortunate. Self-styled “seekers” sometimes manage to find great spiritual truths. For me, the search for spirit, for truth, is within; it is in one’s breath; it is found in one’s compassion for others and for all non-human life as well; it is present in respect for the environment and for the dignity of life.

I believe that we come to know ourselves as true human beings by using our thoughts in a positive way, through our reason, but more importantly through our heart, our feelings, and our loving actions. Thus, my overriding life’s quest is one of continually perfecting myself in this respect. And I think that this yearning to perfect one’s spirit is itself the reward: for me this reward amounts to that which truly informs me about who I am.

I bring all of me into and out of myself – in my daily life, in my writings, in whatever I do. There is an art to living in such as way. My art is not just about painting pretty pictures, or critiquing entertainment or politics or ideology. It is not even solely about beauty. My art is being and becoming in the service of truth. Whose truth? – my truth as it has evolved over a lifetime and continues to evolve; it is my truth as a more-or-less middle class, American-born man whose life’s joys and struggles, reading and research have imparted a vision of reality that I call truth. Some elements of truth are unchanging, like love and mindfulness and hope. And yet when life is put into various contexts truth can seem ever changing, and this is what gives me an artistic temperament, working in the greatest medium of all – LIFE. From life itself I draw a never-ending source of material from which I can contribute to the overall general welfare of the planet; I can write, play music, cogitate as a creative loafer, and just pursue any and all activities that help me to uncover who I am in the the Universe.

In this universal sense, who am I? Am I a prophet, conveying images of some internalized sense of a certain future being born out of the present? Am I an avenger, out to destroy false images of the past that have crippled humanity’s self-image of itself and that even today promote great lies and distortions? Am I a victim, using my talents to express my rage and anger at how I and others have been manipulated for years? Am I a savior, holding my life’s work up as an ultimate panacea, an answer to a corrupt and debauched world? Or maybe, just maybe, by participating in and adding yet more “stuff” to the world I am nothing but another co-conspirator, marketing my images as a cog in a big wheel of action/reaction meant only to distract us from who we really are, and/or who we could actually become but for so much bickering about meaning, symbolism, abstraction, etc.

Could I be all of these? Some of these? None of these? More than these? Need I identify myself as being in any other role but con-artist, someone who co-creates at some relatively useless and worthless level and delights in so doing? What kind of an artist is that? But for making money from art, every artist is just an artist. The payment is the joy of co-creating and a self-satisfaction that comes from giving of oneself and one’s creations to others – but monetary worth of one’s art recasts the role of the artist as a part of an art industry – a participant in the world of networking, the right connections, financial types, putting on a show. In short, art as a commercial endeavor carries with it the risk of destroying me as an artist, causing me to assume roles in which I must play act in order to be successful. The irony is – all of this play acting is time spent away from creating art, being an artist – or is it? Inescapable is the fact that to be a successful artist who sells art I must also be a role player.

Thus I must confess that I am many things; I wear many hats, walk in many worlds – I am a con-artist. But the central core of me as a person is my focus on co-creation, joy, life, goodness, truth and beauty, in spite of whatever might distract me, slow me down, get between me and my creative expression. As a con-artist I must develop the ability to be more pragmatic about my vocation; I must expand the artistic definition of myself to encompass my many roles, always seeking to make all of my actions manifestations of the creative urge. When I talk, think, act away from my creative self I fail. I must train myself to do all things creatively, joyfully. Maybe in this way I can overcome the conspiratorial aspect that haunts most of us daily.

My overriding message as a poor dope struggling to know who I am is hope. Hope helps the world right itself and it is doing so right now; hope implies faith, faith that good shall prevail over forces of negative energy. This hope and faith I place in myself. I know, then, that I will be all right as long as I follow the whisper within and I am mindful of others. The world will not end; it cannot end if there is always another creation waiting to be born out of our own being and becoming…

1 comment:

JoyceM said...

Your story of you is familiar to me and probably to millions of others. It expresses a balance beam we walk, wondering which side of the balance point is the best or truest place for us to "be."

Living life free, allowing ourselves to walk other than on the balance beam, seems to be the current challenge, or perhaps evolution, that many people are exploring in this age in which we live.

Learning to create life experience while responding to life experience that has already been created, is no small expansion of self-awareness.

Wishing us all the best we can imagine and speak,