2012-10-15

Blessed Be. Who Are You?

So how do you be yourself through these electronic social media? Which self? Let's start with: who are you anyway?

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?"

"I'm Meredith Garmon."

"Blessed be. Who are you?"

"I'm the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville."

"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 at one point, 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 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.

If you go to a zen teacher, she may ask you: "Show me your original face before your parents were born?" There's something about you that isn't about who your parents were, or your teachers or experiences. And she's not asking you to tell, but to show your original face. Show it! Zen teachers teach not by telling you much of anything -- the answer is in you. And I've been learning an lot in that work that I do.

Nowadays, we have ways of manifesting an electronic self: Facebook. Twitter. Linkedin. Email. Blogs. The social media. What original face before your parents were born do we show there?

It's cool to have contact with students I taught or debaters I knew decades ago. Mostly, my interest in facebook is a tool for connecting with my congregants. It's been lovely to get word from you of your travails with your hair -- and other news, good and bad. Yesterday, for example (all names changed):
  • I learned that Trish says she is finally able to sit up after her emergency back surgery.
  • Doug posted: "8 months of marital Bliss so far!" Congratulations, Doug! Doug later had a message that I can get a free magical token for helping his kingdom. I don't know what that means, but now I have something I can ask Doug about next time I see him.
  • Beatrice has her hotel booked and is on her way to Maryland.
  • Joan is fostering two little kittens for the next 6 weeks. She posted pictures. Too cute!
  • LaTrell posted about calling some contra dancing.
  • Because of facebook, I know that Ramona saw ten wild turkeys in her front yard yesterday morning.
Several other members had posted photos, or quotes. And, of course, somebody is going to pause from their incredibly busy and overbooked day to take the time to go to facebook and post about how incredibly busy and overbooked they are. It's good to know.

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This is part 2 of 4 of "The Electronic Self"
Next: Part 3: "Hurricanes"
Previous: Part 1: "Facebook?"