Saturday, March 29, 2008

"I am"

In my previous post, while I was fascinated by a statement from A New Earth, I believe I posted it a little preemptively. As I read further, I realized that I took it out of context. I don't know that I can make it make sense concisely, but I will make the effort, concise or not...

The very next paragraph (after the one I posted) says-

'The word "I" embodies the greatest error and the deepest truth, depending on how it is used. In conventional usage, it is not only one of the most frequently used words in the language (together with the related words: "me", "my", "mine", and "myself") but also one of the most misleading. In normal everyday usage, "I" embodies the primordial error, a misperception of who you are, and illusory sense of identity. This is the ego.....

[I am skipping a bit here]

What you usually refer to when you say "I" is not who you are. By a monstrous act of reductionism, the infinite depth of who you are is confused with a sound produced by the vocal cords or the thought of "I" in your mind and whatever the "I" has identified with. So what do the usual "I" and the related "me", "my", or "mine" refer to?

When a young child learns that a sequence of sounds produced by the parents' vocal cords is his or her name, the child begins to equate a word, which in the mind becomes a thought, with who he or she is. At that stage some children refer to themselves in the third person. "Johnny is hungry". Soon after, they learn the magic word "I" and equate it with their name, which they have already equated with who they are. Then other thoughts come and merge with the origianl I-thought. The next step are thoughts of me and mine to designate things that are somehow part of "I". This is identification with objects, which means investing things, but ultimately thoughts that represent things, with a sense of self, thereby deriving an identity from them. When "my" toy breaks or is taken away, intense suffering arises. Not because of any intrinsic value that the toy has- the child will soon lose interest in it, and it will be replaced by other toys, other objects- but becasue of the thought of "mine". The toy became part of the child"s developing sense of self, of "I".

And so as the child grows up, the original I-thought attracts other thoughts to itself: It becomes identified with a gender, possessions, the sense-perceived body, a nationality, race, religion, profession. Other things the "I" identifies with are roles - mother, father, husband, wife, and so on - accumulated knowledge or opinions, likes and dislikes, and also things that happened to "me" in the past, the memory of which are thoughts that further define my sense of self as "me and my story". These are only some of the things people derive their sense of identity from. They are ultimately no more than thought held together precariously by the fact that they are all invested with a sense of self. This mental construct is what you normally refer to when you say "I".'

There is so much more beyond that... but in the interest of trying to be somewhat concise, I will stop there. Just FYI... beyond that he does allow that he is not saying that any of this is good or bad, it is just the ego. It is simply the structure of it and how it gets created, which I completely agree with. If this interests you in any way, get the book and read it, and then we can discuss it, each with our own interpretation and understanding of what is being said! :)

So, in my previous post "Food For Thought", the main part I was fascinated by was the part I bold-typed. Do you believe some combination of such basic sounds could ever explain who you are? I was, in no way, negating words. I love words. I love to read them and I love to write them. I am passionate about putting them together in a way that is pleasing. But I am also starting to understand that the words that flow through my head... the constant chatter I hear... the harsh voice that pummels me when I feel inadequate (which is most of the time)... is NOT who "I" am. That is just my past. That is just the combination of circumstances that has helped shape me and give me the experiences I need for growth, but who "I am" is not the collective of those experiences. I came to this earth who "I am". I was a unique individual the second I took a breath (and even before that!). I hadn't had any of those experiences that I "think" define me, yet I was still who I AM. "I am" a piece of God. I have Him in my spiritual genetic makeup and that is what I am figuring out how to access. And to do that, I have to tell that chatter to SHUT UP sometimes. I can't hear who I really am when all that chatter is going on.

So... it's all a process. I certainly haven't even come close to "figuring out" what I am trying to explain here, but there is an awareness there which is the first step and opens doors to learn more.

I don't even know if I am making sense, here. I can't tell you how it terrifies me to think of publishing this post. That is one of those fears that my "ego" screams at me about. It tells me that I am an idiot to think I have a "voice" in this world. And to that, I am learning to say, "SHUT UP!"


Maria Hart said...

I think you are on the brink of something quite profound. I am not meaning to take away from it, I just love the discussion.

As I was thinking about what I wrote last night, another path presented itself. There is a lot of truth in what you said, how can "mere words" describe absulte truth. I believe, just as Ether did, and as you said, that there are times when words are truly NOT enough. Music was one of the creations to remedy the gap. Music communicates what words cannot.

As for your post today... you hit the nail on the head for me, with your constant repetition of the phrase "I am." Christ himself characterized himself as the great "I AM!" Life is the constant pursuit of defing what 'I am'. I disagree with you though on one point. I think we are the collection of our experiences. Why else did we submit to a mortal probation. If we were perfect before we came, we would have no need of a testing ground here in order to achieve exaltation. There is a profuse amout of chatter trying to define who we are for us, and I agree that it is in our best interest to shut out that inane noise. But to completely shut out our past deprives of of growth that comes from dependence upon the atonement. Our past does not DEFINE us, but it has transported us to the point we are now at. Our present actions and our future goals are as equally a part of who we are as our past. And as for the voices, there are many trying to inflitrate our sense of worth and value. We need to trust our own inner voice, which if we belive in a Heavenly Father, is the resonation of His voice as well. We can't shut out all the voices, just the unimportant ones.

I don't think we can truly say "I Am" until we reach a Christ-like state of perfection. We are on that great journey called life. Isn't it an odd, opposing truth that Moses can say, " I see that man is nothing, which thing I had never supposed" and God can affirm that "This is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man"? Both statements are scripture. Both are true. We are nothing and we are everything. No wonder trying to figure out who I am can be so complicated!

Your thoughts are making sense, to me. I hope mine are as well.

Britta said...

Clancy, I dare not say a word because Maria does a great job of saying it all but what I do want to say it that you MUST silence that voice...that one that screams out of fear, the one that refers to yourself as an idiot and the one that teaches you to shut up...yeah um, that doesn't really work for me. Perhaps you can reflect upon the many times you have told me to be nice to me and really all that comes to mind is the very first Christmas gift you ever got me! I do so love you!!

Clancy in Idaho said...

Britta, you sweet girl! I so love you! I think you misunderstood my last statement. I was describing my "ego" as the voice in my head that tells me I'm an idiot. What I was saying is that I AM learning how to see it as my ego and not me... and I AM learning how to look at that mean voice and say to the voice.... "SHUT UP!!!!" I am learning to move past that voice. It scared me to publish that post because I was "putting myself out there" and the "ego" doesn't think that's ok... but I did it anyway, because I am learning to say... screw you, you are not who I am! Does that make sense? Anyway, I love you and please know that I am learning to be nice to me too! :)

Rachel Chick said...

So great, Clancy. You are very insightful - I love hearing your thoughts.

One of the most important lessons that my mom ever taught me was learning . . . WHO we're listening to.

Throughout her life my mom has dealt with a lot of different people with some serious emotional problems one, in particular, was an ex-aunt of mine. They would talk for endless hours, often about how she felt she was stupid, inadequate, etc. It culminated one day with her saying that she just didn't like herself.

My mom went home wondering, "Why? Why would she say that? Why?" Suddenly a VOICE in her head changed "Why?" to "WHO?" An important difference. It wasn't my aunt. It's Satan. It always is. The Lord doesn't tell us those things. It is Satan that tells us those things.

I think it is so important for all of us, throughout this life, to identify WHO we are fighting against. It ISN'T US! It isn't ME that I fight against each day. I am not the ENEMY. Satan is. We are not fighting ourselves!

I think it takes a lot of practice to learn WHO we will listen to and to identify where our thoughts are coming from. The Lord will NEVER tell us those negative things. And if we always think that we're fighting ourselves, we will always lose.

I loved your post. You had a lot of really neat thoughts! Way to go with telling THAT voice to SHUT UP! I would hate to think that all of us who read your blog would have missed out on your insight.

Rachel Chick said...

Hmmm. In reference to recent conversations, I've come back through your blog and read a few of these old posts . . . As I read through this a second (or maybe third) time, I see more.
I agree with some of what was quoted from the book at the beginning. This is kind of the process that we undertake - gaining an understanding of "I". There is more, though. I think that this is a process that the Lord intends for us all. We begin our lives here with a very limited understanding of "me" . . . (ah! I don't know how to explain myself!) Like you said, there is more to us than our experiences here. And probably even more than our experiences in some premortal realm. There is an "I" that is inside. That is deep and quiet. The REAL "ME". I think the Lord, the Spirit, is the only one who can truly reveal this "ME" to us. I think that throughout our lives we must strive to learn more of that self. Which we can only find as we turn ourselves to the Lord. --- I guess some of the glory of the atonement is in finding that ME and cultivating it, nurturing it, seeing it more clearly and then giving it to God --- flaws humbly included --- and then asking him to make it into what it can truly be, with it's vast potential. --- There is always and will always be ME - but he can also help ME to become a part of himself - as we become like him.

I don't even know if this is making any sense. :) Sometimes words cannot articulate the inner workings and thoughts. Sometimes I'm not even sure that I can form them into words - they are just feelings. --- I think what I'm saying is that I agree with your thoughts here! :) --- I agree that we are not a collection of experiences. - But I DO think that those experiences can help us define more fully who we are. They shape us through the test of it all. They humble us and turn us to the Lord. They help us to see our strengths and our weaknesses.