In the process of writing for another project, I had the occasion to return to one of my favorite authors, Thomas Moore. I recalled he had commented on some ideas that I was trying to develop in my project. In brief I am thinking about the issue of identity. On one hand, that is fairly easy to determine. Most of us would claim that we know who we are.
On the superficial level, it is easy to describe our identity. We have a name. Most of us stick with the names our parents gave us. As kids we may gain a nickname, but we all know that is not our ‘real name.” And often women change their names when they get married. But even if this happens, there are times when they will refer to their maiden name as if that is actually more basic to their identities.
And in this country we all get social security numbers. Of course, we don’t like to think about ourselves as a number, but the fact is, that number points to my uniqueness. No one has the same social security number that I do. So in the case of my name and social security number, I feel like I have an identity. But I also know that neither my name nor my social security number capture my true identity. I know that I am more than a social security number. And I know that my name is only a description of me; it is not the real me.
It is not unusual in our society, however, not to pursue who we really are. We are often content to pile on more superficial tags for identity. For example, I can tell you where I went to school. I have more than one post-secondary degree, but that does not make me “more” than someone who dropped out of school after the eighth grade. And sometimes, we choose material things to develop or enhance our identity. I am sure some folks buy a specific kind of car, because that simply is “who I am.” Buying a sports car usually is symbolic of how someone wants people to see him or her. I once had a red sports car; I know!
I am convinced that none of this matters at the deeper spiritual level. The real question at this deeper spiritual level is the “real me.” In fact, the first question simply asks, is there a “real me?” I want to believe the answer is “Yes!” However, we need some more evidence for this. Simply saying we do is different than knowing we do. This is where I turned to some of Thomas Moore’s musings.
In his book entitled, Original Self, Moore offered a perspective that I find quite compelling. He says, “far beneath the many thick layers of indoctrination about who we are and who we should be lies an original self, a person who came into this world full of possibility and destined for joyful unveiling and manifestation.” Let’s unpack this sentence in order to appreciate the profundity of his perspective.
In this first place Moore tells me something I already suspect. Our “real me” is not available to us on the surface of who we are. He reveals that the real me is buried under many thick layers of indoctrination. I don’t know that I really like that word, but I do think it points to something quite true. Another way to put it is to acknowledge that we are all products of our culture. The culture ranges from our immediate family to the larger national culture in which we grew up. It is impossible to grow up and not be indoctrinated. It does not wipe out the real me, but it does submerge that real me under the other “fabricated me’s” that our cultures produce.
Happily, Moore says there is an “original self” deep within each of us. I would posit that original self is the self that God created. It is the self created in the image of God. As Moore puts it, that self comes full of possibilities. It is destined for joyful unveiling and manifestation. By definition that self is synonymous with our soul. And that self/soul comes divinely inclined.
By that I mean the original self is not God. But it is God’s. We are birthed into possibilities with divine potentialities. Because we are God’s, our “real me” is related to the God who gave us into life. And because we will be God’s child maturing into God’s daughter or son, then we are called to grow up into the fullness of all that potentiality.
The unveiling and manifestation of that “real me” is truly glory to behold! The process consists of getting in touch with that original self. And then we nurture and nourish the growth and development of that true self until we come more and more to recognize the “real me” that comes alive in the world. The fullness of that development will manifest as loving presence in the world, which is given to the service and ministry of the rest of God’s children in this world.
Lord, let me know and grow this original self.