On Being Human

Who am I?  What makes me the person that I am?  I have to be honest:  I’m not really sure.  I have lots of roles.  I’m a professor, a mentor, a friend, a lover, a cook, a laundress, a lawn boy, a spiritual director, , an agitator, a letter writer…..and the list goes on.  But are any of these things who I am?  What’s the essence of me?

When I was three or four years old, I was the little boy who delighted to play in a sand box.  I had trucks, and soldiers, and all sorts of toys. I would play games of imagination for hours.  Was that me?

As a teenager, I had anxieties that seemed overwhelming.  What should I do?  How do I fit in? Where’s my place?  Honestly, I never figured out those questions, but my concerns over such things faded away.  Was that me?

It was so different in my late 20’s!  I thought I could take on the world!  I was ready to do anything — and I did a lot.  As I think back on those years, I wonder:  was that really me?  Who was that guy who worked so hard, anyway?

Then I was 45.  Oh, my!  All those things I set out to do twenty years before.  Some were great; some not so much.  I wondered:  was that all there is?  Was that all of me?

I’ve now had six decades of life.  You’d think I’d understand this thing called life by now.  I look back on those younger versions of myself and, well, at times I want to roll my eyes in wonderment at how silly I was and at other times I have great compassion for myself.  In looking back, there’s a glimmer of the person I may be.  Those were all me, but none of them were fully me.

As I look over my life and the lives of those I know well, I’ve come to understand that to be human isn’t to be one thing. Identity isn’t something fixed and constant over a lifetime.  Instead, to be human is to be a happening, a process which is dynamic, which evolves and changes over time.  As we grow and change, we do so in the context of others and the situations which we encounter.  Who I am is in relationship with others and the events of life.  Our lives take shape within the nuances of particular contexts, events, and relationships. From this perspective, it’s clear that we each have multiple dimensions to our identities. Each of us isn’t one thing, but we are many things.  But those many things which evolve over time come together as one in our sense of identity.

So what am I yet to become? What will the next twenty or thirty years bring?  Who’s to know?  But I am sure of this:  whoever I am in one moment to the next happens in relationship to others and in the context of events.  None of us becomes who we are alone.  Instead, it’s through and with each other that we be and become.

As a Christian, I understand the essence of the Divine as a trinity of persons.  The Divine isn’t a constant, but happening of relationships. The Divine is three-in-one and one-in-three.  In the context of these multiple relationships love begets love. This love is creative, redemptive, and sustaining. It’s absolute goodness and generosity. In considering my own life and what I hope to become, perhaps the greatest aim I could have is also be a happening in the context of others which begets love and manifests it in the world;  to be good and to be generous; to be creative; to allow for second chances; and to support and sustain life all around me.  Perhaps in this way, to be human is to be Divine.

Is this what my ancestor in faith, Athanasius, stated in the fourth century?  God became human so that humans could become Divine.  Perhaps in this dynamic happening of an evolving self we each discover who we are most deeply.

Photo credit: Marco Bellucci via Foter.com / CC BY

© 2017, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.

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4 Responses to On Being Human

  1. Helen Stegall says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful piece about our human experience. It is true that we are not who we were and yet, who we are in this moment contains all those other who(s). I love the idea that divinty exists in the space between happenings, relational and dynamic, not a thing, but events moving, changing, reacting. I enjoy the posibility that if I go deeply into the Divine (as in prayer, contemplation, meditation) I discover Humanity (higher Self); and if I go deeply into my Humanity, I discover the Divine.
    There is a poetic image by Rumi that expresses this beautifully:
    (From The Question)
    God’s presence is there in front of me, a fire on the left,

    A lovely stream on the right.

    One group walks toward the fire, into the fire, another

    toward the sweet flowing water.

    No one knows which are blessed and which not.

    Whoever walks into the fire appears suddenly in the stream.

    A head goes under on the water surface, that head

    pokes out of the fire.

    Most people guard against going into the fire,

    And so end up in it.

    Those who love the water of pleasure and make it their devotion

    are cheated with this reversal.

    The trickery goes further.

    The voice of the fire tells the truth, saying I am not fire.

    I am fountainhead. Come into me and don’t mind the sparks. . .

  2. Dan Shafer says:

    As you know, you are your Divine essence, an eternal spiritual being having for a time a physical experience. You have the I AM power of God within you to be and do and become whatever you set your mind to, in accordance with the Divine Law of Mind-Action. Thus, the answer the question, “What will I become?” is, “Whatever you think.”

    At least that’s how I see and experience this plane of reality.

  3. Lou says:

    Hi, Helen:

    Thanks for the comment. Indeed, we are not yet who we will become.
    It’s good to hear from you.

  4. Lou says:

    Thanks for your comment. I have to say that I don’t think that forty years ago I actually imagined the person I became. There’s probably something very good about that because things turned out much better than I had imagined.

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