Because I am occasionally up to date with pop culture and whatnot, I will start this out with a bit from the newest attempt to redeem the story of Spiderman from the unbecoming path that Sam Raimi sent it down. Marc Webb, the director, says that he inserted a speech in the last portion of the film which was from a lecture that one of his professors gave about the nature of fiction and storytelling (source). The gist of it is this (because I've only seen the movie once and can't seem to find it quoted anywhere): it has been said that there are seven different plots in all of storytelling - Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, The Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. But in reality, there is only one plot in all of history: "Who am I?" It makes more sense in its unraveling. It is a question that is asked not of just every literary character, but every flesh character alive in the stage of the world. It is the root of every philosophical project (why am I here?), every scientific inquiry (how can these extraordinary things around us relate to me?), every artistic endeavor (how do I express this thing that's inside of me, and thereby discover the reason it's there?), every compliment and every insult that causes us to smile deep into the night or lie awake with a mirror fogged by an incorrect or malicious observation passed off as truth. It is what causes progress. It is what incites despair. The search for the answer to this question is one of the things that unites people across cultures, locations, and religions.
Some avoid it altogether. They choose to answer the question with "I'm someone who would rather not worry about it." It's a painful, humbling question to answer, so for a lot of people, drowning out the small voice that asks it when the activity around you gets quiet with noise in any form it embodies is the least painful thing to do. Some glibly dodge it: "I'm just me." Some defer it: "I can be whoever I want to be." Some despair: "I'm not worth it."
This is not about how to discover who you are. If you'd like to read what I have to say about that, I have a rather old thing I posted on Identity that may slake your appetite for a moment. But if it does not, I have provided on this site many an opportunity to contact me and request unduly long-winded attempts at forming answers, or, at the very least, beginning discussions. What this IS about, however, is Truth.
Yes. Here's the skinny: we are creatures fashioned in a way that we have a thirst for the stuff, and it has been hidden from us because of our unworthiness of its presence. Truth demands purity and there is nothing of purity in us, so there is nothing of Truth that we can comprehend. Truth disappears the closer we get to it because we use magnifying glasses to inspect its various parts rather than ladders to step back and see it more wholly. We get caught up with answers to "who are you?" such as "I am a musician" or "I am a businessman" or "I'm somebody who has dreams" and forget the part that's "I'm created for a King." We lose ourselves in minutiae when we haven't yet found ourselves in the Plan.
What was my King's purpose on Earth? "The Son of Man came to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Well, yes. But no. "He came to bridge the gap between man and God." I see you went to Sunday School, but not quite. "He came to die on the cross for my sins." Cute, and correct, but not what I'm looking for. "For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world," He said to Pilate, "to bear witness to the truth."
Imagine if this were said about you: "There was a man (or woman) sent from God, whose name was _______. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but he came to bear witness about the light."
Listen to this Hindu prayer, the cry of a nation searching the hearts of 330 million gods for what so many of us (claim to) already have the answer to in One: Lead us from Untruth to Truth, from Darkness to Light, from Death to Immortality.
When you ask yourself "who am I," is it that you mean "what do I do" or do you mean "do I bear witness to the Truth?" What do your actions tell you? Do you speak with love or bitterness? Reason or conceit? Do you live in a way that people will think "what is he pointing to? Because it sure isn't himself." Do you react with a grace that makes others ask "Where are her eyes? Because she sees something bigger than I do."
In the vein of last week's post, read the lyrics to the chorus of Oh, Sleeper's "In The Wake Of Pigs" and tell me if it's not the song you want your life to sing to anybody who can hear:
"You are not alone in the eye of the darkest storm We are the lighthouse shining a lamp from the shore To bring your journey home You are not alone, use this song to lead you home We are what's left of the love that can pierce through the callous Life you spent undone We are the legacy, that's left to breathe the wind to sail you home"
Will we be lighthouses? If so, shine. If you won't, you're either the wind stirring the sea, the waves battering the hulls, or the rocks that will wreck the boats of those trying to find the Shore.