NONE OF US IS WHO WE THINK WE ARE

Color photo my grandsons, Sammy Starwalker and Jake the Snake, ages nine and 11, one wearing a man’s cowboy hat, standing with a small basketball in front of a short basketball net hanging on a teal barn door.

 

It was such a sad thing to feel the despair in Michael Jordan as he said in conjunction with his induction to the Basketball Hall of Fame that nothing in his life would fulfill him as much as playing basketball.  Think about it.  How would he know?  Is he so visionary, so mystical, so in tune with the ultimate nature of things that he grasps the limitless possibility of the universe to surprise and challenge––and finds it wanting? 

What he’s saying without realizing it, my guess is, is that he can’t conceive of anything providing him the rapture he has experienced playing basketball––and since he can’t conceive it, it must not be possible.  And there Mr. Jordan demonstrates the great delusion common to us all until we choose to look at things differently.  The delusion that the boundaries of our understanding are the boundaries of understanding itself. 

French philosopher and WWII resistance fighter Simone Weil said that the person who is proud of his intelligence is like the condemned man who is proud of his large cell.  I guess if we take our thoughts seriously, and conclude that the way we view things is the way they are (rather than just our best story of the moment), then we’ve constructed around us a cell where the bars are convictions, beliefs, preferences, habits and our infatuation with all the effort we’ve put in to making sense of life.

Imagine believing at any age that we have exhausted our potential for experiences beyond our wildest imagination.  Imagine how small we must consider ourself to take such a belief seriously.  Imagine how imprisoned in our own mind we must be.  Maybe the secret of life is no more than the willingness to live beyond such limitations. 

A good friend of mine is fond of saying none of us is who we think we are, none of us is that small; our capacity for self-discovery is immeasurable.

[Photo: my grandsons, Sammy Starwalker and Jake the Snake, 2006]

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"I honor that we are killing the earth for the same reason I consider being an alcoholic a privilege: it is a doorway to the profound self-understanding required to make truly healthy choices."

The Essay: Honoring the Killing of the Earth