Tuesday, November 17, 2009


so after a hiatus of well over a year, i finally have something to write...

it's a basic question that, due to its simplicity in one respect and its poignance in others, has probably been asked millions upon millions of times already with as many different responses as there have been responders- all of them equally truthful because of the skeleton key phrase 'you think'

that something like this is enough to call one out of exile to post in this forum yet again is part of its established value.

here it is:
what kind of monster do you think i am?

could it be
that being prone to being
scandalously misunderstood
is part of being
created in the image of God?


OpenID societyvs said...

"what kind of monster do you think i am?"

Perspective is everything. We are humans and have been created with massive ability and choice. We are only as monstorous as we want to be - we have the ability to choose such horrible ideals...but we also have choices in the other direction.

I don't think anyone is a really a monster - they just have that ability.

Blogger hineini said...

I've been looking on the internet for an "authoritative" version of a rabbinic story I heard once and of course, can't find it. Please accept my recollection.

There was a Rabbi in a small town who was questioned about the two rolled up pieces of paper that he carried around everyday, one in each hand. Opening his hands he revealed each piece. One piece quoted Genesis 3:19b on it "for dust you are, and to dust you shall return" the other piece held Genesis 1:27 "and God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them" Each and every day, the Rabbi explained, each of us lives between these.

I realize that the original post by jollybeggar was more to do with the limitations of language rather then some sort of existential question about what it means to be but that last piece of prose tied these together for me, it also did much to reveal some other commonalities in some of my prior posts here too. It's the whole question of being.

I'm being asked to read a book right now, a quite distasteful book I might add, one that I find myself at odds with more then I would like and so I need some help. I'd like to hear you, the reader, share with me, the quasi-person, your thoughts on person-hood, personality, character or related topics. Maybe, if you don't know where to start, feel free to answer my question of "are we what we do?"

I'd like to return to this question in awhile; as soon as I figure out what the question is I suppose but those fragments are haunting...the "...i am" that is "...prone to being". Lots there to necessitate a new post to be sure.

Thanks jollybeggar.

Blogger jollybeggar said...

i have so much trouble communicating so much of the time (in truth, the initial 'q' post had to do with what others inferred from something i had tried to say) that it was of great encouragement to read hineini's thoughts on it.

there is, indeed, a question of being that i have been pondering for awhile.

as for the 'readership,' i'm not sure we're going to get a lot of dialogue here since i abandoned my post at this blog for so long. still, i know that SVS stops by every now and then scanning the horizon for signs of life, and perhaps we'll even be favored with a few thoughts from brother ken.

anyway, in a movie i really like called 'across the universe', with characters and plot taking place in the mid-late 60's, drawn together from the lyrics of beatles songs (a sort of hip 'mama mia') maxwell edison is a frustrated, underachieving ivy league student who meets jude, a young liverpooler who comes to america looking for his father. these two become fast friends and jude is invited to thanksgiving dinner with max's family. in a meaningful bit of table talk, the question of doing versus being is explored because max is dropping out of harvard.

FATHER: What do you actually intend to do with your life?
MAXWELL: Why is it always about 'what will you do? What will you do? What will he do? Oh my god! What will he do? Do do do Do DO! Why isn't the issue here who I am?
UNCLE TED: Because, Maxwell, what you do defines who you are.
MAXWELL: No 'Uncle Teddy'- who you are defines what you do... right, Jude?

seems to go either way, depending on one's world view.

and yet, i find this whole business of 'being' to be rather presumptuous. i mean, what constitutes being? what is the difference between a being and a creature? self-knowledge? morality? a soul?

in the biblical creation story, what is the real difference between the 'goods' and the 'very goods'... the capacity for existential angst, perhaps.

it occurs to me that perhaps part of this 'beingness' is connected to free will... in particular that part of free will which seems to be more intentionally relational than basic loyalties and emotions that we can observe in trained or otherwise tamed animals.

is this why we refer to extraterrestrial 'beings' rather than relegating them somehow to 'creatures?' is this where the thoughts concerning 'angelic beings' comes from?

oops, can't go there. we read in the new testament book of revelation about these 'four living creatures' that seem to be separate from the angels and elders that john seems more comfortable with ascribing more familiar words to. these 'living creatures' are capable of 'bowing down to worship' and so the whole idea of 'intentionally relational' is a bit off... it seems both improper and irreverent to spend any real energy on the idea that God has four holy pets that somehow know when to sit, when to beg, when to roll over and when to bow down.

the greek word used is zoon (pronounced 'dzO-on') which has two definitions: a living being AND
an animal, brute or beast. with both sides of the continuum represented by one word, there's no help there.

okay, i'm clearly just rambling now... it often happens when i get in over my head. thrashing around in the pool, trying to grab onto something, anything to keep me from drowning.

i think, though, that i need to side with max- not all the way over and in his lap, but definitely on his side.

i think
what we do
is an expression of who
we think
we are.

OpenID societyvs said...

"Maybe, if you don't know where to start, feel free to answer my question of "are we what we do?"" (Hineini)

"i think
what we do
is an expression of who
we think
we are." (JB)

On a very obvious level I lean towards JB's answer - since all our actions seem to start with our thought processes...we previously define the actions we are about to partake in first mentally - then try our hands at said action.

However, I also think - from an oursider's view of us - we are defined simply by what we 'do'. Someone outside us cannot know what it is we think and our rationalizations for our decisions on every action we partake in - they are left to wonder 'why did he/she just do that?'.

They begin their definitions via labels (labels we would likely never use on ourselves). But if someone were to define themselves as kind person and beat their wife then we have to wonder what to make of their self-assumption?

I think, in the end, the best balance is this:

We define ourselves via the feedback we recieve from trusted others and the actions we see ourselves making. Although we are prone to bias about our own actions - I think we get fairly close in self-evaluation to who we think we are and our intentions.

In some ways, we are what we do and what we think we are depending on the perspective we approach this question from.

Blogger jollybeggar said...

yeah, that's the crazy thing about communication...

that which is sent with one intention can be received with another.

almost enough to cause one to throw hands up in the air, crying 'what's the point?'

except that there is 'self' that needs to be expressed, realized, engaged and connected. perhaps we do these things, recognizing the inherent risk of being misunderstood and reduced to something akin to a cartoon character simply in order to be known.

perhaps being misknown is still more valuable to us than being unknown.

OpenID societyvs said...

"perhaps being misknown is still more valuable to us than being unknown." (JB)

Godo point - even a good proverb!


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