The Context of Things
October 9, 2011 § Leave a comment
If you really want a mind bender, you can meditate, as I have been, on the context of your life. We are all born into a particular context, a set of circumstances that shape our sense of self. Context, as it turns out, often soon becomes identity. The circumstances can be as simple as the birth order you were born into, your height, and the shape of your body, or they can be as complex as the words people used when they spoke to you as a child, the decisions that were made on your behalf, or the amount of money your family has. All of these factors come into play, they are our filters for how we see the world. If you are the shortest boy in your class, you may come to identify as “small” and all the connotations that come into play. Similarly, if your boyfriend left for Mexico one day, never to contact you again, you might conclude that you are simply unimportant or disposable. You might spend your whole life trying to be taller, or trying to be accepted. What a drag! Then again, if you’re born into a wealthy family, you may identify with abundance, or if you’re often told you are beautiful you might move through the world quite relaxed.
As long as we rely on the outside world to define our sense of self, we are at the mercy of circumstances that, I can’t help but think, are somewhat random. This then becomes an ontological question. What is the nature of my existence? Am I the sum of my circumstances, or am I something more?
The philosopher Thomas Aquinas believed that one way to prove the existence of a God was to meditate on the idea that God, unlike the many other particulars of our lives, cannot be thought not to exist. In other words, God is not something that is contingent upon the existence of something else. Other philosophers called this Being the “unmoved mover.”
Each of us have characteristics and traits that we can be sure would exist regardless of whether or not we were born blond or a brunette, in Beijing or Bombay. Isn’t there something you would do or be, whether or not you were told you were beautiful or ugly, whether or not you were ditched or cherished?
This is actually a really profound and liberating idea! Could it be that we exist both 100% in relationship to our life circumstances, and 100% regardless of them?
Perhaps our destiny, and therefore our happiness, is found in the parts of ourselves that cannot be thought not to exist, the parts of us that are necessary regardless of circumstance, the parts that exist always and already….