“Here’s to the day! May it be all I need it to be—and may I be all it needs me to be!”
That’s good enough, I think, for a morning prayer. It reminds us that we need things from the day, and the day needs things from us. That’s the fundamental deal. We have to be clear about what we need, and about what the day needs, and understand that we are primarily in the business of seeing that needs are met.
Doing what needs to be done in each situation as it arises remains the purpose and goal of every living thing. Sequoias and Monarch Butterflies hold up their end of the bargain. Human beings, not so much. “I want” has become an artificial, counterfeit, life goal for the entire population of homo sapiens. We live to serve “I want.” We are the toadies of “I want.” Without “I Want,” where would we be? What would we do? What would guide our boat on its path through the sea?
What needs us to do it is always there…
The day needs us to be who we are—to be true to ourselves within the relationships, context, and circumstances of our lives—in a spirit of genuine good will and compassion. The day needs us to bring our gifts of soul, self, and heart to life in the day, gracing the day with our presence and perspective. The day needs us to incarnate, express, and exhibit that which is deepest, truest, and best about us. The day needs us to bring clarity of perception to bear upon the day—to see, and hear, and understand what is before us in each moment, and what is being asked of us by the moment—that we might offer what is called for out of what is ours to give to what is in our path throughout the day. The day needs us to live with awareness, attentiveness, and mindfulness, so that we see what is to be seen, hear what is to be heard, know what is to be known, and respond in ways that redeem what can be redeemed, soften what can be softened, and make where we are a good place to be.
We need the day to provide us with oases of soul and spirit, resting places, breathing places, where we can regroup, recover, recharge, and reflect. We have to pause from time to time throughout the day to remember who we are, and what we are about. Life is not meant to be lived too fast to see. We have not evolved with the skills required to live with ten thousand things crowding in from all sides at the same time. We step into the fast-paced demands of modern life from a long line of ancestors who spent most of their time doing nothing. We need time to process our experience, adjust to it, and ponder our response to it. We do not live well on the run. We need places to pause in the day, to consider the day, and how we are responding to it, and how well that reflects who we are, and what we are about.
We have to see the day, what is happening there, and our place in it. We cannot do that if we are too close to the day. If “the world is too much with us.” If the day is too much in our face, with its demands and requirements, and its long list of things to do, we will not do well. We need working room. We need optimal distance between ourselves and the day in order to remember, and coalesce around, that which is deepest, truest, and best about us, so that we might bring that to bear upon the day’s deliveries.
Our problem with life—and it may well be our only problem—is that we are fragmented, scattered, and disconnected within—and unconscious of being that way. We live at cross-purposes. We want mutually exclusive things. Our desires are at odds with our ideals, and with our desires. We suffer from mutual conflicts of interest at the very core. We want what we cannot have, and live to possess what we have no business having. We are a squirming mass of contradictions and division. The opposing sides of ourselves are constantly vying for command and control, and working to sabotage and frustrate whatever side is currently exercising command and control—and so, we shoot ourselves in the foot again and again, acting out in self-defeating, self-destructive ways.
We are as disjointed and dysfunctional, and as far from unity, wholeness, solidarity, and accord, on an internal level, as the nations and religions of the world are on an external level. We are not at-one with ourselves. We are not complete, whole, integrated, centered and focused. We live as well as we do by limiting our options, and forcing ourselves into a life of tight moral and legal restrictions, because we cannot trust ourselves to live without external restraints on our impulses and inclinations. We desperately need, in each day, places to remember and realign ourselves with, that which is deepest, truest, and best about us, in order to express and live toward it when we step back into the day.
We have to come to terms with—make our peace with—who we are, and who we also are. We must live transparent to, and respectful of, ourselves—of all our selves. We have to know who we are, and who we also are, and be okay with that, be reconciled with that, at peace with that—and with our conflicts and contradictions.
Wholeness is not being one way only all of the time, but being aware of who the situation needs us to be, and being okay with contradictions. We can be this way in certain situations, and that way in certain other situations—but we cannot live in any situation as though that is the way we are through all situations, and we are never any other way in any other situation ever. We have to be conscious of all the roles we play, and of how our parts compliment one another, and make us who we are.
A life of solitude reduces the roles we play, and we can pretty much be who we are consistently over time, but one-dimensional and shallow. A rich life requires the integration of opposites. We are not built to be one way only, but a host of ways appropriate for each occasion that may arise.
We have to work with all of the roles our life is asking us to be, in order to integrate, harmonize, and reconcile them with one another—and we have to recognize those roles we are not capable of playing without violating our essential sense of self. There are things we cannot do and be who we are, or we can do them, but not often. I could not do a weekly cocktail party or football game.
Retirement is where I can get by with doing mostly the things I like to do. The list of things I can get by with not doing is getting longer. I don’t have to play roles that I am not equipped to play, and have fewer occasions forced on me that I have to “rise to.” The gap between the roles I have to integrate is narrowing, which makes it easier to be who I am with mindful awareness and compassion. But, I still have an identity I am seeking to form and to serve. I am still bringing myself forth into the light—still looking in my mirrors.
Our identity is the organizing core of all of the roles we are capable of playing in situations as they arise. I am not a mechanic or a carpenter. I am certainly not a surgeon, or a dentist, or a farrier. I am not a cellist or an opera singer. The list is long. But, there is another list. My identity encompasses a wide range of possible roles and aptitudes. We all live out of a repertoire of possibilities. We cannot be integrated and whole without being conscious of them.
Look in all of your mirrors. Every aspect of your life is a mirror, reflecting you to you. See who looks back at you from each one. Start with the bed you wake up in. What does the bed, and the bedroom, and the bathroom, and the house, say about you? What do they reveal of you? Proceed from there, throughout your day.
What do you wear? How do you greet the first person you meet? The fifth? Who do you show yourself to be in each scene of your day? Who is the you that shines through in each of the roles you play? Are there some you’s you don’t allow to shine through in some roles?
How many you’s do you keep in seclusion, unavailable to public viewing? It is crucial that you are aware of all the you’s there are, and that you work with them all, consciously, mindfully, compassionately, over time—to integrate, reconcile, harmonize, and choreograph into a whole that is completely transparent to you, so that all of you knows, and is comfortable with, all of you.
Don’t hide anything about yourself from yourself. And no pretending to not be pretending! Nothing happens for the good in your life until you integrate the whole, and step as one into your day. Each day.
If we are going to find what we need from the day, in the day, we are going to have to offer that to each other, every day. The day is not going to magically make a place for us to do the work of reflection, recollection; to do the work of distancing; to do the work of re-affirming what is truly important, and re-directing ourselves toward it. What we need from the day is not going to flow easily to us from the day. If it comes to us at all, it will be because we—willfully, deliberately, intentionally—make it available to each other each day.
We have to be oases of soul and spirit for each other. We have to be places where others regroup, recover, recharge, and reflect. We have to ask one another, with routine dependability and complete seriousness, “Who are you? Who are you also? What are you about? How are you living in ways that reflect that? How are you living in ways that dispute that and deny, conceal and oppose, that?”
We—all of us together, collectively, communally—are what we—individually, and personally—need from the day in order to bring to the day what the day needs from us. We do not live well alone. We cannot do it alone. Without access to the right kind of community, we are a collective of conflict-driven individuals, unclear about what is deepest, truest, and best about us, at constant odds with ourselves, with no organizing principle, or aim, or intention to draw us toward wholeness and direct us toward the good.
We need one another to provide us with that compassionate, attentive space without answers in which to do the work of remembering, and rededicating ourselves to, who we are and what we are about—so that we might step back into the day, and provide what it needs out of our hearts and souls, and selves—which are as capable of redemption and restoration as any heart, soul, and self that has ever lived.