Every morning like most people, I take a quick look at email to see if any important messages came in overnight. Today the message that leaped out at me had as its subject: “Adult Dance Classes.” It was striking, not important. My mind started spinning. My first thought–pre-coffee–was that “Adult” meant sexy, and not that the classes were for adults and not children. As my coffee brewed I wondered, “how sexy?” They couldn’t mean Chippendale lessons, could they? Would that be a Groupon? I’m not sure I’d want to take that kind of dance lesson. I’m not sure anyone would want to see me dancing like Chris Farley in an SNL skit. It’s not that I think I look like him. It’s that I know I don’t look like Patrick Swayze. Maybe the class is something closer to Swayze’s dance in the film Dirty Dancing? That’s more reasonable. Though any woman I lifted into the air would end up crashing to the floor on top of me. Yep. I know who I am.
From email, I did a quick check of Facebook to see if anyone had a birthday today. That’s where I found Bill Murray’s answer to one of the worst questions reporters love to ask of athletes, politicians, and celebrities in press conferences: “How does it feel to be you?” To his credit, he turned around the question and presented it to everyone there:
“Let’s all ask ourselves that question right now: What does it feel like to be you? What does it feel like to be you? Yeah. It feels good to be you, doesn’t it? It feels good, because there’s one thing that you are — you’re the only one that’s you, right?”
“You’re the only one that’s you, right?” That’s a fundamental observation we hold to be true, often to our detriment. I say detriment, because our sense of being unique selves can keep us from understanding how alike we are. We want what each other has, just because they have it. We imitate each other, we make people, and brands, and cultures our scapegoats (Girard). Yet the differences between us are trivial. Michael McCullough, in a wonderful podcast at On Being drives home how alike we are, saying:
“[I]n a world where we hear a story a lot that there are genetic differences among persons, those genetic differences, for the most part, are trivial. They are trivial, trivial, trivial. They are just filigree. In all of the important ways, we are the same genetically. Our brains are largely the same.”
So, “you’re the only one that’s you” and the differences between us are “filigree.” In light of that paradox Murray’s next comments make complete sense.
“[W]e get confused sometimes — or I do, I think everyone does — you try to compete. You think, damn it, someone else is trying to be me. Someone else is trying to be me. But I don’t have to armor myself against those people; I don’t have to armor myself against that idea if I can really just relax and feel content in this way and this regard.”
I think the way he points out that armoring ourselves is a choice is precious. It’s optional. A choice you don’t have to make. How do you avoid doing it? Murray leads everyone gathered at the press conference in a short meditation. His goal is to encourage “the most personal identification, a very personal identification, which is: I am. This is me now. Here I am, right now. This is me now.” If you can develop that sense “Then you don’t feel like you have to leave, and be over there, or look over there. You don’t feel like you have to rush off and be somewhere.”
What he’s describing is living life as Parker Palmer likes to say, “inside out” as opposed to “outside in.” People who know who they are are, who accept and own their flaws as well as their strengths are people we describe as grounded. Meditation can help get you to that place because it help us quiet our minds. Without thoughts spinning through our heads–the way they were in mine this morning–we can begin to find rhythm to our being, and work on sustaining that grounded experience. In Christian terms, the ultimate ground of being, is God. The ability to sustain living from this place is possible because opting out of the “armoring” we feel we have to do, opts us in to the flow of who and what God is. That is what living Christianity is about.