We have never laid eyes on our own face. (However, I can actually see my rather large nose when I look down and cross my eyes!) The only way we know what we look like is by seeing our face reflected in a mirror or by seeing our likeness on a photo.
The French mathematician and philosopher, Rene Descartes (1596-1650), made famous the saying, “I think therefore I am.” And though he professed to believe in God, he set the stage for the rise of modern philosophy that deconstructs the notion that we are endowed by our Creator with a reliable intuitive knowledge of His existence. Descartes unwittingly laid the groundwork for the rise of an extreme individualism, the exaltation of mere mental reasoning and the fall of a relational paradigm for life that we blindly inherited in Western culture.
I suggest to anyone that hears these words, that we consider displacing Descartes’ maxim with another – I yearn therefore we are. Here’s how they differ.
First, yearning is embodied, even visceral. In just saying the word, we can sense, feel and locate a part of us that goes deeper than a mere thought. Yet, Western culture has substantially divorced our philosophy, religion, education, business and inter-personal relationships from our bodies. By this, we suffer a terrible and tormenting dehumanization. In our Christian worldview, the body is divinely designed, sacred and meant to be a literal temple of the Holy Spirit. Thus, we must take much more seriously how our bodies are fundamental to our spirituality, our philosophy of life, our purpose and our human relations.
Second, our personal and true identity (the “I”) cannot be securely set in place without reference to another (the “we”). We need both God and others to reflect back to us, reinforce to us and call us up into who we really are created to be. This need is a vital part of our Creator’s genius design. We are made for relationships. We are made for love. Love is the validation of our existence. The poet, John Donne, was right when he penned, “No man is an island.”
Third, in saying the “we,” there is a hint of the one God’s own Trinitarian nature. The apostle John declared that “God is love.” He was and is and will always be a sweet society within Himself. In the beginning, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were so alive with love, that God was seemingly compelled to create others in order to share His joyful love. He couldn’t keep it to Himself for it was brimming over! Our yearning beckons us and cries out with groanings that are too deep for words. We thirst for this divine joy. And indeed, God invites people of all nations into His sweet society through experiencing an attachment of love with Him in the deepest region of our beings. The Holy Spirit will breathe this saving grace of the Father and Son into our hearts, our minds, our bodies. He grants this gift freely to us as we simply inhale it and put our trust in the Person and Work of Jesus of Nazareth … the Immanuel of God.
May we cast off the dehumanizing narcissism, isolationism and rationalism we’ve inherited from the fathers and mothers of the Enlightenment. We would do well to take to heart the penetrating sarcastic message of a secular prophet from our own day.
I Am a Rock – by Paul Simon
A winter’s day
In a deep and dark December
I am alone
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow
I am a rock
I am an island
I’ve built walls
A fortress deep and mighty
That none may penetrate
I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain
I am a rock
I am an island
Don’t talk of love
But I’ve heard the words before
It’s sleeping in my memory
I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died
If I never loved I never would have cried
I am a rock
I am an island
I have my books
And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armor
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me
I am a rock
I am an island
And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries

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