Monday, November 16, 2015

Identity and Self-Understanding


In terms of the individual, I think one of the surest signs of self-understanding, which is suggested in courage and nobility but is really something much deeper and more subtle, is shown by he or she who no longer identifies with struggle, be it personal, national, religious, or political. To the degree which we identify with our physical and psychological pain, do we come to be identified with them by others. When groups, communities, and nations so identify, the obstacles to be overcome, rather than being more easily dealt with by larger and ever larger numbers, are strengthened by resistance until they seem nigh insurmountable. In turn, we see our struggle against powerful odds as justification of our acts, and proof of their worth. But are they worthy? Are they evidence of an enlightened, unselfish outlook and attitude? Or are they merely a helpless reaction and direct result of our refusal to look beyond habit and upbringing to see and understand things more deeply? If, instead of steadily and patiently examining things for ourselves, we accept each tired old maxim served us and handed down, do we not help perpetuate the problems we claim ourselves highly qualified and intelligent enough to overcome?

Here a lesson might be had from the willow, graceful year-round, willingly yielding superfluous branches and twigs to the greater good of its symmetry and grace, a shelter for cattle and lovers alike at water’s edge, gazed upon with admiration by stars and humans. So our strength lies, not in resistance, but in surrender. If, rather than being universal star-stuff in musical motion, I am merely an Armenian and a Swede, and you are a German, Christian, or Japanese, what hope is there? We are intimately related to each other and to the other animals and the rocks and the trees, yet caught up in and blinded by our surface differences. Every bomb dropped, every life taken, every man cheated, every person not tolerated, hated, or brushed aside, shows how little we understand what can be a great source of joy — that of living together, and of being willows for each other, through whatever obstacle or difficulty we face — that of being star-bright and willow-wise, on our flight of love through space.



4 comments:

Jan said...

Beautifully said, William. If words could cure hate and suspicion, selfishness, jealousy...then this post could work miracles.
We could learn from the woodlands where many different trees grow together to form one community. Where plants and wildflowers, wild herbs share the same soil and grow strong. Where they all reach for the same sun. Drink the same raindrops. Breath the same air.Yes, William...the willow and nature could teach mankind how to live in peace. But first we must be willing to be taught~

William Michaelian said...

Thank you, Jan. It’s interesting, isn’t it, that we must be willing to be taught what at heart we already know....

Jonathan Chant said...

An idea I am willing to engage with. Beautifully said, William.

William Michaelian said...

Jonathan, thank you too for a kind and thoughtful reading.