Journal entry from April 2, 2018:
I just realized I’ve been lacking a self.
Ever since my Bible translator self, my missionary self, my Christian self, my linguist self, and my cosmologist self all died, I’ve been without a self!
The Knowing I that I AM needs a self to see itself. Without the mirror of a projected self, the self-learning subject cannot gain self-knowledge. Without self-knowledge, there can be no self-desire or self-love, which require the possibility of knowing and the actuality of knowing, respectively. To learn itself, the Knowing I must project an image that is a finite yet authentic representation of its own infinite creativity. The image is a type of the Archetype, and once it is held out for the I to see, its seductive beauty evokes the erotic energy of Spirit who yearns and labors to actualize the fantasy.
I’ve been reluctant to project a nameable image of my future self because I’ve misfired so many times and because I’ve been toying with the idea of whether imageless emptiness is the highest state a person can achieve. Now it’s dawning on me that no, it should only be a pause, a liminal break between manifestations of self/spirit. It is, in other words, death before new life.
In my history there is a long litany of egoic images and identities: fighter pilot, marine biologist, ornithologist, turkey hunter, mountain guide, park ranger, flight attendant, Bible translator, linguist, missionary, Mennonite, Christian, American, African, etc., etc. All of these were life-forms of human consciousness. Some were short-lived, unable to survive in the psychological and social environment. Others were robust with deep roots and strong pedigrees; they died hard, very hard, fighting tooth and nail until the very end – each one a species of Terrillian consciousness. The last one – cosmologist – died abruptly in January right before spring classes at FSU started.
Since then, I have been trying to live without a self-projection. Because of that, because of having no perceptible self, I have not been able to know or love myself, which has made me both excruciatingly lonely and extremely needy. With no seductive self-image to pursue, and no present self to feel, all I have left is the memory of past selves. This self-disconnection and self-obscurity makes me highly susceptible to projecting my own – now lost – mystery and desirability onto others. The intense craving I have felt for intimacy with others is an expression of the craving I have for the lost parts of my own soul. This craving for others is so powerful precisely because I no longer have a romantic, idealized version of myself to lust after. I have forgotten whether I am beautiful, alluring, desirable, or worthy.
For much of my life, I was loved and admired by others through their idealized version of me that I projected for them, and loved and admired by my own I through the same idealized version of me. Familiar (familial) love loves one’s historical self, the version self that has some continuity through time but tends to fossilize. This is good and needed to hold the center of one’s identity through ceaseless change. Erotic love, on the other hand, loves one’s mysterious, unrealized self, the version of self that shimmers like a mirage on the horizon. This kind of love in the present is future becoming present – it is the moment of new life. Familiar love is present becoming past at best, and past only at worst. Erotic love creates and familiar love sustains. Erotic love must yield to familiar love, which in due time must also relinquish its grip on form and yield once again to the erotically-charged, ever-renewing spirit.
The truth, I think, is that each successive created form is a closer approximation to the plenitude that produces it. I, Terrill, am not God-as-All, obviously. But I am God-as-Terrill, and ideally, in this lifetime I have to live, I will realize as much of the potential of God-as-Terrill as I can. All my ego ‘containers’ – forms of self – up to now have been attempts by God-as-Terrill to progressively realize himself. Thanks to advances in neuroscience, we now know that both memory and brain structure can change unconsciously and be changed consciously! So now it’s not so much about discovering one’s ‘true self’ as it is about co-creating one’s ‘truer self’. It’s a matter of waking up to two crucial facts: 1) who I am at any given moment is contingent and constructed; and 2) once conscious of this, I can begin to imagine my ideal self and strive to actualize it. What used to seem like the inescapable fate of creaturehood is now expanding into the sovereignty of creatorship:
I can make new selves, repeatedly and indefinitely!
One reason my next self cannot be Mennonite is because I no longer want peace at the price of authenticity. One reason my next self cannot be Christian is that I can no longer ignore the divine feminine or the place of carnality in my worldview. One reason my next self cannot be academic or strictly intellectual is that I no longer want to do or be anything that is not wholly human: right brain and left brain, upper brain and lower brain…not to mention heart, stomach, genitals, and environment. My future selves must be expressions of all of me: mind, body, soul, spirit, and world.
If God is love – which I still believe – then it stands to reason that the closer the cosmos gets to incarnating God, the more love-like it will become. If God-as-All is love, then God-as-Terrill must be as well. Each form of me, each ego-container thus far should have been moving me closer and closer to the shape of love – and crucially, not just agape-love but also eros-love! Henceforth, let any selves I become elicit more beauty and better service than ever before.
I want to be a consummate lover.
I want to become love itself.