‘There is a part of every living thing that wants to become itself — the tadpole into the frog, the chrysalis into the butterfly, the damaged human being into a whole one. That is spirituality.”
— Ellen Bass
Part of “becoming ourselves” is choosing to be more than the one thing we want to become. It’s hard enough to conceive of our underlying unity as something real and worthy of our attention and notice, AND it’s entirely something else to embrace that one thing … knowing it’s really a multiplicity.
Whatever is splintered and fractured must be embraced and held lovingly if it is to survive and grow. Just as a the unity of a flower is composed of roots, leaves, and stems and flowering buds – the parts are both integral and separate. What commands our attention is the beauty of the whole, and most particularly it is the living expression of the whole: the budding blossom that brings forth new life. Here is the living part that mysteriously points to something larger than itself.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son illustrates our most common “multiplicity” – all the various cracks and divisions that must be embraced and held lovingly if we to survive and grow as the one unity we are intended to be.
You probably remember the story: The father has two sons, one who goes off and squanders his inheritance and the other remains behind diligently carrying out the duties of the good son. The first son, who is presumed dead, unexpectedly returns. The father orders a celebration in honor of the first son’s return. The second son bitterly objects to the father’s celebration. Why should such as “sinner” be given such a celebration?
Accepting ourselves as we are (the first step to owning our future) is like trying to balance the stormy divisions created by these three roles. Without some underlying unity, some one distinctive part which we judge to be real and worthy of our attention and notice — without that — we are likely to splinter and fracture what energy we have, failing to live up to the promise of being larger than ourselves.
And the only way to express what is distinctive in us is to accept ourselves lovingly. To willingly play the role of the father, who repudiates division and scarcity by offering us the image of extravagant abundance. Until we can act out the father’s role to fully absorb ourselves into the loving center our own being and consciousness, we will always fail to realize what is distinctive and larger than ourselves.
For truly, we are three people in this process. The prodigal son who adventures and fails, the second son who conserves and judges according to the culture and history, and the father who offers both of his sons in testimony of his love — in honor of what is greater than all three.
As Ellen Bass notes: ” There is a part of every living thing that wants to become itself.” What drives us is not our divisions, but rather our spiritual gift to be greater than ourselves, to be the budding blossom that brings forth new life, to hold what is distinctive in us as something real and worthy of our attention.
Thanks for listening!