Who Am I? Who Are You?

What Kind Of A Being Is A Human Being?

There are so many lenses through which you/i can look at this question and answer it:

– We can look at it through the Judeo-Christian lens: a human being is fashioned in the likeness of God and is here to create something like a paradise on earth.

– We can look at it through the enlightenment lens: man is the rational being who defines himself through his ability to exercise reason and act on the basis of reason as opposed to dogma/superstition.

– We can look at this question through the psychoanalytic lens: man is never ending interplay of dynamic forces arising from the ‘id’, the ‘superego’, and the ‘ego’.

– We can look at it through the sociological lens: man is a social being who always exist in a social context and whose way of showing up in the world is fashioned by the social context – particularly the culture in which he grew up.

For my part, I find myself drawn to the following way of defining a human being: Man is the being who cannot escape the question of being and as such necessarily takes a stand on his being. 

Who Am I? 

I can define-view myself in many ways. And if I look into this deeply I get there is no limit to the many ways that I can define myself. If there is a limit then it is the limit of my imagination.

Every tribe/society privileges certain definitions-categories above others. In the world in which I find myself, these definitions centre primarily on what one has-holds-occupies: wealth, social class, profession, status….

So who am I?  I am my stand. At any point in time, I am that which I am committed to. These commitments show up in the form of  possibilities that I invent, ‘projects’ that I take on and give myself to, and the way that I show up and travel in this world. 

Let’s make this concrete:

Many years ago I found myself confronted with a choice. Which choice? Career: doing that which it takes to move from Senior Manager to Director/Partner in a major consulting firm or doing that which it takes to be a good father. I chose the latter.

Some years ago I was confronted with the choice of doing that which the CEO asked-dictated and relating to myself as ‘thief-liar-cheat’ or risk losing my job. I found myself saying that I was not willing to do that which was being asked-dictated.

Every week I clean the toilets and bathrooms, voluntarily and willingly. Why? To ground myself, to experience humility, to lead by example: to do the kind of work that I ask of my family.

I do not accept presents. When Christmas or my birthday comes, I ask those who would give me presents to give me money instead. Why? So that I can give that money to those less fortunate than me.

Recently I invented the possibility of being a good cook and cooking curry for my parents as that is what they love to eat. I took on that which, by default, is hardest for me: asking for help. I asked my wife for help as she is a great cook. Now, some months later, I relate to myself as a cook. I have cooked for my parents – I did it a week ago. And, I insist on cooking Sunday lunch. This Sunday my family members told me that this was the best curry I had cooked.

I hope you get the idea.

Who are you?

I invite you to step outside of the existing categories-definitions. Instead take a good look, at who/what you give yourself to in terms of your time, your energy, your deepest self, your self-expression, your resources..

I invite you to notice the following:

– if you define yourself through the standard categories – your sex (male, female), nationality, occupation, social class etc – you find your room for manoeuvre limited.

– if you accept my invitation and define yourself through your stand, the possibilities you invent, the projects you take on, your room for manoeuvre is so much wider-bigger-spacious.

I leave you with this quote from Lynne Twist:

“Taking a stand is a way of living and being that draws on a place within yourself that is at the very heart of who you are. When you take a stand, you find your place in the universe, and you have the capacity to move the world.”

The Power of Life Sentences And How to Break Free

In this post, I continue sharing more insights and distinctions from Lynne Twist in her book The Soul of Money. Having shared the three toxic myths, Lynne goes on to say:

“Life Sentences” Limit Our Possibilities

In any culture, myths communicate moral lessons, and scarcity myths have produced a legacy of beliefs –  “life sentences” – that we embrace as folk wisdom or personal truth”

Let’s explore the distinction “life sentence”

Are you wondering what Lynne is pointing at here? Consider the human species. Consider, that one can carve up the human species into “male” and “female”.  That is simple what is so: some members of the human species are male and others are female. Now ask yourself what it is to be “masculine” and/or “feminine”.

Consider, that what constitutes being (showing up as) “masculine” and “feminine” differs from one culture to another, and from one epoch to another.  What our culture gives as “masculine” and “feminine” rules some ways of being in and others out. To be masculine in the USA is to be a specific way. To be feminine in the USA is to be a specific way. That is the sentence imposed by the American culture on all those who are born and/or live into-within that culture.

Consider, that this life sentences shapes how young children – male and female – are brought up and shaped: by their parents, by their family, by their teachers, by their friends, by the media and eventually by themselves. Which explains the acute discomfort and vulnerability experienced by those who do not live up to this life sentence. Consider, for example, what it takes to openly show up as homosexual in the American workplace.

Perhaps the best pithy example of a life sentence is illustrated by Lynne Twist:

When I was a child my grandmother used to say ….. “Marry the money and love will come later.” We used to laugh ……… to tell the truth, she believed it……. When she married around 1990, she married the wealthiest man she could find and then found a way to love him.

Let’s get present to the power of life sentences

Think about the taken for granted cultural practice of foot binding in China. The impact of this life sentence was not limited to just severely deformed feet. This is what I found on the internet:

The binding of feet was said to be an indicator of Chinese class and a symbol of beauty, but through time, ended up becoming a tradition, lasting over a thousand years and affecting all women in every society leading to one billion women having their feet bound. It was a custom that controlled every woman’s lifestyle. Trying to find a husband for those whose feet were left unbound was virtually impossible.

I’d like to get back to Lynne Twist and The Soul of Money:

I have struggled to understand the tragedy of hunger. Hunger isn’t some mysterious disease…… We know what to do when a child is hungry. We know what a starving person needs. They need food…..

The world is awash in food. We currently have more food on earth than we need to feed everyone several times over. Waste abounds. In several countries……farmers are paid not to grow food….

I saw that the cause of chronic hunger wasn’t just the absence of food. What causes hunger and starvation is something more fundamental than that …..

When I considered the underlying beliefs held in common by almost everyone everywhere …… I saw that there were fundamental assumptions that disabled almost every effort to solve the problem….

When we believe that there is not enough, that resources are scarce, then we accept some will have what they need and some will not. We rationalise that someone is destined to end up with the short end of the stick.

When we believe that more is better, and equate having more with being more – more smart or more able – then people on the short end of the resource stick are assumed to be less smart, less able, even less valuable as human beings. We feel we have permission to discount them.

When we believe that’s just the way things are then we assume the posture of helplessness..…….. We accept that in our human family neither the resource rich members nor the resource poor members have enough money, enough food, or enough intelligence or resourcefulness to generate lasting solutions….

In every situation ….. uncovering the lie and the myths of scarcity has been the first and most powerful step in the transformation from helplessness and resignation to possibility and self reliance. 

How to Break Free From The Life Sentences That Limit Our Possibilities

It occurs to me that the first step is to be aware that our way of being, showing up in the world, is shaped by life sentences. The second step is to question: question the taken for granted beliefs, customs-practices, and assumptions. Third, choose to conform or not with your eyes wide open.

Here is something to consider especially if you live in a so called individualistic country. Are you ready? Whilst you are convinced that your are an individual and that you live in an individualistic society, consider that your culture has already determined what it is to be an individual. That is to say to be a true individual one needs to break free of the life sentence pronounced by your culture.  Stated bluntly, rare is the person who is truly an individual. Most individuals simply fit into the given mould of individual by their culture.

The Myth of Scarcity: That’s Just The Way It Is

Some time ago I started sharing some of that which spoke to me and showed up as worth sharing with you from Lynne Twist’s book: The Soul of Money. As it has been a little while since I last wrote, it may be worth revisiting the first two posts in this conversation:

The Myth of Scarcity: There’s Not Enough

The Myth of Scarcity: More Is Better

Ok, let’s listen to Lynne speak-share the third toxic myth that constitutes an important underpinning for the myth of scarcity. 

Toxic Myth 3: That’s Just The Way It Is

“….. that’s just the way it is, and there’s no way out. There’s not enough to go around, more is definitely better, and the people who have more are always people other than us. It’s not fair but we’d better play the game because that’s just the way it is and it’s hopeless, helpless, unequal, unfair world where you can never get out of this trap.

That’s just the way it is is just another myth, but it’s probably the one with the most grip, because you can always make a case for it. When something has always been a certain way,  and traditions, assumptions, or habits make it resistant to change then it seems logical …. that the way it is is the way it will stay. This is when the blindness, the numbness, the trance, and, underneath it all, the resignation of scarcity sets in. Resignation makes us feel hopeless, helpless, and cynical. Resignation also keeps us in line……. Resignation keeps us from questioning how much we’ll compromise ourselves or exploit others for the money available to us in a job, or career, a personal relationship or a business opportunity. 

That’s just the way it is justifies the greed, the prejudice and inaction that scarcity fosters in our relationship with money and the rest of the human race……

We say we feel bad about these and other inequities in the world, but the problems seem so deeply rooted as to be insurmountable and we resign ourselves to that’s just the way it is, declaring ourselves helpless to change things. In that resignation, we abandon our human potential, and the possibility of contributing to a thriving, equitable, healthy world……

We have to be willing to let go of that’s just the way it is, even if just for a moment, to consider the possibility that there isn’t a way it is or a way it isn’t. There’s the way we choose to act and what we choose to make or our circumstance.”

In my next post, I will continue this conversation and share with you how the possibilities open to us are shaped and closed off by the life sentences imposed on us – by our cultural practices and by us.

And finally

Before I end this conversation, I pose a question or two for us to consider:

  • granted that it is the way it is and it’s not the way it’s not, who/what caused it be the way it is and the way it’s not? 
  • has it always been the way it is and is no right now – across time, across cultures? And if it has not been as it is and is not right now, then who/what caused the shifts in the way that it is and is not?  
  • what would show up in my living, your living, our living if I/you showed up from the stand that “I have a say in the way that it is and is not, the way it will be and not be.”?


The Myth of Scarcity: There’s Not Enough

Today, I share with you passages from The Soul of Money, a book from Lynne Twist. Why? Because in it she discloses and deals with three particularly important myths that live us. That constrains the possibilities we see and limit our expression, way of being.  I invite you to listen freshly and deeply. Let’s begin.

What I have found is that no matter where we are in the political, economic, or financial spectrum, the myths and mindset of scarcity create an underlying fear …..

The mindset of scarcity is not something that we intentionally created …….. It was here before us .……. perpetuated in the myths and language of our money culture.

Scarcity is a lie, but it has been passed down as truth with a powerful that insists on itself, demands compliance, discourages doubt or questioning.

When we unpack the myth of scarcity, we find three central myths …..

Toxic Myth 1: There’s Not Enough

The first prevailing myth is that there’s not enough. There’s not enough to go around. Everyone can’t make it. Somebody’s going to be left out……..There’s not enough food…..money…..air….time…..money.

There’s not enough becomes the reason we do the work that brings us down or the reason we do things to each other that we are not proud of. There’s not enough generates a fear that drives us to make sure that we’re not the person……who gets crushed, marginalised, or left out.

Once we define our world as deficient, the total of our life energy, everything we think, everything we say, and everything we do…….becomes an expression of an effort to overcome this sense of lack and the fear of losing to others and being left out……

If there’s not enough for everyone, then taking care of yourself and your own, even at others’ expense, seems unfortunate, but unavoidable and somehow valid…….

The deficiency and fear reflect in the way that we conduct our lives and the systems and institutions we create to control access to any resource we perceive as valuable or limited. ….

In our own communities, we respond to the fear that there’s not enough by creating systems that favour us or exclude others from access to basic resources such as clean water, good schools, adequate health care, or safe housing.

And in our own families, there’s not enough drives us to buy more than we need……of somethings, to value, favour, or curry favour with people on the basis of their value to us in relation to money, rather than qualities of character.

I ask you to take a moment and really connect with Lynne’s speaking. How is the myth of scarcity and in particular, there’s not enough, constraining who you are being, the stand that you take, what you do or do not do, what you have or do not have?

I ask you to consider if ‘stuff’ is scarce or is it that we make it scarce?  I ask you to consider why many people in the USA cannot get adequate healthcare, yet people in France get great healthcare. I ask you to consider why it is that we let millions thirst, starve and die. Is it because we lack the means? Or is it that we simply take it for granted that there’s not enough for everyone? So it is perfectly logical, and OK, to let millions suffer and die.

I will share with you the second toxic myth in a follow up post. Until then I invite you to invite abundance into your being. I invite you to show up from the context of abundance. How about starting out with an abundance of listening, validation and connection. Just listen, really listen to the people that you encounter every day. Listen consciously from a context of curiosity, of wonder, of connecting with the other person. And through your unconditional listening simply validate that person just as he is and is not. If you do that I guarantee that you generate connection and let happiness into your life. I invite you to take me up on my guarantee.

And finally, Gautam, I hear you.

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