Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"I" Need a New Word

New words are constantly coming into our language -- "bromance," robocall," "sexting," etc. --  so I'd like to order one if I may: a new term for "I."

Why do we need a new word for "I"?  Well... a budding meditation practice is teaching me that meditation is not about forcing the chattering mind to sit still... it's about identifying with an awareness beyond the incessant mental talk: a different "I."

A simple analogy borrowed from Richard Moss' The Mandala of Being may be helpful here. Think of thoughts as kites. They rise, soar, flutter, dive... We fly these kites, but they are not our selves.  Try picturing some thought of your own as a kite. Then try to follow the string from the kite slowly down into your self. You may find that you arrive at a kind of quiet presence.  The goal in this type of meditation is not to reject or judge thoughts (kites) but to identify oneself with that sense of presence. But in English we have only one word for the first person: when we say "I," it's not necessarily clear if we're speaking from a deep awareness... or from a swooping kite.

Terms for transcendent consciousness abound. Soul. Higher Self. Spirit. Universal Mind. Cosmic Consciousness. Etc.  But all of these, grammatically speaking, are objects; we stand outside them when we name them. Where is the subject? The "I" that can act and assert its living presence? The alternative to the "I" of chatter and kites? English has no such term.

Our language retains a vestigial familiar second person ("thou"). It was once used in situations of intimacy and informality. Its presence in translations of the Bible adds a solemn aura -- hinting at an intimate relationship with the divine. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we had an intimate form of the first person, an "I" that affirms our potential to live more peacefully? An "I" that resonated so sweetly that it had to be sung?

If I can hang up on a robocall because I'm watching a bromance on TV and sexting someone during the commercials, why can't I say "I" and mean something much, much more?

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