Kyle and I watched Pee Wee’s Big Holiday the other day (go ahead, laugh away…) and, surprise/not surprise, I loved it. The plot goes something like this: Pee Wee, initially reticent to leave his town or experience anything new, meets an exciting, rebellious stranger who inspires him to take a solo trip to New York City. Like any good hero’s journey (we also recently saw Wild—same note, see below), Pee Wee expands his horizons and returns home, incorporating new understanding (the elixir) into his previous existence. Pee Wee’s elixir just happened to be garnish (“Pee Wee, you’re eating the garnish!”), which he discovers and adds to the dishes he serves at the diner at home where he works.
What does this have to do with anything to do with me or my life? Everything. And here it is: although it’s not an action we can take, per say,
The awareness of being new in each moment introduces the possibility of wearing our identities lightly and thus living more presently and joyfully.
Pee Wee assumed he was home to stay—sans any knowledge of garnish. Most of us do. But nothing could be further from the truth. We assume—in fact it often doesn’t occur to us to question—set identities. My name is such and such. I’m a man/woman/girl/boy. I have kids/no kids. I live here. I do this. I like this. I dislike that. Byron Katie would inquire, Is that true? Can I absolutely know that it’s true? Elkhart Tolle asks, Is that so?
Because what? Because both we as form and our identities constantly evolve, appear or disappear, because we are nowhere near who we think we are: I didn’t exist and then I did. One day I won’t exist again. One baby appeared, and then another—suddenly I was the mother of two. Once I was single and now I’m not. I used to work as a speech pathologist, then one day I quit. I see myself as kind, good-hearted, easy-going, and yet I can identify plenty of times I’ve been mean, critical and rigid. You get the picture. Although we certainly exhibit tendencies, we are, actually, all of it.
Meeting ourselves through meditation, observing the way of things and knowing ourselves through experiences expands our conscious awareness of the Truth and we find that, yes, while we are none of it (who IS the “I” but identity), also—we embody every trait in some way, one way or another.
“Okay sure, but I’m not a murderer ” I might retort, and yet, Byron Katie reminds me, this morning I killed an ant crawling across my arm. I deprived a being who wanted to live, who would run from danger, of its life. Years ago I consumed meat, same story. I eat plants daily. I’ve done my best, at my worst, to shoot down a dream, an idea, a feeling. Murders, all.
In Wild, the hero’s journey brings Reese Witherspoon’s character to a place of radical self acceptance in which she wonders, What if I’ll never be redeemed? What if I already am? Once we accept the worst in ourselves, what’s left is love and thus forgiveness for everyone and everything.
I came upon this quote yesterday:
The opposite of anger isn’t calmness, it’s empathy.
The other day Kyle pointed out (after we’d watched An Unfinished Life) that we are so often unforgiving to ourselves through others. And how true. And then sometimes we understand and forgive in ourselves the thing that in another, appears foreign. Or perhaps we forgive in another something because we cannot find our way to forgiving this thing in ourselves. Ultimately, once we see the “other” as nothing but expressing in their own way what we ourselves experience without judgement, anger dissipates.
The point, my friends, is this:
I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
—–both from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”
Because we are capable, on some scale, of anything and everything, given the right (or wrong) circumstances, and because our form and identities transform in every moment—when possible, remember to wear the garments of identity lightly. They will ultimately be taken from us whether we release them willingly or not, but when it’s a willing release, we get to experience our lives without the weight of thinking anything at all should be different. We get to live with acceptance, with kindness and with love. And we get to be that for everyone who is fortunate enough to find themselves in our lives, even for a moment.
The thing is, although sometimes it’s our experience, change does not always necessarily require pain and sadness and can merely be a new breath in the next moment, until there is simply no more breath. As Franca Sozzani quips in her documentary, Franca: Chaos and Creation, everything turns, life starts new every day. The forms and the roles we play shift always, sometimes subtly, sometimes with a loud clunk! until they shift no more, and until we are no more.
LiveLove&BU and adventure on, Campbell heroes. Embark on the impossible odyssey, toss away the day when it is over and with it the robes of identity, forgive everyone and everything and allow the truth in all its forms. And when it occurs to you, absolutely eat the garnish.
Image credit Imgrum.org