|My friend Paul Heft, in response to my article about the difference between what you’re meant to do and what you’re meant to be, wrote:
As soon as you use comparisons or quantification (“uniquely good at”) you are talking about doing, not being. “What is X good at doing” is a fine utilitarian question for an Intentional Community (IC) to ask of its members, and especially candidates for membership, in order to decide how to best use their talents and capacities. One may be good at farming, or parenting, or leading, or planning, etc.
The English language is wonderfully loose, but let’s not confuse that with “being”, as in being genuine, being compassionate, being a friend, being aware–which are each aspects/modes of being yourself. Being yourself is not an activity, or a set of capacities for action (talents, skills, knowledge, etc.) Being yourself (“authentically nobody-but-myself”) is, perhaps, resting in your true nature (once you have managed to see through the conditioning that generates personality along with its biases, defenses, beliefs and rationalizations).
In that position I suspect you might feel at home wherever you are, and from that position you will do what you know is appropriate. Where can you call “home”? What you do uniquely well, and love doing, which enables others to change for the better, might not belong in any land-based intentional community. (It seems that the ICs we discuss are land-based, such as farms and ecovillages–with the exception of the IC being created in Second Life.) Instead I see you serving a large number of communities and organizations, and in return receiving material support from them. This is analogous to an itinerant preacher or circuit judge, except you may be able to do a large portion of your travelling through cyberspace rather than across the land. I suspect that, even as you help others identify and live well with the land, you will identify with something much larger (Gaia?). Your home may be merely a home base, from which you will travel in service, and to which you will return to take pleasure in dear friends and familiar surroundings. In that case you will not be tied to a particular habitat like a farmer, or a hunter, or a bear, or a salmon.
I still think we ideally need to know who we are meant to be, before we can really expect to know what we are meant to do. Paul uses the examples of being compassionate and being aware. These are, I think, capacities of being. Some of us are just better at being these things than others are. We can of course work hard to ‘be’ better at these things.
I would love to say that my distinctive capacity, what I am uniquely good at being, is perceptive, aware, but I know that is not true. Some of my distinctive Capacities are intuitiveness, what is called ‘lateral thinking’, and pattern-recognizing ability. While they can be applied in what I ‘do’, these capacities are, of themselves, elements of my being, part of who I am. I would do them even if I had no ‘use’ for them. If I were to let-myself-change to become more aware, more perceptive, more sensual, that would become part of who I am — and I aspire to be that. But it is not (yet) who I am, and if I try to live as if it is, I am not going to be happy; I will be constantly feeling as if I’m letting people (and myself) down. I don’t think I’m playing fast and loose with language here, though I may be communicating badly.
The second part of who we are, I think, is what we love being, what I called in the earlier article Joys. If I were to be honest, I would admit that I love being popular. That means I love appreciation, and that I will be driven to do things (like blogging in public) that (hopefully) draw that appreciation to me. But that is part of who I am, not of what I do. I love to be stimulated (intellectually, emotionally, physically). I love to be at peace, feeling connected with all-life-on-Earth, and that drives me to do all kinds of things (like avoiding bad news, and being anxious in the very crowds whose appreciation I crave.) It is possible, though difficult, to learn to love being things we do not currently love being, though I think it is difficult.
The third part of who we are, I believe, is what we need ourselves to be, and what others need us to be. In my earlier article I called this Intention, but perhaps a better word would be Requirement. This includes things we already are (if they are needed, valued) and other things that we will have to become if we aspire to fulfill our own and others’ needs. My intuitiveness is something I need — I rely on it and trust it immensely — but I wouldn’t say it’s needed or valued by others. Awareness is something that I need to be, for self-fulfillment (I know because I long to ‘be’ in the moment, to really see, to exist in ‘Now Time’, to be connected to all-life-on-Earth). What others need from me (I think) is sensitivity and patience, qualities of being that I am not good at and don’t especially aspire to be (perhaps I am afraid that if I were sensitive I’d be hurt and stressed too easily, and if I were patient I’d ‘settle’ too easily). These things just aren’t me.
The chart above (an analogy to my Gift/Passion/Purpose three-circle chart for deciding what you’re meant to do for a living), shows the Sweet Spot in the middle that, I think, corresponds to true happiness. I’ve filled in the qualities that I think represent me. What would you put in each of the circles: What are you good at being, what would you love to be; and what do you need yourself to be (and what do others need you to be)?
Everything in any of the circles is, I think, to some extent, a part of who we are or intend to be. The more qualities that are in that central Sweet Spot the happier we are. To become happier, we strive to find people who need and value our Area 2 (unappreciated) qualities, and we strive to come to appreciate these qualities more in ourselves. To become happier, we strive to acquire competency in Area 4 qualities. To become happier, we strive to appreciate and enjoy our Area 5 qualities. Success in any of these efforts moves these qualities to the Sweet Spot in the centre.
What we’re good at being often determines what we’re good at doing. What we love (or would love) being can correlate to what we love doing. And what people need us to be can determine what they need us to do. So the Capacities/Joys/Requirements list (what we’re meant to be) should offer us clues about what our Gifts/Passions/Purpose might be (what we’re meant to do).
The things that I am that make me happiest (being articulate and provocative and imaginative), for example, map pretty closely to the things that are in my Gifts/Passions/Purpose Sweet Spot (expository writing, facilitating self-change in others, imagining possibilities) — what I think I’m meant to do for a living. But these are all fairly introspective, intellectual qualities and activities — perhaps not those of someone aspiring to start an Intentional Community, and lead the charge for better ways to live and make a living? In learning more about who we authentically are (nobody-but-ourselves), and about who we are not (the qualities ‘adventurous’, ‘courageous’, ‘perseverant’ and ‘persuasive’ are conspicuously absent, for example, from my chart) will a better understanding of who we are meant to be, and what we are meant to do, emerge?
And once we have this better understanding, will we be able to better figure out where we belong, where is home, to us?
Paul suggests that perhaps ‘home’ for me (and for others in our increasingly tiny, global, unreal world) might be just a stopping-off place, not a place where I make a living at all. Even if flying all over the world is ecologically irresponsible (and will soon be unaffordable), perhaps my place for making a living is in a virtual world? If that’s the case, perhaps I’m freed from working on the land to embrace the whole Earth as my ‘home’.
It’s an interesting idea. But my intuition says that’s all it is, that, as physical, visceral creatures, our home is some tangible Earthbound place. Paul may be right that technology will one day separate the place where we make a living from the place we call home. Perhaps it will even separate the place where those that we love live, physically, from the place we, individually, call home.
Somehow, though, I doubt it. The essential enterprises of all species are all about providing the necessities of life — love, food, learning, play — and these can all be provided, as long as we are not reckless in ournumbers and consumption, easily, and are best provided close to home.
Now all we need to do is figure out where that is.
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What would I put in each of the circles? Even though I enjoy introspection and analysis, I’m having a hard time filling in the circles. The chart seems sensible, that’s not the problem. Perhaps I resist pinning myself down for some reason. I expect others can make better use of the chart than I’m managing to do!
Excellent way to visualize the situation, which is what most people need, since the figures cause us to glaze over after a few minutes.
Hey Dave –Don’t remember if we have talked about this before…. but this whole post triggered a visceral reaction for me, founded on the principals and theories of e-prime. While that is mostly an intellectual exercise, a couple friends have been refocusing from e-prime to *e-primitive*. Jason, over at Anthropik, cross posted a comprehensive discussion (http://anthropik.com/2008/03/e-primitive-rewilding-the-english-language/)they wrote on e-primitive… or for the pieces before the essay, check out Willem Larsen’s College of Mythic Cartography. (http://mythic-cartography.org/) His cowriter, Urban Scout can be found at http://urbanscout.org/Any way…. I’m simply wondering if you are having so much difficulty with this idea of nobody-but-yourself simply because you are focusing on *being* rather than *doing*…. particularly if e-prime is valid and there is *no such thing* as being ;-)Janene
my feeling is that it is hard to get to know who we are because we are a process, changing all the time …. learning different things every moment … adding, constructing ourselves constantly. Our belonging needs also change as well as what we are meant to do….The basics, lets say, our habilities, our preferences, may stay more or less alike, maybe because they are determined by our genes, but to me it is a fact that we are a process not made of a solid stuff.
Thank you, Dave, so much for posting Paul’s lovely note, and for the raw reflections it inspired. To me it seems that there really is only one requirement (for you to be fully yourself) and that the authentic realization of this can’t help but embrace what you’re good at (no one is going to be better at being you than you are) as well as what you love (what other joy would there be than to truly be your own genuine self?). It’s hard for me, frankly, to pull those three rings apart
My thoughts on E-Primitive is that the thinking is a bit muddle-headed, perhaps because it’s built on using language that is criticizing the inherent bias and blindness of language. At heart, to say there is no such thing as being because our feeble modern languages can only convey a representation of what we ‘are’ makes no sense. Other creatures have languages similar in structure to those of primitive cultures, which use modes of representation rather than identity to convey what they ‘are’. You can always replace ‘to be’ forms of language with others, so that instead of saying I ‘am’ imaginative I could say I have a good imagination, for example. Those capacities (what I ‘have’), joys (what I ‘feel’) and requirements (what I ‘need’ of myself and others ‘need’ of me) constitute what I ‘am’ nevertheless, my essence, what makes me ‘me’ even if I ‘do’ nothing. We are much more than what we do, even though I admit that sometimes we settle for being when doing is required.
And sometimes we settle for doing when being is required :-)