Welcome to a poetic and philosophic blog about the struggles of life and relationship.

“The ambiguity of life exists in every creative process. In every creative process of life, a destructive trend is implied; in every integrating process of life, a disintegrating trend; in every process toward the sublime, a profanizing trend.”(Paul Tillich, Ph.D., from The Meaning of Health, 1981)

Life cannot exist without the essential possibility and existential reality of death. Life is impossible without the daily, chaotic struggle against death... against the unremitting threat of entropy and nothingness. As Tillich again informs us, “Life must risk itself daily in order to win itself, but in the risking it may lose itself. A life which does not risk death--even in the highest forms of the life of the spirit--is a life poorly lived." This willingness to risk ourselves for greater life is the key that opens the door to the wellspring of creativity deep inside of us... that wellspring of transformative vitality that propels us through the struggle of death into the richness and renewal of new life.

"Creativity is 'the elixir of life' that heals and transforms life. Through the creative process we enter that 'sacred place,' that zone of evolution where the world lights up to itself as we light up to the world. It is here, in that 'holiest of holy' places that we are reunited with the waters of the wellspring of creativity, The Source of the 'River of Life' from which all creative energy and vitality issue forth to be manifested as new life. Through every creative act, life fulfills itself. Through every creative act, we transcend the mortality of our separate ego-self of I and enter into the realm of immortality to become one with our contextual self as Thou, as a self-realized collaborator in creation. Through creativity, we are delivered from the chaos of illness into the dynamic order of new life."
(P. Donovan & Herb Joiner Bey from The Face of Consciousness, 2006)

Please join me on this courageous venture of life and "enter into the realm of immortality," the realm of dialogue and relationship by poetically sharing with this community, your struggles to live... to "nullify the unremitting recurrences of death" through the continuous recurrence of birth. Through dialogue and relationship, the Face of consciousness is seen, recognized and witnessed. It is your Face, my Face, the Face of all life, the Face of our God. Thank you, Patrick.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

To The Salmon People And The Salmon Eaters From Mack

Last night I attended a presentation given in Seattle by wisdom-keeper storyteller Michael Meade. I went because I am in a bit of a doldrum, and wisdom (so rare in our world) tends to pick me up. It was an uplifting experience.

In oration and storytelling and song and drumming, he told of how our souls come to this life with a purpose, aimed in a certain direction, although we are sometimes unaware of that purpose. He said that usually there is a wounding experience in our childhood that stimulates and enlivens that purpose, turning fate into destiny. As he spoke I thought of how his words might apply to me. My wound was in being lied to, first by alcoholic parents who could not admit their alcoholism, then by a religious cult and complicit family members, and finally, on escaping that cult, by a world culture which does not know itself. Each time the lies sought to conceal the character of the very air we breathed day to day.

The storyteller said that initiation is a process of separation, ordeal, and reunion with a welcoming community that recognizes a rebirth of the soul and welcomes the initiate back into a place of belonging. How might this apply to me? My separation occurred at age 3, when I was fitted with a leather and steel leg brace to keep my right leg bones straight despite a disease which threatened to make the bones bend and then harden again in a disfigured state. The brace was mostly successful, as my lasting disfigurement is very minor, and could have been much worse. It is literally in my hip, as Jacob (another who asked for a gift as I did) was said to have been touched in his hip by an angel to teach him humility. I wonder if this is a reminder of humility to me.

But my bone disease was not the real wound, only an initiatory separation. For wearing the leg brace during my early years of socialization, three to six, created social separation, which Michael Meade says is a signal to the soul that initiation has begun.

My wound of fate is also my initiatory ordeal. Being lied to massively and intricately, more convoluted than the most complex Celtic knot you have ever seen or imagined. He says that next to our wound is our gift to the world, and that we have to go completely through the wound in order to find our gift and let it shine. My cult recovery process is now in it's second decade and counting. During this time I have completely reclaimed my mind from the web of lies, and am, more than anyone else I know, quite immune to them now. Since reclaiming one's mind is the greatest sin that one can possibly commit as per some of my siblings still in the cult, they count me a heretic worthy of death. This thought is wounding too, for my family was supposed to be my foundation in this life. There is no home to return to, even if I ever would.

But I have gone all the way through this wound. Some days I am even free of anger about it. Each day I try to deliver my gift by means of clarity and sincerety and alignment with the Nature of what is, and vibrating in the electricity and beauty of it, and I don't know if it is of benefit to anyone but myself, but I keep trying, for that is all I have to give. I hope some day it can benefit my unborn grandchildren so that they can enjoy the pure beauty that I have loved. My golden ball is certainly a treasure to me. Perhaps that is enough.

The storyteller related a Celtic story about the tree of life and the salmon of wisdom who became wise by eating nuts that fell from the tree of life into the pool where the salmon was swimming. He suggested that a life of wisdom means swimming against the current, as salmon do, because wisdom is rare in our world. So wisdom means struggle? I can relate. I have had to swim against the current for most of my life because I love and pursue wisdom, although I may not define it as Michael Meade does. He also said that wisdom varies for each individual, that it is creative and dynamic and infinitely malleable. I don't know if that is so. Perhaps.

But there is also another wisdom, and there must be another wisdom that we can share, at least long enough to solve our collective planetary problems. I suspect private creative wisdom, no matter how essential and helpful, may not be enough without a collective wisdom based on the Nature of what is, because collective solutions are required in order to survive these times. Somehow I can't help wondering if my golden ball is involved, but I don't quite know how.

To me, wisdom means the capacity to solve problems, like Solomon is said to have done when two mothers came before him, one with a living baby and one with a dead baby. When I first heard this story about age 3, there was a quickening in my soul. Something moved inside me as if I had swallowed a live salmon. I knew I had a difficult problem too, my parents' alcoholism, and I very much wanted the capacity to overcome my problem like Solomon did his. So that day I prayed to God for wisdom, the capacity to solve problems, because that is what Solomon did. I thought if it worked for him, it might work for me. (Hmm. Salmon~Solomon.) That was the day the eyes of my soul opened and my initiatory ordeal began. Had I known the ordeal would last so long, I might not have asked for it.

Like dominoes falling in succession, knowledge (the possession of accurate information) can lead to understanding (an overview of how things fit together), which in turn can lead to wisdom (the capacity to solve problems by employing understanding). But this succession requires intellectual honesty which becomes disrupted by cultural error. Since culture permeates, like the air we breathe, intellectual dishonesty within individual minds is somewhat proportional to the errors of world culture, and unfortunately they are many.

I pursue wisdom like the scent of a distant spawning ground because I wish to clear away the problems that inhibit the elusive thing I love which I can barely describe. I love the purest beauty imaginable, that pure innocence, pure alignment with the Nature of what is, free of artificial contrivance, which vibrates in the electricity of being, standing toe to toe, seeing eye to eye, free of the need for any contrived device, stronger because of it, steadfast and unmoveable like the trunk of the great tree of life, flowing with the limitless qi of the universe because of essential alignment with the Nature of what is. This is what this indescribable golden ball means to me.

Some might call it "truth", but that does not quite convey it, particularly where that word has been painted a different color through abuse. This thing I love is not some abstract invented doctrine from a hypocritical cleric, oversimplified for spiritual babes, yet masquerading as universal light. It is the ability to recognize and celebrate the beingness of our own Nature, to tune into a universal frequency that can free and empower us to reach our magnificent potential. Although I no longer allow myself to be chained by doctrine, I do still believe parts of my scriptural upbringing, including John 8:44, "The Devil is a liar and the father of lies". This is consistent with my experience, for this golden ball, "truth" or "innocence" or "alignment" or "sincerety" or however one might attempt to label it (despite the fact that labels usually fail), is that which connects us to our limitless power and divinity. Any oppressor would first seek to disconnect us from that, would they not? I don't know what the Devil is, but some unseen force or person has certainly taken this oppressive role in our world. Who?

Sincerety, above all else, is not allowed in my world, and particularly not for adult males. Instead, now and throughout this lifetime which extends along the road behind me, I am expected to be stoic and accomplished and contrive an image of stoicism and prowess, for this artificial image is what a man "should" be. And this is my deep emotional ground, being prohibited by the world in which I live from openly being and celebrating who I am, a world which, on the one hand pays lip service to honesty, but on the other hand rewards artificial contrivance and punishes sincerety in every conceivable way. We are not allowed to be who we really are, much less celebrate it. Shame, projection, and artificial contrivance are everywhere.

I have not yet gone all the way through this wound, and I wonder if there will be yet time to do so in this lifetime. It is, needless to say, no mystery to me why so many of my fellow men, likewise expected to be artificially stoic for the benefit of others, or artificially accomplished in order to receive a modicum of respect, more now in our gender "enlightened" society than ever, without a thought for their own humanity, do accede to contrivance and even exploitation in order to gain some sort of satisfaction, for there is no reward in this world for those who hold to nobility of character and sincerety of word and deed. Because of my "innocence" or creative maladjustment, I am sometimes thought of as weak, where in reality I am strong because of it, yet no one knows it. I admit it's not polished, but it really is gold.

The storyteller also said that the third stage of initiation, a reunion with a welcoming community that recognizes a rebirth of the soul, is rare in our world. Even though I discovered this soul journey he describes back in my teens, and have been pursuing it ever since, having been through three formal indigenous-style initiations, and many informal ones, that third stage still eludes me. For I live in a world in which community has dissolved, and humankind recognizes very little of what is real. And so even the most fundamental human needs that we all share, having a place of belonging and being seen and accepted for who we really are, eludes most all of us, because most all of us are too blind to see each other or recognize our common destiny.

I have at times been angry over this, but in this moment I am sad for my race, and I hold out a hand tenderly upon the shoulder of those who have never held out anything for me. We are all potentially so much more than we have been. May we move toward our beautiful potential.

The times that I came closest to the promise of being known and accepted for who I really am, that is when I was most alive; but it took huge expenditures of energy to reach those peaks in a cultural environment that either cannot glimpse my golden ball or projects familiar stereotypes as an overlay upon an unfamiliar sight. But even those peaks were a false promise, for no one around me whom I trusted with this risk, could really see or even wanted to, even though I tried over and over again. And now I am old and tired, and perhaps unlikely to spend that much energy trying such a difficult quest that holds so little promise in the current climate.

However the beautiful thing I came here to celebrate, I still do and always will. I love a thing that I have only tasted in the briefest possible glimpse (like Finn who touched the skin of the salmon before tasting his thumb) many years ago and now nearly forgotten. To love and pursue that pure and beautiful thing, now a wisp of a distant memory, which I can barely describe and even so doing, I describe poorly at best, my indescribable golden ball, is my purpose in this life. I wonder if my purpose is entirely futile, and hope it is not.

It is the beauty for which I live. Well although I have little evidence of accomplishment, my life is well spent still.

© Mack

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Segments of Antiquity

Segments of antiquity,
relics of antiquated memories,
like hand-carved figurines
on crumbled alters
of weathered stone,
pose motionless,
by the
paganistic, pantheistic, hedonistic hands
of analytical divinity
and the blood-borne sacrifice
of loves lost
only to be discovered again
in the metamorphic ruins
of tomorrow
by the virgin hands
of an archeological dream.

© p. donovan

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I’ve Known Love

I’ve known love
when it was cold,
when it was warm
and when it was sharp enough
to amputate my limbs
when I needed to be whole.

I’ve known flesh
when it was warm,
when it was cold
and when it was soft enough
to capture me in pain
when I needed to be free.

And I’ve known you
when you were sharp,
when you were soft
and when you were mine enough
to teach my limbs
their pain would never be free.

© p. donovan
Where Is The Open Door?

Where is the open door
I used to know so well
who’s latch was never closed to me
who’s path was always known?

Where are the satin sheets
that tasted of our sweat
on those nights of reckless passion
when our bodies heaved and flowed with love?

Where are the eyes of fire
that begged me to come in
and gazed into my soul
the moment we became as one?

The door is locked.
The sheets are put away.
Your eyes no longer see me now.

Love is such a strange agreement.

© p. donovan

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Circle

In western mystical tradition the point contained at the center of the circle is “aleph,” the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet and the I AM of self-awareness… the seed of life and self-aware consciousness that is defined by the circle to eventually expand to fulfill itself within the womb of the circle. The circle is “beth.” Beth is the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet and according to Western mystical tradition, is the letter from which creation began in the original Hebrew biblical text, because it is the first letter of the first word (“B’rashit”) of Biblical Genesis. It represents the container or maternal womb within which creation takes place.

The circle presents the maximal contrast of inside and outside, finite and infinite. It intimates the ultimate paradox: It is simultaneously limiting in its ability to contain and define, yet unlimiting and endless in its dimensions (π = 3.1415926…) and its expansive, recursive nature. Perceived as the uroboros (the ancient symbol of the serpent swallowing its tail), the circle is the symbol of unity and eternity, the union of masculine and feminine opposites as the mythological “World Parents” joined in perpetual embrace. As Michael Schneider states, “… a circle implies the mysterious generation from nothing to everything.” While the circle accommodates all of the fundamental two-dimensional shapes within itself and the sphere accommodates all of the fundamental three-dimensional forms (Platonic solids) within itself, the spiral accommodates the primary creative process from which all the fundamental shapes and forms evolve.

All forms and organizing patterns of life arise from the circle. Within it lies the identity of the Creator. Understanding it allows one to understand one’s self because it is from the circle one was born. As the great mythologist and psychologist Eric Neumann states:

“So long as man shall exist, perfection will continue to appear as the circle, the sphere, and the round; and the Primal Deity who is sufficient unto Itself, and the self who has gone beyond the opposites, will reappear in the image of the round, the mandala.”

© p. donovan

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The War, In Twelve Words

"It is with great remorse
that we inform you
of your loss."

© p. donovan

Copulating With The Scalpel Blade Of Desire

I have copulated with

the scalpel blade

of desire

as it caressed

the warm, hot flesh

of my safety and security


the calcified umbilicus

of my arrogant despair

and the intimate possibilities

that border

this threshold of love.

I spilled upon

the septic sheets

of my sibylline surrender

singly, wholly,



with unending pulsations

of emptiness

until there was nothing left

but the stillborn vestige

of my freedom

and the silent cry

of my


© p. donovan

Your Eyes, My Gaze

I'd stare into your eyes forever;

deep, endless pits

of beauty and despair,

of passion and sorrow,

of life and death,

of gray and green.

I'd get lost forever

as my gaze meets yours,

even when I look away

my gaze will stay lost

in your eyes forever.

Slowly we will move closer.

Mentally our souls will meet.

Using our eyes as a passage,

I will stay lost

in your eyes forever.

© Connor Donovan
So Far From Doe Bay

So far from Doe Bay we’ve come
since that dusky, July evening
when I first stared transfixed
into your fiery green eyes
while your slender, naked, nubile body
slipped seductively into the hot tub of my anticipation
on that secluded Northwest Island.

Within minutes, all else melted away
except those green eyes
and a familiar conversation
begun so long ago;
(absent of word and voice)
interrupted only by the splashing of your son
as he played periodically with your attention.

Even before our introduction,
I knew why
I had come to this place.

So far from Doe Bay we’ve come;
through nights of fiery passion
entangled as one
(the taste of your body, the sent of your heat)
to Sunday night dinners of garlic and wine
and olive oil kisses with basil and thyme.

So far from Doe Bay we’ve gone
since that dusky, July evening
when I first stared transfixed
into your fiery green eyes.

So far from Doe Bay we’ve gone.
We’ve gone so far away.
On two separate ferries.
In two separate cars.
As two separate lives.
Forever entwined in the moment of
one unforgettable hello

© p. donovan

The Man Massacres The Concept Of Time

The man massacres the concept of time
as he sees it slowly
creeping through his lover's veins.

He cries out angrily
at the feeling of hate.
He sings out joyfully
at the knowledge of love.

He reaps and sows
the fact of evolution.
But drowns the myth
of revolution.

© Connor Donovan

A squatter squats inside my house,

I give him shelter, bread, and wine,

I give him everything that is mine.

He spends the night and that's just fine.

I let him stay because he shows

that he is safe, and that I know.

I give him everything I sow

all my sheets and all my clothes.

And then the next morning comes.

He awakes, and then he's gone.

Just as he leaves another comes.

This one's family, a close friend.

No, I know it's not the end,

so I let him come in.

No, the bell doesn't toll for him.

As I greet this friend with hi,

he says "hello" and then he sighs.

What's wrong my friend, I must ask.

He says he's done and gone to die.

I say I am surprised, although I'm not,

it's in his eyes.

He says "farewell" and "I must go."

I say "goodbye, I loved you so."

The last time I see him go.

A stranger comes to my door,

not a squatter, not a whore.

This man, I know him well,

yet he is a stranger still.

I shut the door in his face.

He says, "That won't do, your a disgrace."

I open up the door to see,

the man has become me.

I shut the door and run away.

Things collapse and fadeaway.

I've run into another day.

© Connor Donovan, 9/11
Solstice Supplication

In the dark,
the night,
of late December,
as the sun hid his countenance from human view,
I sat with my father beneath the scented boughs
cracking the shells of walnuts, almonds, and their kin.

His hands,
rough, muscled, and calloused,
held the precious seeds within their firm and gentle grasp
“nothing so strong as gentleness”
and released the life enhancing substance that formed my
young and forming soul.

Oh, Light of light; Oh, Seed of seeds!
Wherein lies my path?
Let Janus show his faces forward,
set me down, let your book be known to me,
let your word be spoken and mine ears be worthy.

Show me his face again.

© Dan Cicora

Thursday, August 18, 2011


This space between us,
intimately conversant,
has suffered too long
its poetic anemia.

without the meat of literary dialogue,
we have been limping through
life's hemorrhagic events
with seductive fatigue
searching for a rhyme or reason
for having no reasonable rhyme.

Enough, I say!
I am your hunter
and here is your meat,
blood-red and raw,
charbroiled in the heat
of my love for you.

Read it to your satiety
and digest it well
for tomorrow you will be
hungry for more.
© p. donovan

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I Am Sorry For A Bird That Never Flew To Your Expectations

What do you do when the burning of the day
and the silence of the night
keep telling you,
"It's time to leave?"

Shut the door behind you.

What do you do when the home of your life
and the arms of your beloved
keep telling you,
"You are a stranger?"

Apologize for the intrusion.

What do you say when the jury of your peers
and the outcomes of your good deeds
keep telling you,
"You are no longer valued?"

"I know who I am."

How do you act when the bustling crowd
and the flowering garden
keep telling you,
"You are alone?"

Follow your own path.

© p. donovan

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


“Each incarnation has a potentiality, and the mission of the life is to live that potentiality.”
(Joseph Campbell from The Power of Myth, 1988)

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
(Ralph Waldo Emerson from The Selected Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson)

The Prime Directive

In the spring of 2003, I was sitting in a circle of professors and students from Bastyr University. As an adjunct professor at the University then, I was part of a workshop with faculty and students at the Whidbey Island Institute on Whidbey Island. It was a three-day workshop on personal transformation for the students lead by a few of us in the faculty. At the end of the third day while we were all in circle for the closing ceremony, we asked a question each of us had to answer. The question was this: “What is your primary responsibility to yourself and to your community of life?” Based upon each person’s answer to that question, we were each to make a promise to ourselves and to the community present as to how we would fulfill our personal responsibility.

Of course I was intrigued with the question both for myself and for the young students in the circle. As I watched their faces deeply pondering their answers, I found myself also lost in my own deep thought about the answer. Not just reviewing the weekend’s many intimate conversations and dialogues as I expected, but contemplating my life as well on so many levels. Just what is my primary responsibility to myself, to my family, friends and community… to life itself? Lost in this contemplative inner exploration, I suddenly found myself catapulted back into the present…actually shaken to my very roots from an answer given by one of my colleagues, Dr. Rowen Hamilton. Upon his turn to answer, Dr. Hamilton stood up in a very purposeful yet humble manner and gently, but profoundly said, “Above all, I have a responsibility to be who I was born to be in my fullest.” After a momentary pause, he then promised to be “that person” and quietly sat down.

A soberingly powerful and intensely present silence overcame the circle. The proverbial “pin” could have been heard; in the midst of this silence was a pregnant space spanning what seemed many minutes. It was as though the voice of destiny had just spoken directly to our souls. The simplicity and pure honesty of his answer left each one of us awe-struck and speechless as we considered the intrinsic directive: “To be who we are born to be in our fullest!” It seemed as if this directive had shattered all delusional constructs and preconceived notions any of us had about ourselves and what our lives were about. I could see the impact his answer had on the faces of everyone in that circle; it had stopped each one of us dead in our tracks, but why? Why was this simple, honest reply to the question posed so profoundly affecting us? Was there something deep in our inner nature, in our soul memory that resonated with and understood the fundamental truth of Dr. Hamilton’s answer? It certainly embraced some of the greatest concerns of human existence and deeper mysteries of being that have continued for centuries to confound us all, even the greatest of philosophers and theologians; mysteries such as consciousness and self-awareness, destiny and fate, free-will and predetermination.

The renowned story teller and mythologist Michael Meade, in his book Fate And Destiny, tells the traditional story of Rabbi Zushya. Rabbi Zushya was a wise and famous Jewish mystic and teacher who, on his death bed, was afraid to meet God because he was concerned he could not answer God’s only question: “Zushya, why were you not more like Zushya?” In other words, God was asking Zushya if Zushya was what he was born to be in his fullest. Why did this concern Zushya so? He was wise and supposedly knew all the great mysteries of God and life. How did he not know the answer to God’s question? Can any one of us ever know the answer? As Meade writes, “Every life must eventually become a revelation of itself.” Is your life “becoming a revelation of itself?” How would you answer God if you died today and God asked you, “While you lived your life, did you become what you were born to be in your fullest?” Do you know yourself well enough and do you have some sense or vision of your own destiny well enough to identify an answer?

As I further considered Dr. Hamilton’s response, I began to realize the primal truth of its directive. In reality, all any one of us can ever be is the person we are and the life we live as that person “eventually becomes the revelation of itself.” In other words, I realized there is no “right” or “wrong” way of being myself. I AM the revelation of myself! By virtue of my own separate, individual uniqueness formed and shaped by my genetic code, familial patterns, and personal life experiences, any expression of myself is the “right” expression because it is simply me being who I AM. Therefore, the only promise I can ever responsibly make with some sense of honest conviction is to be who I AM, or is it? This begged my further inquiry. Is the “who I AM” enough or is there a deeper meaning implied? Is there an eminent sense of destiny insinuated in the person I was born to be as opposed to just being who I AM? The essential question in my mind came to be: Is there something more I am to become other then just who I AM… something destined? As I explored this question, I quickly realized I did know one thing. “Who I AM” is clearly a dynamic ever evolving identity influenced by a multitude of factors at any one moment.

Self-identity, for any self-aware being, is constantly evolving and adapting from one moment to the next. It is in a continuous state of being formed, shaping and reshaping hourly sculpted by fate’s creative hand via a combination of numerous external forces and influences (social, familial, political, environmental etc.) combined with our internal reactions to those external forces and influences. Yet, I felt as though there was still something more deep inside of me, something constant and unchanging at the very core of “who” I AM… something of “my” nature, of “my” self-identity that made me unique and different than anyone else in spite of so many shared human commonalities and experiences. Further, I felt as though “the something constant at my core” is always calling out to me, beckoning me in some strange and haunting way, like a light house in the fog of night directing me through the perilous seas of my fate to some yet unseen but strangely familiar port of destiny only I could recognize. This is true for us all. In spite of our shared commonalities, something makes us distinctively different in our own inimitable way. If we listen carefully, we can hear that uniqueness as it calls out to us to follow its beckoning light to the harbor of our own particular destiny… to the secret place of our own particular gifts and individuality. I believe it is this uniqueness and individuality of life’s many forms, life’s myriad of diversity that makes life so interesting, rich and beautiful with its interplay of individually unique characters, qualities and species and its many exotic harbors.

At the time this workshop was taking place, it just so happened I was in the midst of writing my first book, The Face of Consciousness. I had just finished writing a section on diversity and self-identity. So, the idea of each one of us being unique and responsible to be who we were born to be intrigued me. It was fully in sync with all I had been studying and writing about regarding the nature of consciousness, self-identity and living systems. Every living system is a unique, individual whole unto itself and is made up of parts that are also unique, individual wholes made up of other parts, and so on. According to science writer and philosopher, Arthur Koestler, every whole is a part and every part is a whole, each unique. Since every part is also a whole unto itself and visa versa, Koestler referred to everything as a “holon.” He described every living system as a “holon” possessed of two opposite tendencies: a tendency to integrate as part of a larger whole, and a self-assertive tendency to preserve its individual autonomy and uniqueness as a whole unto itself. Could that “self-assertive tendency” be the “something constant at the core” in each one of us that calls out to us and guides us through the perils of our fated seas to the unique harbor of our own distinctive destiny guarantying life its diversity?

As the biological sciences have clearly witnessed, the more diverse a living system is (the more unique and autonomous are its parts), the more robust and healthy is that system. Diversity is a special form of creativity and appears to be a primary directive of life because it assures the maximal unfolding of all the possibilities of identity and relationship life has to offer. Life’s preponderance for diversity assures the maximal unfolding of the distinct and peculiar characteristics of the full potential of each one of us as individual holons. As I think about it, the U.S. Army (Who would have thought?) actually had it right: “Be all that you can be.” Above all, life wants each one of us “to be all that we can be.”

Know Thyself

If I AM who I AM and I AM a unique individual as is each one of us, what is the “constant at my core” that makes me unique? Is it my genes? Some might say it is. But, according to the human genome project, genetically we are more alike than different, even between different geographical and racial populations. According to research appearing in the science journal Genetics, “The proportion of human genetic variation due to differences between populations is modest, and individuals from different populations can be genetically more similar than individuals from the same population.” Research in genetics has also shown we share 98% of our human DNA with chimpanzees. 98% of our DNA is identical to a chimpanzee’s DNA! Not so hard for me to believe when I think of a few friends I had as a teenager. As a matter of fact, researchers finished mapping the genome of the domestic dog and the results showed, among other things, that dogs, mice, and humans share a core set of DNA. Obviously, it isn’t genetics alone that contributes to uniqueness. What makes me different from you, different from anyone else, even from a chimpanzee or a dog, for that matter, is something more… something of cumulative life-experience and of the deep self. It exists at a more profound and fundamental level than biology and genetics alone. It is something of consciousness and self-awareness... something of the soul.

When Moses encountered God as the burning bush on Mount Sinai and received the Ten Commandments, according to the biblical account in Exodus 3:13-14, Moses asked God, “When I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? What shall I say unto them?” God replied, “I AM that I AM.” I believe this name of God given to Moses by God represents the most basic, self-reflective statement of being possible. The word "that" appearing within God’s name, is a linguistic symbol for the universal phenomenon of self-reflection that allows the self to behold the self. It acts as the mirror reflecting the image of I AM back to I AM allowing God to experience God so that God may know God. It allows God to, as Psalm 8:1 declares, “Behold the magnificence and glory of the Lord” and proclaim “How excellent is thy name in all the earth who has set thy glory above the heavens.” As I have described with great detail in The Face of Consciousness, the creative, self-reflective act represented by God’s name is intrinsic to all living systems and is essential for the development of self-awareness and self-consciousness. It not only allows the unrealized potential of life to fully manifest, affirm and eventually witness and realize all aspects of its beingness, but it also allows each one of us to do the same. It allows ourselves to experience ourselves that we may know ourselves.

For any of us to be “who we were born to be in our fullest” we must first know who we are at our core on a deep soulular level. Of course, this takes thorough, intense introspection and examination of one’s life. As Socrates wrote, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Of course it isn’t! Without daily examination of one’s life, it is difficult to evaluate the strange twists of fate we encounter and the outcomes of our choices and directions taken in response to those “strange twists.” As mythologist Michael Meade writes in his book, Fate And Destiny:

“Fate and the soul are woven of the same threads and fate includes the strange twists that make each soul unique and each life unpredictable. Denying all sense of fate and limitations in life also means denying any sense of inherent uniqueness in the soul. Our ‘uniqueness’ is woven exactly where the thread of destiny entwines with the twists of fate.”

The thread of destiny is that light beckon that guides us through the perilous seas of our fated life to our own unique harbor of “who” we are to be. It “entwines the twists of fate” at the points where we are confronted by potential navigational hazards forcing us to make directional changes (choices) based on avoidance or confrontation of those potential hazards. Therefore, the story of who we are first begins to be discovered within the story of our choices. The history of those choices throughout our life is the map of our life… the fingerprint of our identity. Without such information, the perilous sea of life is difficult to navigate. To know one’s self is not an easy task. It is an ongoing process… a continual discovery and unfolding until one’s life “becomes its own revelation of itself,” as Meade writes. To know one’s self is to know one’s direction... to recognize and follow that directional beacon of light that helps us navigate the perils of fate’s entwinements with destiny so that we may arrive at the harbor of our life’s revelation of itself. To know one’s self means also to understand our choices, how they empower us to become that which we are born to be, or how they may inhibit our growth and development and impede our possibility to move into the fullest expression of our potential. As the ancient inscription on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi reads, “Know Thyself.” This, I firmly believe, is the most important of all life’s directives. Without knowing ourselves, it is difficult to be the person we were born to be.

As I sat in the circle with my students and colleagues that day considering further Dr. Hamilton’s declaration and resultant promise, I realized I do have a responsibility to Life itself, as does every person living on this planet or in this universe. Our shared, primary responsibility to Life is to be the “unique, autonomous holon” we were born to be in our fullest and to do so means each one of us must know who we are at our core and be true to that self by fully realizing its potential. Like Polonius’s last bit of advice to his son Laertes, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “This above all, to thine own self be true.” By so doing, we assure Life its maximal unfolding… its richness, robustness and diversity. By so doing, we can live our full potential and assure ourselves our destiny. But, there was yet one more responsibility I began to see emerging from all of this analytical ruminating. We have another responsibility to each other… to each living thing. It is the responsibility to allow each one of us to be that unique, autonomous holon we are each meant to be by ensuring and encouraging the freedom of expression for each one of us to do so.

By the time it was my turn to answer that day, I had realized there was another promise I had to make besides the promise to be who I was born to be in my fullest. It was the only promise I thought could respectfully follow such a primary promise as Dr. Hamilton’s. I promised to encourage, support and inspire each one of the people present in that circle that day to become who they were born to be in their fullest and to refrain from obstruction or interference with their freedom to do so. As the eighteenth century French philosopher, Voltaire wrote: “I may not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.” I understood that as I have a primary responsibility to be who I was born to be in my fullest, I also have a secondary responsibility to assure everyone else their individual freedom to be who they were born to be in their fullest, as well, even if I may not agree with the “who” they choose to be. Each of us has our own individual path and hidden gifts to discover and bring into the world. Each one of us is an unique individual expression of life’s diverse nature… of God being God.

At the moment I made my promise, one more thought occurred to me. It occurred to me what the “founding fathers” of the United States may have been trying to accomplish in the framing of the American Constitution. I believe they were constitutionally delineating the two fundamental responsibilities we have to ourselves and to each other: 1) to be what each one of us was born to be in our fullest; 2) to allow and assure all others the freedom to be what they were born to be in their fullest. The writers of the constitution were also attempting to construct the guidelines to preserve the freedoms and individual rights it would take to allow those responsibilities to be realized by each individual and the communities within which they lived. What a revelation it was to me to finally understand the depth of thought and insight it took for these founding fathers to construct the framework of democracy and individual freedoms upon which this country was built. I have come to realize these two fundamental responsibilities we have to ourselves and to each other are fundamental responsibilities shared by all conscious, self-aware beings.

© p. donovan