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More Than the Sum of Our Parts

More Than the Sum of Our Parts
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By Steve Salt

What’s missing? No, not your keys… or your phone.

There are moments when you suspect deep down you’re not whole, when you feel you have somehow misplaced a portion of your soul. Nothing is clicking, joy seems a stretch or you’re just going through the motions in a haze of detachment.

And you’re not sure what to do about it or that it is worth the effort to figure out.  For that matter, there is doubt that what you’re experiencing is even valid. I’ve had those misgivings.  I’ve also found success in challenging subtle feelings of personal inadequacy and experiencing fresh inspiration, fulfillment and presence. Wholeness comes when I take the time to look honestly at myself, all of me. Hear me out.

Most of us have become pretty adept at selfies on Instagram and writing a life narrative on Facebook and proclaiming, “This is me!”  Not even close. There is so much more to individuality than the smiling face at the end of a selfie stick and the posting of the latest conquests on a timeline.  Each of us is an intensely complex and uniquely elegant creation.

I’m not knocking social media. It’s invaluable to living in the 21st century.  But, when it comes to healthy introspection, sometimes we don’t get any further than status updating. We spend more time on what David Brooks calls in his new book, The Road to Character, “resume virtues” than on “eulogy virtues”.  Resume virtues, Brooks explains, are those qualities we use to promote ourselves to others. Eulogy qualities define inner character.

How well do you know you? One would think you would be fairly familiar with your inner self.  After all, you live and sleep with you 24/7. But an authentic accounting of individuality is far from a sure thing. Impediments to self-realization can stand in the way.

Fear – Self-examination is hard. Taking a deep dive into our inner workings can be scary. It might seem easier to avoid the whole thing and live life on the surface, never experiencing the depth of character that brings ultimate fulfillment.  It reminds me of the opening to a poem by Sir Francis Drake,

Disturb us Lord, when

We are too well pleased with ourselves,

When our dreams have come true

Because we have dreamed too little,

When we arrived safely

Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Futility – The weight of hopelessness paralyzes many a meaningful examination of character. “What’s the point?” is often the response to the influences in life that are assumed to be beyond one’s control. I’m thinking about the unrelenting rules of aging, heredity, and genetics that straightjacket a person’s desire to uncover the potential of his own individuality. For me, considering my heritage from a spiritual vantage point rather than a physical one helps to reveal a larger view of me. This Bible reference has always helped, “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.”

Lifestyle – The constant motion of our lives, filled with the minutia of daily experiences tends to detract from a healthy look-see into our own being. As life seems to speed up our inner vision becomes a blur. If we stop spinning our wheels long enough, we can see ourselves the way God does.  We’ll get a clearer view of our uniqueness as the manifestation of His completeness; each expressing God’s enduring individuality in our own distinct and satisfying way. “All that is beautiful and good in your individual consciousness is permanent,” wrote Mary Baker Eddy. I like that. “That which is not so,” she continued, “is illusive and fading.”

Techno-overload – In the drive to measure ourselves against others, technology promotes the use of apps that record biological markers to determine wellness. When it comes to understanding ourselves, I think this grossly misses the point. Self-monitoring is not self-awareness. Observing and quantifying the operation of body parts is a long way from knowing what makes us tick. We are so much more than the sum of our parts. “Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what is man the better?” asks an Old Testament writer.

Egotism – Self-absorption gets some hefty attention these days.  Yes, there are numerous self-help books out there that attempt to set us on the path of inner awareness. But character building and self-examination are just as much about the other guy as they are about the self.  It’s finding purpose in living the Golden Rule.  To the question many ask, “What am I?” Eddy offered this, “I am able to impart truth, health, and happiness, and this is my rock of salvation and my reason for existing.” We get a better look inside ourselves as we look outside ourselves.

When feeling less than whole, maybe the only thing missing is the attention we should give to those core virtues that have always been there.  We simply need to recognize and nurture the permanent indicators that reveal the inner beauty of our originality.

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