Saturday, January 15, 2005

"Why were you not Moses?" 

“…from our first days in school, we are taught to listen to everything and everyone but ourselves, to take all our clues about living from the people and powers around us.


“We arrive in this world with birthright gifts – then we spend the first half of our lives abandoning them or letting others disabuse us of them. As young people, we are surrounded by expectations that may have little to do with who we really are, expectations held by people who are not trying to discern our selfhood but to fit us into slots. In families, schools, work-places, and religious communities, we are trained away from true self towards images of acceptability; under social pressures like racism and sexism our original shape is deformed beyond recognition; and we ourselves, driven by fear, too often betray true self to gain the approval of others.


“It is a strange gift, this birthright gift of self. Accepting it turns out to be even more demanding than attempting to become someone else! I have sometimes responded to that demand by ignoring the gift, or hiding it, or fleeing from it, or squandering it – and I think I am not alone. There is a Hasidic tale that reveals, with amazing brevity, both the universal tendency to want to be someone else, and the ultimate importance of becoming one’s self: Rabbi Zusya, when he was an old man, said, “In the coming world, they will not ask me: ‘Why were you not Moses?’ They will ask me: ‘Why were you not Zusya?’””

from “Let Your Life Speak” by Parker J. Palmer

I understand that question only too well: Why am I not Andy? And of course, it begs another question: Who is Andy? If I could answer the second, I could perhaps do something about the first…

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