Most of humanity is so enchanted with its False (concocted) Self that it has largely doubted and rejected – or every known – its True Self. And so it lives in anxiety and insecurity. We have put so much time into creating it that we cannot imagine this False Self not being true – or not being “me.”*
I […] beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.**
(Paul the Apostle)
The apostle Paul was likely writing two thousand years ago about humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance and peacefulness because they were needing to be encouraged amongst his listeners. Jump to the present time and take a look through a sample of tweets, posts, blogs and social streams and you realise some things don’t change, only the technologies.
When we admit the truth about ourselves – we mess up, get things stupidly wrong, act out, don’t know what we’re talking about – we can see how important Paul’s characteristics are for taking us out of ourselves to others.
As he concludes The Second Mountain, David Brooks summarises,
The first mountain is the individualist worldview, which puts the desires of the ego at the centre. The second mountain is what you might call the relationalist worldview, which puts relation, commitment and the desires of the heart and soul at the centre.^
Brooks is observing is the hyper-individualist society in which many of us find ourselves. It is good to know who we are and what we can do, but if we do not commit ourselves to others, it spins off into “Me-centred” world that struggles with and cannot hold onto the kind of characteristics we were thinking about earlier.
Just to be aware of this, to notice it, is what the ego – or False Self as Richard Rohr names it – fears most of all. Becoming people who notice and reflect provides us with the opportunity forwards, to become our True Self.
I do not see us as one or the other, but both at the same time with one or other being in the ascendency; Brooks feels the same:
A committed life involves some common struggles. […] It is, for example, a constant struggle to see people at their full depths. In the business of daily life there is the constant temptation to see the other person as an object and not a whole. […] There is a constant struggle to communicate well. […] There is a constant struggle to live as an effective giver and receiver of gifts. […] Personal being […] is essentially generous.^
I see the Individual and relational needs of humans as two poles. When we are spinning around both we are interdependent beings, but when our lives spin off beyond the individual into Brooks’ hyper-individualism then we are become hyper-independent. The opposite, though Brooks doesn’t mention this, is when we spin off beyond the relational we become hyper-dependent.
We are always trying to know who we are and live towards others, expressing Joseph Campbell’s insistence that we need two myths: a personal and a societal.
The ego or False Self squeezes life small because it never has enough. The eco (self with others) or True Self stretches life large as it finds it always has more than enough because life is always becoming more.
Check out Rebecca Solnit’s excellent retelling of the Cinderella fairytale as Cinderella Liberator to explore more aspects of what it means to become our “truest selves.” Here the fairy godmother speaks in her own way of the second mountain or relationalist worldview:
There is always enough for everyone, if you share it properly, or if it has been shared properly before you got there. There is enough food, enough love, enough homes, enough time, enough crayons, enough people to be friends with each other.^^