I have always had an independent streak, or in my case maybe it’s a mile.
I found my voice early in life, a precocious child, some would say. Alright, well I would say. When I was six I accompanied my parents and probably a sibling or two, to the airport to send off the Baptist summer missionaries that frequented Juneau. They would come from exotic sounding places like “Nashville” and “Fort Lauderdale” to work for a summer at church camps or to build churches for the ever growing, but hardly evolving Southern Baptists. As we walked across the buzzing parking lot of the air-port, toward the lobby (in those days before 9/11 airports had beautiful lobbies, fine dining, and most importantly toy stores open to the general public) my mother told me to hold her hand. I made Jackson family history with a brilliant one-liner “I hold my own hand” followed closely by another now famed phrase “my-by-self.”
Later in life, this self assuredness would evade me, as almost all early habits do, when cast under the evil rule of the draconian lord, Puberty. Through most of my teens and still now in my twenties I find myself longing for the confidence that once led me to say “I hold my own hand” and “my-by-self” without a thread or notion of guilt, second guessing, or hesitation. I wish I knew, as I knew in childhood innocence, that if I held myself, if I lived “by self” I would be just fine.
Maybe one day that six year old kid will walk up to those brooding dark doubts in me, with their emo haircuts and scarred wrists, and kick them in the shin and tell them to beat it. Yeah, beat it! That would be nice.
This concept of self is so vague. What does it even mean to say things like “know thy self” or “to thine own self be true,” when are we ourselves, and more importantly when aren’t we? I have a theory about an egg, spirituality and self. Bare with me.
As a good Baptist I was taught to believe in a holy trinity, three Gods, in one God, each separate and unique, supremely and independently powerful and important, and each bound, intertwined, inseparably holy and dependant on each other to act as one. This complex being or beings encompass God (the father) Spirit (a feminine noun in Hebrew interestingly enough) and Jesus (the son). Each one acts simultaneously independent and yet at the same time relies on the other two to participate and complete the work begun by the first. Now I understand this is an incredibly silly concept, three parts of one God all separate, yet connected, but sillier things have been believed. Ask Tom Cruise.
I never could make sense of this concept. It seemed muddled, contrived, and irrational to my over analytical brain. I was about nineteen when I first started really delving into the muddy dialog of my spiritual past in search of some truth that I could grasp in my finite mind, some metaphor that could house this complicated deity. I came out dripping wet with filth and scum, but holding a shinny prize. An egg. The egg is a wonder to me, this perfectly pretty brown thing just appears one night under a baffled chicken, who clucks around for a bit and then decides to not only keep her newly found trophy but to sit on it.
An egg (an unfertilized one for this metaphor) is a single unit, one egg = one egg and so forth, yet it has 3 parts that are all known by the same name. Welcome to the stage Egg-White, Egg-Yoke, and Egg-Shell. If you were to see a blown egg some Easter you would not say “what a pretty egg shell” you would say “what a pretty egg” even though it now lacks the white and the yoke, you automatically recognize it as egg. Same with the yoke, or the white, order either “yokes only” or “whites only” and any all night breakfast diner and you will still be charged for “egg” because it’s all the same. Each part of the egg can be separated from the others but everyone knows that an egg is an egg and somewhere out there is a shell and a yoke and they are still part of that egg white no matter which way you cook ‘em. I think the same could be applied to the idea of self. I think we have our thinking selves, our feeling selves, and our knowing selves. Certain things take reasoning and practice to grasp, like in my case math. Other things must be experienced like love or heartbreak before we can truly understand their depths, yet there is another self, the one that gets ignored most of the time till you wake up in a sweat one night and realize that, yes, you are part of something bigger than either your thinking or feeling self could ever imagine. I believe your knowing self is your truest self, this is the self that resides in what the Greeks called Kardia (where we get cardio from) the gut, in the pit of your stomach- the self that acts on an undeniable physical and spiritual response. This is where our “to thine own self” self resides. Just like the egg, we are made up of all these parts our rational brain tries to make sense of or hold our feeling and knowing self, but sometimes if the right circumstances allow, we are fertilized by grace. And instead of staying a runny yellow yoke, we emerge pecking our nutrient rich little sphere of protection to bits, ever grateful for the time of incubation it provided, but ready to step into the sun a soft, fluffy, yellow ball of instinct and possibility. Knowing that we are what we were always meant to be- present at our own birth.