Our recent trip to San Francisco was very thought provoking. As I was driving home Monday, my mind reflected back on all that I had experienced and learned the previous week ... and the thought came into my mind: who am I beyond the factors and forces that have shaped my life?
I was molded and shaped by the family into which I was born, by the abuse I suffered as a child, by my parents' divorce, by my realization that I am gay, by my conversion from Catholicism to Protestantism, by the years I spent working with my dad in the family business, by my conversion to Mormonism and, perhaps most importantly, by my marriage. But when I strip away all of the effects that these events had on me, whom am I left with?
The image of the potter's wheel came into my mind. A potter takes clay and water, works it, shapes it, over and over again, fires it, then glazes it. The clay has been fashioned into something completely different than its original form and substance. Other objects of different sizes, shapes and colors are created from the same material. But the organic substance of all of these objects is the same.
In the same manner, my "primordial substance" was molded, shaped, fired, dyed, glazed. Later in life, I began looking at all of these outside/external forces and the effects that they had had upon me. In some cases, I spent a lot of time and effort proving to myself that these things *had* been done to me, and my focus was on *how* I had been shaped, and on placing blame on others for what they had done to me, how they had mis-shapened me.
The ultimate flaw in all of this self-analysis was that it kept me focused upon myself as an object. I bemoaned the fact that I hadn't been able to be shaped into a different type, color, shape or size of an object. But what I realized is that I need to focus on my organic material - my "clay" - that existed prior to all the shaping, molding, etc. For even though I am an "object," I am still, in essence, clay. But, of course, I'm not an object at all.
This analogy obviously has its limits, but it has helped me articulate the thought that I had in the truck as I drove across Nevada on I-80, i.e., who am I? What is left? After I get beyond all the factors and forces that have shaped my life? Who is that primordial substance, and how can I learn about it, and through that process, realize that I am truly of one substance with all living things?
This is my breakthrough ... leading to my challenge ... to discover that primordial substance ...