The Essence of a Person

Calla Lilies

Calla Lilies

“Don’t forget – no one else sees the world the way you do, so no one else can tell the stories that you have to tell.” – Charles de Lint

“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

“The strangest part about being famous is you don’t get to give first impressions anymore. Everyone already has an impression of you before you meet them.” – Kristen Stewart

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.” – Albert Einstein

Last week as I was browsing Facebook, I found a link to an article in The Guardian in which it was lamented that Colleen McCullough’s obituary in an Australian newspaper was more about her looks and relationships with men, than about her brains and the many best selling books she created over her long career. As the reporter points out, it’s not the first time that articles about women concentrate more on a woman’s physical attributes and role she has played as a mother, or lack of it, before listing her other accomplishments.

That got me thinking. What is the essence of a person? Are we our looks, our family relationships, our job, or our accomplishments? Or is there something much more mysterious deep inside each of us? I think that many of us are afraid to explore who we really are which makes me sad. Think of all the wonderful things that could be accomplished if everyone was completely self-actualized.

Women are particularly plagued with image comparisons, but men face this problem too. There is a nebulous measuring stick out there for what constitutes an attractive, successful, smart man or woman. It’s a set of qualities that no one, or very few people can live up to. And if they could live up to them, would they want to? Who wants to be put into a category?

Wouldn’t it be nice if instead of looking at someone’s physical appearance, education, or situation in life, we could look into their soul and see the real person underneath? What would we find I wonder? Why is it most of us don’t care to look farther than skin deep? I know I’m asking a lot of questions, but this whole idea has been on my mind lately.

I wrote several weeks back about the fracas in my family at the end of last year. One effect of that event is that I struggled to see my sister and brother for who they really are at their essential level, rather that to judge their actions which at first caused so much pain. When I calmed down, two things came to my mind. First, they either didn’t have any idea of the effect of their actions or they thought they were doing the right thing. Second, when we have a conflict with someone, they are in essence holding up a mirror so we can examine our own motives and unhealed places. So how can I fault anyone who irritates, or attacks me? When that happens, I’m getting a chance to learn a great lesson about myself. Once I came to that conclusion, I realized that we’ll never really know another person unless we allow ourselves to look with different eyes so we can get a glimpse of their soul. To do that, we must delve deeply into our own soul. We must accept ourselves as we are with no recriminations.

The fact that Colleen McCullough’s fans raised an outcry about her obituary is just one sign that maybe people are waking up to the fact that each person is a unique gift to the world and should be honored. After all, her fans saw into her soul through the many books she wrote. When you become a fan that way, you accept the beauty of the artist’s soul and it doesn’t really matter what they look like. Maybe her fans find it easier to honor the people they meet in their everyday lives as well. Wouldn’t it be nice if that were true?

Today as I sat down to write this blog installment, a Facebook friend posted a list of qualities that are not measured by academic tests. The list was developed my Maria Montessori, a pioneer in the field of education. As I read the list, I felt that many of the things on it are also qualities that are overlooked when we reduce someone to the superficial things we first notice about them. Here are just a few things on the list: creativity, critical thinking, resilience, motivation, persistence, curiosity, humor, self-awareness, self-discipline, empathy, compassion, sense of wonder, and humility. We each have so many qualities inside of us. We are so much more than a small list of qualities that are supposed to be important. It’s my hope we will all discover who we really are so that we can appreciate others at a deeper level thus honoring who they really are.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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