the paradox of authenticity — a conscious commitment to your peace, whether it’s “I” or “not I”

A paradox is true, not true or false, just as irony is the deeper truth, vs. facile satire where it’s “I,” not “you.”

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Authenticity is the quest t0 find your peace, whether it’s your single solitude or a “we” phenomenon.

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http://www.lvrj.com/view/road-to-satisfying-selfhood-does-not-have-to-pass-through-marriage-180395191.html

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When trying to describe the paradox of “I” and “we,” I often manage to confuse folks on exactly this point. So, let me elaborate. Then you can tell me if we still disagree. For readers following along, here’s the column from Nov. 4 that E.W. is referencing: www.lvrj.com/living/healthy-we-requires-two-healthy-i-s-no-way-around-it-177141111.html.

In no way have I ever said or believed that unless you are participating in an emotionally committed, exclusive love relationship with an intention to permanence (how’s that for qualifiers?), you are unhealthy. Some folks just aren’t “called” to the vocation of marriage. Some are not “called” to romantic life partnership. Some people just never make it a priority. They might fantasize about it, even imagine enjoying it, even be wistful about not having it, but the simple truth is they never get around to choosing it. They just keep on making other things a greater priority.

Still other people find they have a calling that must exclude committed life partnership/marriage. Monastics, for example, eschew mortal, love relationships, instead “marrying” a religious path. I’ve heard occasional celebrities say that fame isn’t particularly conducive to the health of committed love relationships, and for this reason, they haven’t chosen one or perhaps will wait to choose such a love upon retirement and return to ordinary life.

I do not make any assumption that single people are unhealthy because they are single. Assuming, that is, you are single because of your own conscience, clear intention – an expression of your authentic self – or you have consciously accepted that the accidents of life have cast you that lot.

I’m saying that someone with, for example, an observably avoidant personality disorder is likely also single, but we would not say he/she is single because of a healthy, conscious, clear intention. The chronic absence of human intimacy, not to mention the chronic inability to make lasting commitments to intimacy, are part and parcel of the unhappy diagnosis.

But, even assuming an individual who chooses singlehood from a place of authentic selfhood, it would make it no less true that growing, developing and nurturing a healthy “I” would still necessitate encounters of intimacy and commitment with some kind of “we.” An individual who says “no” to emotionally committed life partnership would still need to commit to something beyond the mere self.

Strictly speaking, a monastic isn’t single. He/she is radically committed to a life of strict religious discipline, committed to a community of other monastics and committed to particular ministries to the wider world. Strictly speaking, an unmarried doctor serving in a Peruvian jungle isn’t single. He/she is “poured out” of self into the love and intimacies of the work and the people thus served.

For ordinary moderns who are single by choice, any chance of realizing the work the selfhood will depend, sooner or later, on the kind of committed friend you are, your duty and faithfulness to family, your willingness to work for the common good in some particular cause, charity, ministry, etc.

As I rail on about the critical paradox of “I” and “we,” what I’m rejecting categorically is the Idolatry of Individualism. There is no Individual Steven worth knowing except the one in faithful relationship with you!

I blame my own profession in large part for fostering the idea that, after I have successfully “worked on myself,” then I will be ready for a healthy love. It follows logically, of course, that if you are married but find that you need to work on yourself, then you probably should divorce. This is a bill of goods. Divorce, per se, is not an effective strategy for finding oneself.

So, in short, I would never say you have to be in love or with a life partner or in a marriage to be healthy. I would say – emphatically – the only antidote for post-Freudian narcissistic navel-gazing self-absorption is finding something or someone to whom you are radically committed. Find something or someone who moves you as much or more than you move you. Reach for something beyond your individual self.

If you want to find yourself, then lose yourself. (I’m offering a free Dairy Queen Blizzard to the first reader who can identify the person I just plagiarized.)

Now, having said all that, here’s an observable fact: The vast majority of ordinary human beings will tell you that a thriving life partnership is, for them, a crucial ingredient of a meaningful and satisfying life. Even most people who don’t find such a relationship will tell you they wish they had found one. So, is it possible to live a meaningful and satisfying life without a thriving life partnership? Of course! And many single people do find great meaning and satisfaction in their lives. But some large part of that group will die saying, in as many words, they made the very best out of a life that was not their first choice.

It’s certainly what I will be saying, should this be my lot. And this won’t make me unhealthy. Just a man acknowledging a loss.

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The deeper art  — irony  [paradox]– vs. more reactive bromide satire/sarcasm [contradiction] instead of mysteriously wondrous irony  –
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The most important realities in the human experience can only be apprehended as paradox. As I often say, a paradox is like a hammock: It only works when each end is hung on irreconcilable opposites. Only then will you find a place to lie down and rest.

A paradox is not the same as a contradiction. If you say to me, “The skies are clear and the skies are cloudy,” you are talking in contradiction. Because the skies cannot at once be clear and cloudy. Either the skies are clear. Or they are cloudy.

But, if you ask me, “Steven, is love a force sublime, beautiful, life-giving and nurturing, or is love terrifying, painful, disquieting and often overwhelming,” my answer will be, “Yes.” And I won’t be joking. Or speaking in contradictions. “Yes” is the right answer to your question. It just happens to be a paradoxical answer, because the very nature of love is paradox.

I say this because I recently have noticed a paradox that I have long overlooked.

A while back, I wrote a column skewering a 1960s poster: “If you love someone, set them free. If they come back, they’re yours; if they don’t, they never were.” I said in the column that this poster’s sentiment was mostly an assuagement to justify cowardice and inertia. That the poster should say: “If you love someone … then choose them with your whole heart! Make a radical commitment to them, and spend every day for the rest of your life waking up each morning asking and answering the question ‘How, today, will I make my beloved feel loved and cherished?’ “

And, similarly, I have said more than once in this space that, if I ever should say to you, “I have no expectations of you,” well, it won’t be flattering. It will mean I have given up on you. It will mean we will never be close. It will mean I no longer have an investment in the relationship.

My spiritual director and friend says that he understands what I’m saying in both things. That what I’m saying is true and important and real. But that I might have forgotten the paradoxical nature of true intimacy, the paradoxical mystery of human connections and bonds of love and friendship.

Sometimes the most sublime and powerful act of love is to surrender all expectations. Sometimes the greatest gift you can offer someone is to set them free. That there is an authentic way to deliver both messages without emotional divestment or uncaring. Not as a rejection; rather, as a surrendered acceptance of someone as “wholly other.” A celebration of unconditional love.

He reminds of what my friend and colleague, Massey, said to me on the day I surrendered my holy orders to the Episcopal Church: “Steven, we can’t ever truly possess anything unless we are able and willing to let it go.” I remember feeling gratefully affirmed and even admired by his comment, as if he was saying the most authentically priestly thing I ever did was to refuse to be seduced by the need to grasp and cling after that identity.

This reminds me of Alan, a former basketball teammate. I was, back in the day, a very good free throw shooter. But I fell into an inexplicable slump. The more I tried, the worse it got. Game tied, eight seconds left, I got fouled and stepped to the line for two. Nearly bent the rim clanging the first shot into the next county. I put my head down, ashamed and humiliated. When I looked up, Alan was standing there, staring into my eyes. “Steven,” he said, “I wanted you to know that I don’t care whether you make the next free throw. Hit it or miss it, we’ll still be friends.”

I was stunned. Speechless. Like, out-of-body. I drained it. Nothing but net. We won the game. Teammates pounded me on the back, but mostly I was still dumbstruck before the opened gift of unconditional love.

Perhaps important, valued relationships are like this. Yes, I see more deeply now. There is a time — a powerful, holy time — when the needed gift your child or friend or beloved mate needs is the surrender of your expectations. When love, working always toward the loved one’s wholeness, freedom and happiness, is offered absent any agenda whatsoever. The gift given is the payment received.

Whether in giving or receiving unconditional love, you’re always even with the house [poker lingo].

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Indeed, true love endures. It’s just that people need to close the gestalt of being in love with the person who no longer loves you and get through their hurt, bitterness, disappointment and anger before what endures can be apprehended as the honored friend it is (self-respect) and not the cruel enemy it appears to be right after we’ve been dumped by the love of our life.

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True love endures. That’s a good thing. But true love is different from needless suffering for the rest of your life. At the end of the day, we have to grow a self-respect sufficient not to want someone who doesn’t want us.

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http://www.lvrj.com/view/love-can-endure-if-people-work-through-lost-relationships-144330465.html

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Great sage Steven Kalas born 1957 on dealing with psychic/energy vampires   –

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http://www.lvrj.com/view/mom-s-changing-stories-about-money-cause-hurt-confusion-138834794.html

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tightrope dichotomy of trying to be The Observer (detached, staying objective) yet still having the very real human experience of being “driven crazy.”

It is personal when we are conscripted into someone’s crisis of fear and smallness. It is personal to be deliberately moved about the game board of someone’s life as if we were no more than a lesser chess piece in the contest of ego-defense and self-importance.

It hurts to be treated as a means to an end. The hurt is a sign of our health — our self-respect — not a sign that anything about us needs to be fixed.

And yet … it is equally a sign of self-respect that we make an effort to be The Observer. We do this, too, because we love. Despite our hurt and disappointment, we want to try to understand, to attempt to answer the question of what’s really going on here.

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A “ladies’ man” narcissist in love with himself, who is chastened by a chafed Steven Kalas   –
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“You know your vision of great love is right and true,” I submit to him, cautiously.

“But, that’s (bovine excrement),” he protests, and I merely shrug in return.

“So, for you, ‘different’ would mean staying instead of leaving?”

He throws his hands up. “I guess so,” he says, almost impatiently, with punctuated incredulity.

Almost as an afterthought, I say, “You know, some people call what you’re doing ‘making a commitment.’ “

And the man is dumbstruck. Deep in thought. “Commitment,” he says, as if trying on the word for the first time.

He doesn’t make another appointment. I won’t be surprised if I don’t see him again.

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shake, rattle, roll, baby!!    —

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pYPiyvZBlw&feature=related

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27 Responses to the paradox of authenticity — a conscious commitment to your peace, whether it’s “I” or “not I”

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