Pentecost 128

Pentecost 128
My Psalm 128

We Are …

It is one of those words no one likes to spell in the English language. With a slight variance at the beginning, it is spelled exactly as it is pronounced. There are no unusual accents hiding in obtrusive syllables. It is something common to all of us. And yet, it is a word to be avoided at practically all costs when having to write or verbally spell. It can change the course of a life or history. It can cause grown women and children into hiding or the curious into making remarkable discoveries. The word is phenomenon and it makes us who and what we are.

Phenomenon is encountered every moment. Dating back to the sixteenth century, the word traces back to the Greek “phainomenon” meaning “thing appearing to view”. That word came from the earlier Greek “phainein” which was defined as ‘”to show”. Simply put, phenomenon (the plural being phenomena) is something which is experienced. Literally the word refers to something seen but it has evolved to mean anything seen, felt, or experienced.

Words evolve based upon our experiences so every word is itself a phenomenon. If you have a quarrel with that, then I ask you to consider Helen Keller. Unable to see and hear due to a fever in infancy, Helen Keller redefined what one person could do. She made countless worldwide speaking tours, something previously unheard of since Moses for a person with little speech capabilities. Nevertheless, Helen Keller, herself a monumental phenomenon, gave hope to those deemed imperfect and worthless, and refuted the reasoning that only the nearly perfect have value.

We are all phenomenon in our own way. The self is the result of the phenomenon we encounter. Each of us is unique, a self. Now the root for one of the most popular trends today, the “selfie”, we have the Dutch to thank for our word self which comes from their “zelfe”. It was used emphatically to express the pronoun “I”. Sadly, in the modern word, the uniqueness of one is seldom celebrated. Pop culture requires everyone to dress in the latest fads, resulting in an army of lookalike fashionistas who, in an effort to be popular, have erased all traces of their “zelfe”.

“The body is a house of many windows: there we all sit, showing ourselves and crying on the passers-by to come and love us” proclaimed Robert Louis Stevenson. All too often we don’t love ourselves. After the bombing at the Boston marathon, a new cry emerged from one of the United States’ oldest communities. Reacting to the phenomena of the bombing, the loss of life, and the hatred behind both, “We are Boston Strong” became the reaction heard around the world. It was a similar response to that of the bombings of the World Trade Towers in 2001. In how they reacted, these people showed their true selves. Rather than making the city and country weak, the phenomena created strength.

“Sometimes we give up a dream to play a larger role in someone else’s dream. … There comes a morning in life when you wake up a new person; that is to say, you wake up the same person but you realize it’s your own fault.” Robert Brault, writing for his blog, explains how we lose sight of our self. It is a common occurrence in our world that, while everyone notices when we lose a mate or belonging, no one notices when we lose ourselves. Dodinsky wisely advised: “Be there for others, but never leave yourself behind.”

Who are you? Whatever your answer, it is the sum of all the phenomena you have encountered and reacted to in your lifetime. “ At this very moment, you may be saying to yourself that you have any number of admirable qualities. You are a loyal friend, a caring person, someone who is smart, dependable, fun to be around. That’s wonderful, and I’m happy for you, but let me ask you this: are you being any of those things to yourself?” Phillip C. McGraw in his book “The Ultimate Weight Solution: The 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom” has illustrated how we need to see ourselves as real beings, as a valid self deserving of attention and care.

Stephen G. Scalese in “The Whisper in Your Heart” succinctly captures how such a loss of self can occur and why. “There is great security in the prisons we create for ourselves.” The religious definition of self aside (and to be discussed at a later date), our true self is what motivates us and also causes us despair. When we stop recognizing it as being and that the very existence of being has worth, then we become prisoners of our living.

Known for his comedic delivery and funny man pratfalls and facial expressions, Actor Eddie Murphy encourages creating the self. “All men are sculptors, constantly chipping away the unwanted parts of their lives, trying to create their idea of a masterpiece.” The question before you is quite simple: Are you worth it? Your creator evidently thought so. You are here.

“Every man is his own ancestor and every man his own heir. He devises his own future, and he inherits his own past.” Those words of H.F. Hedge say it all. The self we are is up to us. Regardless of our color, creed, age, status, position, wealth or lack thereof, phenomenon is all around us. We cannot do everything all at once but we can choose how to act rather than simply react. As Pat Obuchowski says, “You have the Answer. Just get quiet enough to hear it.”

My Psalm 128

I often think you are my home, O Great One.
I am wrong in thinking that.
You are the foundation of my home.
My being is my home.
That we I create is who I am.
I live within my soul
And my soul is that self I develop.
Help me to make happy, O Lord.
Help me to see the beauty that is around me.
Instead of dust, let me see evidence of being.
Instead of scars, let me see evidence of victories.
Instead of believing I am lacking, let me rejoice in being.
Let me see the beauty in all, Great Creator.
Then my “self” will be joyous and my living draped in happiness.


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