“You were just a twinkle in your Daddy’s eye…” They way our parents described us before we were born hints at an indistinct quality of who we are—an ephemeral essence of being-ness, before we actually “became” a person. In our origins, we are conceived with in-distinction, but the moment we are born, everything changes.
We suddenly comprise a form that’s distinct and separate from all other forms. We are given a name. Opinions about us are immediately formed: She’s so cute! His eyes are so big! Why does she cry so much? And if we’re lucky, every need is monitored and met. We’re tended and cuddled and swaddled, all within that distinction that we are “someONE.”
But from an early age, we know at a subconscious level that there’s more to who we are, because we feel the largeness of our spirit. We look up wondering: How many stars are up there? Where did I come from and why am I here? What is this feeling that I know I’ve been here in this moment with these people before? Within our distinction, we sit with in-distinction.
At the same time, we gain self-sufficiency. We learn that skating on our knees moves us from one corner to another. We learn to hold on to the edge of the sofa and balance on our feet. We learn that if no one’s looking, we can go into the closet with scissors and cut bangs in our hair. Or at age 14, sneak out with Jamie and steal her dad’s 1972 Ford Maverick Grabber and drive around the neighborhood in the middle of the night (still so sorry, Mr. Rubbin!). And move away to college. Get a job and an apartment. Living with distinction.
The challenges get bigger and the wonderments expand. Is world peace attainable? Why does genocide keep happening? What deadly diseases loom in the future? And also, what is love and how to I get it and hold on to it and pass it down the line? Grappling with in-distinction.
And then it gets too scary, and we have to feed our sense cravings to provide self-comfort and reassurance that we can still be swaddled. And god help us if we were among those who didn’t get swaddled sufficiently as infants or in early childhood. The trauma of neglect, no matter how small, plays out in myriad ways of self-medicating with our choice of sensory satisfactions. We tether ourselves to something—anything—that makes “sense.” Clinging to distinction.
AND. Nevertheless, we persist…in asking big questions. We know there’s something more to who we are than just what we can touch, feel, hear, see, smell. We get curious and creative. We gaze with wonder and awe and amazement not just at a single grain of sand but the vast desert. Not just a drop of water but the expanse of ocean. Then we make metaphor and see snowmen in clouds, and skyscapes in snow.
Life is a constant mediation between the distinctions of self and the in-distinctions of spirit. THIS IS YOGA. The joining of apparent opposites, with an effort to reconcile them. Yoking the distinct and the indistinct.
It is precisely within that negotiation that we need each other. Seriously. When we work through grief, we need someone to sit by our side and not try to make it disappear but to witness our suffering and help us get to the next breath. When we’re hungry, it’s a beautiful thing when someone feeds us. And that feeling gets laid down in our deep psyche so that when we see someone else hungry, we feed them back. This life cannot be done alone.
The inherent conflict of being an individual and a connected soul compels us to relate as fellow humans in the same mess. And it’s via the essence of those human relations that, in its own apparent indistinct reality that we sometimes call love, we create the next distinct human to be born, and go through the whole thing all over again.
May those who come after us find the path a bit easier to tread.