Thursday, June 30, 2011

Another Montreal Reflection (#6)

I knew that no matter how I approached it, attempting to bring some healthy closure to our time in Montreal would make long-windedness inevitable. I also knew that any attempt I made would fall short of accurately conveying the multitude of emotions, thoughts, and experiences we had out here. So, I've tried to bring some closure by packaging, some of the lessons we've learned into tidy little blog posts. The hope was that these lessons would become more portable and thus applicable in our new lives out here in California.
For this post, I'm continuing in the same vein as the others. All of them have more or less revolved around the idea of self-knowledge and calling. One tool for self-knowledge that I've been fascinated with over the past year has been the Enneagram. Basically the word means a chart (gram) of nine (ennea). The Enneagram maps out nine different personality types by defining them according to their "capital" sin. Richard Rohr, in his book The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, defines the nine types as follows:
#1: The Need to Be Right
#2: The Need to Be Loved
#3: The Need to Succeed
#4: The Need to Be Special
#5: The Need to Perceive
#6: The Need for Security
#7: The Need to Avoid Pain
#8: The Need to Be Against
#9: The Need to Avoid
The nine types can be defined negatively or positively. The idea with the Enneagram is that although you may feel that several types apply to you, there is one that is underneath all the others. This one type is the root of all the different ways your specific behavior can manifest itself. Needless to say, it isn't always easy figuring out what your type is. Although I've heard stories of people reading a type and being completely convicted and ashamed by how accurately it described them, this was not at all the case for me. Over the past year I've read a number of books on the subject and even taken a standardized test in hopes of further understanding myself. I can say pretty confidently now what my type is now but it's been a year-long journey!
One other detail about the enneagram that I should include before I end this post is the possibility of having a "wing". A wing can be one or both of the two types neighboring whatever type you believe yourself to be. For example, if you're a three, you could have a two-wing, a four-wing, or both (depending on which Enneagram theorist you ask!). Your wing cannot be a five if you think you're a two, or vice versa. Having a wing can help clarify some things if you're having trouble finding your type. It definitely did for me.
So, that's all for now on the Enneagram. I have a few more things to say on that before I start catching up with all the latest current events of our newfound California lives. Hope you're still out there!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Montreal Reflection #5: Change

At the end of the interview with Peter Coyote from The Sun Magazine, the interviewer asks him what he would tell himself if he could go back in time. Coyote lists off a string of one-liners, giving his young self advice on various things. One that stuck out for me was "Things will take four-times longer than you think they will."
This is something that has been difficult to accept and learn. Just as it was difficult to accept Mark Scandrette's assertion that you're inevitably egotistical in your twenties, I've had a hard time giving in to the fact that change, especially when dealing with personal change, does not happen according to our own timing and strategies.
These past three years I've searched in vain for a shortcut to change or "a better me". I thought it could be found in serving the poor, the outcasts and rejected-ones, or in contemplative prayer, immersed in solitude and silence. Or maybe in the hidden symbolism of my dreams, through Jungian psychology. In the arts, in nature, in theology, in marriage and parenthood, in travel...I've dabbled in all of these things in one way or another these past three years in hopes of finding THE path. Of course, finding THE path was pretty much impossible. Finding MY path, however, has been an encouraging, although tedious, process. In fact, I'd say one major lesson learned from our time out here is that there are many paths to THE place God calls each one of us. This can be frustrating to twenty-somethings trying to pin God and the entire world down to one formula, even one that champions social justice! I've learned to take joy in the fact that we're all gifted in mysterious ways, sometimes more unknown to ourselves than anyone else, and that those gifts are unique and irreplaceable.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Montreal Reflection Part 4: Calling

I do believe in such a thing as calling. Quotes like the ones cited in the previous post contain the notion of calling very clearly. The very word vocation, which stems from a latin verb meaning "to call", comes from our own Christian tradition. We all know people who embody a certain calling so well that there's no doubt about their purpose in life. Because of my insatiable thirst for self-knowledge these past few years, I've shed a lot of blood, sweat, and tears trying to figure what the hell my calling is. In fact, although I do believe in the notion of calling, I've often despised it for its elusiveness in my own life. I have taken heart, however, in what a good friend recently told me concerning calling. He said, "A calling is something that calls you; you don't call it." In the end, I've come to resonate very much with the famous words, "I still haven't found what I'm looking for" (a line from someone who ironically seems to have a very clear calling). Indeed, this refrain along with its beautifully haunting melody, has carried me through moments of deep confusion about my own path in life.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Part 3: Self-Knowledge

Now, I don't pretend to know anything about the second half of life. I'm not there yet. If you look at things in terms of years, I guess around 35 you'd be reaching the top of the mountain, so to speak. So, I still have a good seven years to go. Seven more years to keep "buliding my tower", to keep searching for my identity, and further define my place in the world. These past three years in Montreal have definitely been full of that.
We came out here in order to explore and further form our identites as individuals and as a family. At the end of this time, I'd say we definitely got what we were hoping for. However, I'd also say that such things did not come at the rate or in the quantity that I myself originally hoped for. I think Lauren might say something similar for herself. To give a personal example, self-knowledge was something I avidly pursued the entire time we've been out here. I've continually been thirsty to know who I really am and what I am to do in this life, and I've hoped that this time in Montreal would provide the answers I was looking for. I've pondered quotes like Howard Thurman's, "Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive" And then later Frederick Buechner's impossible yet awe-inspiring line, "The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." And I've asked God, really? Is that really true? Is there such a place for me in this world?