No doubt you have heard the phrase “out of your element.” It’s a phrase without benevolent overtones. It’s a phrase that implies anxiety and the paralysis of indecision.
The idea is that it is our context that makes us who we are. That we have a place to be, and being out of that place deprives us of our self, and we don’t know who to be.
I know what it feels like. Maybe it sounds familiar to you.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
If you know who you are, if you are who you are, your surroundings won’t change that.
A biker would be unusual on, say, the bridge of the starship Enterprise. But not knowing what any of the buttons did would not diminish a biker’s confidence even a scratch.
That is because you can provide a context for yourself. King Arthur would be the Once and Future King even at a bus stop in Manhattan.
Look at the portrait that accompanies this sermon. Usually in my paintings I use a background, context, to add weight to what I’m saying with the figure.
In this case, it wasn’t necessary. The Eiffel Tower in the background, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, a jungle, a seedy bar with a massive fistfight going on…they’d all be irrelevant.
Look at the person. The person says it all.
Open. Eager. Vibrant. Friendly. Inquisitive. Surfing the ocean of life.
No context necessary.
That’s the beauty of being.
Took me a long time to learn that.
Though you may not believe this, when I was in high school I was not like anyone else. I was so out of place everywhere that I could sit anywhere at lunch. The jock table, the nerd table, the cool table, hell, even with the cheerleaders. It was all the same.
However, here is a certain amount of resistance to being your own context. Most people are trying to “find their place in the world,” and most people resent other people who don’t go about life their way.
It’s not fun to experience that resentment. So I spent a lot of time trying to find a place that would define me. Trying to fit in. Never realizing that I didn’t have to.
Maybe you know what that feels like.
I had my own world. Any other world I was just visiting, not pretending to be a part of. That is a passport to anywhere.
Why do you think The Doctor wore a ridiculous long scarf everywhere he went? It’s because he didn’t need to blend in. He didn’t want to blend in. He is The Doctor, in 15th Century Italy or on modern Traken.
That’s what being your own context means. That’s what it gets you. The knowledge that where you are doesn’t change who you are. Nor should it.
You’d be surprised at the number of people who don’t know that.
It may take a while to convert that knowledge from intellectual understanding to Zen comprehension, but it can be done.
And yes, I am aware that context is not totally irrelevant. If your self is a loud, brash, armpit-farting human cyclone, you might want to tone that down just a bit at a wedding or a funeral.
Turning the volume down on yourself out of tact is not the same thing as being defined by context.
Also, some situations are draining, and you need to get out of them.
Needing to recharge once in a while is not your defining characteristic any more than needing to be refueled is the defining characteristic of a motorcycle.
Your defining characteristic is that which lets you be put into any background. The characteristic that makes backgrounds irrelevant.
Look for it inside, not outside.
That’s the only place you’ll find it.
That is the Truth, and the #truthridesamotorcycle