At our Braid team gathering this month, one of out mentors, Barie Wolf-Bowen, invited us to self-expression by creating a collage self-portrait using our silhouette.
I actually didn’t finish my collage. At first this irked me because I had meant to finish, knowing that I would unlikely take out glue and feathers and scissors and all the material at a later time to complete the self-portrait.
Then I had the thought that it was probably more appropriate that I did not finish, because I would say that I consider myself to be an incomplete person. Over the years I have come to understand and appreciate that we are never promised to be completed in this life. Instead, a life that is lived is about continual emergence, continual re-creation, continual becoming.
Now, I recognize that this runs somewhat counter to the pervasive personality industry in this country that claims we are wholly determined by our genetics, that we have definitive personality types, that our on-line searches can predict our patterns of behavior to such an extent that purveyors of goods know what we want before we do. And, I am not going to dispute that there is some validity to all of the above. It would be foolish.
Nor will I fully dismiss the claim that we are an amalgamation of our past experience. That is, the way we view our experience of the world is through the prism, the window, the glasses of our past experience and the emotional response to those experiences. Indeed, we talk a lot in Braid about understanding our youth in terms of trauma-informed experience and emotional triggers. In reality Braid could neither exist nor be effective if we did not understand this truth.
All of us – not just foster youth – are shaped by our past and carry that with us to a degree.
And yet, if we were simply predetermined beings there would be very little point to life other than to achieve the simple biological experience of continuing live and survive. We would simply act out of our genetics, our experience, our personality type, our normative pattern of behavior, mere non-sentient machines with little investment in experience or living.
But, human history and humans themselves prove this to be a false ideal. We have been able to move beyond these determiners and allow a new-self to emerge, a re-created self to arise, to allow personhood to evolve and mature and deepen. Not that we ignore or deny those predetermining pieces that are a part of that being that is “me;” we simply do not see them as the finished story, the whole being, the last word.
We are all incomplete, and life is a journey towards a more full and colorful collage.
And, as we work with our youth we help them understand that their past, while a part of who they are and as deep a wound as it might be, is only a part of who they are as person. Their collage is just beginning to be created, and re-created, and the future is open and full of hope founded in the presence of love that re-creates us every day if we allow love to do that in the communion of one another.