INVULNERABILITY

Sometimes, no doubt, you wake up in the morning feeling vulnerable. Perhaps it is clear why that is. Perhaps not. Perhaps it falls upon you as you slip towards sleep, or somewhere in between. Of course you do. To be human is to be vulnerable: very vulnerable.

You have neither armour, nor built-in weaponry. You are neither very fast nor very strong. Neither fast enough to outrun a lion, nor strong enough to wrestle a wild boar. You are very, very dextrous, but not very agile. 

Your strengths are in your brain. Especially the parts that allow you to represent, imagine and communicate. Our strength lies in each other.

It is with each other, through each other, for each other that our remarkable intelligence evolved. You have had many ancestors: most not human. Your distant human ancestors needed each other in ways that may not be so obvious now. Yet we depend upon each other still. No human being can survive alone for long.

To be human is to have many needs. You need so many different nutrients, as do all animals. You need a regular supply of oxygen and water, as do all living creatures. You need shelter from extremes of heat and cold, like all mammals.  Yet we have other needs that few mammals, less animals and even less living creatures need.

To be human is to be the most needy form that life has ever taken.

You are very, very needy. No matter how powerful you are. No matter how wealthy you are. No matter how famous you are.  No matter how successful you are. You need so many things.

You need to be alone and you need reliable friends. You need silence and solitude. You need to be understood, seen, recognised. You need to be able to express your uniqueness. You need to be touched, and you need to touch. You need to be loved and you need to love.

All these needs make you vulnerable. You know that. You feel that. You are always looking for more reassurance: another friendship, another kiss, another credential, another achievement.

No matter how many friends you have, how much you have learned, done, achieved or created: you want more. You need more. Not because you are neurotic. Not because you are spoiled. Not because you have a narcissistic sense of entitlement.  You continuously need more because you are a human being. It is because you are a bipedal mammal with a massive brain that you are so needy.

You have so many needs: biological needs, sexual needs, social needs. Some of these needs are so pressing that you can go a long time without noticing them being fulfilled. Such as your need for oxygen. Some of these needs are more subtle. Your cells do not die if they are not fulfilled. Such as your need to be understood or to touch. All these needs make you very vulnerable.

Yet you have one more need that may be both more subtle and more pressing than all the others. A need that in not being fulfilled prevents you from being happy. No matter how many friends you have, how much you have learned, done, achieved or created.

This is the need to love. Not romantic love, sexual love, familial love. Although it may encompass any or all of those. This love is simply the need to give yourself. To give your time, attention, energy to others. To other people, other creatures, other beings.

To love freely and fully is your deepest need. It arises not from your biology, but your spirituality.

Here lies the beautiful paradox of human nature. Your biological needs are expressions, embodiments of your vulnerability. Your spiritual neediness is an expression of your invulnerability.

Can you remember going to sleep with no responsibility, no obligation left undone? Perhaps in your childhood. Perhaps last week. Can you remember going to sleep like that knowing that in the morning you had no responsibility, no obligation awaiting you?

I hope you can. It may have been a long time ago, before you became an engineer, mother, lawyer, father, chef, teacher, banker, nurse. It may have been when the uniforms you wore were only for play.

You know that your social identity comes with a uniform. Does a rapper dress like an investment banker? Does a cavalier entrepreneur dress like a tramp? When you go to work, even if only online, you put on your uniform.

Yet your uniform is more than clothing and the style and values they display. It goes deeper than that.

When asked what you do, what do you say? Do you say: “i breathe a lot”? Do you say: “i love as much as possible”?  Do you say: “i worry about the future”?

Usually you allow yourself to defined by your social identity. You filter out your emotions, expectation, hopes and dreams. All of which lie beneath your social identity.

Yet you go deeper than your emotions, expectation, hopes and dreams.

Remember those mornings you woke to no responsibility, no obligation? Perhaps it was a summer’s day, light clouds in a sunlit sky, birds were singing outside your open window, warm air billowing across your cheeks. Before you put on the clothes you wear when you have no responsibilities, no obligations, you will have put on your psychological clothes.

The psychological clothes of a son, brother and father are different, very different from those of a daughter, sister, mother. The psychological clothes of a teenager are different from those of a septagenarian. The psychological clothes of a wealthy, white businessman are different from those of an impoverished darker skinned zero-contract worker.

Have you ever been truly naked? Without your psychological clothes as well as your social clothes?

Yes, you have. Not only as an infant. On those blissful summer mornings when you awoke to no responsibility, no obligation you will have had a moment of complete nakedness. A moment of just enjoying the dappling sensations on your skin, the seeping warmth in your bones, the music of birdsong in your ears.

Of course, very quickly you will have put on your clothes, your psychological clothes. You will have remembered the implications of your age, your gender, even the social standing of your family. You will even eventually have picked up and put on your name.

Yet lying there in the reverberate stillness of your summer morning, you had no name. You needed no name. You had no identity. You needed no identity.

Your name, and all that goes with it of your social identity, is for others, not for you. You do not need a name to recognise yourself, to know yourself.

You may have woken up to many blissful summer mornings, without any need for identity, nor name. Yet i am sure you were never mistaken about who was waking up. I am sure you never wondered if it were your brother or your sister in your bed enjoying the birdsong.

You don’t need a name, nor an identity, to know who you are. To know that it is you that is present. To know that it is you who is feeling, smelling, hearing, tasting, enjoying.

Who is this you?  Who is this that needs not clothes, nor identity nor name? Who is this you that has always been present in your life through all of its changes? Who is this you that has always remained unchanging even as all your beliefs, desires, hopes, dreams, expectations, memories, values, friends and knowledge constantly changed?

This that you most deeply are. This that you have always been. This  that you have neither knowledge nor memory of being without. This that has never abandoned nor rejected you is as elusive to understanding as it is consistent to experience.

Yet it is what you most truly are.  It is what i most deeply am.

To you i may be white, male blogger, a somatic educator, writer, poet. To you i may be Godfrey.

Yet for me, to me, i am only that: me. I am not Godfrey to myself. Only to others. To myself i am what is looking when i see. What has always been looking through these eyes, whether bright from mountain air, or blurry from whiskey. To myself i am what is listening through these ears whatever they may be hearing.

To me, i am not what i see, hear, feel, experience, know, believe, remember. These are only passers by. Though you may identify me by them.

I know that my DNA put limits on my height, set the colour of my eyes and skin, the span of my reach. I know that it specified the particularities underlying my social identity: the limits and potentials that my experience fleshed out. I know that Godfrey one day will die. My DNA will dissolve back into the matrix.

I know that my biology is vulnerable. I know that it has its limits, its weaknesses, its endless needs. I feel its limits, its limitations, its neediness every day.

I can lie in the grass by the river, no obligation calling me, with niether identity nor name to burden me. Then what i am, what i know myself to be, what i have always known myself to be is without clothing of any kind. I am not Caucasian. I am not male. I am not even human.

I am simply consciousness.

Consciousness becoming aware through my eyes and my ears, my ability to feel. As the sights, sounds and sensations coalsece into my experience of the world i have no need of identity. As the world of continuous change unfolds around and even within my body the changeless is what i most deeply, clearly and constantly am.

This unchanging ‘me’, has experienced every event of my life. It has never changed even as everything around it is continuously changing. I am this changelessness much more deeply and truly than i am any of my possessions, credentials, achievements, memories, hopes, dreams and aspirations.

Knowing this my biological vulnerabilities feel less compelling, less significant. I know that what i most clearly know myself to be has never changed. None of the external changes of my life have changed it. It has always been present. While it experiences and knows change, it does not ever change. Who i am is always irrevocably me in its changelessness.

In this changeless presence is my invulnerability. Nothing about it speaks of endings nor beginnings. In the light of this, for me,  indubitable invulnerability, my vulnerabilities no longer have the power to torment me.

I know that calamity, catastrophe is coming. While i make my preparations i am neither afraid, nor anxious. For i know, with more certainty than i know that the sun is not going around the earth, that although Godfrey was born and must die; I was never born, will never die.

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