We Place so much stock in our identities. Here are just a few of the millions of examples: “I am an artist,” “I am a loving person,” “I am a Christian,” “I am an American,” “I am gay,” “I am a supporter of the sanctity of marriage,” “I am a bad-ass.”
In reality, identity interferes with true freedom, which is a central value for an artist, as well as any self-actualized individual. For instance, when I draw my idea of a thing, rather than opening myself up to the full potential contained in the thing itself, I am limiting my creative potential. When I attach identifiers to characters I am creating I find it so easy to lose their essence. This is even more true in life, when we lose touch with our true selves, when we attach identifiers to who we are. It is clear to me that I am infinitely more than who I say I am: a father, a Christian, middle class, a realist, an artist, a businessman, etc. These are a meaningless distractions from who I am at my core.
So, who are we at our core, after we strip away the names we call ourselves, the parties with whom we affiliate, the causes for which we are fighting? After all, these are all inventions of the ego, which separate us from God.
I had an epiphany a while back. I was blessed with a glimpse into the eternal workings of the universe. I can’t even trace it back to a particular moment. It came out of a simple thought. I had the realization that I am one with everything, that God is everywhere, even in my darkest thought and the farthest, unimaginable planet. I didn’t experience God with my ego. It wasn’t a picture of a bearded man in a white robe. I had a simple, quiet experience of Him from my true self. Perhaps it was when I looked into a scene I was painting and felt an overwhelming connection with all things. The sense of this oneness has never left my consciousness. It’s as if it has always been there, which it has. It was familiar with this oneness in the deepest way possible.
When faced with this realization, our ego seems so small, the things we value, so unimportant. My idea of myself, of God, of the way of the world, have fallen away. All the inventions of man now seem so small, yet ever so much more marvelous. Reality has become much larger and yet somehow less meaningful, all at the same time. When I become overwhelmed with the demands of my life, I simply remember it is all one and then I am free again. Free indeed.