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Who, What and How

by Sy OgulnickOctober 2015

Much prior to Socrates and the world of the Greeks, and most likely even today, people were and are known by what they did and do. So if someone was asked “who are you?” the answer had little to do with who they were, but rather what they did. Even given names had much to do with what they did, and this as family and the child would follow in the footsteps of the parent. Living in confined worlds and having a relatively short life span limits experiences and change.

I contend that the problem for most of us is that who we are has to be considerably more important than what we do, and that how we do what we do is much more important than both who and what we do.

The knowing “who we are?” is not as easy a question to ask as “what we do” or “how we do what we do.” The reason is simple, but complicated. Who we are is very subjective to us. In truth, we are not witness to ourselves nor can be and be present and in the now of the moment. We hear our words (maybe) and believe we see and know our behavior (maybe), but do we feel and hear what others feel, hear and perceive of our words and behavior? Not likely! Compared to what we do and how we do what we do (easily seen and known by all) knowing who we are, is a complex and difficult issue to deal with. And what makes this ever so much more difficult is the unwillingness on the part of most of us to ask those who know us best to tell us what they actually experience of us. “What kind of partner am I?” “What kind of parent am I?” What kind of boss am I?” what kind of teacher am I.” What kind of leader am I?” And the other is no less responsible: “What kind of a partner am I?”“What kind of son/daughter am I?” What kind of employee am I?” What kind of follower am I?”

Genuine dialogue is rare, but essential between people important to each other. In fact, just plain dialogue between people in relationship is so much better than monologue and top/down communication. We witness this everywhere and know this inability to communicate between people happens in family relations, between different faiths, different political parties, different cultures and different countries.

The problem grows worse not less as we become more dependent on technology, and I do not place the blame on technology, but rather a growing inability to be there with each other, look at each other, to share feelings as well as thoughts, and to confirm/understand each other. Agreement may or may not result, and is it necessary besides the learning more about who we are? One step at a time and one page at a time are often enough.

I’m not implying “kiss and make up” or “give in to what you strongly disagree with.” I am saying that the person we are needs the other for us to be discovered. All that are close to us know a part of us and we need to know what they know just as the other needs to know how we know them. Our uniqueness is not hidden from the other, but unless authentic dialogue exists between us how can we possibly know our own uniqueness? Certainly--not by our self.

What and how we live our lives is known by us and by others. No problem because it is external to us and on stage for all to see. Not who I am. The other knows, I do not, we need each other.   Sy

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