To the thieves I am a bandit
The mothers think I’m a son
To the preachers I’m a sinner
Lord, I’m not the only one
— Leon Russell, “Magic Mirror”
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the notion of identity, and it occurs to me that there’s a huge disconnect between who we are and who we appear to be.
Our identity is God-given, a multifaceted thing, with a wide range of talents and interests and concerns and priorities, many of which we reveal only when the occasion warrants. We all express divinity, but we express it in different ways and to varying degrees, and it’s in those differences that we find our individuality. As Mary Baker Eddy puts it on page 477 of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:
Identity is the reflection of Spirit, the reflection in multifarious forms of the living Principle, Love.
The full range of that individuality is apparent to God, but in the human experience, our relationships tend to be context-driven, which means our perceptions of each other frequently present an incomplete picture.
Example: My guitar teacher, Zaphod, is one of my dearest friends. In the five years, we’ve known each other, we’ve worked together, laughed together, commiserated together, and weathered various crises together. He’s basically the big brother I never had, and I truly didn’t think anything that came out of my mouth could surprise him at this point.
I was mistaken.
Last week, I’d been dinking around with the chord chart for Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” and I mentioned it to Zaphod, who wasn’t familiar with the song and asked me to sing it so he could learn it. He was shocked to discover that I had a decent set of pipes, because he’d never heard me use them for anything but reprimanding unruly sophomores, icing down impertinent consultants, or raising questions in faculty meetings.
Zaphod knows me primarily as a teacher, beekeeper, and Route 66 enthusiast. Others know me in different contexts: To the journalists, I’m an editor; to the roadies, I’m an activist; to the vet, I’m Song and Riggy and Walter’s mommy. All of those are accurate descriptions, but none is a complete picture.
In “Magic Mirror,” Russell muses:
Magic mirror, if we only could
Try to see ourselves as others would
Seeing ourselves as others would can temper our words and actions and make us more compassionate. But I’d like to go a step further. One of the keys to healing is to see ourselves as God would: as complete, perfect expressions of divine Love. Once we see ourselves that way, it’s easier to act accordingly — and to see others with the same healing sense of wholeness and harmony.