On Friday a man in New York City demonstrated his belief that we are one with nature by jumping into a lion pit, explaining afterward that he wanted to be “one with the lions.” Well, he almost accomplished this purpose as one of them proceeded to chew on him.
I also feel that boundaries are a nebulous construction and that we do need to realize that we are one with the world, with the animal world, physical world, and the human world. But we must never carry it to the extreme that he did and will do so only at our great peril.
One dimension of this “object separateness” issue is drawing the social distinction between “me and thee.” Where do I end and you begin? If I err on either extreme there will be major psychopathology. In the early months of our lives we begin the process of formulating a “me” (and ego identity) and if this task is impaired, our life will be very challenging. But if our “me” is defined too rigidly, it will also pose problems. Ideally, it will have an age-appropriate rigidity at first, a rigidity which can be relaxed with maturity so that our “me” can recognize that the distinction between “me and thee” is not as rigid as the social contract would have one believe.
Martin Buber wrote a marvelous book about the process of discovering this boundary subtlety—I and Thou. He also delved into the spiritual nature of the process of making this discovery and the spiritual nature of life itself. Our Source, he suggested, is found only in the “In-Between”, in that space between “I” and “Thou”, in what Deepak Chopra terms “the gap.”
Here is a marvelous poem by Edgar Simmons about this matter:
THE ART OF BROTHER KEEPING
the instant you can
accept the colon
you are christenened
in the right compromise
that no things are alike
but are related.
the most powerful leap of metaphor
is when I decide
I am you
the result is
carried out and on
not in flesh but in spirit–
prophetic fact in time
more than children of our flesh.