20 September 2011
i'm here: on the metaphysics of starting the day
Probably you've had a conversation go like this before.
"Hi. How are you?"
It's a simple response, and often conveys more than a sense of geographic presence. On the one hand, it is a statement of fact - oversimplified and obvious, no doubt. On the other hand, it is a statement of being that can be discerned only through the tone of the speaker's inflection.
"I'm here" can be released in a sigh, as though the speaker would rather be "there," wherever there is. Thus it is a sign of disappointment with the current outlook of a day. Add a bit of depression to this scenario and you have a conveyance of disappointment. Sometimes this means it took everything in one's power to get up and come to this place, as opposed to running away or checking out of life altogether.
On the other side, the phrase "I'm here" might imply a bit of anticipation. When greeting someone who replies with an upbeat use of these words, the receiver should know that this person is looking forward to what is in store this day. (Somewhere in between we have the I'm-not-necessarily-looking-forward-to-this-but-I'm-determined-to-get-it-done resolve of "I'm here.")
One of the reasons for why I am pondering this simple phrase this morning is that I caught myself answering my own question of how I am doing this morning. I said, all-too-quickly, "I'm here." We all have days when this is the report of a significant accomplishment in and of itself. We are here, where we are supposed to be, even when there are internal and external reasons to be somewhere else. As I allowed my own reply to sink in for a moment I realized that it was not said properly. "I'm here" should, if we believe that our greater metaphysical place is within the divine storyline, be said with a conviction that we are supposed to be here.
I'm not talking about some divine predeterminism that gives us nothing more than the illusion of the choice to be elsewhere. Our commitment to be here is instead a chosen partnership with the divine will that has called us here, and which the world will fight tooth-and-nail to interrupt. And when you allow yourself to enter into that story, then you know that "I'm here" is a statement of first commitment and the choosing of a path. Here is indeed a place between the past and the future, if we believe that ours is a journey to something fulfilled - an eschatological path of kingdom covenant.
Though we would be in great error to think that our work is completed at the point of being, it is the first step in knowing who we are and what we are called to do . . . today.