Saturday, August 30, 2008

Identity theft?

Something happened the other day that really got to me - and then, the very fact that it had rocked me so much, got to me more. What happened was that I got a bill for a magazine I had not ordered. When I called them to find out what was going on, they told me that I had "ordered it online." Since I knew that I had done no such thing, I asked them to give me the contact information. They had the right name, address and phone, but someone else's email address. I pointed this out to them and asked to be taken off their mailing list. After hanging up, I felt rotten - like I have been invaded somehow. This person had masqueraded as me and gotten away with it. How could that be? The part of me that thinks of itself as unique and special was feeling quite bruised. 

It took awhile for the edge to come off my irritation and for me to begin considering the event from a different perspective. What really happened? Probably someone got ahold of my contact information and used it to fill an online sales quota. That has nothing to do with me. They probably have no idea who "I" am, nor do they care. So why do I take this so personally? 

We hear about identity theft becoming more and more common, but what are we really talking about? Is my identity the sum of all the numbers that make up my address, car registration, birth date, etc? Do those figures in fact define me in any way? Somehow I doubt it. What they DO is locate me in space and time. They say "Kenn is the person who is right here and was born at this time in this place." They are labels of events in the time space continuum, "identifying" me by notations of when and where, but they are not definitions of who I am. 

This leads me to consider: If these are not my identity, what is? On a purely physical level, there are literally millions of tiny organisms that make up my body, and it is only the efficacy of their communal interface that allows me to breathe, eat and move - not to mention think and speak. This is a rather uncomfortable thing to really dwell on, but I cannot think of it as "me." 

On a more esoteric level, I have three souls: The soul of my physical presence that is tied to this world; the soul that will return to my ancestors; and, the soul that will come back for other lifetimes, as it has before. Is the co-mingling of these etheric elements the basis for my identity? 

By now my head is spinning. What is identity anyway? In mundane terms it does refer to those pieces of information that separate you from everyone else for the sake of legal purposes. My name, social security number, driver's license, address, phone number - all of these are saying in some way: "this is me - that is not me." So "I" am the one who makes this statement, yes? When I sit down to meditate, it is "me" who is taking a seat on the zafu; "me" who is seeking the inner Stillness; "me" who is observing the breath; "me" who. . . but wait! If I am the one observing, who is it that is observed? 

So here we are at the real problem: We don't really know who we are. This is perhaps because our "self" is more mystery than fact. But it is this discomfort of realizing that we truly do not know who this thing called "self" is that keeps us grasping at the straws of identity. There is no "self" in terms of numbers or concrete object. There is only a wavefront of consciousness, arising from the vast and incoherent community of organisms, souls, memories, connections, preferences and loyalties that masquerades - for a little while - as someone we call "ourself". 

Now - when I consider the copy of TV Guide I just threw out, I am somewhat more at peace. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

LumensGate Update - Emerging from the illusion: the ecstasy of Liberation!

Photo by Bonnie Jean Starr

This past Sunday was the first meeting of the new planning staff for LumensGate. On the one had, I was confident that it would go well. I've worked with Mar - the new staffer - for years in other positions and knew that she would be up to the job. On the other hand, the old crew had developed such a tremendous rapport over the many years we worked together, and I was slightly concerned that moving from a staff of four to one of three would be difficult in some unforeseen fashion. Thankfully, I was wrong. Everything went quite smoothly. 

We had an ambitious agenda, including the setting of a theme for next year. I was also wondering if we would be able to do this in a graceful manner. We generally have a bit longer to ruminate before we choose a theme, however it has become clear that we really need to get moving on it if we are going to make the positive changes and generate the kind of interest - and attendance (!!!) - we need for next year to be a success. It was almost strange the way that everything fell into place, each piece building on the ones before, until it became quite evident that the LumensGate gestalt - made up of all those who have gathered around the HeartFire over the past 18 years and are still connected to us in some inexplicably wonderful way - was speaking to us all very clearly. We all were having similar sensations and perceptions of where we need to go, and - with some verbal juggling - came up with the wording for the '09 theme: Emerging from the illusion: the ecstasy of liberation!

At first glance, that is a BIG theme. Okay - even at second and third glance, it's a big theme. But consider that the actual spiritual experience is very personal and immediate, and it is that experience that we are aiming to engender in our participants. So, no matter how big the theme may sound, it will eventually come down to the real experience of those who are gathered around the HeartFire next year at Hope Springs - turning those words into their/our shared reality. 

We spent a good bit of time going over the marketing suggestions made by Mar's daughter Sarah. Excellent suggestions, which we are trying to implement to the extent which we can. Some we've done before and then gotten lazy about, while some are simply beyond our means at this point. But there are quite a few that are very much what we need right now. So we jammed on that for awhile and were getting ready to break for lunch when we started looking at the idea of holding small events to get out information to prospective attendees. Sort of "meet and greets" for those interested in checking it out - AND a chance for those who are already "gators" to get together and enjoy the pleasure of each others company.
Photo by BJ Star

I was still thinking in terms of a "Brunch & Drum" - very old school, neopagan sort of get together - and Patricia came up with the great idea of a "Tea Tasting". She also suggested that we hold it at our offices instead of at home, so that it would be accessible to a wider group of people. All three of us started throwing ideas into the mix and there was a moment when they all gelled and I could feel the hair raise on the back of my next as we came up with the same idea at the same time and practically finished the sentence together. It wasn't the idea itself - which is that we hold the tea tasting at Essencha Tea House - but that we came together so powerfully, that provided the extra oomph. 

So, it seems that the new staff is more than up to the task and that things are off to a great start for next year's event already. It's exciting to know that the magick is continuing, even as Keter and Donna head off on their own new journeys. May it be a blessed year for us all.