the third word

For as long as I can remember I’ve been told that I’m lost, or that I am searching for happiness or peace. And somewhere along the line I agreed, probably when I was very young, probably in Primary. As a child I don’t ever recall feeling lost, and all in all, I was pretty happy. I had a reasonable foundation in my childhood home – I felt secure.

I wasn’t BIC. My mother was a devout Lutheran and my father an apathetic Mormon until much later in his life. Being male I defaulted to Mormonism. They raised me by the golden rule and introduced the idea that I needed a savior for the bad things I’d end up doing. The church picked up where they left off. Once I agreed to this I learned so many more of my shortcomings, that I wouldn’t be peaceful or happy, that I’d be lost unless I did what the savior’s broker asked me to do.

Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? Listen to the dogmatic implications in hymns, literature and rhetoric from the pulpit and in the classrooms. No wonder we wonder. And no wonder we subscribe to such notions when an institution claims to have the exclusive answers and pounds them into us weekly – daily if we’re young and impressionable seminary and institute-going types. I was.

Ironically, my break from this ideology was rooted in the name of the person I used to worship; Jesus, the great I Am. His name is him. Its biblical etymology stems from the verb to-be, the first-person singular conjugation of the verb, I am.

I am. Period. I exist. I’m not lost, not found, not good, not bad, not ______. I am…

I think it’s that third word that gets us in trouble. As a child I pretended many adjectives, but when my head hit the pillow I returned to who I was.

What a remarkable equalizer; I am. I am white. I am Mormon. I am fat. I am old. I am straight. I am right.

We mistakenly think we are hungry or we are cold. In French one would say, “I have hunger,” or “I have cold.” One simply can’t be hungry. Even admitting one’s own name is done by saying, “I call myself _____.” In our language we readily concede that our name is what or who we are. “I’m Eric.” I’m not. I just am. We just are.

I’m not lost, I just am. I’m not happy, I just have it, or better, I have chosen to feel it. I have only been lost in my thinking that I was, or in my agreement that I was.

Certainly there’s the inherent question, isn’t there more to this? “The thought that life could be better is woven indelibly into our hearts and our brains,” writes Paul Simon in his song Train in the Distance. But, is this question something we’re born with?

All I’m sure of is that religion capitalizes on it and holds us ransom while we define just what that third word might be.

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