To Be Known, Thailand Blog # um… 6?

So you go somewhere as a casual observer (or even as what one might call a professional observer / journalist / helper / art groupie and cross-cultural aficionado) and you get drawn in personally because that is actually the point. This conference isn’t just for Cross-Cultural Workers (CCWs) or artists … it’s for me, too.

I’ve written about various core desires, which I’ve seen in others. But I have my own core desires, and here’s my chance to be a little bit vulnerable.

I want to grab the mic. I’m supposed to be this great listener kind of guy, but I’m sorry, I want to be the center of attention. I’m primarily a writer in terms of how I express my creativity, but at heart there’s a performer wanting to escape.

I want to be known. I want to connect, to be heard and to be understood. I identified all this stuff about myself quickly last night as I sat off by myself feeling bad, because I have some tools along that I use for helping coach other people and I used them on myself.

Feeling bad isn’t too descriptive. It goes a bit deeper. Feeling left out, ugly and rejected, these feelings surfaced, and then I realized that they were pushing me to withdraw. From there I felt apathetic and eventually wanted to shut down. I stopped working… at that point I realized this is why I did not post a blog on Monday (or, maybe I did, but it was all visual stuff, just the photojournalism side of my job.) I needed some space to reflect on that.

My dad used to say I was “exhibiting attention getting behavior” (or AGB) whenever I acted wild and crazy. I see it in my son Benjamin, too. Yesterday we Skyped home and asked him what his successes were. Benjamin said, “Well, I rode my bike down the stairs, and then I convinced my butler to punch himself in the face.” Funny. And attention-grabbing. The legitimate desire To Be Known is often twisted into a grab for attention, and this is a paradox I’ll likely fight with to some degree all my life because I’m a performer at heart.

There’s that desire to grab the mic from people instead of getting my desire to be known met in the form of receiving attention from God. But God makes these desires, places them within us, and God is the best at filling them, too.

It was good. I spent some time, had some conversation with the Creator. Rather than wallowing a lot in how painful some of my childhood experiences were when I was left out and rejected, I just asked Jesus some stuff about how He knows me. I felt some powerful response to that; some specific things that I sensed the Creator knows about me and likes about me; I heard Him saying “You’re a great guy, and I think you’re funny. I like your sense of humor.”

There will be times to perform, and times to watch from the back of the audience. A time to kill and a time to heal, a time to sow, a time to reap, and so on. In all that, being Known and Knowing You is something the Creator is really good at.

I’ll read a few poems at open mic. I am open to being vulnerable with people, and reading your poetry is definitely that. And that’s a way that you can be known to other people, which is certainly not a bad thing. It’s only pathological when it’s the only place you’re seeking to be known.

You, too, can be fully known by the Creator (and already are). That’s something you can be hungry to know in detail. Being heard and understood is an antidote to the effects of being left out or rejected. Stand up, try once more, take one more stab at connecting. If you’re hungry to be known too, ask, “Creator, what do you know about me, and what do you like about it?”

Isolation, can you dig it?

The conversations you hear when you’re driving for a ride-share platform can give interesting insights into how people feel about being alone.

Last night, a young woman was talking to a young man in the backseat of my car. It was clear they had ditched their group to have some alone time together.

“I feel bad that we left Joe,” she said, “Joe will have to find his own ride home.”

“Nah, don’t worry about Joe,” the male replied, “He doesn’t mind going home by himself.”

Ah, loneliness.

I’m an extrovert and people like me really do NOT like going home alone, or at least, going home to be alone. Being alone is hard. Even for introverts (in a way that I can’t really understand completely) because introverts love having friends.

We’re all designed to be in community. I like to say that when I coach people in remote places, I’m “battling isolation.” But recently I read the intro to a book on isolation and realized that the author had found something beautiful in isolation. And that’s true, too.

But to really engage with isolation, we have to do that with purpose. Without a sense of purpose to our isolation not only do we accomplish very little during the isolated period, but we can turn to all sorts of false and twisted supplements to attempt to fill the void left by not having our community nearby.

Speaking for myself, isolation is easier to handle when I choose to disappear for a while so I can write. The hardest part of writing books may just be the intentional isolation required. I have a decent handle on that. The second thing is more important, and I’m not as good at it. That is the quest for God. The interesting thing is that we (people of the Book) say we believe that we’re made for this sort of community, to find and experience oneness with the Creator. Yet in practice we tend to be very bad at it, approaching isolation as a bad thing (which is still very much my initial reaction, usually.)

You have to be hungry for what you can get out of isolation and pursue it with purpose. If not, you walk into a dangerous desert filled with the scorpions of twisted desires.

Did Joe make it home alone? Did he mind? I don’t know. But we can guess.