Go see Cloud Atlas. The movie might not make sense, but maybe you’ll have a personal version of the experience I had coming out of the dark theater back into the lobby – everything was weird: the neon lights were garish, the red and orange patterned carpet was too loud, and I had a distinct feeling that the people standing, sitting or walking nearby were oblivious to something. I’m not sure what that something was, but it felt important.
My boyfriend and I went out to dinner after and my most persistent thought was, “I have to learn sign language and a martial art so that I’ll be prepared for the future.”
Cloud Atlas is either about souls that reappear across lifetimes in ways that maintain specific relationships to other souls, or else it’s about stories that cycle over and over as the big generational wheel keeps on turning. Regardless of which one of these interpretations is closer to the actual truth, the one key insight that the movie did leave me with is this:
It’s not what you’re doing, it’s who you are.
A lot of the threads in this blog so far have been about the archetypal quest to find one’s place in the world: What is it that you are / I am here to do? What’s your / my role in this ongoing transformation?
For this post, I’m going to lay the collective focus aside and concentrate on the individual: who you are is important, and it just might be the key that unlocks the “what you do” part of the equation.
Consider the characters in Cloud Atlas: there’s some essential soul material that makes itself known in each storyline by the appearance of a comet shaped birthmark on the body of the pivotal character. Sometimes male, sometimes female, this person’s distinguishing trait is that s/he is instrumental in disrupting the cultural order of the era. Other characters shapeshift through time also: Hugh Grant plays both a ruddy sea vessel officer and a cannibal (yes, really). Halle Berry plays both a gutsy reporter and a distant-future wise woman. The takeaway for me, in seeing these actors morph across eons, is that in our culture maybe we focus WAY too much on the lateral, present “What” and forget about the longitudinal, eternal “Who.” Maybe the “Who” — a kind of soul essence — is the source out of which arises the “What,” and the “What” changes depending on the circumstances the “Who” finds itself in.
So what does this mean, practically speaking?
Maybe the answer can be summed up in a rather elegant question: “Who is the eternal you?” Meaning that if you strip away all the trappings of profession, if you forget about acknowledged roles relative to other human beings, if you stop trying to be anything for anybody else and really just get down to the naked splendor of your own existence, Who are you?
Who ARE you?
- What do you love?
- What do you feel connected to?
- What are you doing when you feel most in touch with the divine?
- What have you always, always wanted to learn but haven’t yet?
- How would you fashion yourself if you could show up in the world the way you see yourself in your inner eye?
Here are a few of my own answers:
- What I love: the stars, morning air, deeply-felt music, seeing patterns
- What am I doing when I feel most in touch with the divine: dancing, writing down poems
- What have I always, always wanted to learn: sign language, kiteboarding, a martial art, ancient Greek
- How would I fashion myself: working on that one, need about a year for my hair to grow out again…
And now you:
What if you allowed the answers to all of these questions to be more important than the “What you do (in the world)” part? What if you let a delicious commitment to exploring the answers to these questions be the activity that defines a major percentage of your choice-making. What if you really opened up an intentional space for the fullness of your eternal soul to come pouring in to your present lifetime?
Holy F*@#! That would be beautiful!
Go forth and be splendid.