The span of my life from age eight to eighteen coincided with the sixties decade. And in that span, I witnessed the evolution of names for my ethnic heritage from Colored to Negro to Black to Afro-American. The last change was taking hold in my senior year of high school.
Vykee, being of the same ethnic group as I, asked me if I preferred being called "Black" or "Afro-American." In our senior year of high school, we were caught up with that social question. I told her that I would much prefer being called Dana. However, if there were a need to refer to my ancestral heritage, she would have to call me an Irish-Franco-Afro-Native-American.
Who are you?
People around you will identify you by such superficialities as your physical characteristics, your ethnic origin, or your socioeconomic status. They look at your outward appearance and immediately assign to you an identity consistent with labels and categories with which they are familiar. Knowing your name, one might call out, "hey, Clarence!" recognizing you by your face, your walk, your hair style, your automobile, etc. But they will never know your true identity until you express your thoughts and your feelings.
You are not your body or any characteristic of your body--size, shape, color, gender, or functionality; while your body has changed from age ten to age forty, you are still the same person. You are not your academic degree or professional designation; you were Sarah even before you became a reverend. You are not your job; you would still be you if you changed from being an administrative assistant to being a fire fighter.
Your identity is established by your capacity to think. Yes, you are who you think you are. Thinking is the process of connecting to and exploring the universe of ideas. To the extent that your body, education, profession, job, possessions, and relationships influence your process of thinking, they influence your identity. They are not you, however. You are the collection of ideas that you have accepted and beliefs you have adopted which govern how you perceive and act in this world.
Your mind does not produce thoughts. Every thought that you have already existed in the universe. The biblical wise man Solomon discerned this when he said, "... and there is no new thing under the sun." [Eccl. 1:9] Rather than create thoughts, your mind receives thoughts that come to it. You express this passive thinking process when you say "A thought came to me" or "An idea came to mind." On the other hand, you express an affirmative thought process when you say "I wonder" or "I imagine." Through wondering and imagining you mentally reach into the universe of ideas and snag a thought to ponder or contemplate.
Your mind is continuously at work processing information that you input through sensory perception. New thoughts are captured and old thoughts can be recalled. Unwittingly, a thought may flash in your mind, leaving as quickly as it came. As a conscious being, you cannot turn off your capacity to think, so you cannot keep thoughts from crossing your mind. You can, however, control the amount of time you allow a thought to settle. You can dwelling on an idea long enough to consider it, evaluate it, ponder it, and then dismiss it. You can also choose to allow an idea to permanently dwell in your mind. Such resident thought becomes a belief that determines how you perceive the world and governs what you will do and how you will act.
You are the individual defined by the collection of the thoughts that you adopt and allow to permanently reside with you. Your thoughts and your feelings are inextricably intertwined. What you think affects how you feel, and how you feel influences what you think. They both are responsible for what you do. In other words, your mind and soul control the actions of your body.
The collection of your thoughts and feelings is what makes you a unique individual. Though you may share familial traits with a sibling, or gender features with a friend, or ethnic characteristics with a neighbor, you have your own identity. What makes you different from everyone else are what you think and the way you feel.
Not only do your thoughts define your identity, they determine the impact your life has on the world. As mentioned above, your thoughts are not new ones produced by you. Your thoughts are the ones you have adopted from the universe of ideas. Hence, the measure of your impact relates to the character of the thoughts you have adopted. If you have positive thoughts, you will have a positive impact. Conversely, if you have negative thoughts, you will have a negative impact. If you have limiting thoughts, you will have limited impact. Language such as "but," "I'll try," and "maybe" denote thoughts with limited impact.
You have the capacity to mentally reach into the universe of ideas and grab hold of whichever thought you want. You can hold the thought "I can" or you can hold "I cannot." You can grab hold of the thought "I am mature and bring experience and wisdom to the project," or you can believe "I'm too old to start something new." You can believe "It is possible," or you can adopt the negative, "It is impossible."
All thoughts emerge out of the universe of possibilities. Hence, every idea you have is possible. You can dismiss the idea as impossible and do nothing about it, or you can choose to act toward its manifestation in reality. To think that a thing is impossible does not remove it from the realm of possibilities. Your thought of impossibility only removes you from the collaboration of making it happen.
The best way to explore the universe of possibilities is through imagination. If you imagine a thing to exist, you create for yourself a world that includes that thing. Hence, imagination is a powerful tool that permits you to change your world. Your imagined world becomes the world in which you live and function.
Identity and impact can be combined in I-am thought statements that include a personal attribute and a description of the action that is governed by the thought. Here are eight examples that I have adopted for myself:
- I am Spirit ... To live for the value of what is not physical, tangible, or material.
- I am Love ... To connect with others in care, kindness, and support.
- I am Forgiveness ... To let go of blame and the pain of offense.
- I am Possibilities ... To reach beyond the limits of what is to the realm of what can be.
- I am Power ... To collaborate in making what can be a reality.
- I am Wisdom ... To discern positivity and expedience.
- I am Gratitude ... To be responsible for and appreciative of my life experiences.
- I am Excellence ... To perform with my best effort in everything I do.
To the extent that I have not reached the full manifestation of this self-definition, it is my aspiration.