The Ancient Modern
Searching for the Center, Part 2 / Joshua Alan Sturgill
The question(s) of Centrality continue to be prominent in my thoughts as I read, write and meditation here in Ethiopia.
Particularly: Does the human person have Center? Where is it, and how is it reached or achieved? Why is the Center “lost” (if it is lost)? What is the benefit or detriment of being or not being Centered? And finally, what is the relationship of Centeredness to choice, action, religious practice, relationships, philosophy and history?
When I think of great works of visual or literary art, the most prominent characteristic that comes to mind is the coincidence of unifying theme with reference to the universal. In other words, a great work of art is a coherent whole, and at the same time, points beyond itself. It reveals the truth that wholeness means to exist simultaneously on multiple levels—of meaning or of reality.
And the word that best describes this kind of wholeness is Centered.
Like art, human beings can be Centered as well. That is, we can be whole and complete enough in our limits to reveal something beyond limit. And this revelation does not add something to the human, but is humanness. From this perspective, a man or woman without a Center is not living in his or her full humanity. And we should add in these days of “identity politics” that many ideas, philosophies, fashions and technologies can substitute for authentic humanity—precisely because they attempt to make central something which is peripheral.
Further, I wonder if much of what we think of as mental illness is really centerlessness? In this case, the healing (or part of the healing) wouldn’t be therapy or pharmaceuticals, but re-centering.
But even as I consider this, I wonder if much of what we consider success and happiness is also centerlessness. We may have reached a point where being centered might appear as an illness. A centered person looks for different types of happiness and success than that which is lauded by the media. Every advertisement, and much of celebrity culture, is a kind of siren call to come find a center outside the Center. We reward those whose center is outside themselves—in happiness, beauty, wealth or power. We reward those who show success in knocking others off-center. We call them “influencers.”
To be continued.