I had a nice conversation yesterday on the challenge of finding purpose within, in a world which has lost many of the traditional places or containers which used to supply meaning in the past. It is a challenge all through life, and it comes down to having some degree of comfort in our sense of who we are and where we are at this moment. In other words, as Winnicott says, “we gather the personality together from within” by developing a capacity to be at ease with an interior “formlessness and comfortable solitude”, without being afraid, or needing to fill the space with objects and distractions. In this way we unlearn a lot of the messages which come from our restless society or from the wounds of our own history:
To know this spot of inwardness is to know who we are, not by surface markers of identity, not by where we work or what we wear or how we like to be addressed, but by feeling our place in relation to the Infinite and by inhabiting it. This is a hard lifelong task, for the nature of becoming is a constant filming over of where we begin, while the nature of being is a constant erosion of what is not essential. Each of us lives in the midst of this ongoing tension, growing tarnished or covered over, only to be worn back to that incorruptible spot of grace at our core. Regardless of subject matter, this is the only thing worth teaching: how to uncover that original center and how to live there once it is restored. We call the filming over a deadening of heart, and the process of return, whether brought about through suffering or love, is how we unlearn our way back to God.