Last week I put up a short post in which I asked readers how they would personally define the word ‘I’. There was no real lead-in, just a couple of sentences followed by the question. The link is below:
So how did ‘we’ do?
Judging from the comments and the few responses that I got via my Twitter feed, this non-scientific sampling of definitions leads to a fairly negative view of the word. One person equated it with the concept of hell, others mentioned that we should focus more on you and we, and that I was seemingly a selfish concept. Not everyone had this negative slant and not everyone thought it was solely a negative concept, but more did than didn’t.
I was a bit surprised by this, but then again I’m coming to realize that I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the concept. While I am pretty selfish, the time is not solely spent on “my” ‘I’, but also on the ‘I’s of others around me. If I’m willing to spend the time on it, I must think there’s some positive merit to it? Or maybe I need a different hobby…
In this post, I wanted to spend a minute or two addressing and responding to the negative bent. I (perhaps I should switch over to saying Justin?) don’t believe that the concept of I is wrong or negative in anyway. I think it is a meta-narrative that we all use or create as we live in and experience the world around us in a temporal manner. It’s a “portfolio” of our experiences with different sized binders based upon our memory capacity. Of course, what we do and “collect” is highly dependent upon the events that preceded it so our ‘I’ is constantly shaped and perhaps in some sense, revised.
I think that ‘I’ turns negative like most things when it is used for purposes for which it was not “created”. That is, there is a good ‘I’ and a bad ‘I’ and from the Christian perspective, redemption occurs as the ‘I’ becomes progressively more the good version and not the bad one. Who is Christ redeeming? Me. You also, yes, but as we see Christ in the Gospels he is ministering not only to the collective people (‘you’), but also directly to individuals (‘I’). Additionally, as someone who was once an Evangelical Christian with its focus on eternal destination, I always wondered why it wouldn’t just be better for me to die right away, right after my conversion experience. Why stay here? I think it’s because my ‘I’ matters and all of the experiences that occur to me here and now shape what I will be like for the rest of this life and in the next. In this context, my ‘I’ is a very good thing.
What defines the ‘I’ as good or bad? I’m not exactly sure but perhaps when we are solely focused on our own ‘I’ at the expense of others’ ‘I’s the concept becomes bad. But I know that I can’t fully celebrate the you’s that surround me if I don’t recognize that they have an ‘I’. And this matters a great deal.
So I would say that ‘I’ is not a negative concept in itself, but can become one. What do you think?