We meet people throughout our lives. We make impressions on others by what we say, do, act, and react. Some people we see or know for a short time, and others we just click with and feel a bond. Some years ago I taught a freshman year experience (FYE) class. The experience was a class with a special theme or topic, mine was leadership (of course). Throughout the class we would take field trips around the city, ride the El, and integrate study skills and resources for the students. It helps with the transition into college. Wouldn’t life be grand if we had FYE for many things that happen to us? But, I digress. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Intention
Two of my favorite poems (or sayings) are by Jewish religious leaders. I like them because they remind me of the fact that I need to be my own person, but my actions are so intertwined with who I am and what I do that it is hard to not have an impact on those around me.
The first is by Rabbi Mendel of Kotzk (1787-1859). I found various versions of this saying, but I am presenting it here as I learned it.
If I am I, and you are you; then I am I and you are you.
But if I am I because you are you, and you are you because I am I, then I am not and you are not.
First, I like this because saying it and listening to it is a little like watching a tennis match. You have to keep your eye on the ball as it volleys back and forth from “I” to “you.” It is fun to listen to and a bit of a brain twister as you are trying to make sense of it. I like the pure simplicity of it as well. I know, bouncing “I” back and forth nine times with one hand and bouncing “you” to and fro with the other hand at first is not really the definition of simplicity. It’s the literary version of patting your head and rubbing your tummy. But, there are only 11 different words used here in a 41-word stanza.
Think about what it means. “I am I” is that I am my own person with my own agenda doing my own thing. It is up to each of us to define and delineate who we are in the world. The word “I” is always capitalized in the English language (not necessarily in all other languages) as a reminder of our own self-importance to ourselves. Our own self-confidence and self-concept is important to the creation of our values, attitudes and beliefs. The “you are you” piece is the recognition of this I concept for all people. I gotta be me and you gotta be you. It is ok that we maintain our I-ness side by side, but in the end, we are responsible for ourselves. Doesn’t the Cher song say that in the end we all sleep alone?
So, having made the case that we are responsible to and for ourselves it would seem that we are being a little self-centered here. This is where my other favorite saying from these two Jewish leaders steps as a complement. I was visiting Edinburgh, Scotland one year. It was my first day and jet lag, and the fact that the sun was up at 4 in morning made me a little restless. I got up and ran. I ran by the Jewish Center and on the sign in front was this next saying. I stopped to memorize it and then ran back to the B&B and wrote it in my journal. It was a saying of Rabbi Hillel (110 BCE-7CE):
If I am not for myself, who is for me?
And if I am for myself alone, what then am ‘I’?
And if not now, then when?
I like this because, I think, he is saying that we need to stand up for ourselves and have a sense of our own identity and values. We have to make our way in the world and we have to tell people who we are, because, really who will do this for us? At the same time that we have to have the chutzpah to take a stand for ourselves we have to remember the world doesn’t revolve around us alone. If we don’t remember the others in our world, the world around us, and the collective then what are we really? Perhaps just a selfish (insert your own pejorative comment here) that is only out for ourselves. Finally, when are we going to start this? I just saw a Facebook picture post that said, “There are 7 days in a week and someday isn’t one of them.”
So perhaps I will try my own literary volley
And now I see that I gotta be me to contribute to the we.
And you can toss in a few to do what you can do.
Then together we can say that I am I is not an alibi
Intention – there is something about this word. Just saying the word, intention, and sort of sounds like “in tension.” There could be something to this tension thing. Think about the times we are intent. Something has our attention. There’s a focus in an effort to accomplish something. Interesting the Latin origin, intentio, and means stretching purpose. We are stretching out and leaning toward something that has our attention. Recently I have been reading about Sheryl Sandberg’s concept of “leaning in” (thanks to my doc student for studying ideas and situations close to this meaning). Some of what she is talking about her is really a stretching purpose. Leaning into our purpose and stretching to create our purpose and get the job done. Using the word as an adjective to modify other words we find similar meanings to being very attentive, eager, waiting, strained. All of these seem to work for this word, and derivatives, intention (i.e., intentionality, intentional, intend).
How do you model intention or act with intentionality? There are probably different ways to look at how to be intentional. Some might call it prayer, meditating, chanting, focus, concentration. Our ability to create and be innovative always starts with a thought. We start to think about our goal or purpose. We start to ruminate or “play with the idea” to build something we want to accomplish. Our intentions can be seen as a goal, a purpose, aims, and vision.
Saying, “for all intents and purposes” starts to put this into action. We are constructing how to get moving and stretching our purpose into action. Getting to the point of moving toward our thoughts and ideas takes some initiative. Moving toward our goals and purpose can be tough. There might be some fear about stretching and leaning toward our intents and purposes. In his book, Tribes, Seth Godin says that initiative = happiness. I like it. It is simple and poignant. Doing something makes us happy. He also says later in the book, “If your organization requires success before commitment, it will never have either” (p. 132). Perhaps the directive, “just do it” is more than a slogan.
Two final quotes to help bring this home for now, I know I know what is the intent of this post…right? Thoreau said, “The price of anything is the amount of life that is exchanged for it.” What’s your intention? What purpose have you been thinking about? How can we create cause and effect and move from intents to purpose? The last quote was one I saw on the sign in front of the Edinburgh Jewish Center – “If I am not for myself, who is for me, but if I am for my own self [only], what am I? And if not now, when?” Thanks Rabbi Hillel for reminding us about our ability, the fact that ego is important, and don’t forget that we aren’t in this alone. Actions have reactions, and those matter too.
So, what does your intentional mind saying to you today? Where is your intentional mind guiding you? If not now then when?