Ironically, I am.

  • Ironically, I put a like button above.  You’ll see.


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32/40 From Rabbi Brian

Ironically, I am.

Awhile ago I came away from a meditation retreat with a profound realization. (It feels cliché to say that, but nonetheless, it happened.)


Before I tell you what happened, let me just say wow – if you have any interest in meditating the “right” way, check out  My meditation go-to guy, Jason Siff, has a philosophy that there is no “right way” to meditate. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just that you do it. Brilliant, unbelievable stuff. He also has a wonderful book, Unlearning Meditation, which I highly recommend.


Anyway, I realized that a lot of what I do is intended to get me seen by others. I enjoy having an audience – you and many others – who reflect back to me that I’m real, that I exist.  I love facebook “likes” for this reason. (Ironically, I left the like button on the top of this article that’s there every week.) 


When you comment on an article I write, when I make a person laugh, when I do something that gets me noticed, I get a sense of myself through the reaction.


I gain a sense of me from people outside of me.


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Rabbi Brian is the CEO and chief columnist of Religion-Outside-The-Box – seeking to empower adults to find and be with (the) God (of their understanding).


His day job is instructing mathematics at De la Salle Catholic High School, North Portland. The rest of the time is with his family.

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Rene Descartes is famous for the phrase cogito ergo sum – “I think, therefore I am.” For me, it’s not just my thoughts, it’s the recognition: “I am acknowledged by you, therefore I am,” or to put it back into the language of Descartes, “You think I am, therefore I am.”

In my meditation, I realized it can’t be because of YOU that I am. That’s ridiculous. I can’t and don’t exist only because you or others see me.


It’s because of me that I am! I am because I am.


This is not Descartes’ notion of existence because of the intellect. Rather, it is existence because of existence.


In two weeks, there will be a newsletter in which I invite you to fill in the blank with your own unique words: “___________, therefore I am.”


This notion, I am that I am is actually a huge one in serious theological circles. Scholars have contemplated it for generations. Here’s a quickie explanation as to why:


 In English, the phrase “I am” is a fairly commonly used. “I am hungry, I am tired, I am this, I am that.” However, in Hebrew, the verb “to be” (lee-hee-ot – lamed, hay, yud, vuv, taf) is only conjugated is the past and future tenses.  This is why native Hebrew speakers who are novices at English will often sound a bit Tarzan-like: “I hungry.” In Hebrew you just don’t say, “I am.”   Throughout the entirety of the Hebrew Bible, the only time the verb to be is EVER used in the present is by God using the phrase that Popeye would later co-opt: “I am that I am.” This is a very significant phrase as it is sui generis (a fancy term meaning “one of a kind”). The only time the present tense of the verb to be is done is by God. God is the only one who says, “I am” anything.      


This is also why in certain circles God is referred to as “the great I Am.”


The big idea here is: to say “I am,” is to be godly.


Being godly is realizing we are based on who we are – nothing else. We don’t exist based on other people seeing us, or not seeing us. We don’t exist because of our thoughts, material possessions, or how others perceive us. We exist because we are.




The irony, of course, is that I wrote this article to tell you about my realization. But, I’ve realized I must find my sense of self outside of you seeing me.


(Consequently, there’s no need to reply to me about this newsletter.)


Spiritual-religious advice: Be simply because you are, not because of others.

  With love,

  Rabbi Brian

   Rabbi Brian   

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