Who am I? There is an urgency to this question. Wanting to know who you are is foundational to being. One feels certain his or her identity is crucial to understanding oneself, to knowing what to do, to directing a satisfying life. If one feels uncertain about his or her purpose, place, success, reason for being, then self-doubt, poor decisions, and depression can set in; one can wander in an insecure wilderness.
Recently I’ve enjoyed watching Henry Lewis Gates Jr.’ Finding One’s Roots on PBS–a program where genealogists and DNA experts put together the ancestral history of a famous individual, then, Gates shares the researched results with the celebrity, often with unexpected surprises. It is a fascinating show that made me wish I could have my “roots” done!
I’d like to know who I came from. Who came before me, enabling me to be? Was I mostly Welsh, Irish, and Scottish as my immediate ancestors have revealed? But who came before them?
About 10 years ago I participated in a genealogical DNA project conducted by National Geographic whereby you sent off your DNA swab with several hundred dollars and became part of their data bank, receiving some weeks later general ancestral information about yourself. This was how I learned I am 1.5 % Neanderthal and 1.1.% Denisovan, 45% Northern European, 36% Mediterranean, and 18% Southwest Asian. This was before genealogical research was readily available to anyone with thousands of dollars to spend for detailed research. Neither then nor now do I have those thousands of dollars. Nor the time and skills required to do the research myself. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting to know about my past. It would be thrilling to discover my ancestors, where they lived, what they did, and to learn if we share any proclivities, abilities, interests. Of course, being an artist, I’d also like pictures (though unlikely). As someone whose photo albums disappeared in a recent move, I’ve learned to live without pictures, other than paintings I create–so any ancestral pictures would be most welcome.
Were any of my relatives artists, other than Neanderthals whose cave paintings I’ve admired? Did my ancestors pursue beauty, love home, crave sunsets, appreciate nature, hug big dogs, cook exquisitely, write poetry, read voraciously, question constantly, and seek God daily? Where are they now? Will I know them one day?
O.k., so I have a lot of questions. No human DNA can answer them all.
So I revert to a higher power to tell me who I am. I am God’s child, as are we all. I look to God, our Creator–everlasting Love, Life, Mind, the very All–to find my identity. But not just my identity but everyone’s. We have reason to know and love our neighbor as ourself because we are all related! Metaphorically, we share the same spiritual DNA! We inherited the same good qualities our divine Father has; He biblically told us so. Julian of Norwich, a 14th century anchoress and follower of God’s Word, as well as other spiritually-minded thinkers, recognized God as Mother as well as Father. Our maternal and paternal origin is established. Our spiritual heritage is complete. Our spiritual roots are discovered as we work at understanding God. We have only to practice such wisdom as found in The Ten Commandments, The Sermon on the Mount, and throughout the Bible, as well as in our own inspired prayer, in order to discover our true identity. The answer to “Who am I ?” is never going to be found in human genes and lineage but in learning and living our spiritual selfhood.
Artwork: framed oil on canvas, 15″ x 18 1/2,” $775. Twenty-five years ago I assigned my students to do self-portraits and did this demonstration–my self-portrait–encouraging their fresh use of color.