Return Again: Who, What, Where

Who are you?

What are you?

Where are you?

Those three questions, core to the structure of Shlomo Carlebach’s song, call us to three basic and deep considerations: our being, our doing and our journey.

I wonder what you believe about the essence, the being, of the human being?  Do we arrive from the womb a blank slate waiting to be written on by life and other people?  Do we arrive already “somebody” with an essential (there’s the root of being again) way of locating ourselves in the world?  The human genetic map that we now have certainly seems to suggest that we do not arrive simply a blank slate, and our genetic make up with all of our ancestors pouring themselves into us through our genes begins to suggest that our being is a complex web of contributions by countless unseen beings before us–all the way to the algae and its ancestors.  What does it mean for you, for me, to return to who we are?

What we are can relate to what we do in the world.  Sometimes what we do in the world is the result of choices–a series of choices through which we pursue loves, interests, questions–but what we do in the world may be the result of choices that were made for us, pressures put upon us.  When we return to what we are, we return to all of that, and we my find ourselves reconsidering . . .

The question of where we are may remind us to pay attention–knowingly or unknowingly, we have been and continue to be while we breathe on a journey.  The journey is a working out of things that relate directly or indirectly to what we do and who we are.  The questions embedded in this song and the journey itself, I believe, come full circle.  Return to where you are (in the journey) and that will bring you back to what you do, and that will bring you back to who you are.  Born and reborn again.

Bob Patrick


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