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Dalton Conley, in his informative book, Elsewhere, USA, writes of a new breed of American, what he calls the intravidual as opposed to the individual:
The intravidual has multiple selves competing for attention within his/her own mind, just as, externally, she or he is bombarded by multiple stimuli simultaneously. The necessity of managing these multiple “flows” in a social world where many boundaries have fallen away forms a new ethic for American life.
Whereas in American individualism, the ethical imperative was to first find oneself – that is, one’s authentic inner core – and then to let that authenticity guide our choices in life, intravidualism is an ethic of managing the myriad data streams, impulses, desires, and even consciousness that we experience in our heads as we navigate multiple worlds.
It’s funny, if I had read this in my twenties, I would have said, “Yah, that’s right, I have to find out who I am, man! My authentic inner core – I have to find it before I can give myself to you.”
I write this now as a 46 year old man and grin at the John Tesh ‘schmultziness’ of the statement. Instead, as a husband, father, son and High School Principal, I realize that who I am really is an intravidual; and this is not a bad thing.
Who I am is contextually driven and . . .
- it’s in the managing of these contexts
- it’s in the ability to live in the moment
- it’s in the ability to be fully awake with mindfulness
- and in the ability to combine these myriad of experiences and make self-defining sense of it all
. . . that a guiding, authentic core can be established.
Who am I?
- I’m the son who can still be made to feel guilty by his mother;
- I’m the husband who continues to learn about unconditional love from his wife, Linda;
- I’m a father to Lauren and Daniel who daily keep me alive to the endless possibilities of youth;
- I’m a Principal, which means I’m a counselor, coach, facilitator, leader, improviser, colleague and friend.
Each of these roles has and creates meaning for me. I am the sum of their parts but I am also everything in the now. Let me explain through a story that brings it all home.
The other night, I was snuggling with my son, Daniel. With the ladies of the house falling asleep on the couch, Daniel had decided to come into my bed and read with me. After about 30 minutes, it now being 9:00, we decided to turn out the lights.
As I start to fall asleep, Daniel quietly asks,
“Dad, how much do you love me?”
I’ m about to respond that I love him ‘more than life’ but being halfway through the mortality game, statements like this freak me out. So, I respond,
“Dan, I love you with 100% of my being.”
At this point, I turn my head on the pillow, place my arm around my son as he cradles his head into the magic nook between chest and arm. I’m very close to nodding off when I hear a whisper:
“Dad . . . dad . . .”
“Does this mean that you love Lauren 50% and me 50%?”
“Yes, Daniel, that’s right. Let’s go to sleep now”
I’m thinking, yes, a mathematically inclined boy – here’s my walking RRSP!
About 10 minutes later, well past my first snore, I feel a tug on my t-shirt and hear Daniel whispering my name yet again. Drowsily, I inquire with a semi-conscious “what?”
“Dad . . . can I have 51%”
Who I am, right now, is the source of love for my son.
Who I am, right now, is that which he needs: the assurance that I love him beyond all else.
Who I am, right now, is a dispenser of love who in giving receives ten fold in return. This understanding of the power of love, right now, defines my authentic core and the experience adds emotional depth to my intravidualism.
I take this moment, move beyond the personal and reflect upon what it means to me as a Principal; how it contributes to my ever-developing sense of leadership; how it can help lead me as I navigate the multiple worlds of my one intravidual being:
- I realize that as a leader, everyone I deal with is deserving of and expects that 51%
- I appreciate that the most important conversation I will ever have is the one I’m having right now
- I understand that love is not just an emotional state but is also a way of being that permeates all that I do
- I see that as a leader, I am who you need me to be (son, husband, father, Principal) and that these are the multiple flows that come together to define me
I may not be all things to all people but I am . . . in context.
What contexts define your intravidualism?