Uniquely "Me" Because of "You"
Before I begin a little housekeeping. Last week I only published one post because I was out of town for a work conference and I didn't have much time to write. Lord willing I will be able to get my usual three or four posts up this week. Secondly, I finished reading Peter Leithart's most recent book Traces of the Trinity while I was on the plane ride back and I plan to write a full review of it sometime latter this week. Speaking of Traces of the Trinity, it is also going to be the focus of today's post as well!
As I mentioned in my last post on Traces, the book is about perichoresis, which means mutual indwelling. Leithart believes (and I agree with him) that the entire cosmos follows the pattern of mutual indwelling or "perichoresis." One of the ways in which this is highlighted is in and through our interpersonal relationships, particularly in the way individuals develop their individual identities.
Leithart points out the obvious but elusive fact that our distinct individuality can only be grasped when it is seen in relations to others. We can only be uniquely ourselves when we are so in relation to others (who are uniquely themselves). The following is a key quote from the book that highlights this reality:
Individuals are utterly unique. No individual can be reduced to another, nor are individuals simply a sum or product of others who have influenced them. Yet I'm the unique me that I am only because of those others who have molded me. Without those particular social others, I'd be a different me, and without me they'd all be different thems. Society has to dwell within individuals, and individuals within society, if either is to exist. In short, what is true of my relation to the inanimate world around me is true in an even more profound way in my relationships with other persons. If I am in the world as the world is in me, we can believe that it's even more the case that my friends and family indwell me as I pour my soul into them. If I have a reciprocal relationship with the rock and the tree and the leaf, how much more with mother and father, sister and brother, wife and children. (pg. 24)
In the first chapter of Traces of the Trinity Leithart makes an argument that we are not as shut-off from the world as we might like to think. Rather than viewing our skin as a clear barrier between the "outside" and the "inside" Leithart reveals that we actually indwell the "outside" world and the "outside" world makes its way "inside" of us. In the quotation above Leithart builds upon this theme. If we inhabit the world and world inhabits us, how much more do the personal identities of individuals inhabit each other.
We are all uniquely individual. But our unique individuality can only be understood as it is born through the indwelling of others (like mothers through whom we are literally born).
Food for thought.