Saturday, Jul 13th 2024

Who Am I Who Says I Am Nothing?


"I am not a Human Being, I am a Human Becoming."
By Samuel Avital, Boulder Colorado, 1982

Who am I?  I am nothing.

How can nothing say it is nothing? Who is this, I, who says I am nothing?

Only constant self-examination can clarify this question.  Only self-questioning, particularly in moments of silence and stillness, can lead us back to our source. Only in this process can we cleanse our psychic and physical systems of impurities and restore ourselves.

Who am I? What am I doing here? Almost all spiritual streams deal with these questions, asking us to dare that self-confrontation, that constant search for self-honesty.

For me, as an individual and an artist, that search is structured and guided by my study of the Kabbalah, not just on a philosophical level, but as a program and attitude, a way of life and being.

Who am I? For many years, I resisted the realization of the answer to that classical spiritual question.  Like everyone else, when I was young, I experienced a strong sense of personal identity:  I am something definite, I am so and so, I am a particular someone. Society’s conditioning teaches me that you are only your environment, home, school, friends and a compulsive consumer etc. And this state of affairs is a very limited view of who you I really am.

But even then, the Kabbalah taught me that "nothing" is built in to "I am."  The Hebrew word for "I am" is ANI אני -  composed of the three letters: aleph, א noon נ, and  י  yod.  But just slightly change the order of the letters to aleph, yod, noon אין and you have the word AYIN - אין - that means "nothing."  "I am" becomes "nothing" so easily, just put the yod in the middle instead of at the end.

So, I grew up being taught that when I said, "I am hurt" I was saying, "nothing is hurt."  I am sick, means nothing is sick.  I love you, means nothing loves you.  That was the programming I grew up with, and throughout much of my life I have dwelled on that, and proclaimed it in many situations and experiences, even facing death.  And through this, every moment has been intensified with life.  Through this realization, I am focused. I am present.  Words cannot explain or express this nothingness. I try to express it by being it, by daring to be myself, by performing it, by teaching it.

What seems to be something is actually nothing.  I see you.  Who do I see?  Nothing.  Who is this that lives? Nothing.  Everything is nothing.

But to be nothing, you have to be something.  That is the holy paradox, as is the marriage of all the opposites, male-female, spirit-matter, and visible-invisible.

The Kabbalistic view of the universe is that everything is light.  I am a being of light, a spark, encapsulated in this organism, a community of billions of cells working in perfect harmony.  This organism is a microcosm, a small world עולם קטן in itself, a miniature universe that functions in a miraculous way.  This organism, this animal system, with all its intricacies and complexities of intelligence and language, communicating between its brain cells and the vastness of the rest of its being...the very knowledge of all of this is itself the joy of being nothing.

This knowledge is itself the art of living the ecstasy, of knowing that you know that matter is actually spirit, but of a certain frequency, and that the marriage between matter and spirit is the goal, the destination, and the path itself, of the spiritual quest.

The self-examining the self is like looking in a mirror.  What it sees in that reflection is the theatricality of itself; that which is and that which is not bemuses it.  All life is theatre.  My realization is that I play the role of nothing by being something.

Nothing sees itself wherever it looks.  Kabbalah offers the concept of the image of the broken vessels שבירת כלים  and shattered mirrors. You look in one piece of a broken mirror and you see yourself, you look in another piece and you see yourself.  Put the puzzle of the pieces back together into one whole mirror, and still you see your self.  Every human being is like that.  Each piece of mirror, or the whole mirror, reflects the same: I.

When you look at your friend, your mate, your child, who do you see?  Always "I," and you see yourself reflected in that I.  You look in their eyes, and you see yourself reflected in those little round crystals. That is the idea of the broken vessels, the shattered mirrors.

So who is looking at whom?  Who is it that examines the self, and who is examined?  The process itself is very purifying, and it re-strengthens spirituality.

All humanity is like a colony of cells, separate but connected.  Separate in order to unite: that is the work.  So, when we encounter one another, when we meet and talk, there is work to do.  There is recognition:  I am Thou, Thou art I.  I am not you, you are not I.  There is no you, there is no me.

But we get lost in the cosmic theatricality of all this.  These focal points of energy, these units of consciousness, which we call human beings, pretend to be important, separate, and unique.  We worship matter and deny that which activates matter, which is spirit.  There's nothing religious about this.  It's simply a fact.

But, when you know that you are something that is nothing, that you are nothing that is something. You know that every day is a page in the book of life, and that you are the author, the scriptwriter, the interpreter, the central star role, and the actor player of your life.  You have the ability to incorporate the ecstatic vision of Omar Kayyam or Rumi and the earthy practicality of Lao Tzu in one breath.

The utterly intoxicated lover of "God", uplifted in ecstasy, becomes grounded and anchored by going "from ecstasy to lunch."  The cosmic ping-pong.  Otherwise you can't do your work.  That's why the Kabbalah says that the crown is in the foundation (Keter DeMalkhut  - כתר דמלכות ) and the foundation is in the crown (Malkhut DeKeter -  מלכות דכתר), in the Tree of Life.  That's why the heart center, being between, can reconcile what is above and what is below, the knowledge manifested and practiced. The space between thought and action is condensed.

If you are at the top of your ecstasy, overjoyed, how can you elasticize that moment and make it last, outside of time and space, unless you live fully every moment, whether joyful or sad?  You know it's passing, so every moment becomes a privilege, and becomes everlasting, "eternal".  Gam Zeh Ya’Avor - גם זה יעבור = This too shall pass.

And finally, the wild pendulum of opposites reconciles and comes to a center of silence (Merkaz Hademama - מרכז הדממה ) and stillness, neither this nor that.  There you experience emptiness and nothingness.  That is quite a learning situation. That's where you "learn how to learn".

After the play/performance, you, the actor-player, take your make-up off and return home. Particularly here in the west, we get lost in the left side of our own brains. And take life too seriously, we forget to play the various roles that this "I" enjoy playing.

Once we succumb to the "norms" of society, we end up whining in self-pity when we are beset by really difficult problems:  "What can I do? I'm only human" the apologist’s cry. We enhance the consciousness of our inner poverty, belittling the great being that is within us.  That is a crime and a sin. It totally misses the point. It misses the target completely.

Here is then, my friend, a truth without any cover or any hidden agenda. Are you ready to digest it with its total simplicity and illusive obviousness?

I declare therefore that:

You are a perfect being. You are light itself. There is nothing to struggle for, and nothing to defend. You do not in reality need any approval from others. Your body heals itself naturally. We are ill because our mental distortion of reality, interfere with our Natural flow of life – Life as it was intended to be, the state of Homeostasis. A body in homeostasis has no disease.

So, Who is the "I" that resists movement and change? The "I" that can see, in its self-reflection, the nothingness of itself, can accept all of life unconditionally, can reconcile conceptually and practically the so to say "opposites". This "I" can accept totally its own vulnerability.  Being vulnerable is the gentle acceptance of life, of oneself. So, what is there to fear? Vulnerability is strength in disguise, the invisible made visible in its opposite.

I am NOT a human Being I am a Human Becoming. Becoming what? That which I am, both something and nothing. Why?  Because I am aware of "something" in me that I am in touch with, some invisible power that guides me, a source of creation and knowledge where fear and limitation does not exist, something infinite and nameless is guiding every step of my being toward developing and choosing my total expression as a being and becoming.

On stage I am the name that I use, but I say there is only the play itself, the reality of that illusion, the truth of that lie.  And "I", like you, am simply "I", utterly and simply nothing, (Ani Ha’Ayin - אני  האין). Go figure that now.

Now that I know who this "I" is, the most important question is, How to use it, and so the   real quest is this beautiful saying from the wise I learned in my childhood from Pirkei Avot, The Sayings of the Ancients 1:14. Hillel used to say:


? אם אין אני לי, מי לי ?  וכשאני לעצמי, מה אני ?  ואם לא עכשו, אימתי

פרק א. פסוק י"ד פרקי אבות

If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I?  And if not now, when?

We can say. If I am not thinking for myself, who will think for me? Most people let others to think for them. And if I am thinking only for myself, then WHAT am I? Or if I am not acting for myself, who will act for me? And if I act only for myself, then WHAT am I?

And if not now, When? If I do not think, speak and act NOW, when? This urgency can motivate us to think, speak and act NOW. Now, this present moment is the right time to think, speak and act.  It is a call to end laziness the greatest enemy of self-evolution.

We can heed to this sense of urgency, of the futile illusion of our limited concept of "time" and "space", and appreciate the NOWNESS, the preciousness of this present moment. If not now, When? Addresses itself to this noble quest.

I like to add to this sense of urgency by changing adding one letter to the word אימתי  Eimatai. The word אין (Ein) the negative. And read it to mean: If not now, there is no when.

? ואם לא עכשו  -  אין מתי

A slight change of a letter can change the interpretation, increasing this urgency can even motivate us to dare to explore, NOW, not later, no procrastination, no escape and no postponement.

Ponder on this practical wisdom and DARE to be yourself in "this" world. BE IN THE WORLD, BUT NOT OF IT. A gentle suggestion of living a life of a peace and practical wisdom.

From "The Invisible Stairway: Kabbalistic Meditations of the Hebrew Letters"
By Samuel Ben-Or Avital  Introduction Page 44
(c)1982 – 2006 Samuel Avital, Le Centre du Silence, Boulder, Colorado USA


About Kabbalah Now

Kabbalah is both a concealed and revealed vast body of knowledge, a practical science of wisdom that one can learn easily, intuitively and logically, and available today to those who are honestly ready and seeking the authentic knowledge in "this world and beyond."