In my parish there is a family with identical little twin boys, Max and Jacob. They look so exactly alike that when they come up to receive Holy Communion my Deacon has to ask, “Which one are you?” Because Max and Jacob know that I cannot seem to tell them apart, during Fellowship the two little imps take wicked delight in coming up to me separately and asking, “Which one am I?” After an entire year I have yet to come up with the correct guess!
Ironically, this question of “Which one am I” is a profound question for all of us to ask ourselves, no matter our age, since there seem to be so many different versions of us within ourselves: the one who is kind and the one who is cruel, the one who is smart and the one who doesn’t get it, the one who wants to be accepted and the one who wants to run away. Our various selves are formed by the sampling of experiences and one of the most powerful and easiest to be had… is that of sex. Some young people today look upon having sex with another as being no big deal, as if it is little different than eating or sleeping! My past experience ( LONG before I became a monk!) tells me that this is not so since sexual relationships often brought forward in me a part of myself that nothing else did, a version of myself that I could not make sense of… a selfish and self-centered me who craved satisfaction, even at the expense of the other!
When two people have sex one of two things happens. Either the sex is purely mechanical and solely about physical satisfaction, or the sex removes an inner psychic and psychological barrier, creating a relationship with the other and leaving one suddenly vulnerable to caring about someone else. For some, this sudden caring is such an intoxicating feeling that all reason seems to evaporate; we call this “infatuation.” Sad to say but an engine… and infatuation… cannot run at its highest speed endlessly without destroying itself, and in an intimate relationship there always comes a day when the fireworks no longer go off, the band has gone on to another gig, and the relationship seems to bring forth yet another version of ourselves… one who is startled to discover that the delightful little quirks of the beloved have inexplicably become annoying, one who now finds the demands of the other to be an interruption in life, one who is puzzled as to why “loving” the other now seems to require so much work!
This dynamic in relationships is limited to neither the young nor to sex. Whenever two people of any age become “close” in any way there comes a time in that relationship when one is forced to choose who and how to now be with that other person… despite who and how one was in the beginning. When we are young the question foremost in our mind is “Who will I be?” When older the question morphs into being, “Who am I?” Given that there seem to be so many of us within ourselves, if our relationships seem to be repeatedly crashing upon the rocks, Life might be telling us we need to choose whose hand is on the tiller! At such a time it might be useful to imitate Max and Jacob by asking, “Which one am I?”