I’m reading a very good book titled, A Sacred Voice is Calling: Personal Vocation and Social Conscience, by John Neafsey. (Since the fall semester started last week, it is taking me longer to read than I like.) I just read his description of what it means to live an authentic life.
Neafsey suggests that that an important issue relevent to the call to authenticity relates to the “tension between following the example of others and discovering our own unique path.” In talking about the importance of discovering our own unique path to holiness, he quotes Jung about what it means to imitate Christ. Jung writes:
Are we to understand the “imitation of Christ” in the sense that we should copy his life…or in the deeper sense that we are to live our own proper lives as truly as he lived his in all its implications? It is no easy matter to live a life that is modeled on Christ’s, but it is unspeakably harder to live one’s own life as truly as Christ lived his.”
Our task then is more complicated than that “WWJD” bracelets might have one think. We are called to discover who we truly are, to search for the true self that can grow very hidden over time.
Merton, who wrote much about the distinction between the true self and the false self, said simply, “For me, to be a saint is to be myself.” Or, in the words of Rabbi Zusya, in an old Jewish story told by Martin Buber, “In the world to come, I shall not be asked, ‘Why were you not Moses?’ Instead, I shall be asked: ‘Why were you not Zusya?’”
Update: My friend John adds to Mertona and Buber the quote from Basho: “Seek not to follow in the footsteps of men of old; seek what they sought.”