01/22/2011 10:13 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

American Am-ness

Some thoughts prompted by the divisive (i.e. dualistic, dichotomous, all-or-nothing) rhetoric and the Chinese visit...

The real threat to America (as I see it through my limited mind-lens) is not an economical one or a geopolitical one but a psychological one, not from outside but from within.

America is undergoing a major loss of identity. We used to think that we are 1st-this and 1st-that. And now we are learning that we aren't. Well, the fact of the matter is, that we never were any particular "this" or any particular "that." We - American consciousness, collectively, and American minds, individually, (as consciousness and minds anywhere) - are beyond simplistic objectification.

Let me explain. We are not what we do or how well we do it (our jobs, behaviors, roles, our productivity, our performance, our politics, our wars). We are not what we say (our rhetoric, our mottos, our slogans, our party lines, or even our language). We are not our circumstance (where we live, how much or little we make, or our debt). We are not what others think we are (our global stance, our relational status, our rankings, others' thoughts of approval or disapproval of us, our publicity, our reputation, or our history).

We are not even our own mind-forms (after all, there's never been a thought or a feeling or a sensation that we experienced that didn't eventually pass). We are not our favorite self-descriptions ("I am this" or "I am that" are just thoughts that we habitually have about ourselves - and we are not our thoughts about ourselves).

What are we?

That which remains* after we factor out all that we aren't. The am-ness of "I am this," not the "this-ness" or "that-ness" of our self-descriptions.

I realize that this line of thought is, perhaps, too confusing and too disillusioning. But, guess what, dis-illusionment is actually good news: it is liberation from illusion, from the illusion of what we are. Confusion - with all its shoulder-shrugging loss of certainty - is an opening of the mind, a sign of a fist relaxing into a palm, a courage of not-knowing.

Our first priority (as I see it through my limited mind-lens) is to regain our psychological independence, to restore our psychological sovereignty. The rest will naturally follow (as it once did).

What are we?

Who knows, but one thing-less thing is clear (to me) that America - to re-discover its essential self - must first notice its own am-ness.

We are not what we've become or might yet become. We are what we are. Being, not becoming.

Self-knowledge is still patriotic, right? Just checking...

* "That which remains" is an illuminating phrase that I've first encountered while reading Ken Wilber, a modern American sage.