I mean –ness as in “a suffix denoting a state or condition. An instance of this.” Darkness. Likeness. Kindness. Lightness. Flower-ness.
Jeff-ness. You-ness. The particular quality of a thing or person.
This is my way of saying each of us has been crafted uniquely. Our particular mixture of DNA, circumstance and environment, cultural expression, personality quirks, and independent will pushes through the world like a shoot from a seed, determined to grow into the full expression of the mature being.
In my way of thinking, an acorn contains oak-ness.
Each species of flower has flower-ness. But poppies have their own –nesses, as do lilies and roses. And again, within each poppy seed is a particular poppy that will grow and mature according to its DNA and its circumstance and environment. So poppies are pretty much the same, but the one I’m holding in my hand now is itself, and the only one of itself.
Consider the following questions:
What is the –ness of a human being? What is the –ness of a man? What is the -ness of a woman? What is the –ness of an artistic person? What is the –ness of an educated person? What is the –ness of a husband? The –ness of a father? The –ness of an American? The –ness of a writer, a musician, a poet, a playwright, an actor? The –ness of a church, a community, a particular circle of friends? Do all things have -nesses that have been destined, or are we being formed as we go, transformed by events, choices, and things our of our control?
In the end, when I say I am “Jeff,” and you say I am “(insert your name here)”, we’re referring to something real, something emergent, a reality still being born, still being shaped and formed, pressed and beaten, fired and cooled.
My faith is (and I have now left the realm of what I know), God has given each of us a personal and unique –ness which presses through the world toward the full expression of that –ness.
Okay. Maybe I don’t know this for sure. And here’s another thing I may not know; I suspect the best and most meaningful life is the ongoing discovery of that –ness, and choosing our path with deep allegiance to its integrity.
Use the word –ness in conversation sometime. “How is what you’re doing now serving your –ness?”
One final note. I don’t think we can discover our full -ness by ourselves.
If life is an expedition to discover the full expression of God-given -nesses, we must not travel alone. We must travel together. In community.
But I’ll save that for another day…