When confronted with a question of integrity-- amidst the troubled rush of doing the right thing-- the song "I Walk By Faith" popped into my head as I rode my bike home. For the last couple of weeks, I've been singing the line "by doing what I know is right, I show integrity" like a mantra. It helped me get my self esteem back when I was being hard on myself about getting into a situation where I had to confront my integrity in such an intense way.
Oslo has been on my mind. I have cherished the hours I spent at Vigeland Sculpture Park in 2005- there is a connectedness and solidity in the way he portrays relationships that I still find poignant and worth aspiring to.
I've been reading Parker Palmer's The Courage To Teach. It's on the reading list for a program I will be going to training for next month. Just the act of participation in the program is, for me, an expression of integrity-- I want to put my values about social justice into action as an educator. Given my recent meditations on integrity, I was moved by Palmer's discussion of the value. He writes:
"...Identity is a moving intersection of the inner and outer forces that make me who I am, converging in the irreducible mystery of being human.Palmer enriches my definition in several ways. Just as my identity is constantly changing, so too is my sense of what is right for me and my life. Integrity means living in a state of consciousness that leads to authenticity.
By integrity I mean whatever wholeness I am able to find within that nexus as its vectors form and re-form the pattern of my life. Integrity requires that I discern what is integral to my selfhood, what fits and what does not-- and that I choose life-giving ways of relating to the forces that converge within me: Do I welcome them or fear them, embrace them or reject them, move with them or against them? By choosing integrity, I become more whole, but wholeness does not mean perfection. It means becoming more real by acknowledging the whole of who I am." (13)
Palmer later adds:
"Gandhi called his life 'experiments with truth,' and experimenting in the complex field of forces that bear on our lives is how we learn more about our integrity. We learn experimentally that we thrive on some connections and not with others, that we enhance our integrity by choosing relationships that give us life and violate it by assenting to those that do not.This spoke to my heart. My integrity will not be perfect all the time because there is a certain degree to which I have to test the waters-- it sometimes takes time to get a sense of what the right course is. I think it's notable that Palmer is not talking about integrity as a way to achieve happiness, but as a means of gaining the perspective and the power to be a conscious and aware teacher, to achieve fulfillment in ones vocation. What's life-giving is so much bigger than fleeting happiness or satisfaction; it is to discern what is vital-- both in what is essential and what will give my life the kind of momentum and energy that I want it to have.
Experimentation is risky. We rarely know in advance what will give us life and what will sap life away. But if we want to deepen our understanding of our own integrity, experiment we must-- and then be willing to make choices as we view the experimental results." (16)