Part Two: Here I amContinued for Part one
Most of the art, music and literary output based on "I am here" tends to be weak. “I am here,” did not let them make room to hear others. They could not comprehend that true art begins in dialogue. I met poets who did not like to read poems, just write them. They expected others to hear and read their poems, while they did not hear the best of their own art form. They asked for something they were not willing to give themselves. They could not even see the irony in their process. I met painters, who knew only couple of painters, and hated even those few painters. They did not respond to their history and art; rather they had a complete ignorance of what went before, or was going on around them. Around them were students who had survived genocide, and lived in countries where being a Christian might mean prison or death. There were stories of courage, and self-sacrifice all around them, but they could not her them. There were many opportunities for dialogue and relief from their own personal hells. Few of the art people at the seminary took those opportunities. They could not see past their, “I am here.” They became very bored people. They were also very lonely people.
“I am here” provides no room for love to present itself. Maybe Milosz has a point. “I am here” is all we can declare by ourselves. Maybe it is the simply the limit of isolation. What it says is how little we can actual say by ourselves. It calls for the need beyond the “I” as declaration. “Here I am,” is a different phrase. It presupposes a relationship. It is a response and not a declaration. “Here” is the center, and not “I.” The ”I” is one of response. “Here” is at various times life, others and ultimately, God. “Here” forces us to see the reality of life, others and God. Life is here before us, and life will be here after we are gone. God is before us, and God is eternal. We cannot declare our existence to God and expect God to respond to us. It is God, who speaks first, and we have to respond, not the other way around. The fruitful life is a life of responding to life, others and ultimately God. We need to first acknowledge our culture, our history, our religion, and all of what makes us human to even begin to locate the “I.” Only in response can love be possible.
It is interesting to notice “I am here” is not in the biblical accounts, but Scripture is full of the response, “Here I am.” I have imagined the prophet Isaiah seating in the first temple. A sight of God on his throne suddenly shakes him out his world. He sees his own foulness. He cannot response in the revelation of his own “I.” A touch of hot coals, and he can hear God, and now he can respond. “Here I am,” he cries out to God. In this moment, a prophet comes into being. Isaiah’s response makes him a prophet. It is comical to even imagine a self-made prophet. Isaiah is not the only one to respond to God with “Here I am.” Abraham, Jacob, Samuel, Moses and many others have answered the call of God with, “Here I am.” It is how they answers that they find their identity and freedom. What if we stop living as if we have to declare ourselves to God, and realie God declares to us and we respond to that call? By placing the attention first on God, we have to respond and not declare. When Moses asks God’s name to tell the Israelites who sent him, God answers, “I am that I am.” When we answer, “here I am,” to the life and God we unconsciously or consciously understand our place in creation.
We have to always respond to God, and it is here we enter prayer. Prayer understands that our lives can only response to God with “Here I am.” We could no longer simply from whim to whim, but our life have purpose in response. The shift from “I am here,” to “Here I am” is the center of conversion. In other words, the life of faith is moving from selfishness to love, illusion to prayer.