Plenary is a word that is bouncing around in my brain this morning. One of its meanings is that something is in its fullest form. It is complete in every sense of the word. There is a combination of energy, mission and optimism that guides us and calls us to a place where we embody the life that we were meant to live. A plenary life.
The archetype to which we aspire; sleeping and waking, its shadow falls on us. At the heart of being human is the question: “am I getting this right?”? The way that we “do life”, the way that we allocate our resources of connection, energy, engagement, focus, space and time- at least the way that we feel that they should be allocated, is tied up in our vision of an ideal life.
Vision is where we can be the most optimized and complete version of our self. Except the we have selves. We’re complex, composite and compound in our nature. That is to say- we have multiple parts of how we feel as we experience life. They are all anchored within one ego. One life, many parts.
These parts are shaped through the process of our interactions with the world. Broken down into moments, these interactions leave a series of impressions in our lives. Impacts, we might as well say. There are impacts from our early years, impacts from key moments of learning, and impacts from the way that we are naturally shaped to experience life.
The bent of our emotional, physical and spiritual natures is expressed through our bodies. It’s our point of contact with the physical plane and with time. The passions that are creative, physical, relational and spiritual in nature are appetites of motivation. They compel us to engage. They are also opportunistic in nature and will compel us to commit ever more resources to their expression. Our bodies serve this need to be the expression or the outworking mechanism for all of these energies.
We’re a many voiced singularity because we retain the outlines of who we were, how we felt and what we made an experience mean long after the moment that leaves its impressions has passed us by. We are receiving impressions from the impacts of these moments. We then organize these meanings that we’ve made.
But the memory of three year old me is quite distinct from the memory of five year old me. The self at any point along the pathway of experience is bounded in our memories. What we knew, how we felt, what we believed and what actions were open to us are elements of the self that were different at each instant in time. Those selves all live on in memory. So- there we are, complex selves.
These selves are all living together with a measure of energy, focus and time, and we are only able to give full voice to a small part of them in any given context. Their unresolved needs and strongly held beliefs influence us until the present moment of our lives. It’s equally true that the wisdom of later experiences brings these matters to fruition or to completion, if attended to consciously. Three and five year old me have the witness of the moments that succeeded them with which to challenge or change some of their perspectives.
This process takes time, energy and focus that are sometimes hard to allocate. There is an urgency, however, about needing to bring the personal powers of later development to bear on these early negative impacts. Left unattended to, these early perspectives will continue to insist upon their truths, to the detriment of our quality of life in the present day. So- there we are, composite selves, with whom we engage as we are able.
We’re experiencing these memories (complex selves) filtered through the current moment (composite selves) and inflected by the aspects of our construction as beings of body, soul, spirit and the sum of these in synergy. There’s a curvature to how we are made and to the timeline that we experience. One aspect of the self, (body, soul or spirit), primarily experiences the impacts of a momentary context. It then encodes this impact as a memory of a physical, emotional or spiritual point of change.
Often, there’s a synergy of processing, and the point of change impacts all aspects of the self. When all channels process together in significant ways, we are more than our physicality, more than our psyche and even more than our spirit. We’re in the space where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. So- there we are, compound selves.
The plenary life is predicated on a mutuality of operation among all of our selves. Conscious engagement with our memories and allowing the past and present to inform one another is key. So is operating in all of our aspects and respecting each of their motivations, sensations, memories and narratives. The more that we are aligned in these respects, the more that the pieces of who we are operate coherently, collaboratively and consciously.
In one sense, a fully integrated self transcends time and is just as at home with and in sympathy with the first years of life as with the present. Christianity posits a triple nature that is in perfect union in the godhead. A perfection of the operation of three-as-one. Humanity might find that illuminating.