I feel careful about approaching this topic. I come to integrity because as I am getting older I find that it is growing more and more important to me. Therefore, I should be able to define it, but it is much more elusive to me too. Integrity seems like pornography to me. By that, I mean, a supreme court justice once said, when he felt compelled to try and define pornography, “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.” Integrity too, seems like something one can notice sooner than one can define it. I’m not going to write so much about what it is, because honestly I’m not sure I know, but I am going to try to write about the benefit of its presence.
I notice who touches me. They tend to have it. When it is missing, and/or underdeveloped, I tend to take everything that person says, even if I like it, and agree, with a grain of salt. It’s not quite that I don’t trust them. Even meaning well, I’m not going to rely on them. Integrity is, for me, some kind of navigational device. It’s a funny one. I don’t have a sense, and can only rely on its presence, when I’ve developed it inside myself. My ability to recognize it, in others, depends upon the work I do inside myself to grow and develop it.
I’m not defining what it is, partly out of reverence for it. Integrity, seems to me, to be somewhat mysterious. I can feel it, it is like a kind of presence, a core of some kind, a reassuring solidity, which tells me somebody is home. I like knowing that spending time here, with this person, is going to be a good investment of my precious life-energy.
I also like knowing that even when I lose my balance, which is fairly often, I have enough ballast inside, to keep me from permanently being unbalanced. My integrity saves me from damaging falls, and helps me orient towards the future. This is a great utility, but a hard-earned one. It is important, noticeable, in its presence or absence, it is essential to aspirations of real achievement, and largely untalked about. Integrity, I guess because it is hard to define, and is so mysterious, doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
No matter how true that last assertion is, integrity is growing like a good cancer, in my aging internal landscape. Life seems to want me to have integrity. As I age, I’ve grown more aware of my approaching death, and of a desire to live really fully now. Integrity seems to have more to do with the latter. Somehow, the quality and value of my life seems to revolve around whether I am living truly or not. Integrity has to do with me having everything lined up. Its not enough that I have values (like it used to be), now I have to be living them out.
I guess the aging piece is important here. Somehow, as I’ve grown older, it has become increasingly important to me, to look at my own life, and to bring things into alignment. Values are becoming actions. Relationships are becoming other limbs. Life is becoming miraculous on a more and more detailed level. There is a sense of continuity that calls for a more refined sense of alignment, if you will, integrity.
I had to begin learning about living with some kind of integrity long before I could actually do it. That has been hard. It still is. Refining what I’ve learned about myself, about the incredible difficulty of being human, about the possibility of compassion, keeps me ever vigilant, awake to the whole dance, adjusting to the rhythms of change. My sense of integrity always seems to be suffering from a kind of jet-lag, behind the moment’s need, but there enough to know and be grateful for the lesson of the moment.
Developing something that keeps me in the game hasn’t come easy. The difficulty is like initiatory ordeals. I have scars to show for it, but those scars serve to remind me, that my presence in the game isn’t an accident. I have worked hard to be capable of failing so thoroughly, and being able to learn so well from these miserable but gallant attempts. Gaining ballast is increasingly important to me now. Integrity, no matter how it is defined, allows me to persist, to keep going, and to keep myself oriented toward the mysterious source of being.
I want to die, and believe myself capable of going toward the light. I think I would be too afraid of the light, of encountering the truth of my being, if I haven’t placed enough emphasis upon living integrously. Integrity, that mysterious navigational tool, is my hope of becoming fully what I am capable of being. It hurts trying to live up to it, and it hurts even more living without it.
Integrity baffles me, just as it releases me. I am more of what Life intended me to be, because I am so caught up in trying to live fully. Integrity is a gift that requires constant play.