[Anthony] de Mello’s Most Important Question.

July 3, 2007

[Anthony] de Mello’s Most Important Question.


Ted Burnett

The late Fr. Anthony de Mello stated the most important question we have to ask ourselves is not who is God, or what is the meaning of life, but instead it is, who am I? After 18 years in recovery, I believe de Mello, a Jesuit priest from India and an American-trained psychotherapist, who wrote several books on spirituality and spoke at conferences all over the world, was correct. Figuring out oneself is one heck of a journey after years or even decades of living in total insanity. It is scary learning and facing the truth about ourselves. However, the rewards for trudging through life and growing in awareness are great.

It requires constantly questioning our “old ideas” as they may no longer work for us or serve their purpose. It’s not just our ideas relating to our drug of choice, like alcohol, gambling, food or any other addictions, but also about our faulty belief system with its many myths, the false notions and the flat-out lies that we have heard and accepted from our parents, our church, our schools and society about ourselves and the world that we live in. We have been indoctrinated, we have become corrupted and we don’t know it or realize its penetrating depths.

Accepting these untrue statements without question is a brainwashing of sorts. Our world grows smaller as we grow taller. Our planet Earth, with its six billion human beings, is no longer round or 25,000 miles in circumference and surrounded by a great cosmos once filling our young minds with joy, wonder and awe. Instead, as adults, it has been reduced to the size of a prominent zip code in town, a state, a region, or just a fixed mindset with its four corners. At some point, we might conclude in our late twenties or into our thirties that we know all that there is to know about life and our finite world. There’s your big ol’ onion with yourself all covered up somewhere deep down in its core. These layers press on our body, on our lungs and make it difficult to breathe and slowly squeeze the joy out of life.

Waking up is a slow, very often a painful process but begins as we take the first step of recognizing life’s unmanageability. It continues with the peeling back of the onion’s outer layers to reclaim deep inside our authentic self and our full-size world, every square foot of it with all of the planets, the moon, the sun in our solar system and the ever growing universe that surrounds us. Our dreams lie out in the heavens every night, but who takes the time to stop, to look up and to ponder? The onion method continues as we slowly break the constraints put on ourselves by us, by our family, our friends, our employer, our church and society. The goal is to no longer be a slave to the system, to any system or to anyone for that matter, but instead to become free, to live free.

Freedom is when you dress the way you want, you eat what you want, you think what you want, you say what you want and thus you live the way you want without apology to the mere thoughts or comments of all others. You now have every choice, regained every option at your disposal. There are no areas on life’s spectrum of living that is cordon off.

It is to live without being conscious of one’s own behavior. Your actions are to make no one neither happy nor mad, but just to do your dance, to sing your song, to laugh out loud, to scream with joy, to live free. It’s to live without inhibition. Freedom is living beyond or without any constraints neither yours nor anyone else’s. Reclaim your freedom NOW, reclaim yourself and discover your God given talents.

It’s one hell of an insurance policy against ever returning to your preferred drink or drug. Surely everyone will think you have gone crazy, gone mad. Ironically, you have just done the opposite. They are the ones feeling and living within the ever crushing constraints all the while pretending to be happy. You are alive while they are dying. As the song says, “Go your own way.” Let go and let God.

“Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely!” This is what I have concluded after eighteen years and several nervous breakdowns later. How great it is to know this lovely truth at such a young age – who am I?

Well, I am just beginning to figure that out.

Copyright 2007, 2010 All Rights Reserved. “[Anthony] de Mello’s Most Important Question” by Ted Burnett

I'm an American thought leader and pioneer on the subjects of human, organizational and societal development and health. I write about the role that integrity, dignity, sanity play, as well as, on the topics of spirituality, faith, freedom, happiness, problem solving and risk taking. I produce and deliver original, world-class commentaries on business, political, social and spiritual matters to a global audience of world leaders, chief executives and key decision makers, top faculty and notables in the fields of academia, banking, business, foundations, government (including heads of state, lawmakers and governors), healthcare, media, non-profits and policy institutes. Website: www.thesageofmobile.com