The Spirit of MultiDentity

By: | December 2, 2016

When a fiery red sunset or the amber leaves capture your spirit, you can lose yourselves in the beauty and magnificence of nature. Just as we can lose ourselves in nature, we can also find ourselves in our empathy and compassion for others. When I catch a glimpse of a small girl starving in Africa, her belly extended from hunger; she is my daughter. Those left homeless in Haiti suffering deprivation without hope, they are my neighbors; a broken war veteran living on the streets of Los Angeles he is a brother. I know in my heart and mind that those faces of anguish could just as easily be my own. I empathetically feel the pain, the injustice, and the staggering disbelief at how precipitous and unfair life can be.

As MultiDentities, we understand that the cause of this suffering is sometimes the misalignment of systems and institutions with our stated values. When we are over-invested in our individual needs or limited group needs, we can quickly close ourselves off from our empathy. MultiDentities will remember that when we don’t make choices that are informed by universal or spiritual qualities can be cold and, not surprisingly, inhumane. The MultiDentity Mindset invites deeper, life-sustaining qualities, such as:

  • Empathy
  • Forgiveness
  • Tolerance
  • Humility
  • Reverence
  • Generosity
  • Sacrifice
  • Transcendence

When we make critical decisions about how our nation and communities will operate we need an infusion of such qualities, or we will continue to collectively drown in selfishness, impersonal bureaucracy, and cold-heartedness while everyone is pointing the finger of blame at somebody else. For the MultiDentity, it’s not enough to strive to become a wealthier, more famous, or more influential person; we must ultimately seek to become a better person – to grow stronger from our burdens even as we share the blessings that life has granted us. Transcendence is one of the most important soulful qualities of a MultiDentity. Let’s briefly explore this concept.


In everyday language, transcendence means “going beyond,” to overcome something unpleasant, to rise above purely egoistic thinking. To transcend, we need both personal effort and a willingness to transform. Transcendence requires the knowledge that our success doesn’t just involve our “little identity,” but also the universal or spirit based self, our “big identity.” Doing so requires us to step outside of our personal ego-bound perspective. One of my personal heroes and a great model for personal transcendence over the powerful legacy of political and racial repression is Nelson Mandela.

President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, Mandela was the first South African president elected in a democratic election. Before this, he had been a violent anti-apartheid activist and led the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC). In 1962, he was arrested and convicted of sabotage and other charges, and sentenced to life in prison. Mandela served 27 years in jail, where he was confined to a small cell with the hard floor as his bed and a bucket for a toilet. He was forced to do hard labor in a quarry and allowed only one visitor a year for 30 minutes. Mandela’s cell was not a human-sized space – he could not even stretch out when he was lying down. How did this one-time revolutionary transcend the righteous rage that fueled his former role as a freedom fighter? Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu said of Mandela and his time in jail: