Self: An Insufficient Story

Tabula Rasa. Blank Slate. Carte blanche. You decide you. The future is wide open. Self as the story, the author, the editor, the audience.

Webster’s dictionary defines tabula rasa, a concept popularized by John Locke, as “the mind in its hypothetical primary blank or empty state before receiving outside impressions.”

While the average person is not thinking about Locke’s theory, self as the story which defines all of life has become the air we breathe. While the preeminence of self sounds agreeable and liberating, I believe it is a crushing concept that only paralyzes or perforates the individual and society it seeks to enthrone.

Neil Postman, a social critic with nearly prophetic vision, writes extensively about the modern Western culture. Postman recognizes that every human and culture needs a narrative by which to live.  He wisely notes that we need, “not just any kind of story, but one that tells of origins and envisions a future, a story that constructs ideals, prescribes rules of conduct, provides a source of authority, and, above all, gives a sense of continuity and purpose.”

Self is an insufficient story. Yet, in the lack of a  greater cohesive, accepted narrative, expressive individualism has risen the ranks. As such, self reigns in all her insufficient glory.


We live in Southern California, a place that we have quickly grown to love. There is much to accept and champion about our quirky state: the early banning of plastic bags, a concern for the environment, and a widespread recognition of the marginalized,  among them. However, our state recently passed a bill regarding sexual education that has me feeling uneasy.  I have been sitting on it for a few days, processing, praying, wrestling.

I do not want this to become a blasting place for the bill itself, as I still have much more research and reading to do concerning what it says and will mean.  Even its title, Carte Blanche, betrays my concerns. You create your own standard of living, you define yourself, even to the point of deciding (or living undecided) in your gender.

While I heartily disagree with bullying and harassment of all kinds for any reason and wish safety for all children in all schools, I fear that promoting such weighty self- expressionism at the earliest ages will do the very opposite of what is intended. Rather than free children, such legalized and championed forms of self expressionism will crush them.

As a biology major, I do recognize that there are cases where generalized cells don’t completely specialize, leaving a small percentage of children in a biologically-induced gender confusion. I believe that this, like all other cells dysfunctions and sicknesses, results from living in a broken world.

Albert Einstein wisely warned that “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them.”

From the Christian narrative (which I believe to be the only narrative that can properly diagnose and treat the condition of  the human heart which creates broken cultures), self created the problems which plague us.

We were created with intent and design by an all-loving, all-wise Creator. Discontent with His designs and living under His Deity, self threw off design, usurping the Creator. Every problem that exists on this globe stems from self grabbing the throne. Thus, tasking self with the task of fixing such problems only exacerbates them.

We must do the hard work (and the heart work) of swimming upstream from downstream problems. While I champion efforts to protect children and stop bullying,  I  fear that our lawmakers don’t have a narrative that allows them to navigate any waters past the enthroned self.

Self-expressionism will not protect our children, it will crush them, as it has every human and culture since the fateful fall in the Garden of Eden.

What our children, what we need, is to be part of a much larger story, one that places self in its proper place, as lovingly created by the all-powerful, all-loving Author.

May we as believers stick to The Story, the only one with any power to free and form. May we compellingly tell of the Author who stepped into His story to die for His children who had become self-sick, that they might be saved and whole, brought back to their original purpose.

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