About a month ago, a friend asked me this question. I began spouting out a pretty stock answer I’ve been using for a few years now: “I plan on always making and performing music, but I’d love to work during the week as some sort of counselor and moonlight as an author.” Somewhere in the middle of that sentence, she interrupted me to correct my interpretation of her question: “No, I don’t mean what job you want; I mean, what do you want to do with your life?” Upon further reflection, I didn’t know how to answer the question. I told her I’d probably have to come back to her with an essay as an attempt to answer her question adequately.
Here’s that essay.
If I were to respond with as succinct and honest an answer as possible, I’d say that I want “to love and to be loved.” But let’s expand on this concept before I dive into its specific implications in my (and possibly your) life. I’ll never forget when I first discovered the meaning of the Hebrew word yada, (which is fairly different than the word used in the Seinfeld episode “The Yada Yada”…or is it?). Yada means “to know and to be known.” More specifically, the word was used in Hebrew culture to describe five different dimensions of knowledge:
- To know something or someone completely
- To know something technically
- To encounter someone face-to-face
- To have a personal experience with God
- Sexual intimacy
Perhaps some of this resonates with you already. As for the initial definition–to know and to be known–I can sadly say I’ve lost friendships in the past because the other people felt like they were putting more effort into getting to know me than I was putting in to get to know them. Likewise, I know how inauthentic a friendship can feel on the other end of that equation, when the other person only cares about him or herself.
As for the first of the five specific definitions, I’m absolutely thrilled by the concept of knowing someone completely or being known by them completely. This might seem like an impossibility, especially concerning how we are constantly changing, adapting, and in flux as people. But even the journey, the concept, the attempt, would be more than worth it. This idea of knowing someone with such intimacy naturally ties into the fifth definition, for two reasons: 1) it could easily be argued that knowing someone completely would be impossible without knowing his or her sexuality (or even without experiencing it personally), and 2) while having sex is an obvious factor within marriage, marriage is also the ideal historical establishment for getting to know someone and live life alongside someone for a lifetime, enduring all the changes that person may undergo.
That said, yes, I hope to get married. Even as a child of divorce and someone who has legitimately considered marriage counseling as a potential future career, I am a huge proponent of monogamy and lifelong marriages. I am equally thrilled and terrified by the idea of getting to know someone completely, through all her secrets and flaws, while simultaneously opening myself up with all my own secrets and flaws. And then to see how each others’ strengths complement each others’ weaknesses, and to see the kind of team we are able to become as life trudges on.
To get completely off track for a moment, though: Seinfeld. I think the writers of the famous sitcom knew exactly what they were doing with the word yada during the famous “yada yada” episode. Although this Emmy-nominated episode made the phrase famous, it had already existed in American culture as filler words to skip over information in a story that either was already known by the listener or didn’t need to be known. In the episode, as confusion builds from an over-usage of this filler phrase, characters become suspicious that another character has used “yada yada yada” to skip over the details of having sex. As Elaine famously proclaimed, “I’ve yada yadad sex!” Could this be a coincidence to the fact that the Hebrew yada is used for sexual intimacy?
I would argue that this was completely purposeful, as the other storyline in the episode features Jerry’s dentist (Breaking Bad‘s Bryan Cranston) converting to Judaism. Jerry is offended by this move, accusing the dentist of becoming a Jew just “for the jokes.” Perhaps this self-aware comment was true of the episode as a whole?
However, there’s plenty of Hebrew cultural subtext that can’t be gleaned from a Seinfeld episode, such as the fact that yada is not used as a be-all end-all word for any sexual interaction. The word is treated with a certain reverence and holiness, as it is used for the type of knowledge God had of mankind as well as the type of knowledge God desires his people to have of him. Similarly, in terms of sexual intimacy, yada is reserved for referring to love-filled, covenant-bound sexual encounters. Conversely, the Hebrew language has a wholly separate word for instances such as molestation and rape, a word that literally translates to “the exchange of bodily fluids.” Gross…right?
The desire for sex is primal, universally-shared desire. It would be laughable lie for me to say I don’t want sex as part of my idea future. But I also don’t want to sell myself short on how beautiful and important sex can be love. I don’t want to exchange bodily fluids with near-strangers. I want to share a yada-love with someone where our love for each other and knowledge of each other continues to grow for a lifetime.
If you haven’t noticed by this point, I see an inseparable correlation between the phrases “to love and to be loved” and “to know and to be known.” I want the five characteristics of yada to be evident in all of my relationships and everything I do in life. Take music, for example. The fact that I know a lot about the music industry and continue to invest time in learning more is evidence of how much I truly care about music. On the other end of the spectrum, when someone claims to be a fan of an artist or band but only knows the radio singles, I argue that the person actually isn’t a fan. He or she may be a fan of a song or two, but by taking no effort to learn about the artist and the rest of their discography, I see no evidence of actually caring. It’s kind of like the friendships I mentioned earlier, where only one side is putting in effort. If you’ve made it all 1,000+ words through this blog post thus far, you’ve proved that you actually care about me or (at least) what I have to say. If there is no knowledge, then how can there be love?
Perhaps I should attempt to sum things up now. What do I want to do with my life?
I want to know someone completely and be known by them completely through the establishment of a lifelong and monogamous marriage. I also want to have honest, caring, deeply knowledgeable relationships with close male friends, whether those friendships are for a season or for life.
I want to do good work with my life, whether I’m counseling for money and making music for free or making music for money and counseling for free. Whether I write award-winning novels or give up writing because all I know how to do is make overly verbose blog posts. Or none of the above! Regardless of how I make some sort of income, I want to care about my craft, know it technically, and accomplish it with vigor.
I want to be a good friend and a good stranger. I want to take my wife on dates, I want to keep in touch with my friends on a face-to-face basis, I want to write handwritten letters to people I can’t see, and I want to take homeless people to lunch. I want my handshake to be firm and my smile to be the authentic outpouring of someone whose integrity can be trusted.
Lastly, I will stand firm on the fourth characteristic I listed of yada: a personal experience of God. I’ve had plenty of these personal experiences and plan to have many more, be these when God miraculously healed my knee injury in a dire time of need, when He’s answered prayers on countless other occasions in ways that couldn’t have been coincidence, when He told me to go to Germany for a summer, or when He has shared wisdom to me and through me that did not and could not have come through me. Most importantly, I have had a personal experience of God in that He saved me, saving me from myself in order to make me His. He did not save me because I’m white or because I grew up in the Bible Belt or because my parents believed in Him. He saved me because he won me my heart by dying for the world two millennia ago, a sacrificial act of utmost love that has never been forgotten and is this very day continuing to change peoples’ lives throughout Asia, Africa, South America, Europe, and Australia. In the U.S., we’ve got things so well figured out that as long as we’ve got a job and a car and our Apple products, we don’t need to rely on anyone else to do anything for us. What do I want to do with my life? I don’t want to be independent — I want to be loved.