Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hineni. Here I Am.

"How are you?"

People often ask that question in passing.

And the so-called socially appropriate response is usually something in the affirmative regardless of the truthfulness of such statement, such as:


"I'm fine."

Then when people ask me how I am doing, I give an answer that mirrors how I am actually feeling that particular day.

Well, I can safely say that I have attracted more than my fair share of raised eyebrows.

What does that then imply about our social norms?

That there was no expectation of a truthful response in the first place.

At best, the question becomes a rhetorical one rather than a real question.

I have always found this to be rather strange. Why even ask the question at all in the first place?

When people ask, "How are you?", they are really, in their own way, acknowledging the person before them, even though they may rush off shortly after imposing the question.

When I was in undergrad, I majored in sociology and fell in love with the story of how members of certain African tribes would greet one another by saying in their local languages, "I see you," which is then met with a response of "I am here."

How more beautiful can that be? Such opening discourse provides for a basic recognition of one another and hints at a deep acknowledgment of the other person at the same time.

This brings to mind one of my favorite Jewish prayers-Hineni-which translates from Hebrew to English to mean, "Here I Am." Hineni goes beyond mere physical presence and implies emotional and mental presence as well.

By truly recognizing the other person before us, we are able to engage at a deeper level beyond such superficial openings. That kind of engagement requires us to be emotionally and mentally receptive to the other person. It is not enough to just be physically present.

Whenever I ask, "How are you?", I am prepared to receive a real answer.

When I am short on time and/or unable to engage at a meaningful level at the moment, I instead say, "I see you."


  1. That's a beautiful thing. I love it.

  2. Right to the the way...HOW ARE YOU? LOL