Self. Who am I?
“Who am I?” – it is the eternal question, asked by many generations before and will be asked after us, answered by many psychologists, philosophers, spiritual leaders and still left without definite answer. What is self, what it is not, where is the line between our inner personality and what we represent in society or our society makes us be. Still, everybody shall answer this question on his own. I believe, that the answer can not be put into one sentence, essay or even thousands volumes of the book. It is because one person is the whole Universe that contains thousands “selves”, and none of them is less important than the others. It is also because the answer to this question is the whole life of the person – his/her thoughts, actions, beliefs, relations, and manifestations; everything that happens to him/her and how he reacts to it.
So, I am what I believe; I am what I think, I am what I feel and how I act and re-act. Everything that happens to me is also who I am, because I believe that I am responsible for my life. I believe in God, or Universe with all these laws (Karma being the most essential), so according to my system of beliefs everything that happens is either a result of my thoughts and attitudes, which are material; or a reward/ punishment or the test. Nothing is irrelevant or accidental. There are no coincidences. I believe that God makes no mistakes, but people do. But these mistakes are part of me too, they make me grow and learn fast. What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger or, in other words, “what is the poison for some people will only transform others” (Nietzsche 37).
Still, even if everything has a reason or purpose, or sense, it does not mean that we should insanely and incessantly analyze ourselves and the life around us, explain and search the reason behind things or not settle till we find some “last truth”. Life is not only a search but is a joy too. Sometimes we should accept things as they are and express ourselves in the best way we can. Some times we should walk in the dark for some period of time, because the answer will not appear at once, or we are not always ready for it and will have to go through some transformations to see and accept the answer. I used to torture myself with all this self-flagellating, self-digging, because I thought I had to transmit everything around me through my heart and my mind. I used to think that I must understand people, enlighten or even save them; I must understand the reason of my family’s difficult lives and help them. But then it struck me – the only thing I must is to be happy, because it is the reason we are born. When I am happy, it means that I will make my family happy too; I will bring light and harmony to other people and will fulfill my destination. I thought with an amazing clarity of vision that my destination is to bring harmony, to inspire, to help people to embrace themselves as they are. But I could not do it without embracing myself first – with all my contradictions and flaws. Sometimes we need to stop searching in order to find something, including ourselves. Now, I can honestly say that I know who I am, what I want, what I can and can not but I know that there are still many things I don’t know because it is not the time; there are things I can not explain and maybe will not ever be able; something that I let go, and something I never will. Of course I have dark periods now – everybody does; but I know that eventually I will come to love and harmony sooner or later.
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Actually, I loved the concept in the book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” by Robert M. Pirsig. The author shows two approaches to life illustrating it by motorcycle maintenance. The author himself preferred to be prepared to everything – he is careful to details and when something happens to his bike, he fixes it thoroughly and does the mechanistic job himself with investigating the reasons first. His friend John detests mechanics and opts for “being in the moment” (Pirsig 23) and when something happens turns to professionals for help. So, we see classical rational analysis versus romanticism. Those, who prefer to study details, to control the situation, understand inner workings, to explain and those who try to be in the moment, perceive the life the way it is with unimpaired vision. The author presumably stuck to the first approach, but then we see that he aims at finding the middle. He is the one who can find pleasure and creativity in the most dull and tedious work. It all depends on the attitude – with the right attitude everything can be “viewed as a way to achieving inner piece” (Pirsig 115) and exploring this magnificient life and our parts in it; with the wrong attitude everything, and life itself can be viewed as drudgery. Thus, both approaches must be entwined into our world vision, without one another will be deficient. Sometimes the rational thought, common sense and logics are enough – we just have to analyze things rationally and act correspondingly. Sometimes we should just yield to our intuition, wisdom or impulse; or just give ourselves to the moment without questioning and answering. On the whole, life is so much more than just one of these approaches. It is rationality, romanticism, being in the moment, planning, enjoying and many other things. So, such inclusive worldview leads to “Pure Truth and higher quality of life” (Pirsig 58).
I will also advocate this approach. I used to be rational and analytical – I thought that everything has its reason that should be found. Then, I switched to being in the moment and following my intuition and wisdom. Now, when I studied my two extremes – I understand than only its harmonious combination can bring me to a full life. Life is many-sided and many-folded, so will be I.
Though I’ve changed many times during my life and have exerted to many extremes, I don’t reject any of my experiences, even the ones that seem to be mistaken or obsolete or stupid now. I am what I was and what I will be as well. And I indeed am many-sided. I used to be against putting myself in limits. But there is a difference between a label (most of them are imposed from the outside) and limits. Labels are vague and shallow; they are obstacles, veils on the way to self-exploring and self-manifestation. Limits are safe mechanisms. “Yes” is a powerful word, but so is “no”. Thus, sometimes we should not be afraid to say – “Yes, this is another part of me; Yes, I can do it” or “Yes, I have such sides to my nature/ this is a part of my experience”. We should also be brave enough to say – “No, this is not a part of me and I can not do it”. I guess, I’ve learned to draw this line.
I also believe that I am not only responsible for myself but for everything that occurs in this world; I contribute to Universal balance with my thoughts, actions, and attitude, with everything I bring to the world. The World is reflection of collective conscience of the humanity; since I am a part of it I share the responsibility for everything that is going on. I believe that everything is interconnected in the Universe and originally we are One. It means that even people I meet are the parts of myself, from the philosophic and global point of view. I have attracted them to my life or they were sent to me for some reason (which I don’t always have to know). Some of them came to make me stronger, some of them are my mirrors and thus they show what I can’t see myself or teach me; others came just to love me. I believe that we have all come from one source and will all return to it eventually. If you feel hurt or offended by somebody, remember that it is your mirror in a way and on some level you allowed this attitude or action to you.
I also used to think that I need a reason to be happy; or that I don’t deserve it at all. But the answer is that everybody is born to be happy – “it is in our genes and in our immune system” (Gilbert 10). People mistakenly think that they have to achieve something to be happy, or to find something. In such a way, we will never be happy as there is always something else to seek, obtain, achieve or improve – so we need to preserve the will to improve ourselves but be happy right now! This way, this process is the happiness, actually. We have to learn be happy and thankful right now regardless of what is happening and who is/is not with us. It is not about indifference or selfishness, but about inner independence and stamina; about embracing the life in all its manifestations. Now I am trying to achieve the state of tranquility not just for one day but for my whole life, nothing must shake me. Yes, I dream, I love and crave – I am a human, but I remember that I am much more to this. My destination and my duty is to be happy no matter what and nothing should devoid me of my love to live and my tranquility. Of course, it does from time to time, but in the end I return to light and a new transformed me is ready to continue my way.
Nietzsche in his work “The Gay Science” also advises to accept the things easier, as they are, and not to find dark secrets and underlying reasons everywhere and all the time when acceptance and actions are enough. Is not it sometimes wonderful – just to leave the moment as it is, not to fix, not to dig and to stay blissfully ignorant of the ultimate sense, to keep the mystery of life? Not every puzzle must be solved. “Maybe, The Truth is the woman that has the right not to allow seeing its motives?” And maybe we should relax, and don’t create tension around us? Nietzsche declares “calm joy”(103) as the basis of life. It is not this crazy hysterical temporary joy as the way to run from real problems, but a sound cheerful attitude to life, the ability to get pleasure out of everything, taste and will to life. It is the golden middle between being too serious and tensed and too easy-going or reckless – “to find a particle of sense and non-sense in everything” (Nietzsche 105). This position allows seeing the value and the importance of everything and everybody in one’s life but at the same time preserving cheerfulness, tranquility, sense of irony and inner independence. Life is tough, but it is not an ordeal or tragedy; and we are not victims or puppets. “Life is not self-restraint, nature is prosperous and generous; and being free requires courage and responsibility to act according to one’s own free will, system of beliefs and conscious choice”(Nietzsche 97). That is the position of sound optimism, faith and awareness which I prefer too.
Actually, the first step on exploring and finding “self” for me was to admit that actually I don’t know it. It was brave and honest, I believe. It gave me freedom and courage to test my limits, to try myself in different situations, to let go what is unnecessary and to stick with what I want to be a part of myself and who I want to be with me. Now I can say that I know who I am, but I still subject myself to Universe, that knows better who I am, what I need and how to show it.