Who am I?
Recently, my brother asked me this (seemingly) simple question – Who are you?
Same question that a caterpillar asked Alice in the famous book by Lewis Carroll.
The Caterpillar and Alice looked at each other for some time in silence: at last the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth, and addressed her in a languid, sleepy voice.
‘Who are you?’ said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, ‘I — I hardly know, sir, just at present — at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.’
‘What do you mean by that?’ said the Caterpillar sternly. ‘Explain yourself!’
I obviously didn’t go through anything like Alice in the book about her adventures in Wonderland, but this rather important question (because does not all knowledge start with self-knowledge?) still leaves me puzzled and I promised to my brother, that I will come back to him once I figure it out.
It seems that the trickiest part is, that we are so many things, sometimes at once. Although I am sure that underneath of all the things that we are, is our true identity, something that doesn’t change, something that always is. And ours is the search for the master key that unlocks not only all the doors leading to this true self, but also the final door opening the chamber where our self resides.
I can tell you honestly, that I am still not in possession of my master key to my self. I recognise my roles sometimes, but it seems that I am not what I do, or don’t do, what I feel, or don’t feel, those things are something I experience through being (myself), but I am not them. So, would it be easier to start putting down the things that I am not and whatever is left after I found what I am not, must be what I am? It could be an interesting investigation, but there definitely is more things that I’m not than those that I am.
By the worldwide recognised agreement of identification I am Slovakian male, born on 15th February 1978 and I am pretty sure many institutions know a lot about my work, life, financial situation, browsing habits and so on. If I wanted to be paranoid, I could probably imagine that somewhere our there, there is my file with information about my person. But again, I am not that file. If such file exists, it barely touches the surface of who I am. I am probably just a number to them. But as I said before, it’s not about what they label me as, it is all about what I see myself as. (I think I am good at avoiding answering questions I don’t like answering. But I found this one to be very interesting and so I decided to write a bit more about it.) And that is something I am trying to understand.
I just remembered how we were told in a philosophy class on the high school, that one shall know his self. The search for self-knowledge was already common in the ancient Greece.
The Ancient Greek aphorism “know thyself” (Greek: γνῶθι σεαυτόν, transliterated: gnōthi seauton; also … σαυτόν … sauton with the ε contracted), is one of the Delphic maxims and was inscribed in the pronaos (forecourt) of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi according to the Greek periegetic (travelogue) writer Pausanias (10.24.1).
But to know one’s self is a never-ending task because one’s self, same as the proverbial river is never the same.
But why is it important to know who we are? And could it be that there would be time when we know exactly who we are and then, something happens and we no longer know? As little as I know about myself (how little I don’t know, but let’s say that agree with Socratic view that to know is to know we don’t know anything), I still appreciate my own consciousness, able to observe and be aware of itself. How sad it must be to completely forget who we are? And yet it happens.
I am (amongst others) reading a book by Oliver Sacks “Man who mistook his wife for a hat” and there, in almost every story, is an ever-present sense of forgetting who one once was. Probably, the same we are dying every day a little, we forget every day a little. Probably it’s all just shedding layers of who we aren’t until there’s no more to shed and only who we are remains. And I guess until I have shed all the layers of what I am not, I will not know myself fully.
Recently I read an obituary of my big inspiration Zina Nicole Lahr, where it said Zina Nicole (Gambitsky) Lahr went to see her Lord. I try not to bee too religious, although I do believe in God, but something in that short sentence made me realise that it might as well be that we the will never know who we are until we meet our Maker. And it is probably good this way.
PS: “Dear brother, look how much I had to write to find out who I am? But right now, after I deleted the last paragraph, I got an idea of who I am, and I can honestly say, that I believe it. I am a soul on its way home. It might not be the answer you are expected, but you probably know by know, that sometimes, well more often than not, life doesn’t give you what you expect.”
~ I will be intrigued to hear from you who you think, or feel you are. Please comment or email to: email@example.com