"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Monday, April 26, 2004
in-di-vid-u-al Function: noun
1 a : a particular being or thing as distinguished from a class, species, or collection: as (1) : a single human being as contrasted with a social group or institution [a teacher who works with individuals] (2) : a single organism as distinguished from a group b : a particular person [are you the individual I spoke with on the telephone?]
2 : an indivisible entity
3 : the reference of a name or variable of the lowest logical type in a calculus
4 : huh?
5 : what we know we are one of, and can't define truthfully
Who, exactly, am I?
This is a question that has nagged at me since the very first entry of this blog over a year ago. It is also a question that came up at a meeting tonight.
As the nice lady leading the meeting said, there are three options on who I am.
1. Who I think I am
2. Who others think I am
3. Who I think others think I am
Lets look at them one at a time, but out of order if that's OK. We'll start with number one. (Yeah I know, number one is first and I said out of order, just hang with me OK?)
I am "who I think I am." Well, am I? That depends on who I think I am, doesn't it? So, let's see, do we have any tests we can run to verify this?
Um, how about the way I look? That's easy. I'm a guy with the physique of a fig on a stick. OK, maybe a candy apple then.
Well, the boss (aka "dear wife") disagrees with me right away. Seems she has a better opinion of my looks than I do. Come to think of it, seems like a lot of people do.
Well, nix on the physical image then, how about another aspect of me? What about my voice? Holy cow, listen to how weird I sound on this answering machine message! Uh, it doesn't sound weird? It sounds just like me?
Well, failed that test too. And as I go through comparison after comparison, one thing stands out in bold letters. I am not who I think I am.
In other words, you can't tell the color of the box from inside.
Alrighty then, I can rule that out as a reliable source.
OK, lets skip to number three. I am "who I think others think I am." Now, this one is tricky. All I have to work from here is some responses people give me. Things like when I say "I'll bet you think I'm a so and so."
But now that I think about it, the answer to that has always, always been "no, that's not what I think."
If I can't tell the color of the box from inside, can I tell it by other people's reactions to the box? Even if I ask them what color it is, would I get a true answer? What if it was some garish color and they did not want to tell me? What if it was a better color than their box and they told me the wrong answer out of spite?
Seems like this test is worse than the first one.
So, that leaves us with number two. I am "who others think I am."
When it boils down to it, and I mentioned this before, are we really more than the sum total of our actions? Now, I know about the "sin in your heart" concept, but if it is "in my heart" then I have full intent and decision to sin, and the action will shortly follow. But what about thoughts that cross our minds involuntarily? What about our own incorrect self image?
Well, other people do not see the involuntary thoughts, and usually don't see our own self image either except in rare occurrences. So, other people do in fact see us as we are. And, assuming they are thinking straight, what they think we are is what we are. It's just that we can never really know what they are thinking.
Ah, wait a minute, thinking straight...now that just tossed this sideways, didn't it? What about if you are married to an abusive husband, or have an abusive parent? What of your identity then? Who are you if you are told you are dirt and are molested or taken advantage of? Dirt? No, of course not!
Then, we are not what others think we are after all, are we?
That leaves us with, well, none of the three, doesn't it?
But there is a fourth option.
You see, the three choices I listed above are exclusive because I have only taken people into account. I have examined myself, others, and both together. And all fell short.
People are, as we see, flawed. Always. Our conclusions will always be a lie, it's our very nature.
Which brings us to option four:
4. I am who God made me to be
And that one works. What I think does not matter, what others think does not matter.
I am who I am.
Because He is who He is.
And, whatever that is, I think I'm good with that.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool.
Richard Feynman (1918 - 1988)