“Who am I?” is an eternal question asked by many generations before and will be asked after us. It is answered by many psychologists, philosophers, and spiritual leaders. However, this question is still left without a definite answer. What is self, what it is not, where the line between our inner personalities is, and what we represent in a society. Still, everybody shall answer this question in his own manner. I believe that the answer cannot be put into one sentence, an essay or even thousands volumes of a book. It is because one person is a whole Universe that contains thousands selves. None of them is less important than the others are. It is also because the answer to this question is the whole life of a person, i.e. his/her thoughts, actions, beliefs, relations, and manifestations. Everything that happens to an individual and how one reacts to it is related to the reply to this issue.
I am what I believe in; I am what I think; I am what I feel, and how I act and re-act. Everything that happens to me is also the meaning to who I am, because I know that I am responsible for my life. I believe in God or Universe with all these laws (Karma being the most essential one among them). Therefore, according to my system of beliefs, everything that occurs is either a result of my thoughts and attitudes being material. Otherwise, it is a reward/punishment or a test. Nothing is irrelevant or accidental. There are no coincidences. I believe that God makes no mistakes, but people do. But these errors are a part of me too; they make me grow and learn faster. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. In other words, “what is the poison for some people will only transform others” (Nietzsche 37).
It should be noted that 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. We should not explain and search the reason behind things or not settle till we find some last truth. Life is not only a search but a joy too. Sometimes we should accept things as they are. We need to express ourselves in the best way we can. Sometimes we should walk in the darkness for some period of time, because the answer will not appear at once. We are not always ready for the reply and will have to go through some transformations to see and accept it. I have used to torture myself with all this self-flagellating and self-digging. It is 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 have to comprehend the reason of my family’s difficult living and help. But then it struck me. The only thing I must do is to be happy, because it is the reason we are born in this world. When I am happy, it means the following thing. I will make my family happy too; I will bring light and harmony to other people and fulfill my destination aim. I thought with an amazing clarity of vision that my destination was to bring harmony, inspire, and help people embracing themselves as they are. But I could not do it without embracing myself first, i.e. 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, and what I can and cannot do. However, I know that there are still many things I don’t know because it is not the time. There are such stuff I cannot explain and maybe will not ever be able to. Something that I may let go and the rest I never may let. For sure I have dark periods now as everybody does; but I know that eventually I will come to love and harmony sooner or later.
I have liked the concept in the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. The author shows two approaches to life illustrating them by motorcycle maintenance. The writer himself preferred to be prepared to everything. He is careful to details. When something happens to his bike, he fixes it thoroughly and does the mechanistic job himself while investigating the reasons first. His friend John detests mechanics and opts for being in the moment and when something happens turns to professionals for help (Pirsig 23). Here we see a classical rational analysis versus romanticism. Those, who prefer to study details, control any situation, understand inner workings, and explain. The people, who try to be in the moment, perceive the life the way it is with the unimpaired vision. The author presumably stuck to the first approach. However, 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 activities. It all depends on the attitude. With the right one everything can be “viewed as a way to achieving inner peace” and exploring this magnificent life and our parts in it (Pirsig 115). 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 of them 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 simply give ourselves to the moment without questioning and answering. In general, 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. Such an inclusive worldview leads to “Pure truth and higher quality of life” (Pirsig 58).
I will also advocate for this approach. I used to be rational and analytical. I thought that everything has its reason that should be found. Then I have switched to being in the moment and following my intuition and wisdom. Now, when I have studied my two extremes, I understand that only its harmonious combination can bring me to the full life. Life is many-sided and many-folded. I will be the same.
Though I’ve changed many times during my life and exerted many extremes, I don’t reject any of my experiences. It is related even to those that seem to be mistaken or obsolete or stupid now. I am what I have been and what I will be as well. And I am many-sided. I used to be against putting myself into limits. But there is a difference between a label (most of them are imposed from the outside environment) and limits. Labels are vague and shallow; they are obstacles, veils on the way to self-exploring and self-manifestation. Limits are the 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 have learned to draw this line.
I also believe that I am not the only one responsible for myself but for everything that occurs in this world. I contribute to the universal balance with my thoughts, actions, and attitude, and with everything I bring to the world. The Universe is a reflection of collective conscience of 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 the ones. It means that even people I meet are the parts of me, from a philosophic and global point of view. I have attracted them into my life or they have been sent to me for some reasons (which I don’t always have to know). Some of them have come to make me stronger; and some of them are my mirrors. Thus, they show what I can’t see myself or teach me; others have come just to love me. I believe that we have all arrived 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 some way. On some level, you have allowed this attitude or an 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 find something. In such a way, we will never be glad as there is always something else to seek, obtain, achieve or improve. As a result, we need to preserve the will to improve ourselves but be happy right now. This way, the process is the happiness itself actually. We have to learn to be happy and thankful right now regardless of what is happening and who is or not with us. It is not about indifference or selfishness, but about the 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 has to trouble me. Yes, I dream, love, and crave. I am a human being, but I remember that I am much more than this. My destination and my duty is to be happy in any case. Nothing should devoid me of my love to live happily and destroy my tranquility. Of course, it does from time to time but in the end I return to light, and a new transformed form of me is ready to continue my way.
Nietzsche in his work The Gay Science also advises to accept the things easier as they are. He recommends not looking for dark secrets and underlying reasons everywhere and all the time when acceptance and actions are enough. It is just wonderful to live the moment as it is, not to fix, not to dig, and to stay blissfully ignorant of the ultimate sense. It is nice 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?” We should relax and not create tension around us. Nietzsche declares calm joy as a basis of life (103). It is not this crazy hysterical temporary joy as a way to run from real problems. However, it is a sound cheerful attitude to life, an ability to get pleasure out of everything, i.e. the taste and will to life. It is a golden middle between being too serious and tensed and too easy-going or reckless, i.e. “to find a particle of sense and non-sense in everything” (Nietzsche 105). This position allows seeing the value and importance of everything and everybody in one life but at the same time preserving cheerfulness, tranquility, the sense of irony, and inner independence. Life is tough, but it is not an ordeal or tragedy. We are not the 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). It is the position of sound optimism, faith, and awareness which I prefer too.
Actually, the first step to 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, try myself in different situations, let go what is unnecessary, and 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. However, I still subject myself to the Universe that knows better who I am, what I need, and how to show it.