Tuesday, 7 December 2010

42. The question of self

I woke up from a dream. I have no idea what it was. But I lay there in the darkness, the duvet pulled up to my chin, and the cold air on my skin. There was an owl calling from the wood across the way, and the hot water tank clicked as it switched off.

It was one of those times where you have no idea if you're dreaming or awake. Perhaps I was being influenced by the meditation I had had during the previous evening's class, but I began to wonder about things. Particularly, the question "Who am I?".

Rene Descartes, a 17th Century philosopher, wrote "Je pense donc je suis", meaning: I think, therefore I am. In other words, if you question your existence, then you must exist or, at least, your mind does.

I had an introductory book on philosophy once, I didn't get on with it. In fact, I recycled it. The truth is, though, I find life is something pretty fantastical, and the details can be mind blowing. I find it no surprise that people have spent lifetimes contemplating it. I mean, it's amazing! We're made up of billions of atoms that are separated by space...and yet we're solid at the same time. How does that work?!

I was starting to meditate on Emptiness a while ago - something that gets you to question the true nature of things - and my teacher asked me if I had found my 'self'. It's a joke, of course, because the more you look for 'self', the more you realise that you can't find it. But I never truly got a good understanding of the concept.

Last night, I asked myself how I could define who I am. Do my thoughts define 'me'? Or my deeds? My history? But then the parameters would always change and 'who I am' must change too. Which would make sense, because I don't feel like I did a year ago. In fact, I don't even feel like I'm the same as last week.

So. If who I am is always subject to change, I realised that perhaps the question "who am I" should really be: Who do I want to be?

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