Tuesday, November 1, 2016

My true self and my elusive self

The Buddhists like to say there is no self.  We all know we have an identity, a driver's license, a passport.  We have a history, in fact, quite a complex and varied one, that runs from the moment of our conception to now.  As genetics and genomics advance, we can go into our history from before our conception.  Religions and histories often try to know and remember events from before our conception that have had an important influence on our lives, such as immigration of grandparents and events in the Great Depression.

So, what is this business of "no self"?  The usual words to support the idea include "when I look inside me, I don't find any "self" ".  It could be supportive to we look at changes in bodies, minds and personalities.  What I was, mentally and physically, at five years old, 25 years old, and 75 years old are quite different from each other.

Various workshops, books, courses and such aim to help me find my true self. I suspect it is slightly more helpful to consider finding additional selves or maybe additional aspects of my self and my potential.  Right now, I can't speak Chinese.  I can't play the harp.  I am confident, though, that I could learn that language and that instrument.  If I did, I would be different from what I am now.  Would I have moved closer to my "true" self or farther away?

The TRUE part of my self is often depicted as somehow more central or permanent or "destined" to be a certain way or achieve a certain goal as in "he found his true self as a carpenter".  Such powerful realizations are often connected to a group of skills and strengths that fit the needs of a given role or position exceptionally well.  Whether we have true or truer selves or not, it seems clear that a person can be guided or can stumble into an activity or job or calling that demands just the skills that person happens to possess at that time.  Sometimes, the right match of person and task seems magical as when we talk of someone being "in the flow".  A dancer with just the right music and dance, a basketball player in a perfect play, a dean at the top of her game of supporting this and subtracting that - all can be in the flow of timing and spirit and energy.  At such times, we may say that person has found his true self.

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