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Who Am I?

Photo by Desi AnwarIn a recent discussion someone asked why should we bother over things such as trying to know ourselves better?  In turn he was asked, what is more important in life than attaining self-knowledge, knowing oneself?  I could not agree more.  

Yes, there are many things in life to devote oneself to, such as getting an education, having a career and earning a decent salary, raising a family and hopefully being a person of some use to society.  As a matter of fact, I’m sure for a lot of people simply trying to get by in a highly competitive and challenging world, is already a difficult enough task they have to face in their lives without having to ask a question whose answer is as elusive as the question itself.
But the question must be asked.  ‘Who am I’ and ‘Why am I in this world?’  Questions whose answers would lead one to the quest of finding one self and achieving self-knowledge.  Without pausing to ask these fundamental questions about our existence, life could only be shallow, lived on the superficial level, like taking part in a school play and yet not knowing what role you have to play.  

Worse.  You don’t even realise you’re in a play, thinking that the role is your true self.  That the play on the stage is your life.  You have no idea who you really are, let alone who the author of the drama is.  Stay on the stage long enough, sooner or later you will feel that there is something incomplete about your character, something odd and aimless, something missing.  

Then life, or the semblance of life that you’re living is not enough.  Fulfilling needs becomes an unsatisfactory objective once your appetite for material possession wanes and the world no longer has its charm.  Bit by bit you realise that life is not only an accumulation of wealth, social status or the amount of charity you give.  

Moreover, your belief system, the sayings and truism that you’ve taken for granted over the years because they have been instilled in your head by the words of your parents, your teachers and the society, suddenly no longer have the ring of authenticity to it.  Your belief system is as shallow as the character you play on the stage; passed on words, borrowed sentences and oft-repeated stories that you have neither experienced nor really understood.

They say there is God.  There is heaven and hell.  Pray hard enough and you will be saved when you die.
And yet you don’t know what any of these things mean.  You’ve never met God or anyone who’s been to either heaven or hell.  You haven’t died after all.  You could only accept these passed on myths as truths because accepting is the easiest thing to do when things are beyond your capability or understanding.  Because accepting is far easier than questioning.  

But true knowledge could only be gained when you dare to question, pursue and then discover and experience the truth for yourself.  You cannot make God exist for you by simply saying ‘I believe God exists because people say that he exists, and to say otherwise is forbidden.’  This kind of argument falls apart in the face of an argument offered by someone else with a different point of view – a view that there is no such thing as God.  Based purely on narrow belief systems – a belief without understanding – this type of belief could only give rise to fear and conflict as it is built on shaky grounds.  

You do one of two things.  Hang on to your belief, defending it with all your might, thus making its defence your life’s meaning.  Or you dispense of it, perhaps with a dose of cynicism, making it another of your means to justify an end.  Either way, your life becomes nothing but an accumulation of action without meaning.  Your character on the stage a mere puppet pushed around by desires, emotions and the Ego.

But there comes a time when, by chance or accident, you find yourself standing at the brink of an abyss and you’re confronted with that question which, once asked, you cannot run away from.  ‘Who am I?’  - three little words that could turn your world upside down and upsetting all the belief systems that you have held on to all this time, as if it were part of yourself and your identity.

And your life will never be the same until you set yourself on the path of finding the answer.

(Life Begins at 40)