Monday, August 20, 2012
The Search For Self
Who am I?
What makes me who I am?
Why do I do anything I do?
Why do I care?
Have you ever asked any of these questions? If you have, you probably did it because you wanted to better understand the meaning of life, or at least your role in it. At the very least you have wondered what it is that makes you unique; what gives you a soul. If you believe in such a concept that is.
A lot of people have a notion of an afterlife beyond death. Something that involves either a paradise or hell, depending on actions you have taken, or things you have believed in. Specifics of what this would be like can vary drastically depending on which theology you follow.
I was talking to a very devout Christian once about the afterlife, and his comments made me wonder what his idea of self would be like when he died, if his beliefs proved true. The way he talked, it made it sound like he would be magically transformed into a perfectly sinless being who would sit at God's feet for eternity in holy communion. It made me wonder what he thought would become of all the things that made him who his mortal self was. All the idiosyncrasies, quirks, awkwardness, and even the darker thoughts like anger, lust, and greed. After all, those are surely a major part of what made him who he is to.
We may not like the things we consider negative about ourselves. At times we may even hate ourselves for them. It's likely this behavior is what leads us to feel a great deal of guilt throughout our lives. If we are honest, it's probably what has shaped our afterlife ideas of a place of hell that awaits those who don't behave. Because surely you must be punished if you are not a good boy or girl.
But who determines what is good?
The religious person will say it is the responsibility of the divine and we learn this through religious scripture. But so much of what is written heavily conflicts with the concept of self. Everything I have read in the Christian scripture, tells us our base instincts are often the source of bad behavior. In essence much of what makes us who we are is what makes you bad. So if you just try to resist these temptations long enough, one day you will die and be rewarded by what; having those parts of your personal makeup deleted from your very being? Think about that for a moment, your personal core being will be, _poof_, gone. In its place will be a new being who will be perfect. It will be very much like the Invasion of the Body Snatchers where people are replaced by pod people who look the same, but at their very core, they are very different people. When you look at it that way, it's hard to not look at that as a sort of brainwashing or lobotomy.
So what does that mean?
To answer that, I think you must first determine what makes you who you are. Not some lofty delusional of what you would like to be. You know, the part of you that you show off in Sunday Church, or on Facebook. I'm not suggesting you shouldn't have goals of personal growth. Or you shouldn't try to change things about yourself that you don't like. But you need to know who you are at your core, and not try to define yourself by some type of facade you hide behind to the public.
Only when you know who you are can you face eternity and be able to honestly consider what it might mean for your soul to live there.