Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Do not believe in yourself, you are so much more than that (part I)

'The unexamined life is not worth living' - Socrates

Who are you? 

Beyond job titles and family roles, beyond places of birth and ethnicities, beyond gender and sexuality, really, who are you? Who are we?

Some think that this is too hard a question, that we’d need to study philosophy for the rest of our life, or to renounce the material world and become a wandering mystic to ever find out. 

Maybe it’s just one of life’s great mysteries and pretty much irrelevant anyway. 

A journey of exploration
Others think differently, they think we can all embark on a journey of exploration to find out who we really are. Perhaps discovering the nature of our true self can have profound implications for living a meaningful and happy life.

What would happen if we stopped believing in our 'self' and tried to discover who we really are? 

We may well get a big surprise. We may realise that our true nature is very different from the ideas of self that we inherit from our family and society. 

The journey begins
At the first level, if we were asked who we are, beyond our everyday titles and roles, many of us would identify with our body, this bag of skin, somewhere on the trajectory between birth and death. 

This probably doesn't feel like a very satisfying answer though. We didn't cause our body to come into being, we didn't chose our body type and we don’t have much control over the body's ageing, sickness and ultimately death. 

If we are just the body, we must accept the puzzling idea that we appeared out of nowhere and at some point we will vanish into oblivion. This type of thinking is quite depressing and it's a fast track into an existential crisis. However, it can also be the start of discovering something much bigger, something big enough to change our entire life.

Going a little deeper
For now let’s say we are just the physical body, our true self is the face staring back from a selfie picture. 

What is that body made of? Biology tells us it’s made of billions of intelligent cells. Chemistry tells us it’s made of countless molecules, interacting in mind bending ways. Physics tells us it’s made of atoms, seeded in massive exploding stars, from way out in the depths of our universe. 

That’s already pretty awesome! We really are made of stars. We are an expression of the unfathomable intelligence of the universe (or perhaps god for those that identify with a religion). 

We were born out of the universe, we are part of the universe, its substance and intelligence come together in an intricate dance and create our living body. 

There is nothing esoteric here, this is just what science tells us. What is much more suspect is to identify with this limited bag of skin and bone we call the body and to think that is a separate self. To think that it just popped into existence as an isolated being and that now we are somehow responsible for it and must protect and enhance it at all costs. 

As we think about it, maybe we can start to understand that we are actually an inextricable part of all that exists. Just as the droplets of water that flow in the river and the flowing river itself are one and the same, we too cannot be separated from the universal whole.

Image by Tom Hall


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