" An unexamined life is not worth living." – Plato
I view the human as having four dimensions.
A physical body, an intellect, a relational\social dimension and a spiritual dimension or soul.
I believe every person needs to nurture each of these dimensions for an well balanced, quality life.
If one or more of these dimensions are missing or reduced, a good life is still possible but may be diminished or sub optimal.
The nurturing of the physical body involves good health care, good diet and physical exercise.
There is no doubt that increased educational status improves quality of life however high intelligence is no guarantee of happiness.
Finally there is the soul or spiritual dimension. Some separate the soul and spirit but I think they are pretty similar.
Harder to define and not really visible, I believe that the soul is that part of me that reaches outwards beyond myself and other people.
It is my belief that the soul can be nurtured by experiencing the grandeur of nature, by various religious practices including spiritual readings, prayer and meditation, and by contemplation and self examination.
The soul may be that part of us that continues to exist after our physical bodies die.
Just as our body, mind or relationships can atrophy without work, so our spiritual life will atrophy and eventually die unless it is fed.
It is my view that growth of the soul involves asking meaningful questions such as Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life? How can I make my life count? How should I live? Is there a God?
For me personally the belief that this world was created by a loving God who loves me and has a great plan for my life has helped me towards – what I believe are – answers for some of life’s meaningful questions and has helped define who I am.
Who or what is me?
Early morning, I wander my storm ridden local beach and see the lines of sea wrack strewn with dead and dying bluebottles. Helplessly subject to the whim of the wind and current, these primitive, yet complex colonies of interdependent marine life now find themselves unceremoniously dumped here to end the cycle of their existence. I stoop to look more closely. There is unexpected movement among the barbed-wire like scribbles of blue. Small struggling slug-like creatures with brush-like appendages wriggle among the bluebottle detrius. I have absolutely no idea what they might be. However, I figure that like the helpless blue stingers, they are destined soon to die. I’m helpless also to help them. Instead I’m left to reflect on the passing away nature of all things. I see that I too, am passing away. Dying, as it were in slow motion. I’m sharply aware of my unitive connection with the mystery of creation’s life and death. I share somehow in it all. Being and passing. Temporary me, I am.
My other companion as I wander this wind swept shore is my own shadow. I watch the outline of my long, but ever-so-slowly shrinking shadow and contemplate the incredible nature of the blessedness of my own self reflective consciousness. We are each so attuned to this gift of our own stream of conscious thought. Inversely, however, we are held captive to its ever present, often rambling, ‘stumblingalong’ continuity.
When I ponder the significance of my own tenuous identity as in the question, ‘Who or What is me,’ I’m driven back to this…
Himself being Jewish, Franz Kafka wrote…
“What do I have in common with the Jews? I hardly have anything in common with myself.
…identity is a cage in search of a bird.”
Our wrestle with identity…black/white, male/female, straight/gay, indigenous/immigrant…can at best liberate us; but at worst isolate us and deny a oneness with all things; that in spite of our unique differences we are all pretty much the same. There is no white/black, gay/straight, Muslim/Christian water, earth or air. We share creation’s elements.
Perhaps it fits us best just to fully embrace the gift of consciousness given to our own little insignificant selves…which is really more than enough.
“I am a hole in a flute that the Christ’s breath moves through.” –Hafiz
For all of mankind’s contemplation of this question we still have not fundamentally answered it. The nature of consciousness, how it arises from countless atoms working in harmony, still eludes us. This of course has not stop us ‘explaining’ it in whatever manner best suits us. If people want to accept answers on faith that’s their prerogative, to me it’s just a waste of time. We had a chariot to pull the sun across the sky when other explanations were lacking. Didn’t make it right, but was probably of comfort to some people to be sure the sun was going to come up the next day. Same goes for what makes us ‘me’, we might not understand it yet, but we’ll probably get there eventually.
I think Monty Python have a wonderful approach to answering the ‘what’ of life. For all we know, we’re a tiny planet flagged for demolition on an intergalactic highway. Obviously believing that is no less faith based than any other explanation. But it hits home the vast size of the universe, the incredible potential it has to have developed all kinds of life, and the fundamentally irrelevant nature of humans to the wider universe.
What we are is confined to exactly what we make of ourselves as a species, nothing more. This nihilist perspective is not for everyone, but it requires no inventions or leaps of the imagination to uphold. It acknowledges we know only so much and makes no claim to a higher cause or reason. You’re here, might as well enjoy the ride. Bonus points for contributing to the enjoyment of others.
Who or what am I, what a question…
I’d love to believe that we are 3/4 dimensional and that when our physical bodies fail us our soul moves on, either to a better place or to be reincarnated or some kind of collective consciousness. Any of those options would work for me, but if I were to choose, I like the idea of reincarnation it fits better for me.
Thats my secret hope and I practice my spirituality in the form of meditation and loosely held beliefs in Buddhism.
However, another part of me thinks that;
Who we are appears to depend on who is asking…
I do know that I have a body and a conscious capacity to be an observer of my thoughts and feelings. That my identity is determined by the way in which I was brought up and the sum total of my experiences therein after. Subsequent experiences may change the sense of self I currently have., I know that my perceived ‘identity’ changes according to who is judging me. That those judgements depend on the sum of their experiences.
My experience also tells me that many people identify with their thoughts and think that is who they are… that their thoughts are a true reflection of reality… that they are right.
To me that is the fundamental thinking error of all man kind… I think therefore it is true. It is what causes all the wars in this world, the horrible judgments and cruelty we inflict on others….
So for me in my world, which could be somewhere on the edge of the universe… it really is understanding that my thoughts and identity are a true reflection of my reality and not necessarily others… so therefore judge not and do no harm.,
Well you did ask lol… I need a beer after all that thinking! X
I am a simple man. I am a complex man. I am a simple man. This back and forth way of thinking is often dependent upon what I am facing, or what I have been asked or invited to do. And visiting this blog and looking to contribute, after a kind invitation from a friend, has me stuck on the “I am a simple man” mantra!! To be perfectly honest, I am incredibly intimidated by the depth of thought and prose that precedes my waffle!
So with that, I shall step back from this platform, have a good think about what I would like to contribute and how I can articulate it as best as possible, and then return. I hope that this finds the reader having a wonderful day.
Who or what IS me, cannot be explained before pondering who or what WAS me… thus outlining the evolving continuum that is I.
Picture if you will, a very large room. It is more then dark, it is pitch black. And, it is silent- there are humans and large items scattered about. There are random shrieking sounds and every so often i feel something passing my face at high speed, a sudden whooshing blast.
The first 28 years of my life was me trying to escape this room. I was limited in my capacity to understand the people and things around me. I was solely invested in my own survival, I trampled over God knows what. I feasted upon people who’d have been better off not in that room.
I had no concept of any power outside of my own. This was an incredibly frightening reality and I felt suitably helpless yet incredibly responsible all at the same time. I had no hope. Just a driving urge that I must survive.
And survive I did – long enough to get to the good parts, the parts where I realised my purpose in life was beyond self.
There’s something about enough darkness for enough time – a person seeks the light. Recently a friend insightfully summarised my evolution – they said “You couldn’t be bad any more so you had to be good” Truthfully that couldn’t be closer to the truth.
There was a day I remember realising that my pain tank was full – it was completely full- not another ounce of pain would fit in (try as it may – and try it did) there was simply no vacancy within me. There was a safety in that place that allowed me to begin seeking what was good and bright fearlessly – I had nothing to lose.
I’m a sucker for the rules. I’d like to pretend I’m creative or on the very odd occasion, clever. But I’m at best like everyone else. I am have fallen into the rules that we have accepted we must play to get by.
We accept we must work – for a living. Money makes the world go round. The house, the car, the clothes show success. The Facebook international holiday pics show success. The absence of them reminds us of the fails.
From the early years we are indoctrinated with the rules that we must play by. And because they are lessons taught before we can reason, there is no need to question them.
We learn there is a god. Depending on what religion your parents are will determine who your God is. It is that simple. If your parents are Christian your one and only God will be the father of Jesus. If your parents are Muslim then your god will be Allah who it turns out is also the God for the Jews.
But I don’t have the courage to step outside of the game. I play it religiously. I work relentlessly to earn just enough to pay for the schooling that my children don’t need. They educational needs would be well met at any of the local schools. Yet I play a competitive game. They must have the best – well from the outside it must be the best.
I force my children to adhere to the rules of the school society when I know it doesn’t work for them. They must conform and yet that is breaking their spirit. But this is how we play the game. We chip away at their unique imperfections until they are smooth and moulded so they don’t disturb the status quo. They can grow up just like me.
At home, stressed from financial pressures I have chosen to adopt, I am short tempered. I find faults with my children. I point them out. But I am playing the game. I have embraced the rules.
We must strive for more. If you’re not growing you’re dying. Unless we’re talking about cancer cells growing, then you are dying. Growth for growth’s sake is not healthy but we chase it. Because it’s expected. You’re not succeeding if you are not growing.
We look down upon those who have the strength to play outside the rules: the ones who have stepped away from the confines of the game. They are homeless, they are in gaol, they are unemployed, they are wanderers, they are sailors on the sea. Oh to be so free.
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