Is there a you? Who are you? What makes you, you? If you are you for your whole life then there must be something constant about you, something that is always there inside you. What is that thing?
Get ready for an insightful philosophical journey where I will rip you off your identity. If there is a place where your ego surrenders, it’s either the Himalayas or it’s the place where you are reading this blog.
Who are you?
When I asked this question to a bunch of people, they answered with their names.
But do you really think your name is your identity, I mean there are almost 10 million people with my name in India. If my name is my identity, then am I identical to all those 10 million people? Well, I don’t think it’d be very hard for you to answer this question. Obviously, I’m not.
Then who are you? Ask yourself!
People tend to identify themselves with their work, “ooh oooh, I… I am a coder”, “I’m an entrepreneur”, “I am a writer”, “I am Batman”. But our profession isn’t unique (unless you’re Batman), not all coders are identical, and people usually change their profession quite frequently. And your job wasn’t always what it is now. Maybe you were jobless a year ago but now you’re not, yet both these versions of you are the same person.
A standard assumption is that it’s our body that guarantees our identity. This the theory that a key part of what makes me ‘me’ is that I’m housed in an identical body, but philosophers like to push this assumption around a little.
Imagine if I lost all my hair. Would I still be me? Yes, sure. What if I lost a finger or a leg? Obviously, I’d still be myself!
Did you ever ask your lover, “What do you like the most about me?”, What is the answer that you expect from them? What is it that you want them to admire the most about you? The possibly hurtful answer is to hear: “your fabulous bosom” or “your big fat bank account”. Breast and chest don’t ultimately feel ‘me’ish enough to be a respectable answer.
It seems we want to be loved for something closer to our real selves. Perhaps our soul or brain. So, is that it? Is our brain our identity?
Let’s imagine that I have a bump to the head and lose my ability to play tennis. Am I still myself? Most of us would say, “Yeah, sure.” What if I once spoke Greek and lose the ability, or forgot how to sing a lullaby. Would I still be me? Yes, absolutely.
In other words, technical capacities don’t feel very close to the core of personal identity. Everything about our brain is changing constantly. We are continuously creating new connections between the neurons of our brain every time we read, write, or perform an activity. The same thing is happening to your brain as you’re reading this blog.
You might think, how you react to external stimuli defines who you are. Things that scare you, things you find funny, your opinion about certain social issues and norms are definitive to your identity and they don’t change over time. But that’s not true.
As a kid, I enjoyed watching Dora, but now I don’t. A few years ago I used to think that superhero movies are unrealistic and they are stupid; I still agree with the first half of this statement but I reject the other half.
Nothing about you is constant, even your DNA changes as you grow old.
What’s the point?
Have you heard about Slash-and-burn agriculture?
It is a farming method that involves the cutting and burning of plants in a forest or woodland to create a field called a swidden. This results in a nutrient-rich layer of ash which makes the soil fertile, as well as temporarily eliminating weed and pest species.
The point of destructing your identity in the above section was to create a swidden where you have the creative liberty to define your identity.
When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be!
A huge part of our current identity is not what we have chosen for ourselves. Your identity before this blog was random labels that society and your parents scribbled on you and you were naïve enough to recognize it.
Due to these labels, you act according to the norms and limitations society created for you. You become liable to act in a certain way just because you belong to a particular religion, community, cult, etc. But you don’t have to.
Your identity is now a blank paper where you can draw a new one with the colors and pens of your choice considering the things you enjoy doing. Reflect and reconstruct!
I hope I wasn’t rude at any point during this blog, I apologize if I was.
I request you to share this blog with as many people as you could since I really wrote this essay from the most passionate corners of my brain.
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