Jun 29, 2010

Do you know your identity - beyond external descriptions?

Aristotle taught, “Know thyself.” That classical precept stands as the cornerstone of mental health and consequently life itself.  Knowing who one is determines what one will do. Agere sequitur esse. Action follows being. Knowing oneself determines one’s relations. If you know who you are, then you will know who you want to be with.

One can answer this question in a scientific, empirical or existential way with biology and history - your DNA and family tree. Those include sex, race, ethnicity, IQ, physical abilities or challenges, emotional profiles or temperament and even pre-neurotic tendencies or predominant passions of sensuality, complacency or timidity. Ancient labels e.g. Sanguine, Choleric, Phlegmatic and Melancholic or more contemporary classifications from Myers-Briggs e.g. Extravert, Intuitive, Thinker, Perceptor describe these innate tendencies, preferences, styles and interests.

From the innate to the external or environmental are other factors that can define or form who one is. It is based on wealth, heritage, education, culture, class, caste, nationality, religion, economic system and socialization. From the view of forming the person, it can be simplified as nurture.

Finally, the “will” or self-determination can make one all that one can be – overcoming natural handicaps and situational obstacles. One can change nature and nurture to some extend and become whoever one wishes to become. But that displaces the answer from who are you to whom did you become?

Another way to approach this is philosophically i.e. from ultimate causes unlike science that consider immediate causation. One will consistent essences rather than particular existence. Cogito ergo sum. I think therefore I am. I am not a rock but a rational life. Then, I have the seeds of eternity planted in my desires – an indication that I am to live forever and because of that, I transcend my bodily shell. I have a spiritual component in me. That spark is a trace of my beginning and eternal existence.

Who am I? A spark from an eternal flame meant to sparkle forever. A being higher than dolphins and chimps because I share something divine. I have a name, a unique identity. I am a creature but unlike whales, I share the life of my Creator and to Whom I shall eventually find myself. Now I have an idea – as Plato would explain how we recall our perfect selves in that world of ideas.

What works is to combine the essential with the existential. That will bring some concreteness to ground the abstraction, a body to house the spirit. Who am I? An incarnate spirit, born with specific DNA, nurtured with historical experiences and have becoming and is still becoming by personal choices.   I am a divine ripple.

No comments:

Recent Posts

Popular Posts

Blog Archive