What is it like being a Person? This question is difficult to tackle because it is by its very nature a subjective idea. Being a person seems to be a distinctly human quality. It encapsulates the experience of being ‘you’. As I am sitting here writing these thoughts in my head, I am very much aware of being aware. Of being myself. I think everyone has access to certain moments, when you realise that what you are, is more like a collage of experiences and ideas, rather than a single unified object. The understanding that you have of yourself appears to be related to your name, your credentials, your job, your family and so on. It is the history of your existence that has created the ego that you call ‘I’. But with some contemplation you can break down the ideas that you have about yourself and in some way bypass the ego. You already know that you’re playing a character. Your behavior is constantly changing depending on what situation you find yourself in. Your thoughts are always re-visiting old memories and projecting both positive and negative events into the future.
Most of the time, you are doing, saying and thinking a certain way to protect whatever identity you have created for yourself. You might see yourself as a confident and social person, or the introvert that doesn’t like people, or the activist, the scientist, the religious person and so on. When thinking about the different aspects of your personality, it might become somewhat obvious, that you are not really any of these things. Your identity is simply a mask that you constantly wear so that you don’t feel scared of the reality of the situation. And what is the reality of the situation? You have no idea who you are, what you are and what life is all about. However, you look around and everyone is acting completely normal. You think to yourself that they must know what is going on right? Well, they don’t. No one does. The more you learn, the more you come to understand how everyone is holding onto certain belief systems. They are creating a coherent story of themselves and the world around them. And like most stories, they are not actually true.
It is very difficult to escape from the familiarity of being a Person. Of being You. Meditation and certain drugs help in this respect, but in general, it is difficult to shake off the illusion that you have created for yourself. The pain that you have suffered in the past, your problems, your thoughts and dreams and whatever you use to define yourself. These things are all putting you at the center of your subjective universe. It is really all about you isn’t it? Even the anxiety and dread that you have for the death of loved ones can be traced back to what it would mean to you. How you will be alone, or how you will miss them and how your other family members will suffer. When we break the illusion of being a person, we can in some way appreciate the world in a deeper sort of level. Things become less personal. You stop seeking to avoid pain or obtain pleasure, and simply exist in a world that is endlessly fascinating.
Being a person is hard because it requires you to have an identity that needs to constantly be maintained. Every single event in your life is processed in such a way that relates to you. When someone for example says something mean to you, or when you are not being successful in whatever field you have chosen, that damages the coherent story that you have created for yourself. Suddenly, you start to question whether the identity you have created for yourself is valid. This requires you to either discard that identity or find evidence for its validity and hence risk causing even further damage. It doesn’t help that the current media exploits the need for an identity and constantly tries to make you identify with whatever product or service they are selling.
Politicians want you to identify with their particular ideology in order for you to vote for them and keep the current socioeconomic system running. Some people go to the other extreme, where they only identify with conspiracy theories and decide that everyone else happen to be ‘Sheeple’ and don’t know the so-called ‘truth’. The problem is that whatever meme is generated and passed around, it can only represent a caricature of reality.
Things are almost never simple and straightforward, and a lot of what you believe to be correct is probably wrong. It takes a lot of mental energy to remove the mask of identity and see the world the way it actually is, because at that point, there are no filters that can block the vast amounts of conflicting information. Not only are you going to struggle to process all the information that is coming in, but you can get overwhelmed by the shear volume of information that you will never be able to processes in the first place. It is completely impossible for you to read and understand every single book ever published. Actually, even if you were able to read and understand every single book ever published, you would still be unable to fully understand the world, as the sum of human knowledge does not come close to describing the world in all its detail. With the tiny fraction of information that you have, you are expected to act decisively every single day. At the same time, since you presumably live in a democracy, you are pressured to vote on topics that you can’t possibly understand. The modern world is so complicated that your ape brain simply can’t keep up.
This is one of the many reasons that I think we all have an identity that we cling onto for dear life. It might even be a survival mechanism for us to simply stay sane in an insane world. But I do think there is a way to remove this filter created by our identity and still function in the world. We can try to do this by learning to accept uncertainty. We need to be humble enough to know that our understanding of the world is extremely limited and try to process as much information as we can without a biased point of view. If we can remove ourselves from the center of our own universes, we might be able to also remove the need for an identity in the first place, and observe the world the way it really is. We can maybe then, see a glimpse who we are, what we are and where we are going.
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