Photo by Faye Cornish

Ever had a friend tell you that they were taking time out “to find themselves” and you mused to yourself that you didn’t know they were lost? Many people would consider this a self-indulgent waste of time but I would suggest that it is merely misdirected examination. People can often feel ‘lost’ when they stop the frenzy of their lives to ponder what they are doing and why on earth are they doing it. These are important questions but very different from ‘who am I?’.  If you think about the statement ‘find myself’, the unspoken belief here is there is something to find.  It assumes that we have a fixed essence, a true ‘me’ that is fully formed and unchanging lying hidden underneath layers of social conventions and protective barriers.  All we have to do is be brave enough to strip those layers away to discover why we are here and what we are meant to do with our lives. But is it that simple?

Philosophers have been discussing the nature of the self for millennia. For many it can be just an intellectually stimulating exercise, but I believe that it is essential to understanding our approaches to others and the world around us.  Am I an island; a fixed state that exists independently of others or am I an ever-adapting product of my interactions with the world? Am ‘I’ something more than my body? Am ‘I’ my mind, my body, or a combination of both? Do I need to rise above my physical desires and needs in order to live a meaningful life? Or is it only by recognising my physicality and its dependence upon the natural world and interrelations with others that enables me to live a good and fulfilled life?

It may seem self-indulgent to spend time contemplating these questions, but it  very importantly allows us to understand what beliefs prop up the many politically, economically and socially accepted norms we currently accept and then question them.  More on them next month.

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