Monday, November 08, 2021

"Ah, So This Is Who I Am"

I can't remember a time when people weren't talking about finding themselves.

The idea is that once we find ourselves, we can then be ourselves, which sounds pretty good. The problem I'm having is that this thing called "self," at least for me, is a moving target.

When I look inward I see a mishmash of memories, emotions, behaviors, and perspectives; I see a series of events stretching back over a certain period of time in which I've played a variety of parts; I see a physical body that no longer is made from even a single of the atoms with which it was born; and I see a future in which I am to a greater or lesser degree liable to do pretty much anything.

It's hard to connect it all together as a story that adds up to something I can definitively call "self" because I've been all things, done all things, felt all things. As Walt Whitman wrote in his great poem Song of Myself, "I am large. I contain multitudes."

Young children don't bother themselves with such navel gazing, of course, yet we see them daily discover who they are through their play, which is, at bottom, the act of asking and answering their own questions.

Buddhists say there is no "self," which would mean that maybe the kids have it right. Maybe self isn't something we find, but rather create, every day, day after day, by going where our curiosity takes us. And maybe, it's only at the end of our days that we can in our final moments look back over it all and say, "Ah, so this is who I am."


"Teacher Tom, our caped hero of all things righteous in the early childhood world, inspires us to be heroic in our own work with young children, and reminds us that it is the children who are the heroes of the story as they embark on adventures of discovery, wonder, democracy, and play." ~Rusty Keeler
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