You Are What Happens to You

Am I this person I claim to be, or am I something much deeper?

When you signup for Twitter or a similar service, what do you fill in when you’re asked: “tell us more about yourself”? What do you jot down? I’ve always had a hard time filling out those 160 character fields. What do you want to know? You’ve got my name already. Do you want to find out my interests? Or are you keen on learning how I define myself?

I keep changing what I write in those tiny boxes, but I am never satisfied with the outcome. I can’t seem to be able to fit the answer to that burning question… who am I? Am I my name? Am I my religious affiliation? Is it what I do? Or what my parents told me about myself? Perhaps, my accomplishments?

If I imagine myself to be a large blank canvas and we throw stuff at it to see what sticks, am I the blank canvas, or what had stuck? Am I the background to the foreground? Maybe I’m both the content and the container. Where does the separation between the two begin? What is the relationship between what is contained and what contains it?

Let’s say I define myself as the collection of ideas, what happens when I am shot in the head, like Harrison Ford in that movie, and wake up forgetting who I was? I was always perplexed by that. Who is the guy that awakes from the coma? Is he still the same? Seems like the movie is trying to convey that we are in fact not the ideas placed in the fertile soil called our minds, but something else.

So, who am I? If I wake up from coma without a single trace of memory, then what remains? A body and a mind, if we are to oversimplify it. But the mind is blank, once again, just like when we were born. Tabula Rasa. Is that what it means to die before dying? Of course, you don’t have to lose all your memories in order to experience this. But it might be quite difficult. As you know, it’s damn hard to untangle yourself from… yourself. Or rather, from the little self, the poor little me — the precious memories that I cherish more than life itself. Don’t we? Life has little to do with who you think you are. Yes, what you’ve perceived is already a memory, since it takes what we call time to record and reformulate what you’ve experienced with your senses within your brain. It takes time to recreate reality as the hologram as it is. A hologram, yes. Not hard, heavy, material. It’s fluid, wavy, and ever-changing. There is no spoon, remember?

To me, the question of who I am is the most important question to ask. Not necessarily to answer it, at least not in terms of words, but to ask it. And to ask it often. Why? Because it helps us untangle ourselves from our past, from the memory we believe to be a reality — as if written in stone. You know, we can change the past as much as we can change the future. We’re magicians that way. But how dear Merlin? It’s so simple it seems absurd when you write it down. It’s so simple you laugh and cry at the same time once you realise this essential, yet basic truth.

You change the past and the future in the eternal now. Like a spider in the centre of a spider’s web. You create your future and therefore your past, from the now. And what you believe to be the past, you change by changing the now. Since there is no past, you are changing the now, which is the past, which is the future. Magic.

I told you it was simple. It’s nothing you haven’t heard before. It’s nothing you haven’t considered. But it may be something you haven’t really gotten. You still operate under the illusion of time. And from this illusion comes the illusion of a permanent you. As if you’re a statue. If so, what happens to you when the statue breaks?

You know when you meet an old friend, and you haven’t seen them in years, and there is this underlying assumption from both parties that you know each other? Well, seen from a cellular view, you have no idea who this person is. Cells die and are reborn constantly. They’re a completely new human being from the cell’s perspective. Notice I didn’t say a new person. There is a significant difference between a person and a human being. They might still be the same person if they hold themselves to be mere persons. To be a person is to be an act. The word comes from Latin, persona, which means an actor’s mask. And per sonus, which means through sound, and the sound is the word, and word is a sword, a tool to cut reality into pieces, to dissect and define. And so, much in the same way you, for better or worse, believe yourself to be a person. And this belief is the cause for most of the trouble you face in life.

Because you believe yourself to be a separate entity, a person, an ego, trapped within your own skin and divided against all of life, you cause tremendous harm to yourself and others. You go out of your way to stop yourself in your own way. Perplexed? Yes, so am I. I’m amazed at myself every day. I laugh, I cry. What a game I play with myself, and with everyone else. My goodness, what a grand play we are all playing, aren’t we? I should almost stop writing at this point and not publish this essay, for it seems I am giving away the game.

But in thinking it through, I see that it isn’t me giving away the game. What I’m trying to do, is make the game more interesting. For if we know we’re actors on the grand stage of life, then we can play a much more enjoyable game, where we don’t need to destroy everything around us, where we have a very different set of values, which are pro-life, not anti-life. That’s the effect of coming in touch with life. Understanding that we are essentially not this persona, but a being that is connected to all else, we develop empathy. Our way of looking at others — that is, not merely other human beings, but all that is seemingly not us — with different eyes, with the eyes of love.

From this vantage point, we’re free to play, to embrace life in all its glory. Mind you, I am not advocating a rose-coloured glasses approach, but a holistic approach. Embracing the shadow equally as much as the light within us. That is playing the game fully. And when we play the game fully, we create a dance out of life. Which it is, it’s always been a dance. Even the most horrendous moments in history are a dance when seen from this point of view. But instead of being unconscious to the fact that it is all a game, let’s become active, conscious and aware participants in it. And let’s enjoy it to its fullest.

Now, can you really tell me who you are? And can you separate yourself from the rest of life?

You are what happens to you.


I publish essays on Medium, vlog on Youtube and host a daily podcast.

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