“What are you?”

An introspective piece.

It’s a question that I’ve asked myself for as long as I can remember every time I look at myself or when I look into a mirror. It’s a weird question, isn’t it? Usually, the questions people ask themselves are; who am I? What do I need? What do I want with my life? What do I identify with?

We always tend to ask ourselves questions about our identity, values, or political opinions, but we never wonder why on Earth do we even think about these things in the first place? Why is it important to us? What can we accomplish when we figure out the answers to these subjective questions in the first place?

Inner peace? An identity backed by a solid groundwork that we can always fall back and rely on? Purpose? All of those things sound nice, to be honest.

  • Acquiring inner peace allows us to be satisfied with the life we have and treat ourselves with the self-love we deserve.
  • Acquiring an identity that we relate to provides us with the stability to stand out in this world that puts individualism on a pedestal. Without this identity, we would constantly be looking around us and questioning our own self-worth as we compare our supposed “lack of identity” with those that “supposedly” have one.
  • And hopefully figuring out the answers to those questions might give us the chance to find our purpose in life, as society promises but it’s definitely not guaranteed.

But what does it mean to ask yourself, “What are you?”. As you’ve noticed, most of the questions we tend to ask ourselves are “I” questions, where the ego that exists within our minds is who we think we are, and those “I” questions are our attempt to understand the ego that exists. But what are we even referring to when we look at ourselves and ask “What are you?”.

When it comes to the “I” questions, we tend to ask ourselves these questions to understand the ego we create. As the ego is a tool we use to cope with the nihilistic nature of the Universe we live in. It’s quite a convenient defence mechanism of the brain when you think about it. It’s as if the brain itself knows that the universe we live in is inherently chaotic and devoid of all meaning. But despite that, in order to survive and not go crazy, it has to create its own sense of purpose or its own sense of self.

That purpose or “self” is a an illusion that we create. A type of construction of identity, created by the past experiences of our lives. But it’s not our true self, according to eastern mysticism /philosophy.

One could even argue that this aspect of the brain is an attribute of consciousness? But that’s another topic altogether for me to write about some other time.

Photo by Nijwam Swargiary on Unsplash

Whenever I look into a mirror and look at the image that’s reflected back at me. Or when I look down and observe the arms that stick out from either side of my body. Or notice the tiny details on the surface of my skin, the wrinkles and fine hair and that weird solid material at the ends of our fingertips that we call fingernails. I’ve always found it strange how I can move this mass of molecules that I call a body however I want without a thought, and then when I look at the world from this state of mind this observation creates…

I get washed over by this feeling of alienation? Disconnection? Like my mind separates itself from the world, but the body is still here. If that makes ANY sense at all. It’s like life is a first-person shooter game and I’m just a character that controls this biological mass of molecules. But instead of a gun, I just have anxiety.

I’ve had this feeling for as long as I could remember. Even as a child. This feeling of depersonalization or disassociation just felt normal to me (sure it developed into an identity crisis, formed by not being capable of constructing an identity that I could relate with). So this feeling clearly didn’t help at all. I didn’t know what to do about it, and it was driving me crazy.

I desperately wanted to understand what this feeling or this perspective was all about. So that I can finally come to terms with it and just live my life. Create an identity I could relate with and exist like a normal ass person, without being riddled with the anxiety that comes from this alienating and existential point of view.

I didn’t know what to do. I was 20 years old in the second year of college with 38% attendance for that semester because, “what’s the point”, and it felt like there was no way out. Thankfully I had a friend circle that was open and understanding. Not to just myself, but to experiences that are “unconventional” but slowly gaining acceptance within the world, especially the scientific community.

We laughed, had fun, and took on these new experiences head-on without a worry in this world. And everyone that knows me personally, knows quite well how I won’t ever shut up about how much, those wonderful experiences with the people that were dear to me had changed my life. It honestly saved me in a way.

The funny part was that these experiences tend to take you out of reality and then bring you back. But I was already out, and strangely enough, instead of taking me further away, it grounded me back into reality. It helped me understand myself and put me into a refreshed state of mind that allowed me to finally piece together an identity that I could relate to by destroying what I “supposedly” had in the first place.

It was as if I was a child just rediscovering the world and myself again. This time without any judgement or hardship and only with the self-love and acceptance that one requires in order to build a healthy sense of self.

The most prominent insight these experiences gave me was the understanding of what this disconnected state of mind was. It helped me understand that it wasn’t some other state of mind that was unique to me but it’s a default state of mind that everyone has and that I wasn’t alone.

Yes, including you, the person kind enough to take the time out of their busy day to read my brain dumps. We’re all born with this state of mind or this state of consciousness which we slowly replace with an identity or the ego. And this default state of mind takes the back seat while our ego takes control and we start looking at the world for what we think it is instead of for what it actually is. I was just a bit slow in that ego developing department I guess.

I like calling this state of mind or this state of consciousness the observer. Because that’s all it fucking does. It just observes the world around you. And by default, we’re all observers. That’s who we truly are. Take that sense of identity or ego away from you, and all you’re left with is a state of mind that is meant to process the information you receive to make sense of the reality you live in.

It’s weird, almost like we’re one consciousness just segregated by different perspectives of reality, but still live within the same reality itself. I guess it makes sense in a way (obviously can never be scientifically testable, maybe). And we’re clearly not separate from this Universe we live in, even though we like to think we are. We’re as important as a steaming pile of hot dog shit in a plastic bag that feels warm to the touch with regards to the universe we live in (Absurdism is fun).

We are just one of the gazillion different parts of this universe. If I had to give us a category, I would say we’re just the thinking and feeling part of this universe, nothing more nothing less (that’s just my opinion though).

Photo by Samuel Ferrara on Unsplash

With this idea, I developed a feel-good perspective of this world that is just one of the very few things that help me keep going. I’ve always wondered why is it that, when we look at the grand expanse of nature, we feel so tiny. It makes us look at the world with so much wonder, and we’re filled with so much awe, and it’s absolutely breath-taking.

Nothing feels more amazing than when you’re on a mountain range looking down at the quiet and ethereal energy of the wind whispering through the trees as the mountain valleys sprawl endlessly before you. Or when you’re on a beach and the sounds of the rolling currents and waves crash onto the shore as a backdrop to the sun that slowly dips below the horizon and paints the sky in gradients of orange, pink and blue.

I like to think of it as a form of self-love.

Since we’re just another part of this universe and not separate from it. When we look at the universe and mother nature in all its glory, we’re filled with awe because we’re basically just looking at ourselves.

In other words, “We’re just the universe experiencing itself.” a beautiful quote by Alan Watts.

Okay, that really does feel good. But sadly, from this perspective, when it comes to purpose. There isn’t much to hand out. If a dog’s purpose is to give you unconditional love and let you know when it wants to take a massive dump. Then our purpose is to just think and feel, and just exist with our thoughts and feelings.

Cause that’s all we have, and all we’ll ever have.

After asking the question “what are you?” again with this new perspective. One would assume that this grandiose sense of self would finally be uncovered and I’ll finally find true purpose and meaning in this life, and I’ll attain enlightenment and experience Nirvana. But the only thing that comes to mind is.

“Dude, you’re just another human, what on earth did you expect?”

A bit flat and disappointing, I agree, and like where the fuck is the emotional catharsis?!

But I’m not surprised because that’s just how life is. And that’s okay. Just go be human. That’s all we have and the only thing we can do. Accomplish whatever you physically can accomplish, and love and spend time with the people you want to love and spend time with. Cause life is too short, and it’s stupid to waste time trying to figure out why we’re here in the first place and what our purpose is, and I just feel like that just doesn’t matter to me anymore.

All we got to do is

“Just be here now” — Ram Das



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