ON NOT KNOWING WHO I AM
In the news we’ve been hearing a story about a man who claims to not know who he is, and, as sad as his situation is, it started me thinking about the advantages of admitting that you don’t actually know who you are. I, for one, have no idea who I really am. For most of my 66 years I thought I knew who I was, but in the last few years it’s become clear to me that my supposed self-knowledge was entirely superficial. I now realize that I no more know who I am than I know what the sky above this earth is. When I used to think I knew who I was, all I actually knew were the labels that had been attached to me. I knew “Hamilton”, “man”, “father”, “teacher”, and so on, but these are merely labels. They don’t reveal my true nature any more than the word “sky” discloses the infinite mysteries of what surrounds us on this planet. So, if someone were to ask me who I am, I might have to honestly say I don't know – and I would feel good about doing so. In fact, I might have to say I am utterly dumbfounded about my identity, and I think I would feel relieved that I can finally admit my own profound ignorance. Like the sky – and like all of us – I’m vast, complex, ever changing, and ultimately inscrutable. I call myself “Hamilton”, but who I am is farther from that name than the stars are from where I’m typing these words.