Friday, August 12, 2011


Who Am I?

In my grade 12 university English class one of the major themes of the course that recurs through the texts is the question, “WHO AM I” (“A Separate Peace”, “The Educated Imagination” by Northrop Frye, and “Hamlet”),
Of course, this is a philosophical question that reaches many levels: Who am I as an individual? Who am I as a productive person, a husband/wife, father/mother, son/daughter, a Canadian, a westerner, a human being, a sentient being in the universe?
“Who am I?” is a question that is more worth asking than answering because as soon as we answer it we die in some way. Until we come back to the question of who I am, we have stopped growing, learning, we’ve stopped groping for new answers-we become hardened.  This is the paradox of life- answers are so wonderful until we realize they have a little death in them every time we get them. Somehow, paradoxically, we have to have answers and still hold the questions up to view and consider, new questions perhaps, but without those questions, you might just as well put me in a casket and incinerate me because I am already dead.
People who are so certain of the ways of the world, in any endeavor- they may even be the Tiger Woods of their subject- but if they hold such certainty they have stopped growing.
So the question of who I am continues and what I find fascinating is that while Hamlet questions himself within the context of his castle and his ‘family’ problems, and Gene and Finny define themselves through their coming of age and the mistakes they make as teenagers, today, in a web 2.0 world, our definitions of who we are extend to the entire world through what we blog, what we say, the quality of our ‘friends’ in social networking, the purposes we use the web for. What we are doing here defines us as much as anything.
‘Who we are’ is no longer our little personality in our little community. It must grow to be much more than that and our strengths and our weaknesses will become much more public than ever before- that is if you are willing to take the leap into the 21st century and join the online communities who are thinking through issues of today. What issues interest you? And how far will you stretch and grow and continue to ask: “WHO AM I?”


  1. Its sad to think that we die a little... and perhaps helps us to better understand the feeling of nostalgia? Maybe these little felt deaths define memory? Can such losses be perceived also as the change that informs us... that helps us to redefine ourselves -- we are, after all constantly evolving... and couldn't such loss help us to question further, to rename, reframe and redefine our understanding of who we are? One of my favourite quotes: "Don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened" can reflect these little "deaths" as being those necessary and constant shifts we call experience. We have a choice to stay in the memory... or to move forward and reframe our experiences, rename those moments, seat ourselves firmly in the present moment...if just for a little while, and to move forward bringing our stories with us to the people we are now. It is a certainty then, that we will again struggle to balance those spinning plates of our daily lives; we will continue to seek out the many bits and pieces of our understanding to define who we are; that the question "Who am I?" is a repeating pivot, a time shift, a mirror held up, a tangible-crushing-thing in and of itself. That question can shred, shatter, spill the contents of who we are - reflecting back to us what we need to be.

    1. The practice of "seating ourselves firmly in the present moment" is probably the grandest solution to all of the anxiety and depression that occur in our world today.

      Wow, well said! And maybe it is that, exactly that, which defines us as humans: Our ability to continue to reflect and redefine ourselves, to "continue to seek out the many bits and pieces of our understanding to define who we are", as you say. And it changes so much as we age, and now, another dimension, as we interact using social media. We never could have had these kinds of rich interactions before...