Am I who I am or where I belong?

One wonders why this craving, longing, for identification exists. One can understand the identification with one’s physical needs – the necessary things, clothes, food, shelter and so on. But inwardly, inside the skin as it were, we try to identify ourselves with the past, with tradition, with some fanciful romantic image, a symbol much cherished. And surely in this identification there is a sense of security, safety, a sense of being owned and of possessing. This gives great comfort. One takes comfort, security, in any form of illusion. And man apparently needs many illusions. In the distance there is the hoot of an owl and there is a deep-throated reply from the other side of the valley. It is still dawn. The noise of the day has not begun and everything is quiet. There is something strange and holy where the sun arises. There is a prayer, a chant to the dawn, to that strange quiet light. That early morning, the light was subdued, there was no breeze and all the vegetation, the trees, the bushes, were quiet, still, waiting. Waiting for the sun to arise. And perhaps the sun would not come up for another half hour or so, and the dawn was slowly covering the earth with a strange stillness. Gradually, slowly, the topmost mountain was getting brighter and the sun was touching it, golden, clear, and the snow was pure, untouched by the light of day. As you climbed, leaving the little village paths down below, the noise of the earth, the crickets, the quails and other birds began their morning song, their chant, their rich worship of the day. And as the sun arose you were part of that light and had left behind everything that thought had put together. You completely forgot yourself. The psyche was empty of its struggles and its pains. And as you walked, climbed, there was no sense of separateness, no sense of being even a human being.

– Krishnamurti to Himself Ojai California Tuesday 10th March, 1983

It’s easy to confuse having a strong sense of self to the comfort of a well-established social identity. Personally, I have been grappling with this dilemma in my head. It began with reading some scientific research-based book on what it takes to succeed at dating and get into a relationship. This is something that has been on my mind a lot as my family begins to pressure me to take my personal life more seriously, and some of my best friends sign up for holy matrimony, even while others are in long-term, stable relationships.

Turns out that in the early days of courtship, once you identify your prey (that’s the language these books use :/ ), you need to showcase what you bring to the table. No sooner that I count my virtues (which include loyalty, friendliness, independence), another article tells me that there is no reason to think that these are flaunt-worthy. Apparently, this is doing the bare minimum, and any attempt at making them out to be more than that, is simply going to seem unattractive and entitled.

I’m caught between a rock and a hard place here. So, I start to wonder if my social identity is worth anything – but thanks to my peripatetic childhood, that extended a little into adulthood as well, and my parents relatively unconventional choices of lifestyle and community, I have always felt like an outsider. I have embraced it thus far, because it has given me a unique perspective into things, but apparently, when it comes to dating, people seek out the familiar.

I’m really lost here, as you can see. I think of public figures like Oprah and Obama who have struggled with their own sense of identity, carving something out for themselves, and I wonder how I am going to figure this one out in the coming months… Or if it is worth figuring out at all?

 

Who Am I?

Sometimes you associate with a sentiment too closely, and it assumes a part of your identity. If you aren’t careful, it can hijack the core of it. You build yourself around it. Your thinking, your philosophy, your calm and chaos, your highs and lows, your sleep and wakefulness, your grief and joy, your ecstasy and melancholy, your longing and indifference, your desire and repulsion, your dawn and dusk, your breath and quiet, your darkness and light, your need and gift,… your everything begins to revolve around this sentiment that has come to define you.

One day, you simply stop feeling it. You are panicking. You furiously search for it wherever you can. You rummage and burrow. You tear open and glean. You carefully unbutton and stitch it back together. Where could it have gone? You take a break, and sit in the sun. You look up and wonder why you are looking for it at all. After all, it was that which grieved you. You described it to strangers as your ailment. You sought help for it. You hoped for it to be healed. You yearned for it to be soothed. It was your glitch. And now it was gone.

“But there is a hollowness,” you moan.

Isn’t that a good thing? It can now be filled by whatever you would like to fill it with. But you are despondent for that which is lost. With distance, you see it solely for its beauty.

“Take your time,” you tell yourself in your head.

Some days you miss it, so much that you cannot do much but just curl up and ruminate. Some days you pick yourself up together, determined to create something new with your soul and mind. “We will concoct a bright, new, beautiful being together,” you reassure yourself. Some days, you just watch them days float by, and realize that you are just yet another individual, hoping for a chance to just be. There is no struggle, there is no oneness, there is no ‘you’ – just a fleck of the cosmos that is conscious. Muddled, but conscious. Like when you are drunk with wine, but you can still tell that you are. However, control over your actions feels like an unnecessary struggle against your better judgment. Just a fleck of cosmos with consciousness. Like an offhanded superpower.

So you let the hollowness be. A magical space, a rich void, a promising rut, a soft corner, a sleepy hollow, within your heart, reaching for your soul and engulfing it from within and without. This is a new way, but it is very becoming on me.

Ambition, and what I make of it.

(Relevance of the video should be evident as you finish reading the post. )                                  

Back in December, I was spending a couple of days at a close friend’s house in what is probably my favourite city in all of the world. We were out for a walk, buying groceries for her mother’s luncheon party, and on the way home, she was asking me about my plans, having begun law school herself. I had said that I wasn’t sure as I wanted to be able to find the same level and sense of integrity in work as I did in life outside- an embodiment of Sartre’s concept of authenticity is how I saw it. I wouldn’t dismiss this as ‘ambivalence’ entirely, but I will excuse it as quite a fruitful exercise that everyone should be given the liberty to go through. I am of the opinion that it is only characteristic of a well-thought out long-term decision regarding the choices one makes in their life thereafter. Anyhow, the conversation with my friend came about to a discussion about what ‘ambition’ really is, and I have, ever since, been giving it thought. This is especially because I see it as a noble quality different from aggressiveness and being ruthless.

I have come to the conclusion that ‘ambition’ is the effort to be on ever-better terms with the world. To be able to be in sync with the global rhythm, and to not have to risk feeling thwarted by the unknown. A very helpful consequence of being truly ambitious, would be a quality of effervescent resilience, which stems from a genuine interest in life in all its completeness as a continuum of ups and downs, which in turn comes, for me, from nurturing positive relationships. I have been a sort of rebel, at least on the subconscious, all my life. It was not a deliberate effort to reject all that was mainstream, but a product of the constant exploration of what was otherwise. Maybe just maybe, this was because of the highly non-traditional upbringing that I had through my childhood, but I wouldn’t peg it all onto a single plausible cause. Eitherhow, even as I had (had?) been a maverick, could I not have rejected the existence of a sense of relationship with other people. Restrained and terse may have been the flavour largely, but there it was, stopping me from exploring a potential that I was not even aware of.

I don’t see myself as being unacceptable on certain parameters or an outcast anymore. I feel honest and authentic in my being in the present, and do not feel weighed down or limited by any of my past interactions- neither in nature nor quality. In fact, earlier this year when I was reading ‘Gone with the Wind‘ (a book that I would enthusiastically recommend to everybody) I could relate quite personally to Rhett Butler’s desire for his children to be accepted by the society that appealed to his sensibilities and had his respect and appreciation, even as they had rejected his self. The honesty and humility with which he recognized its value in shaping his children’s values, egos, and self-esteem is admirable, and it is with the same sentiment that I declare my own ‘maniacal’ ambition.