How Many People Are You?
I've always thought that I was just one person, and because in Western society we associate multiple personalities with mental illness I assumed that was the way it was meant to be, however, recent events have caused me to look more deeply at this issue.
It would seem that I may have been to hasty to view myself or anyone else as a singularity. Indeed, it would seem that inside every person are a myriad of personalities. This is quite evident when we look at men who cross dress, wear women's clothing and take on female personas, but even then we often assume that this is some quirk native to the cross dresser, when in actuality it is apparently quite a pervasive phenomenon in no way limited to the mentally ill.
If you read Herman Hesse's 'Steppenwolf' (and I suggest that you do,) you will be delightfully confounded for the bulk of the novel, but you will also be embroiled in the mind of a man who envisions himself as being two distinct identities. There is Harry, the man and the human, he who does good and takes joy in the world, and there is the Wolf, the animal part of his being which mocks his attempts at humanity and which is wild and ferocious. The continual discord between the two and his inability to play nice among the people of the world leads him to crave suicide as much as he fears it. Harry is a miserable blighter for the bulk of the novel, though he cuts a sympathetic figure, for who has not at one time or another felt themselves to be an outcast?
I doubt that there is any man or woman who has never felt as if there were parts of themselves that had to remain hidden or shrouded. Polite social discourse requires us to shut away the bulk of ourselves and often pretend to be far more shallow than we are. That can cause a sickening feeling in those who don't enjoy the charade of polite social interaction and many shy away from indulging in it just for that reason.
But are these parts of ourselves who we cannot let out to play in the workplace or the refined afternoon tea at Grandma's house other identities, or are they merely facets of a single personality? Are we as humans one soul in one body, perfect, complete and eternal, or are we a myriad of transitional beings, coming and going in a great parade from birth to death?
Herman Hesse points out, and indeed, most spiritual traditions agree that the only way to find true peace is to destroy the self and destroy the self over and over again. As Hesse says,
'Man is an onion made up of a hundred integuments, a texture made up of many threads... The human merry-go-round sees many changes: the illusion that cost India the efforts of thousands of years to unmask is the same illusion that the West has labored just as hard to maintain and strengthen.''
So then, how many people are you?
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