- Religion and Philosophy
My name is Tom but who am I?
The name is Tom but who am I?
Don't get tied up in names. They're only labels
My name is Tom. But that isn't who I am. Tom is a name.. It's a label. It is a label people can use to identify this particular human being - me - who is known to you as Tom. If I were to change my name by deed poll and then next week tell you that my name is now Joe, it wouldn't be long before you'd be calling me Joe. But I wouldn't have changed. Only the label which you use to refer to me would have changed.
There's often some consternation when a name is changed
I recall this name-change happening when a friend, known to me for years, changed her first name from Leigh to Elizabeth. There was some consternation when people kept using the old name for a few weeks or months, but eventually all came round and Leigh became Elizabeth- without any outward changes at all.
I've been at this for a long while - Speaking to Audiences
I do not become a different person if I change my name
If you examine a name carefully, you will see that a series of commonly recognized and agreed upon images known as alphabetical letters are put together in a certain sequence. These become words - pronounceable words. But they are images that have been converted into meaning. They've become. thoughts. As for you, you haven't comprehended the real me in the slightest by knowing what I'm called. You've comprehended a label of representation, a name I call myself and which others call me. And like my name, what you really know about me is a character evaluation based on your own values. So, I reiterate, if I were to change my name by deed-poll I would not have become a different person, do you agree?
Many people Identify with their work
Many people identify with their work. When asked the question: "What do you do?"
"Oh, I'm a payroll clerk."
"I'm a filing clerk."
Now, I don't want to sound pedantic, but no one is a payroll clerk, or a filing clerk, or a starting-price bookmaker's clerk, for that matter. If you were to leave your job would you cease to exist? Of course not. Before you took up your first office job you were extant in this world of physicality. You live on Planet Earth now. So, too, will you be when you take up another job or retire.
When we say I am a....we limit ourselves
We humans have a real problem with language. We say "I am" and then add something to that and, before we know it, we identify with what we've added. We might say, I am a housewife. I am a council worker. I am a taxi driver. What we should be saying, if we want to be accurate and not fool ourselves - and perhaps even save ourselves some angst - is: "I presently fulfil a role as a housewife. I presently work as a council worker. "I drive taxis." Drop that all important prefix, "I am" because you are not. By this I mean you are not any of the roles you have taken on in the past, are undertaking now, or will undertake in the future.
So what am I? And what are you?
I am...and what follows is a role we play, not who we are
If I were to try to define who I am I would use just two words - and I've already said them: "I am." Anything which follows after that is not really me but a role I've taken on, and maybe even a role you see me in. You could say, "Tom, you are a Toastmaster." (I'm a member of Toastmasters International) "In fact you are a Distinguished Toastmaster." To which I could unthinkingly and as a automatic mental reaction respond with, "Yes, I am."
Everything changes but the I am that we are
But once again, this is just a role and a DTM is simply a merit label which has no real existence other than as an idea held in the minds of a lot of Toastmasters, recorded here and there on paper and computer records, but has no validity other than being in held as neural pathways in the brains of various people who accept these things to be true.
They are not true. ' I am' is the only truth as far as I can see. Everything else is in flux, changing, changing; coming into being and going out of being. Nothing seems to last but our never-changing consciousness of a self.
We are not our bodies, minds or emotions
So again, What is this 'I am?' The I am which I am is not my physical body, though I have a physical body through which the 'I am' acts and experiences both an inner and outer world. But the body is forever changing. It is not permanent. The body which is stepped by you under the morning shower is not the same body which steps out of it ten minutes later. Every sub-atomic particle has changed. It has aged just that little bit. The life that is using it has aged it. The bodily-patterns in which it has aged have changed so slightly in that ten minutes that no aging is discerned by the body's owner. But if you were to look at the changes over twenty or thirty years...well...
What is a belief other than a solidified thought pattern?
We might accept that our physical body is ever changing. But our beliefs also change. A lot of us do not believe our beliefs change. And many of us think our beliefs form our very essence. They are who we are. However, beliefs, though they might stay a while, are, like our physical bodies, in constant change. The I am, that you are and I am, through our mind's conditioning, might have once believed in The Tooth Fairy and in Santa Claus. Neither of us do now. These beliefs changed to be replaced by others. These in turn will be replaced by others. A belief might be likened to a series of solidified thought-forms or broad, well-worn neural pathways and seem not to change. They do - as anyone who is suddenly threatened by a dramatic circumstances such as the threat of imminent death will testify to. On a man's deathbed many a cherished belief is cast aside.
With most of us, our attention can be likened to an automatic scanner generated by interest
So if I am not my beliefs, am I my thoughts? Am I my analytical evaluative verbal thoughts? No, sorry. Even these change. Our thoughts arise into consciousness and it is a common and usual habitual state for us to become absorbed by those thoughts, to actually feel and believe we are them. But those thoughts change constantly. It is as if our attention is an 'automatic scanner-of-thoughts, generated by interest, and we tune into and bring these ever-changing thoughts into consciousness. Moreover, this is our normal, everyday default. It is a default not realized by the many, even when we experience those rare out of 'thoughts on hold' and we're totally 'in the moment,' totally aware of what is at any given time. We have these moments, but they are not our normal state of mind. Mindfulness is not our norm. It takes an awful lot of will power, patience and persistence to make Mindfulness our norm. It can become a life-long job.
God speaks to us in silence - Herman Melville - Moby Dick
However, when we are in this rare state, we are so close to our real self that we don't have a word for it. If a word comes up, we are not in it. This is the Tao. And if the Tao can be described it is not the Tao, say the sages. Silence - that is silence of an awareness, chatter; free. Free too, of imaginative picturing - totally focused on what is. This is the Witness, the Observer, the Experiencer. This is what we are. We are " It."
The "I" is what we are, the "Am" is we exist
It is my contention that this 'I' is what we all are. The Experiencer of focusing- at least in human beings - is common to us all. This is our individual part of The All. This is, the Life, the Infinite Intelligence, the part of us which is really The Whole common to all. It is the Divine Dichotomy: We are all separate and we are all One. At least as far as all humans are concerned .. and maybe common to everything, manifested and unmanifested. We can try to describe it, as I am doing here. We can try to label it. But its essence eludes description. The sages can only point the way towards it. The rest is up to us.
Most of us get caught up in believing we're just a body with a mind inside our brain
But for most of us, it is so easy for us to get caught up in the idea that we are a physical body with a mind. That this mind in some way resides in our brains - and that is it. To many of us, our bodies determine everything with our five primary senses. The world is 'out there.' The world is concrete and has real being. It is three dimensional with a fourth dimension of Time thrown in. Bodies are born into it, age and die. Then when that happens the consciousness that we believe ourselves to be us must also die because we are the body and when that dies we die with it. We drop off like the current which has run out in a dry cell battery.
Seems to make sense.
The "I am" is our Life Itself
However, if we go deeply into this subject of 'Who am I,' and come up with this answer of "I am' with nothing further added, we realize that The I am is our Life itself. It is what we are. We grow into, then use up our physicality as life uses up a garden plant. The life and the plant give witness to both the plant and the life within it. But when the plant dies, does the life which sustains it die? Surely Life is an Infinite. It both creates and uses one thing after another.
Is Consciousness Itself Evolving?
So if Life is an Infinite and our consciousness is Life, is the Life we are conscious only when it is experiencing itself through some sort of body? Moreover, is consciousness itself evolving?
Questions, questions, they appear to be endless. Maybe they are endless. Still, it is wonderful that we've developed the ability to actually ask such questions. And it seems of late that more and more of us are doing so. And it is my belief that such questioning is making for a better world. But then again, a belief is only...